Speaker opportunity – Why didn’t you save the forest?

Church Mission Society mission partner, Dr Andrew Leake, is visiting the UK from  September 14th to September 28th 2014.  Andrew works with the indigenous peoples in the Chaco region, and is engaged in pioneering work to protect the environment and prevent deforestation there. If your church would be interested in hearing from Andrew, please do contact Katie Jenkinson at CMS on 01865 787522.

Listen to Andrew speaking about the environment.

Living out our love of God and neighbour

This article first appeared in the Oxford Mail

Maranda St John Nicolle shares some thoughts and reflections on responding to impacts of climate change:

As I write, we’re in the midst of some glorious summer days. Rooftops are crisp against blue sky; evenings are bathed in a golden glow; and plants seem to grow as you look at them.

About this time last year, I was experiencing quite different weather. I was in South Africa, looking at the work that congregations around our link diocese are doing with people in need. It was their wintertime and freezing, but the visit was awe-inspiring. I met women who pooled local donations and the contents of their kitchen cabinets to make meals for vulnerable children; care-workers whose passion for fighting poverty moved them and me to tears; and young people who were working with local leaders to tackle issues of crime and substance abuse.

A teacher in a small town was especially inspiring. Horrified that children with learning disabilities were considered unteachable and kept out of school, she’d trained as a special needs teacher in her “spare” time and gone door to door, seeking out excluded children. She then went to the provincial government and said: Here are the students; I can teach them; will you build a special needs school? The province did, and now dozens of pupils were coming from miles around to be taught skills that would enable them to live with dignity and, in at least some cases, independence.

But I don’t just remember that teacher; I also remember her husband. He was a quiet, undemonstrative farmer and churchwarden. At the time, he was dealing with a multi-year drought. For small farmers, it had been disastrous: their parched land was overgrazed to the point of being barren, and their cattle were skin and bones. The market for all farmers was plummeting. The parish priest said that when the churchwarden came back from a cattle sale, he was crying.
Our link partnership aims to help people in both dioceses grow as disciples of Christ. I came back inspired by Christians who were both living out their love of God and neighbour and moving others, including the government, to action.

But I was also challenged. How can I join in with what the church is doing here to address need? And I just can’t get that drought – the hard earth, the bony cattle – out of my head.

As a Christian I believe that the earth – in all its glorious variety – is the Lord’s, a gift we’re asked to steward in ways that safeguard it for us, neighbours near and far, our children and our grandchildren.

Scientists are clear: if we keep emitting carbon as we do now, extreme rains are likely to increase. Paradoxically, droughts are also likely to become longer and more intense in many areas. And we know the poorest will be hit hardest.

And so I find myself wondering: what can I do to help? I’m resolving to pray, to take personal action (Walk more? Avoid unnecessary flights? Divest from fossil fuels? Turn down the heat? Eat less meat?) and to ask politicians to take policy actions that enable large-scale change.

It’s only a start, and I’m struggling in some areas. I’d like to cut out all flying, but don’t see how I can do that with work and family commitments. But it is a start – and we’ve all got to start somewhere.

And if the next steps are harder? Well, there is still hope. Because God doesn’t just command us to love; God is love. And when God asks us to care for this earth, with all its summer beauty and its challenges, God also offers to love and help us along the way. Thanks be to God.

St George continues to go green…

St George’s Church in Wash Common, nr Newbury have been busyover the last few years making their building more welcoming and warmer.

Through their innovative George Goes Green project the church has been creating a warm, welcoming, usable, sustainable, community space by:

  • Ensuring the church building is accessible, flexible, affordable and widely used for local events
  • Installing a cost effective heating system with low running costs to benefit future generations
  • Lowering our carbon footprint; using green energy and moving away from fossil fuels
  • Flexible hire rates according to means What have we done so far…?
  • Replaced and insulated the church ceiling
  • Installed 129 solar panels plus control systems, and connected to the national grid
  • Added secondary glazing to high windows
  • Created a thermal lobby at the cloister entrance with independent accessAdded a welcome area and re-worked the north car park
  • Resolved pre-existing damp problems

“So much has already been achieved. And now it’s time for the final push; to install a sustainable heating system and open up the church to community use.”
Revd Paul Cowan, Vicar

The project is now moving on to renewable heat through a ground source heat pump.

What’s left to do?

  • To harness ground source heat, requiring 5 boreholes in church grounds
  • To replace the old and inefficient boiler with a ground source heat pump
  • To replace the church floor and install under-floor heating
  • To glaze the north transept to enable its use as a multipurpose meeting space

To help the church to realise the final phase of the project they are asking people to:

  • Use, and recommend, St George’s as an events venue to your friends and neighbours
  • Donate to the project – collect a green form from the back of church
  • Organise a fundraising event
  • Keep your eyes peeled for external funding opportunities
  • Spread the word – raise our profile!
  • Pray for the church community and this project

For more information about the project visit:

www.georgegoesgreen.org

www.st-george-newbury.org

For more information about renewable energy options and your church visit the Diocese o Oxford website.

For the love of …

Have you taken part in the Climate Coalition’s latest campaign For the love of…?

For-the-Love-Of_Abod_tcm15-77960This is a simple platform to engage others in your church in taking action on climate change. It enables people to speak about what they love that is threatened by climate change. This will be presented to politicians this summer as well as during key political moments over the next two years to demonstrate the huge growing concern about climate change across the UK.

You can add your voice and encourage others at http://fortheloveof.org.uk/

Exploring the abundance of summer

This article originally appeared in the Oxford Times

The summer is here – the abundance of life is clearly all around us – nature is busy doing its thing! It is a time when we perhaps feel more connected to the earth. Delights for our senses are everywhere, from the sweetness of freshly picked strawberries and peas, to the wonder of so many shades of green around us.

It is a time of year when we might start to sense and know more fully that we are all connected to nature. It isn’t just something that we watch on TV, or that we venture into to walk the dog. In fact it isn’t something we go into at all, rather we are part of it. Really we are indistinguishable from nature.

This realisation can be profound. It has the potential to help us change the way we view nature, and also how we look after it. It is also good for us! Growing evidence suggests that embracing nature connection boosts our physical and psychological well-being and deepens our ecological sensitivity.

Nature connection is also central to the Forest Church movement that has been steadily growing over the past two years (now with over 13 groups in the UK and a presence in four countries) and is asking the question of what ‘being church’ whilst participating with nature might look like? There are a few Forest Church groups in the Oxford area exploring this question and connecting with their local nature in different ways. In Carterton a group has, for example, been exploring bushcraft skills and orienteering at Kilkenny Country Park, whilst Wychwood Forest Church started with a sponsored walk in the Charlbury area.

Oxford Forest Church recently met at Wytham Woods again (we are wanting to see it in every season for a year). It was a week before the Summer Solstice, so we reflected on the gifts of the sun, the light, warmth, colour and abundance it brings. It was also a week after Pentecost, so we celebrated the presence of Spirit who gives life in all its fullness. Thanks to Dr Andy Gosler (a University Research Lecturer in Ornithology & Conservation) we were treated to a close-up encounter with a nest of Great Tit fledglings – and we took time to engage with nature silently. We closed our time with a tea ceremony, using tea made of three plants from the summer’s abundance – chamomile for peace and rest, dandelion leaves for cleansing, and elderflower for strength of voice and song. We passed the tea around with the words “may the blessing of God’s abundance be with you”.

As you enjoy the abundance of summer why not take time to purposefully head outside to appreciate nature, and how you’re part of it? Use all your senses. You could walk outside barefoot, like St Francis did, so he would experience no disconnect between himself and “Sister Earth”.

May the blessings of God’s abundance be with you, wherever you find yourself this summer.

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Find out more about Forest Church groups in the Oxford area here.

Matt Freer is a freelance project manager and Environment Advisor for the Diocese of Oxford, where he co-ordinates the EarthingFaith.org network