Get ready for Inspired by Creation

A little patch of earth. A quiet spot to reflect. A view that stops you in your tracks.

Where do you encounter God through creation?

During September the Diocese of Oxford will be running Inspired by Creation. A chance to share with others how creation inspires you.

Inspired by Creation will give you the opportunity to win prizes by entering a photograph and/or a poem/prayer that captures the place where you encounter God through creation.

Get a head start!

Whether it’s an image or words, they need to be original and taken/written by you, so you might want to get a head start and use the summer to get ready.

Register now by filling in the form here. Then use the summer to take a photograph or write a poem/prayer that is inspired by the place where you encounter God through creation. In September you will get a reminder to come back to the Earthing Faith website, when you will be able to enter your photograph and/or words into the competition.

Tell your friends

Tell your friends to get creative too. Email them, tweet and share on Facebook.

Include details of the competition in your newsletter – the flier can be downloaded here. For high res or paper copies of the flier contact us.

Get creative. Enjoy the summer. And get ready for Inspired by Creation!

O you Sun and daylight long, bless your Maker

Today we mark Midsummer – a time to be grateful for the daylight long.

Photo credit: Matt & Polly

O you Sun and daylight long, bless your Maker.
O you Moon and Stars in short night-time praise.
O you Planets that circle the Sun bless your Maker.
O you Earth where I belong praise.
O you Continents and Countries bless your Maker.
O you Place where I live praise.

© Tess Ward 2007, from The Celtic Wheel of the Year.

Fancy ‘more’ daylight? Why not support Lighter Later – a campaign that shows cutting carbon and making life better can and should go hand in hand.

Find out what a difference an hour could make: www.lighterlater.org.

Living Lightly

Guest post by Ruth Valerio

What gives you the most amount of pleasure in life? Maybe it’s playing with your kids, watching the hum of city streets, planting some seeds, creating something in your workshop, walking with God in the fields, seeing a friend step closer to Jesus…

Whatever those things are they are likely to be based on the relationships we have: the relationships with God, with other people and with the natural world around us. Yet, too often, our lives get taken over with stuff: we work long hours, get distracted by consumer gadgets and don’t have time to spend on those relationships that matter, including our relationship with the rest of creation.

Living Lightly is a project from A Rocha that I coordinate, that is designed to help us live more lightly in God’s world through every area of our lives, from our own day-to-day choices through to campaigning and what happens in our churches and workplaces. Living Lightly is based around a website that is there with no other purpose other than to resource you. It is full of ideas of things you can do and it gives further information on key issues, links to useful websites and resources, and an on-line community that you can share your thoughts and questions with. In addition there are regular Guest Articles from interesting contributors and, if you subscribe, you will receive a monthly Eco-Tip from my good self, giving you a helpful idea each month of something practical you can do.

So please do have a look at www.arocha.org.uk/livinglightly and be inspired to see what you can do to live rightly in this amazing world.

Guest post by Ruth Valerio

Ruth is doing her doctorate in London, chairs her local community association and runs the Living Lightly programme for A Rocha.

Ruth spends much of her time speaking and writing on the issues of justice and the environment, and her books include, L is for Lifestyle: Christian living that doesn’t cost the earth (IVP:2008).

Ruth is also involved in the leadership of Spring Harvest. Ruth lives in Chichester with her husband and two daughters and is part of Revelation Church.

For further information see: www.arocha.org.uk/livinglightly and www.lisforlifestyle.com.

Eco-congregation Award

Guest post by David Hughes of Eco-congregation

Another 85 species became extinct today. Do you think God cares? I do. Genesis 24 says “God spoke: ‘Earth, generate life! Every sort and kind: cattle and reptiles and wild animals – all kinds.’ And there it was: wild animals of every kind, cattle of all kinds, every sort of bug. God saw that it was good.” (The Message) Pretty clear isn’t it?

So what should Christians be doing about it. Well, a good place to start is with the church itself. What does your church believe about creation. Do you pray for the environment? Do you preach about our mandate to care for it? Do you consider your impact on it as individuals and as a congregation? What messages are you sending to the community in which you live by the way the church land and building is managed, or by your involvement in local and global projects to look after the environment?

Some churches are beginning to understand that what is good for the heating bills is good for the environment. Others have gone beyond that and realised the impact of our carbon footprint on the world’s poor. The most thoughtful churches have come to the conclusion that care for creation is absolutely core to the church’s mission.

Eco-congregation is an Award scheme that recognises and encourages churches which are taking our God given mandate to care for creation seriously and are doing something about it. The website at ew.ecocongregation.org is full of resources and examples of what churches are already doing as well as details of the award scheme. St Mary and St John’s in east Oxford was an early winner of the award and is described elsewhere on Earthing Faith. If you were inspired by their story why not join them and become an Ecocongregation. It doesn’t cost a penny but it may cost the earth if you don’t.

Guest post by David Hughes – Co-ordinator for Eco-congregation England and Wales (Eco-congregation website)

Credit: Caring for God's Acre

How wild is your churchyard?

Manage, don’t mow your churchyard and give space to endangered plant species. That is the message from Shrinking the Footprint, the CofE’s national environmental campaign, which has signed up to the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity (IYB).

Credit: Caring for God's AcreIn many urban areas the churchyard is often the only ‘green lung’ for the community and the rural churchyard can often be a haven of biodiversity surrounded by acres of chemical-drenched monoculture.  If all our churchyards were placed side by side and end to end they would form a huge national park open for all to share producing a festival of wildlife and nature rightly being celebrated in this very special UN International Year of Biodiversity.

Churches across the country celebrate Cherishing Churchyards Week every year in June as part of the nationwide project  run by Caring for God’s Acre (CfGA) and supported by Shrinking the Footprint. There are an estimated 12,000 CofE churchyards throughout the country and around half of them already run biodiversity projects, while remaining respectful to their users, particularly family and friends of those buried there.

During Cherishing Churchyards Week we are encouraging churches to run events to raise awareness and celebrate the treasures of their churchyard, and encouraging churches to submit wildlife discoveries as part of a new central database which will list all the biodiversity churchyards are holding in store for the country.

In St Albans diocese, St Peter & St Paul with St Andrew Flitwick Bedfordshire has recorded more than 100 species of wildflowers in the churchyard. All Saints, Odell also in Bedfordshire has won an award from the Campaign to Protect Rural England as an example of what churchyards can do with its community-led conservation project, including ‘adopt a grave’. St Andrew’s Fulham Fields in London diocese has a dedicated section to its churchyard called the Fulham Fields wildlife garden where most of the hardware, including material for the “wildlife tower”, and the herbaceous plants, have been either donated or found locally.

Judith Evans promoter of the Living Churchyard scheme for St Albans says: “Churchyards are a precious resource which can make a huge contribution to the biodiversity of the country and at the same time engage and educate the wider community. They often support species of plants and animals which have disappeared from the surrounding area, or are capable of so doing. Many churches in the diocese and nationally are managing their churchyards in an environmentally-friendly way, often with the help of their local wildlife trusts, but they are still in the minority. In the International Year of Biodiversity we hope to make them the majority to demonstrate that the church really cares about God’s creation.”

For more information visit: http://www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk/

Guest post by David Shreeve – Church of England’s national enviornmental adviser

How could you better manage your churchyard? How might you be able to celebrate Cherishing Churchyards Week (18-27 June)? Share you ideas and events in the comments section.

Further information: UK’s International Year of Biodiversity | Shrinking the Footprint | Caring for God’s Acre | Living Churchyards | Fulham fields wildlife garden | Ss Mary & John Churchyard Oxford

See also Supporting biodiversity in a churchyard – Case study

Grow Zones – reconnecting with the land

Guest Post by Chris Sunderland of EarthAbbey

It is not yet widely recognised that there are spiritual issues at stake over climate change. Many people seem to consider it all as a technical or political problem. They look anxiously into the future for a piece of geo-engineering that will save us, or campaign furiously to get politicians to act. Yet the environmental issues that we face are so serious and so multi-faceted that they demand nothing less than an inner transformation.

There are lots of paths in to the spirituality of climate change. We could talk about finding a proper humility about our abilities to manipulate and engineer the earth. We could consider the transformation of our wills so that we are truly able to live differently. But I would like to focus in this article on another problem, which is simply that we have lost touch with the creation.

More than 50% of humans in general and 80% of the people in the UK now live in towns or cities and, across the world, the great exodus from country to town continues. City living has great benefits in terms of easy communication, opportunity for development and change and some say that it is even ‘greener’ in terms of carbon footprint. But one thing it tends to lack. And that is a deep, heartfelt connection with nature.

I have recently been involved in the formation of a new Christian community known as EarthAbbey, whose members simply commit themselves to encourage one another to journey towards a life more in tune with the earth. It is a neo-monastic community, open to all people everywhere, with a strong focus on practical living. Here in Bristol, where it began, we have been trying to find meaningful ways to reconnect with the land and we came up with a very simple idea we have called Grow Zones. What we did was this.

A small group of us teamed up to turn each other’s gardens over to growing edible produce. Some of us were gardeners already. Many were not. We were particularly interested to learn something about Permaculture in the process. Permaculture is about designing growing systems so that they work in harmony with the local ecosystems rather than against them.  Permaculture has a strong fit with EarthAbbey’s aims. So, the way we did it was that each person spent some time thinking about what they would like to grow and then we met on a series of Saturday mornings, once at each garden, and did the business. The host would produce a list of jobs, we would choose what we wanted to do, and we then spent the morning working. The host then provided us all with a lunch based on fresh local produce.

Now at one level you could see this as a simple carbon reduction strategy. We each produce more of our own food, reducing fossil fuel use from industrial scale agriculture with its irrigation, fertiliser, pesticide and food miles. Yet strangely this was rather far from our minds. We found that we just loved doing this. There was something about working the land itself. A contact with reality, a stillness, the seasons, the hope of fruit. We found ourselves friends, somehow joined in a deep way through our work together. And I think we sensed something of God in it all, a sort of being blessed that is hard to describe, but very powerful to experience.

Last year saw an astonishing resurgence of interest in growing food across this country. Seed manufacturers were overwhelmed at the demand. I know that others have experienced that same sort of joy that we encountered and likewise discovered how powerful working land is as a means of creating community. David Hughes of Eco-Congregations sent us in a great story about a project on the land around  his home ( see the article here)

Receiving this and hearing other similar accounts has made me wonder whether it is right to call this a movement of the Spirit of God? The result of our surprising joy at Grow Zones is that EarthAbbey is now developing a whole range of projects on the land in Bristol and we are very keen to encourage others around the country to try Grow Zones. Our aim is to get 50 or more teams of people around the country turning their gardens over to edible produce and having great fun in the process.

If you would like to host a Grow Zones, please get in touch with us through www.earthabbey.com/growzones . It is all very easy and unburdensome.

If you would like to understand more of the biblical basis for EarthAbbey and what it is doing, try ‘The Dream that inspired the Bible’ by Chris Sunderland available from www.earthabbey.com/publishing for more on the experience of Grow Zones see ‘We have been grow zoned’ and ‘A short film_about_grow_zones.

Chris Sunderland Feb 2010

Contact Chris through www.earthabbey.com or phone 0117 9574652

Fast from carbon this Lent

Photo credit: Dushaun via Flickr

I’m signing up to the Carbon Fast for Lent this year. It is a 40-day journey towards a lighter carbon footprint, with simple energy saving actions each day, and this year it’s being organised jointly by the Church of England and Tearfund.

Lent is a time of year when it’s really good to pay attention to the way we live. During Lent many of us will be trying to do without some of our everyday luxuries. The Carbon Fast offers all sorts of practical ways of putting our extravagant carbon habits under the spotlight. One particular action this year includes trying a day with no iPod, computer or mobile phone. I use a blackberry, mobile phone and email everyday, so this is perhaps one of the actions I will struggle with the most.

My hope is that giving up technology will free us to look more seriously at the issues that face us as a global community, helping us think of others less fortunate than ourselves. This simple action could act as a statement of solidarity with a world that does not have the ability to communicate the way we can, and be a reminder that perhaps we have got beyond ourselves in terms of our own consumption of technology. We have galloped forward so fast – maybe we have out-run our global responsibility in doing that?

Other Carbon Fast actions this year include being a part-time vegetarian, and turning out the lights and enjoying the ambience of a candlelit dinner.

There will no doubt be some painful personal sacrifices during my Carbon Fast this Lent – but I’m ready to embrace the challenge because I’m painfully aware that we need to make radical changes to our privileged western lifestyles for the sake of the rest of the world. It’s often the poorest people who suffer most from our unrestrained carbon consumption.

Will you join me in the Carbon Fast during this time of Lent?

You can find out more and sign-up at www.tearfund.org/carbonfast.