The wonder of creation in us

Creation Tide, which starts today on 1 September and runs for five weeks until 4 October, is a good opportunity for us to engage with creation in new ways. It’s good to engage with detail in creation. Contemplate, wonder, give thanks. It’s fascinating to watch a small child interact with a very small discovery in a garden path or a flower border. There’s enough miracle in that tiny patch of ground to keep a child entranced. Whatever happened to that quality of wonder in us? Here’s an example.

Annie Dillard is an American writer who is exquisitely aware of details. In her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek she writes of encountering a butterfly:

‘It is easy to coax an exhausted butterfly onto your finger. I saw a monarch walking across a gas station lot; it was walking south. I placed my index finger in its path, and it clambered aboard and let me lift it to my face. Its wings were faded but unmarked by hazard; a veneer of velvet caught the light and hinted at the frailest depth of lapped scales. It was a male; his legs clutching my finger were short and atrophied; they clasped my finger with a spread fragility, a fineness as of some low note of emotion or pure strain of spirit, scarcely perceived. And I knew that those feet were actually tasting me, sipping with sensitive organs the vapour of my finger’s skin: butterflies taste with their feet. All the time he held me, he opened and closed his glorious wings, senselessly, as if sighing.’

The description of that encounter goes on for another full page. This was just an exhausted butterfly ‘walking south,’ but it evoked a depth of observation and attention that is enviable to those of us who would have wandered innocently by. When we engage with detail we’re taken into the profound value of every part of creation.

As we walk the dog or go to the local shops, can we try to walk more slowly (it’s hard). And as we walk, can we look, smell, touch, listen. A whole world of new sensory experiences opens up which is usually screened out by our distraction and haste. We need to be aware that this ability to attend to nature will easily fade unless encouraged. William Blake observed that, ‘The tree which moves some to tears of joy is, in the eyes of others, only a green thing which stands in the way.’ But faced with all this wonder, the next question for most of us has to be: ‘how then shall we live on this planet of miracles?’

Bishop of Oxford – the Rt Rev John Pritchard

For further resources around Creation Tide visit: www.earthingfaith.org/creation-tide

Photo Monarch (Butterfly) by Dave Govoni (Va bene!)

The big tree plant

The Big Tree Plant is a campaign to encourage people and communities to plant more trees in England’s towns, cities and neighbourhoods. It is a partnership bringing together national tree-planting organisations and local groups working with Defra and the Forestry Commission to plant trees throughout England.

Anybody can get involved by planting and caring for trees to help make neighbourhoods more attractive, healthy places to live.  So far 74,105 trees have been planted.

For more information including about grants available: http://thebigtreeplant.direct.gov.uk/
Thanks to Glyn Evans for the tip.

For Creed and Creation Book

For Creed and Creation: A simple guide to greening your church is a great new little book of practical suggestions for making your church more energy efficient.

With simple ideas and advice from the way the building is run, to how rubbish is recycled and the light switches used, the guide will help to reduce bills and put your church on the right track to tackling your carbon footprint. Published by the Diocese of Oxford and co-written by local curate, Revd. Dr. Gillian Straine, the book includes details of local organisations and where to go for help.
“…churches aren’t just places of wonder, encounter and community; they’re also real buildings which make an impact on the natural world, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that their carbon footprint is as small as possible. We have over 800 church buildings in our diocese, and with all the people who pass through them in a year, we can influence literally hundreds of thousands more buildings.”
Bishop of Oxford
Copies of the booklet are available for:
  • £2.50 each – £3.28 including postage and packaging
  • £10 for five copies – £11.33 including postage and packaging
  • £15 for ten copies – £18.41 including postage and packaging

Order by Post: Send a cheque for the total amount (including postage and packaging), made payable to ‘Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance, to: For Creed and Creation Book, Environment Desk, Dept of Mission, Diocese of Oxford, North Hinksey, Oxford, OX2 0NB.

View online: You can view the contents of the book in the viewer below.

Grow Zones – get your community growing

How can you combine growing your own delicious food, making new friends, learning a natural growing method, and the opportunity to reconnect at a deep, spiritual level with creation? The answer is Grow Zones, a community growing project that you can start in your neighbourhood and church.

Designed specifically with churches in mind, Grow Zones provides an opportunity to engage new people from your neighbourhood in a simple, practical project that bears on our common concern for the earth.

The idea is very simple. Someone from a local church or neighbourhood hears about Grow Zones and, with the aid of the Grow Zones kit, forms a local team. People are introduced to a natural growing method known as Permaculture and helped to redesign their gardens so they can grow more of their own fruit and veg. Each team is offered insurance as part of the package, and sets out on a series of visits, where they work on one another’s gardens to make their dreams real. The commitment is deliberately light just four mornings make up the whole course, but experience shows that deep bonds form between people, lasting friendships are made and many go on to experience and learn more.

One participant said having experienced Grow Zones:

“I have longed to do something really positive about caring for creation. As part of the Grow Zones pilot in Bristol, and being introduced to Permaculture, I have been set on a fascinating journey that has transformed my view of the world we live in and resulted in my becoming involved in a whole set of community growing projects here in Bristol. It seems to me that reconnecting with the land, and with growing our own food, is an extraordinarily powerful means to help us reconsider how we are living and  to build fresh expressions of community life. There was a sort of implicit and deep spirituality that pervaded our experience of Grow Zones here in Bristol, as if God was there among us as we worked together. As a Christian minister, I have also been concerned to express concern for creation in a way that is more than theory, or just ‘doing without’ something. It seems to me that the great biblical hope for peace and harmony in creation finds real expression in the hearts of those who join together in a project like Grow Zones.”

Start a Grow Zones Team

The GrowZones Kit

Would you be interested in starting a group in your area? You don’t necessarily need to have any gardening experience, all you need is to be good at organising and encouraging people. If you can gather a group of people together, the Grow Zones Kit will provide the help and resources to get you growing for your first season.

For more information, and to start a team, visit www.growzones.com.

Grow Zones is a national project – supported by the Local Food fund – and a series of Christ and the Earth retreat days supports the programme. To book a retreat day and find out more about the community behind Grow Zones visit www.earthabbey.com.

 

Yew protection

I was recently at Lambeth Palace for a day meeting with other green fanatics and agencies. These included Russell Ball from ‘The Ancient Yew Group‘. Apparently, Veteran Yews are 350-1000 years old, and Ancient Yews are 1000-5000 years old, which by any standards is staggeringly old. Yew trees have had a troubled life in the last few hundred years, being cut down to make long bows so we can kill each other. And the few that are left in this country are generally in churchyards. Now Russell is very keen that we don’t kill off any more of the Yew trees and suggested that if we have any in our churchyards that we get a Tree Preservation Order for them. This not only protects them for the next generation, but also enables people to obtain free expert advice if there are any issues with the tree.

Those of us who attended the day wandered through Archbishop Rowan William’s garden and planted a baby Yew tree. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Originally posted on Lesley’s Blog

Biodiversity and Shrinking the Footprint

A couple of weeks ago I attended Lambeth Palace for the annual ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ day (The Church of England’s Environmental Campaign). They have a new website which I would recommend visiting. This year we are particularly looking at the subject of biodiversity. Estimates vary, but it is thought that currently we are losing species at a rate between 100 and 10000 times faster than that which was typical in the geological records. This affects humans in terms of air quality and water pollution, and may make it harder for nature to survive changes in the natural habitats. A helpful website on biodiversity is here.

The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, introduced the day and said that we have a spiritual and moral basis for action, and that he suggested four areas in which to take action:

  • Our own estates
  • Having a deeper conversation in the constituency
  • Recommiting ourselves to Public advocacy
  • Symbolic Action

He then described two symbolic actions that they have carried out in London, one where they fed 5000 people on waste from supermarkets, and the other was an ecumenical procession through Windsor Castle. The latter was described here on Oprah’s Blog:

Windsor Castle, the bucolic weekend retreat of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her pack of corgis, has witnessed the plague, beheadings, and centuries of state dinners, but it’s surely never seen this: a procession of bearded Sikhs in orange turbans, bald Buddhist monks in habits, Jews in top hats and prayer shawls, Japanese Shintos in white jôes—even a Greek Orthodox archbishop in a black kamilafki hat and floor-length cassock.

I hope and pray that all these things give us hope for the future and an opportunity to care for our planet together.

Originally posted on Lesley’s Blog

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