Sharing Eden – a handbook to sustainable living

Sharing Eden is a new book that sets out to show how respect for the environment is at the heart of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. The handbook uses the teachings of the Abrahamic faiths to encourage a greener lifestyle.

The introductory handbook combines beautiful and enlightening texts from each faith’s religious teachings and worship to address some of the most prominent environmental issues faced today, such as waste, climate change and biodiversity. Drawing from both scripture and personal experience, each author brings a contemporary focus to the eternal challenge of caring for the Earth. The authors also hope to encourage further collaborative efforts and stimulate public awareness and debate on the book’s topics.

Editor Lindsay Swan explains: “Sharing Eden is a remarkable example of interfaith collaboration to reach a common goal – a more sustainable future for all.  The authors’ aim, as well as to build bridges between often-differing faiths, is to throw a green light on age-old traditions and practices. They provide clear, easy-to-follow advice on how we can all do our share to protect the Earth, whether we have a faith or not.”

The book is published jointly by The Conservation Foundation and Kube Publishing and is available to buy from KubePublishing.com, Amazon.co.uk, and Waterstones.com (RRP: £4.99).

For further information, visit www.sharingeden.org

Mystic Christ Wheel Of The Year

Bruce Stanley, Steve Hollinghurst and Stu McLellan have created a beautiful new resource designed to take people through the year, not with the 12 months but with 8 seasons of fire festivals, solar festivals and corresponding Christian and Celtic celebrations. Each plate gives information about the season, corresponding festivals and ideas of exercises to explore the themes, including exercises, meditations and reflections.

The eight-fold calendar is available from the Mystic Christ website, which is home of the Communities of the Mystic Christ, “a place for spiritual travellers of all traditions interested in exploring Jesus the Christ as a living reality and mystical guide through ancient practices and contemporary thought and experience.”

The Wheel Of The Year Calendar is available at the introductory price of £4.95 for the first 50 sold.

via Wheel Of The Year Calendar |:| Mystic Christ.

Nature Activities to use with children

In support of our article exploring the impact of the growing gap between children and nature below you’ll find a few activities to try out with children  – you can find more activities and download them all to print at: www.aeker.co.uk/blog/nature-activities/

Follow the trail

Awaken the senses and follow a trail of mysterious smells, strange sounds and interesting textures.

You can do this in your garden, a nature reserve or churchyard. Mark a trail using a rope. Tie a knot in the rope to indicate something interesting. A smell to notice.  An object on the ground. Something overhead.

Before you start do a quiet activity. A quiet, receptive mind will increase the enjoyment of the activity. Look at a leaf together and count the veins. See if you can get your arms all the way round a tree. Smell a flower.

If your child is comfortable with it, put a blindfold on them. Then help your child to hold onto the rope and walk along with them. You can walk one after another, but give the person in front enough space to stop and listen.

Encourage your child to feel things as they go along. Changes on the ground. The texture of grass. Something overhead.

If you smell something stop and see if they can smell it too. And of course, guide their steps to keep them safe. Do it as silently as possible, with just gentle observations.

Finish by lying on your backs – if they have had a blindfold on, take it off – and look up and see what you can see. Ask your child to tell you what they see.

Nature table

Making a space at home where you can put your finds from nature is a great way to share it with others, remind you of being outdoors on wet days and inspire craft projects.

A place where you walk by often is good, as you and your children will see it in the day to day of life. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple wooden crate on the stairs. A bowl on a sideboard. A plate next to the telephone.

Collect things as you go for walks and make that an activity. Leaves, seeds, stones, twigs, shells…

Scavenger hunt

Choose some things to collect from the list below. Guide the children in thinking creatively and looking closely, and in only collecting appropriate, safe things.

– A feather
– Exactly 100 of something
– Three different types of seed
– Something round
– Something fuzzy
– Something that reminds you of yourself
– Something soft
– Something beautiful

More nature activities

Find more activities, and to download the above, visit: www.aeker.co.uk/blog/nature-activities/

Resources to explore

www.outdoornation.org.uk | www.50things.org.uk | www.goingwild.net

Rogation Sunday – May 13th, 2012

My first experience of Rogation was over 35 years ago when I was a young Curate in an urban fringe community.  The Vicar decided it was time to celebrate Rogation by walking the boundaries of the parish – all 26 miles. The young Curate was detailed to lead the walk. I still have the photo –it was probably the last and only time I wore shorts and a clerical collar, and an orange hat!! The original idea of beating of the bounds was to educate young people about the waymarks or boundary posts of the parish. No googleearth or sat nav in those days! The myth that the clergy beat the young at each waymark to impress them upon the memory is probably just that – a myth!! The procession to beat the bounds [boundaries] would often included pausing at different points to pray for God’s blessing on the community and on the land.

Rogationtide is primarily a festival of prayer lasting for the four days before the feast of the Ascension. The word Rogation comes from the word Rogo meaning to ask (rogo, rogare, rogavi, rogatus) “Ask and it shall be given”(Matthew 7 verse 7). The connection of Rogation with agriculture probably links back to the ancient Roman festival of Robigalia when the goddess Robigo, who had the power to bring rust or mildew to crops, was petitioned for mercy to allow the goddess Ceres to do her work and bring forth a good harvest (from “Certes” we get the word “cereals”!) Both Ovid and Cato refer to the sacrificing of dogs as part of the festival and Ovid’s priest prays: “Scaly Robigo, god of rust, spare Ceres’ grain; let silky blades quiver on the soil’s skin. Let growing crops be nourished by a friendly sky and stars, until they ripen for the scythe… Spare us, I pray keep scabrous hands from the harvest. Harm no crops. The power to harm is enough” (Fasti, IV.911ff).

Rust, or mildew, is something which farmers still hope to keep away from their growing crops. If you are an avid fan of the Archers like me, you may occasionally hear farmhouse kitchen talk about spraying crops against rust. But farmers no longer sacrifice dogs as part of the process and where churches hold prayer walks around farms the only dogs are those ones which are well behaved and on a lead accompanying members of the congregation on the walk. At Christian rogation services the crops are “sprayed “with blessing prayers and the God of creation is prayed to for the success of the growing season

Rogation services are also an opportunity to thank farmers for their work in bring in the harvest and playing their – essential –part in providing for our food. So Rogation today reminds us afresh about the importance of farming alongside three other agricultural fesitivals, Plough Sunday, Lammas and Harvest.

Someone has said if you eat you are concerned about farming. Hands up all those who eat! That is why Rogation still captures the imagination of many people who turn out for prayer walks on farms. It also helps people to make a renewed connection with the land. Genesis 2 vs 5 – 8 suggests that the primary purpose of creating humankind was to till and work the soil. A rogation prayer walk might also visit allotments or even someone’s kitchen garden as part of the procession.

As we make those connections with our food we pray for those whose work it is to provide that food. Farming is an occupation – a way of life – with mixed fortunes, dependent on the vagaries of the market and the weather. The Farm Crisis Network, (www.fcn.org.uk) a Christian voluntary organisation which works in support of those in the farming community whose family or business life has met with adversity, can tell stories of financial and personal problems which belies the public perception that everything down on the farm is rosy.

Farmers are also custodians and guardians of the countryside. Much of what people see and enjoy in the countryside has been shaped by farming practices. Many farmers are changing their practices as they come to understand more about climate change. And there are a number of campaigns and organisations working with farmers to help them further protect and enhance the environment whilst at the same time continuing to provide food for us: see for example Campaign for the Farmed Environment (http://www.cfeonline.org.uk/ ) and LEAF http://www.leafuk.org/leaf/home.eb

Many Rogation services take place actually on a farm, sometimes starting or ending in Church and the prayer walk can take in parts of the village to celebrate village life on the way. Resources for celebrating Rogation can be found in “Common Worship: Times and Seasons: Services for the Agricultural Year”, the 2003 SPCK book by The Staffordshire Seven “Seasonal Worship from the Countryside” and from the Arthur Rank Centre website at: http://www.arthurrankcentre.org.uk/component/k2/itemlist/tag/Rogation

Eternal God, creator and sustainer of life, we praise you for the beauty and fertility of the earth. We praise you also for its complexity and mystery, before which we bow in wonder and awe.   Bless all farmers everywhere upon whom we depend for the production and provision of our food, bless the management of the countryside and the husbanding of its resources.  Amen.   (adapted)

Glyn Evans is the Diocesan Rural Officer for the Diocese of Oxford. He blogs at http://ruralofficerdiooxford.blogspot.co.uk/. He can also be found on Twitter at: @dioruralofficer

Project Earth Rock Animated Earth Concert Tour – 3rd-23rd September

Jess Gold’s Animated Earth Concert Tour, is touring the country in September to launch her new album “Project Earth Rock”. This is the first ever UK concert tour of unashamedly eco-focussed songs performed with the specific intention of making people feel good. Jess is a unique singer-songwriter, who combines her passion for environmental campaigning with her ability to entice audiences into singing her witty and catchy songs. Cartoonist Danny Fenster will be creating a unique satirical cartoon during each show, bringing to life ideas offered by the audience. At the end of the night the cartoon will be auctioned off by the hosts to augment the night’s proceeds.

Each show will be hosted by a local church or organisation that would like to enjoy and benefit from the outreach and fund-raising opportunities that the tour provides.

“It is part of The Church of England’s environmental strategy to explore how the arts can reach hearts and minds to inspire people to make more climate friendly choices. Jess Gold’s Animated Earth Tour is an exciting opportunity that will help communities focus on green issues whilst enjoying an evening of musical entertainment.” Brian Cuthbertson, Head of Environmental Challenge, London Diocesan Fund

To hear some songs from the album go to:  http://www.myspace.com/projectearthrock1

If you would like to receive the tour promotion brochure and learn more about the possibility of hosting a show then contact Jess on Jess@projectearthrock.com or on 07946 568866.

Learn how to change things in your community

Oxfordshire Rural Community Council and Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action are offering a free course on Community Action.

The course will help people understand how they can affect decisions about where they live and make a change in their neighbourhood.

The course will be held in Oxford starting in May 2012 and needs a commitment to one session of three hours per week for seven weeks and a tutorial.

Full details at here.

Operation Noah Declaration

Leaders  of the UK’s mainstream churches are today calling for repentance over the prevailing ‘shrug-culture’ towards climate change by signing Operation Noah’s Ash Wednesday Declaration.

‘Traditionally, Christians commit themselves to repentance and renewed faith in Jesus Christ on Ash Wednesday,’ said David Atkinson, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Southwark. ‘We must live out that faith in relation to our damaging consumer economy, over-dependence on fossil fuels and the devastation we, as a species, are inflicting on God’s world. We believe that responsible care for God’s creation is foundational to the Gospel and central to the church’s mission.’

The Declaration is framed around seven biblical themes and argues that, to be a Christian is to accept the call to radical discipleship and to work through the implications for church life of a real change in lifestyle. In 1934 the Church took a stand with the Barmen Declaration which rejected Nazism.  The lead author, Karl Barth, had guts.  He mailed the declaration to Hitler personally.  The authors believed that the subordination of the church to the Nazi state was a confessional issue, an issue which touched the very heart of faith, not something that they could politely disagree about. Operation Noah believes climate change to be a confessional issue of similar magnitude.

The declaration affirms that God wants a richly abundant earth.  It states that now we know the dangers of climate change, repentance is the responsibility of every Church and every believer.  It argues that the challenges facing us are not merely economic and scientific but are moral and spiritual as well, and that we must hold our governments and corporations to account.

Operation Noah is encouraging individuals and church fellowships to read through the Ash Wednesday Declaration carefully and then, if willing, to sign the pledge on their website, where you will also find a wide range of resources to support the Declaration: www.operationnoah.org.