Churches Working in Partnership on the Environment

PARTNERING with other people in care for creation can be an important part of a church’s witness and outreach, a way of practically showing the love of God and neighbour. But how can we work effectively with partners in the community? And how can we build positive relationships with local politicians?

At the end of May in Oxford, Christians from different churches came together to think through these questions. In the morning Alice Hemming, coordinator of Oxfordshire’s Community Action Groups network, and John Clements, from the Parish of North Hinksey with Botley, spoke about the way in which community sustainability groups operate and how churches can start their own or get involved with them.

Inspired by examples like the Botley Community Fridge, participants brainstormed about activities their churches could undertake and community partners they might work with. In the afternoon, leading environmental charity Hope for the Future ran a session on how to build a constructive relationship with your MP. Using – for the first time – their newly published workbook, which brings together expertise gleaned from research and dozens of MP meetings, Director Jo Musker-Sherwood and Assistant Director Sarah Robinson discussed how parliament works, techniques that are effective in meetings, and how to continue a relationship beyond a single meeting.

The afternoon culminated in a role play exercise in which a group of participants planned and carried out a meeting with Jo standing in as their MP. The response to both sessions was enthusiastic.

If you’d like to find out more or want to receive a Hope for the Future workbook, contact the diocesan world development adviser maranda@ccow.org.uk.

Ruth Valerio at Lent course launch

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“As human beings,” says well known author and speaker Ruth Valerio, “we have been created to be involved in looking after this world that God has made.” And on Saturday 4 March, Ruth will be speaking at the first of four sessions designed to help Christians and churches in our area grow in confidence about doing just that.

She’ll be sharing the story of her own growing recognition that the Gospel is good news for all creation – and how churches can start on concrete ways of prayer and action that show love of God and neighbour and make a difference to our local communities, as well as the wider world.

If you’d like to explore how care for creation can be part of our personal discipleship and our churches’ wider mission, get tools to help your church save energy and care for your surroundings, find out about what local community groups are doing and how you and your church can join in, then this – and the later sessions – are designed for you.

The launch event takes place at the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford, 2.30pm-5pm. To register, go to www.oxford.anglican.org/environment or ring 01235 851763.

Moving forward from the Paris climate talks

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As the world looks to reduce its carbon footprint following December’s COP21 talks in Paris, the Door reflects and asks ‘what next?’ as churchgoers consider how to become more environmentally friendly.

One person who attended the COP21 talks was Mike Clark, a member of St Paul’s Banbury. Below he describes his experience. 

I have an investment management background, but on this occasion I attended as a representative of my profession, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. I was asked to contribute to a Roundtable discussion chaired by Carbon Tracker. This organisation has done so much to make carbon investment risk a financial reality – do check out their website! The topic was carbon-related risk disclosure and financial regulation. Contributors came from around the world and represented pension funds, regulators, investment managers, market index providers and academics. We shared perspectives – climate change has so many financial aspects.

Mike Clark, a member of St Paul's, Banbury.

Mike Clark, a member of St Paul’s, Banbury.

The build-up to COP21 had been positive and, although we were in a different venue from the negotiations, this positive feeling was tangible in all the sessions I attended at the Roundtable venue. Even arriving at Gard du Nord by Eurostar, I was greeted by welcoming COP21 billboards in the station. The French managed the whole event with diplomatic aplomb and Laurent Fabius, the COP21 President, was rightly lauded for his efforts, along with Christiana Figueres who led the UN work in the years leading up to the event.

Attending in a professional capacity, it was good to make the link between the earth, where we are all called to be good stewards, and the daily world of finance that I inhabit. More widely, many commentators have picked up on the role that Christians have played in raising climate change up the political agenda.

What of the future? I’d need a page or two to answer that question properly. So let me just note that one UK pension fund, earlier this year, adopted and published their investment policy which states: “Our objective is to ensure that our Fund’s investment portfolio and processes are compatible with keeping the global average temperature increase to remain below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels”. They may be the first with such a policy, but they won’t be the last. So let us go forward in hope!It was a historic COP21, with governments sending a strong signal on climate change. The Paris Agreement will resonate down the years!

 

Pilgrimage to Paris

Jess Hall joined thousands of pilgrims as the Church of England, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund came together to organise a Pilgrimage2Paris ahead of the climate talks. 

Jess Hall, the Berkshire Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid.

Jess Hall, the Berkshire Regional Co-ordinator for Christian Aid.

Had I realised the impact on my feet, I would have sought out some kind of sponsorship deal with Compeed© for my two days on the Pilgrimage to Paris. But my hope for an ambitious and binding climate deal in Paris was stronger than the ache and pain of the many blisters I acquired on my journey through Surrey and Sussex.

I met up with the group of Pilgrims in Banstead, Surrey, their first destination after setting out from London that morning. Everyone was in good cheer and seemed to have taken the first leg of the journey in their stride.
It was a shock to wake up the next morning to the news of bombs and shootings in Paris, as you can imagine it cast quite a shadow over the joy and celebration of the previous day. Determined we walked on in solidarity and prayer for Paris and in hope of a world where light overcomes the darkness.

Everyone taking part in the Pilgrimage to Paris had a story to tell and as we trod the muddy paths and puddle ridden roads it was a huge privilege to hear some of them. Despite our different backgrounds, church experience and effectiveness of our waterproofs, what united us was the desire to see world leaders come to a meaningful agreement in Paris. We all wanted to see an agreement that would safeguard our planet’s future, bring liberation to the poor and a brighter future for our global community.
On our journey we shared a beautiful ecumenical communion and I was privileged to lead the intercessions. Amid our prayers for those reeling from the Paris attacks, for the world leaders at the COP 21 Climate Talks, and for strength for the journey we shared together this refrain:

We lift our eyes up to the mountains, where does our help come from?
Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

This verse from Psalm 121 seemed to so perfectly speak into both our weakest and most passionate prayers for Paris, and for our world. I had tears in my eyes a few short days later as I watched the footage of 200 world leaders hugging and cheering as they announced that a deal had been reached. An agreement to limit warming to 2°C, pursue renewable energy and provide £100 billion in climate finance for developing countries. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and we must hold our leaders to account. There is also a huge amount to be celebrated, and much to thank the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, for.

Jess Hall  is the Regional Christian Aid Co-ordinator for Berkshire. She is based in the Oxford Christian Aid office.

Become and Eco Church

Eco Church is an award scheme designed to motivate and resource churches to care for God’s earth. Launched in January, Eco Church replaces the Eco Congregation awards from the Christian environmental charity, A Rocha. To participate churches complete an online survey, indicating how they care for God’s earth in worship, teaching, buildings, and in the personal lifestyles of their members. Once they have amassed enough points they can qualify for Eco Church Awards at Bronze, Silver or Gold Level.

Dr Ruth Valerio, the Churches and Theology Director for A Rocha, says: “Caring for the whole creation should impact everything in our church lives and Eco Church is designed to equip us to do just that. We’ve been working really hard to produce this new scheme and I’m looking forward to it launching and to seeing which churches are the first to gain their awards.”

Here is the story of St James’s Church, Gerrards Cross:

The Revd Jenny Tebboth, who is now a curate in the Chalfont St. Giles, Seer Green and Jordans Benefice, was delighted to discover that St James supported A Rocha, but says it niggled her that, despite the church supporting A Rocha financially, creation care was not integrated into church life. Since then St James’s has worked hard to gain a first Eco Congregation Award. “Things are very different now,” she says: “Our recent eco-congregation work has been publicised in A Rocha News as one of the best submissions that they have received. Cindy Crump has taken over the job of A Rocha mission champion and will work with A Rocha and the St James’s ‘Love Creation’ team, who intend to work towards the next level of award.”
Cindy moved to Gerrards Cross and began worshipping at St James’s in 2013 and knew quickly it was the church for her.

And then the environmental projects caught her eye. “Sections of the church garden had tall grasses for the insects, bird and bat boxes were in the trees, and the bulletin indicated opportunities for helping with gardening at the church and walks in the area. I was hooked,” she says. I showed up at a meeting in the autumn of 2013 to talk about the church’s role in creation care. Our aim was to inspire each member of St James’s to work out what it means to care for God’s creation in their own lives, not out of fear or guilt, but to glorify God, and to take a decisive step towards making the operations of St James’s more environmentally friendly.”

Since then Dave Bookless from A Rocha has spoken at services, Life Groups have completed a study on creation care, the recycling collection in the church centre has been improved, Richard Trigg lovingly restored the bird nest boxes and the late Clifford Robinson and Cindy did a survey of the birds and butterflies in the church garden. Blogs on caring for creation have been posted and an energy audit of the church buildings has been completed.

Cindy adds: “Going forward, the ‘Love Creation’ team hopes to continue to mobilize the whole church family to play their part. We will issue ideas and tips to help them live more simply. We would like to find an experienced naturalist who can help with surveying the wildlife in the church garden. We have been looking at the church’s use of energy: we are changing the lights in the St James Centre to be more energy-efficient and brighter, and we’re looking to support A Rocha at Minet Park and other projects. We certainly want ideas from the congregation on how we can all care for God’s creation.

“We are really proud of this award. This has not been achieved by a few hard-working individuals, but by the efforts of many right across the church.”

Register your interest in Eco Church here. 

Book now for EWDC

IT is vital that the Church continues to play a role in the climate response. Experts and delegates from churches will be gathering in Coventry for the 2016 Ecumenical World Development Conference on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 April at the Central Hall. The event will be a chance to reflect on the theological and practical implications of the Paris agreement. Click here to book.

Reflections on the Reading climate day

by the Revd Liz Ratcliiffe

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The Revd Liz Ratcliffe, (right), with Ruth Valerio, is the Curate at Christ Church Reading, and organised the Reading Climate Day.

READING Climate Day in December was a great success, with people from churches, environmental groups and the wider community visiting the Minster for a series of green events. The morning kicked off with a dozen stalls – picked for their environmental and fair trade credentials – arrayed down each side of the aisle. A variety of green goodies were on display, from vegan truffles to pictures made from bits of twig and gemstones. There was something for everybody, and shoppers and stallholders alike came away happy.

In the afternoon, things took a more serious tone, with a talk on climate change, given by Met-Office scientist Professor John Mitchell. John made the complex science understandable to a varied audience, who listened avidly while enjoying beer provided by Reading’s Zero Degrees microbrewery. He stayed to participate in a very lively and good-humoured question-and-answer session afterwards.

The day ended with a specially-written Climate Mass, led by Bishop Andrew, with an inspiring sermon by one of the country’s foremost environmental theologians, Dr Ruth Valerio. Ruth left us all feeling that we had something to offer in the fight against climate change, and the congregation participated enthusiastically in a very moving act of commitment to a more environmentally-sensitive lifestyle.

The whole event took place against a backdrop of environmentally-themed prayer stations and information stalls run by green Christian groups such as A Rocha and the John Ray Initiative.

Climate awareness day attracts top speakers to Reading Minster

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READING Christians are responding to international climate change talks with an awareness raising day at the Minster (St Mary the Virgin Church).

Met Office Principal Research Fellow, Professor John Mitchell and environmental theologian Dr Ruth Valerio are both speakers at the event on Saturday December 5. The day aims to demonstrate that Christians see caring for the planet as a spiritual imperative. The Revd Liz Ratcliffe, curate at Christ Church, Reading, is organising the Reading Climate Day. She said: “We want people to come along and add their voices to those who are pressing for robust action on climate change during the talks in Paris. We also want to look at what churches can do locally, helping environmental groups and to drive environmental policy in our town.”

The day starts at 10am with green Christmas stalls selling Fair Trade crafts and gifts and sustainably produced/ethically sourced foods. Throughout the day there will be an exhibition of photos, a video and a wealth of information in the church. Participants will be encouraged to join in campaigning by completing a sentence “tackle climate change for the love of…” on a Christmas decoration to hang on a Christmas tree outside the minster. They will be encouraged to take a photograph and post it on Facebook and Twitter.

At 4pm Professor John Mitchell, a world-renowned climate scientist, will give a talk. Professor Mitchell will be followed at 7pm by Ruth Valerio, the Churches and Theology Director of Christian environmental charity A Rocha and a high profile environmental theologian. Ruth will be preaching at a special Climate Mass. MPs and local councillors as well as environmental groups will be invited to the talks, which will also be open to the public.

Prayer Stations will be set up and will remain for Sanctuary, later in the evening, when the church becomes a chill-out zone for people enjoying a night out in the city centre.

 

Action, prayer and pilgrimage for climate change

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by Maranda St John Nicolle

AS the important Paris climate talks approach, churches are being invited to show their concern for creation in practical action, prayer, and pilgrimage. Earth

On the 10 October, the Diocese of Oxford is hosting a half day event in Abingdon called “How can I make a difference? Christians acting on climate change.” All interested church members are welcome. Local organisations will present opportunities to link up with projects that can help us live more sustainably; Hope for the Future, a national campaign started by members of the Church of England, will talk about opportunities to work with MPs and local councillors; there will be times of prayer and much sharing of ideas and experiences over coffee and a bring-and-share lunch. Visit www.earthingfaith.org.uk or ring 01235 851763 for more information or to book.

Many churches in our diocese will be praying for the climate talks, with a major climate service planned at Reading Minster for the evening of the 5 December. The Bishop of Reading, who is leading the planning for the service, has noted the importance of prayer for the climate and of our adding our voices to those around the world who are praying. The Christian prayer initiative Pray and Fast for the Climate has produced resources, available at www.prayandfastfortheclimate.org.uk, for prayer vigils at any time, as well as All Saints-themed materials for Sunday 1 November. During the period from 29 November to 12 December, they’ll be asking people to hold services, send prayers via social media, and sign up to cover the period in continuous prayer.

People from our area are also planning to join the Pilgrimage to Paris, sponsored by the Church of England, CAFOD, Christian Aid and Tearfund. Participants will walk or cycle from London to Paris, arriving in time to offer their prayers and witness of Christian concern at the services and rallies just prior to the talks. Christians will also be able to be ‘virtual pilgrims’ following the walkers online at www.pilgrimage2paris.org.uk and using the daily reflections and prayers prepared for the journey.

Join the mass climate lobby

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by Maranda St John NicolleThe Palace Of Westminster

CHRISTIANS in the Oxford Diocese are invited to join a mass lobby of Parliament on the issue of climate change. Thousands of people are expected to line the Thames on 17 June, to speak to their newly elected MPs, share with them a vision of a cleaner and greener planet, and urge them to make tackling climate change a priority. The lobby is organised by The Climate Coalition, which includes A Rocha, Christian Aid, and Tearfund among more than 100 members. An ecumenical service just before the event is being organised by the Christian agencies and denominations involved.

Why lobby now?
This year is a crucial one for anyone who cares about how creation will be affected by climate change. In December the world’s governments will meet in Paris to hammer out a deal on reducing carbon emissions and responding to the impact of climate change. It is hoped that this agreement will be the first to incorporate all UN member states, including both historically industrialised nations such as the UK and US and emerging economies such as China, India and South Africa. For this to work, all countries – including the UK – need to show leadership.

This September will also see the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals which, if creation care is included correctly, will go a long way to protecting the people most vulnerable to climate impact.
Christians have the potential to play a crucial role in advocating for agreements that protect the planet and help poorer communities to adapt – and have been asked to do so. At a recent meeting in Cape Town, Anglican bishops from around the Communion stated: “We call all our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Communion to join us in prayer and in pastoral, priestly and prophetic action.”
Individuals and church groups are participating in the “Pray and Fast for the Climate” taking place every first day of the month, installing renewable energy and protecting species in churchyards, exploring food sustainability through the “Food Matters” project, and advocating for sustainability at local and national levels.

Disinvestment
The Oxford Diocese has also taken the lead in calling on the Church of England to disinvest from fossil fuels. Diocesan Synod passed a motion to this effect last November, and the Revd Hugh Lee will move it at General Synod in July.

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group has itself recently advocated disinvestment from the dirtiest fossil fuels, a move which the Revd Darrell Hannah, co-sponsor of the original Oxford motion, hailed: “The EIAG’s decision to disinvest from coal and tar sands is a good first step and a move in the right direction.  Of course, I hope and pray the General Synod goes further and approves Oxford’s motion calling for disinvestment from oil within three years and natural gas within five.

“If they do not the Church of England risks being stuck with worthless and unsaleable assets as it is becoming increasingly clear that fossil fuels are not the safe investment they used to be.”
For details and to sign up to the lobby contact your local Christian Aid office in Oxford for more information at 01865 246818.

Face to face with climate change in Bolivia

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by Phil Evans

If you don’t believe the climate is changing, take a trip to Bolivia. I was lucky to be able to visit Christian Aid partners working in both the Bolivian Amazon and the High Andes. In both places, people have been suffering from the effects of global warming for decades. And the situation is becoming ever more acute. Children in Capaina, deep in the Amazonian rainforest, told me how last year’s floods were even worse than usual.

“Our village was submerged. Wenceslao, our Corregidor (community leader), swam through the snake-infested water to get help” they told me. “For a long time afterwards, we just didn’t want to play outside. We were still frightened,” they said.

The children also told us how Christian Aid’s local partner Soluciones Prácticas had been the first to come to their aid – assessing the situation and getting to action before any other organisation. Their crops had been devastated. So Soluciones Prácticas made sure Capaina had enough food to tide them over until they could grow new crops. They sourced quick-growing seeds from another part of the Amazon to replace the lost plants as quickly as possible while preserving the indigenous biodiversity. Wenceslao continued, “The village is being flooded more frequently as a result of global warming. These floods were the worst anyone can remember.”

I left the village thinking: “Is this really due to climate change? How can you know?” The answer came when visiting Fundación Solón in La Paz, high in the Andes. Fundación Solón is another Christian Aid partner that raises awareness of climate change, economic justice and access to water. Bolivia’s glaciers have been disappearing for decades. It’s not a recent phenomenon.

Many Bolivians in the High Andes  and in two of Bolivia’s main cities — La Paz and El Alto — depend on the partial melting of Andean glaciers for drinking water during the dry season. Bolivians are truly in the forefront of climate change. Christian Aid partners in Bolivia are helping poor communities like Capaina mitigate the effects of changes to the climate. On a more strategic level, Fundación Solón’s Director, Elizabeth Peredo, is a powerful voice on the international stage. She recently ran seminars at the Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change during the COP20 Climate Conference in Peru.

When I spoke to her, she was shocked that some people in the UK don’t believe climate change is even happening. “Tell them our story,” she told me, “we’re living with climate change every day”.

Phil Evans is the Christian Aid Regional Co-ordinator for Buckinghamshire.

Artists raising awareness of water issues through murals (Fundacion Solon)

Artists raising awareness of water issues through murals (Fundacion Solon)

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Glacier Cahaltaya in teh 1940s and recently.

Lisbeth and her quick growing crops.