Bucks Bee Club is a Hive of Activity

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A Buckinghamshire church’s weekly bee club has made quite a buzz with the younger members of the All Saints’ Coleshill congregation.

Environment Action Programme Internships

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Four students from the University of Oxford share their experiences from internships with the Diocese’s Environment Action Programme.

Taking Climate Action in the Benefice of Witney

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The rector of the Witney Benefice meets the local MP to discuss their cares and concerns on environmental issues and climate action.

A helpful clarification…

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What’s happened?

A number of commentators on social media have said that the core message of this film by the Bishop of Reading is pantheistic or panentheistic. Pantheism is defined as a doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God.

What does that mean, and why does it matter?

Incarnate means “taking flesh”, “becoming human”. Christians believe this happens in a unique and unrepeatable way in Christ, lifting up humanity to a unique place within the creation. Applying the same analogy to the whole of creation can be seen as blurring the distinction between Christ and Creation; that God is in everything to the same degree. In turn, people believe that if God is in everything to the same degree, then this erodes the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ.

Is that what you meant to say?

Of course, this isn’t the intended message of the film, as Bishop Olivia responds:

In the first of the videos I made on how we might understand our care for the environment, I used the word ‘incarnation’ in a very broad sense which some have found unhelpful, so here is a clarification.

The event of the Incarnation of Christ, at a moment in time and in a place on Earth was unique, unrepeatable and salvic. Through this event, as Colossians 1 puts it, we see in Christ, not only the image of the invisible God, but the fulness of God, and the whole of the created world has access to ultimate reconciliation with God.

Reading John 1 and Colossians 1 gives us a profound sense that all things are formed through God and Christ the Logos. And since the beginning, God makes Godself known in creation for the purpose of reconciliation. More than this, as we read in Laudato Si’, God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things; his divine presence ensures the subsistence and growth of each being.

I can see that the words I used had a pantheistic ring to them, which I did not intend (God and creation are not the same thing). But I think that it is helpful, in considering our relationship to our world to think about the notion that the Divine pervades every part of the universe, while clearly being above, beyond and greater than the universe.

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork”
– Psalm 19

 

It’s good to encourage debate

It’s good that there has been some vigorous debate. Done well, it shows that we care. Let’s remember too that, as Christians, we also have an essential part to play in the shape of online society. How we model good disagreement and how we interact with one another is important. Let’s make social media kinder.

Environmentally-friendly electric car for Bishop Olivia

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The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham, is the latest bishop in the Diocese of Oxford to move to an environmentally-friendly electric car.

Funding for Energy Efficiency Work

Is your church undertaking some energy efficiency plans – and looking for funding? Here are some thoughts on first steps

Diocesan Grants

Implementation Grants

If you’ve had a diocesan energy audit, you’re eligible to apply for an implementation grant up to the cost of the audit. Contact energy.audits@oxford.anglican.org to receive the form.

Top-up Grants

The diocese has received some funding from our partners at Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, which we can use to top up the implementation grants by a small amount for key energy efficiency projects that churches would find difficult to fund. If you’d like to know more, email energy.audits@oxford.anglican.org.

 

Funding advice from the National Church

The Parish Resources team have put together a useful guide to Charitable Grants for Churches, which includes a section on ‘Environmental and Sustainability Projects’

The Church of England website also has useful step-by-step Funding and Capital Appeals Guidance

 

Other Grant Funding

Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action has a list of funders that give environmental grants for projects in Oxfordshire (and often beyond).

 

 

Ways for churches to save energy and money

The church energy audit programmes conducted by Oxford and Leeds dioceses and the National Church have resulted in some key learnings about how churches can best save carbon – and money.

What did we find?

The findings of the energy audits were analysed by Sarah Jeffery, acting on behalf of the two dioceses and the National Church. You can see some of the information about the findings in this webinar: ‘A Positive Vision of a Net Zero Carbon Church’

What practical advice has resulted?

The material from the energy audit advice was used to create the National Church’s ‘Practical Path to Net Zero Carbon for Churches’ – a simple guide to the steps you can take, from simple, low or no-cost measures to larger projects. Read it here.

You might also like to look at this guide to making your building sustainable.

St James’ wins national Green award

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WINNING a Church Times Green Church Award was a “wow” moment for Ed Sampson, the church warden at St James’ Finchampstead in Berkshire.

The church was awarded £1,000 for its work to convert scrubland into a biodiverse churchyard extension and garden of remembrance. Now a wildlife haven, the garden features bat boxes, bee hotels and wild flowers. The judges praised the range of small measures, the celebration of diversity and the community engagement. Pictured right is Bishop Andrew at the consecration of the churchyard in 2016. The first burial on the newly converted land took place in October.

Ed travelled to Lambeth Palace for the prestigious awards ceremony. Ed said: “There were so many deserving cases. I set off thinking there was no chance of us winning. When they announced St James’ had won I nearly fell off my chair.” He described the project, which saw volunteers clear 10ft high brambles and nettles to get it level for burials. “It is hoped that the prize money will be used for more landscaping work to help the churchyard fit in with the local scenery.”

Churches Working in Partnership on the Environment

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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.

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.