BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development) housing community at Hackbridge in the London Borough of Sutton is the UK's first large-scale eco-village. 20 of us from St James’s, Kensington Unitarians, Greenspirit and Sustainable Haringey were given a tour of the site, by Katherine Lund-Yates of https://www.bioregional.com/ which champions One Planet living. Read a report on our visit here
Report on lecture by John F Haught at St James's Church 2 June 2019 in which he emphasised the importance of religion learning from findings in geology, biology and cosmology, and of integrating these into our contemporary theological understandings. He focused on the importance of a sense of purpose and meaning in the universe. He related what he had to say closely to the content of Laudato Si, the Pope’s encyclical on care for our common home, issued in 2015, which is informed by modern scientific understandings of our place in the universe. Read more here
Deborah writes: “I really appreciated the explicit co-mingling/admixture of science, spirit, activism and contemplative approaches in this event" Read the report
‘Every day they continued to meet together...They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,’ Acts 2, 26
I’ve been asked to write about Food - the sharing of Food is such an important act as a Christian - the early Christians shared meals on numerous occasions, Jesus commanded us to break bread together - it is central to our Church community life.
Food nourishes and sustains us, it comforts us, a tasty meal brings enormous pleasure but our daily Food choices can be difficult - should I buy Organic, is it Fair Trade, is it high in sugar or salt, is it wrapped in plastic, has it been air-freighted, has it been in cold storage for six months?? You can tie yourself in knots. How can we act justly in these confusing times? Over the past century we have moved to an unsustainable food system, which is why it’s time to reconsider our food choices today.
But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. Jeremiah 2.7
‘Sustainability’ is now an over-used word - what does it mean? Sustainable practices "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
So how can we make choices that don’t damage our planet and compromise our children’s future still further?
Here are some practical ideas:
And finally, here’s some summer reading for you:
Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
Dominion, by Matthew Scully
When Elephants Weep, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Diet For A Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe
The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer
Dead Zone, by Phillip Lymbery
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
This Holy Week and Easter weekend London was transformed by large-scale civil disobedience, direct action orchestrated by Extinction Rebellion in response to our planet’s ever-deepening ecological crisis. The rebellion was announced in October 2018 in a letter signed by 100 academics, including Rowan Williams. (You can read it here https://xrblog.org/2018/10/27/the-guardian-press-letter-100-academics-support-extinction-rebellion/ and see a clip here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7aOc1oeBzk ). As Williams puts it, ‘it really isn’t an exaggeration to say that the future of the human race is now at stake’ and ‘people have got to find a way of putting the case for the human race before those in power’. The rebellion turned Waterloo Bridge into a garden, Marble Arch into a base camp and festival site, and Oxford Circus into a centre of learning based in the pink ‘Tell the Truth’ boat. Parliament Square was occupied by affinity groups from around the country, Piccadilly Circus was regularly ‘swarmed’ by samba-playing XR youth, and the National History Museum experienced a mass ‘die-in’. Behind the thousands of ‘arrestable’ rebels, a support network ensured that the non-violent ethos held firm, regular citizens’ assemblies were convened to consult and organise, communications were maintained, and communal cooking and compost toilets served the needs of thousands. On Maundy Thursday rebel feet were washed.
In the thick of things, I found myself travelling with Peter (as per Luke chapter 22) and reflecting on activism and denial. As a species, we have been in denial for at least 40 years, probably much longer. We have ‘known’ we are living beyond our planetary means, that we are making it impossible for the myriad other species on whom we are utterly dependent (and so are both neighbour and self) to survive. Denial is psychological and spiritual, rational and unconscious, collective and political, so it seems to me that deep activism needs to interrogate and understand the nature of our denial, and challenge us to doubt, question, and un-know. Not unlike a journey of faithfulness. It should help us to recognize that our supposed power and the stories we have lived by are in need of radical overhaul.
55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.”57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said.*
Peter is in the very thick of it, he has rushed in where fools fear to tread but is terrified and hopelessly ill-equipped. Filled with the need to be there, to be true, he is doing what he can, fulfilling his personal responsibility. He is so close his face is illuminated by the firelight, so close he can’t possibly see the scale of the consequences that are just around the corner or what will be required of him. ‘I don’t know him’ is literally true on this scale.
Affairs are now planet-sized, personal responsibility has taken on a new meaning which we struggle to understand. But surely the earth is too big to fail? Surely humans can’t have this big an effect? Earth probably is too big to fail (barring an asteroid) for at least a few billion more years. But ‘earth’ is not the last geological blink of an eye, the balmy, green cocoon that is all we agricultural, inter-glacial, story-making humans have ever known. We can’t ‘save the earth’, but we do need a monumental concerted effort on our part to maintain the Goldilocks-sphere created by millions of years of planetary evolution (rocks, water and atmosphere hand in hand with the forces of life) which has made it possible for we evolutionary latecomers to be here at all. We do need to learn to see on an immense scale.
58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied.
I imagine Peter feels he is getting a handle on the situation, even gaining a little confidence. Magical thinking begins to kick in – he’s got away with hiding in plain sight. And then he’s challenged again.
The hashtag #softclimatechangedenial gained traction during the Extinction Rebellion protests. It refers to the shifting of responsibility onto individuals, increasing fear and anxiety that we are not doing enough to green our own lifestyles. Of course we should take responsibility to live more lightly, not least because it speaks truth to power! But meanwhile, as our gaze is turned away and inward, twisting our own guilt and seeking self-comfort, government and corporations are let off the hook. So in a strange twist, through actually trying to be good, we reinforce our denial. We can see this reflected back at us in some of the patronising attitudes of politicians to young climate protesters, telling them to go back to school and get their recycling in order as befits their status, often followed by the injunction to let politicians get back to ‘business as usual’ and sorting things out. Or more insidiously, ‘you are very welcome to our parliament and we hope you enjoy listening to the debates’, emphasising that young people are passive, not actors in their own destiny. All of which neatly exploits the next level of magical thinking: surely we can fix it! (i.e. ‘Surely someone can fix it. I am so small, I don’t understand science, other people are better placed to do this.’) Well, yes and no. We can, technologically if not politically, rapidly achieve net carbon neutral globally. But we can’t continue to mine and farm and manufacture (some might say ‘steward’) the earth according to our accustomed extractive, agri-culture.
Business as usual is over. A huge re-imagining is required. And that means that individuals, communities and power structures all have an eyes-wide-open role to play. In Parliament Square, rebels projected David Attenborough’s ‘Climate Change: The Facts’ onto the monolithic flank of Westminster Abbey, which duly reflected it back. But it was a police officer on rebellion-duty who facilitated the hearing of the message as she spoke quietly to an inebriated man ‘shh, people are trying to listen to this’. We must continue to find ways for our institutions to open their doors, receive the message, and be changed.
59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Surely he’s been found out now, called out for his ethnicity, for his deep belonging. Still he wriggles away, but at what cost? Rejection of the deepest source of his own identity. He has lost his beloved teacher and now he’s lost his own self as well. He must be feeling utterly bewildered and bereft.
Identity is now planet-sized: our narrow conception of being human is inextricably bound up with being earthlings, thoroughly incarnate. In failing to act on crises of climate and biodiversity, we deny our earthling status, which has repercussions for all other earthlings. Intellectually we know what is going on, as a species, we have all the information we need. At the deepest levels of identity and belonging we are bewildered, our stories are failing us.
Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
And after weeping bitterly he went out and rebuilt the world. I take encouragement from Peter-the-rock, who was able to get up again, denial and betrayal somehow integrated, his self-knowledge and faithfulness deeper and more authentic, his capacity for clear-sighted action hugely enhanced.
The cock crows, the time is now, the place is a planetary ‘here’. The ecological tipping point may or may not have passed us by, but surely we stand at an enormous psychological and ethical tipping point. We must be better ancestors or we may not be ancestors at all. A message (allegedly) from Banksy appeared on a wall at Marble Arch just after Easter Day: ‘From this moment despair ends, and tactics begin’. Tactics are hope made flesh. We can all take part in manifesting hope.
Meanwhile, more and more rebels are waking up and staying awake, watching, praying, and kicking up an Easter storm.
*All Biblical quotes from Luke chapter 22 (NIV)
Have you ever thought about praying outside?
Do you find God in nature?
As a church, how can we bridge the gap between Christian spirituality and the inherent spirituality of the earth?
(Click 'read more')
Pennry Turton writes:
At the beginning of January, I happened upon a series of 15-minute programmes on BBC Radio 4. Called ‘New Year Solutions’, each programme focused on a different aspect of our 21st century lifestyle. Topics included food, transport (cars and flying), water, space, and clothes and fashion. Startling facts and figures detailed the climatic impacts of our behaviour in these arenas. Alongside this information, each programme offered ideas on how we could choose to live differently. It was suggested that, if adopted globally, such behavioural changes would not only mitigate the environmental damage we inflict on a daily basis but could even reverse climate change... (Click on read more)
JOIN US FOR EARTH HOUR
8.30–9.30pm Saturday 30 March 2019:
Eros statue, Piccadilly Circus
Switch off for your world.
In the UK, every year millions of us take part in Earth Hour. By making pledges to help our planet, and by being part of a movement of hundreds of millions more around the globe, we can show we’re fighting for our world. We are the first generation to know we are destroying the world. And we could be the last that can do anything about it. We have the solutions, we just need our voices to be heard.
Earth Hour gives a powerful voice to people everywhere who want to put the world on the path to recovery. The world’s biggest landmarks – such as the Sydney Opera House, Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, and Edinburgh Castle – switch off lights as a visual display of their commitment. And you can switch off too.
Join the global movement this Earth Hour – switch off your lights and be part of the change.
Last year over 10 million people across the UK took part to send a clear message: we’re fighting for our world. Earth Hour is organised by WWF (World Wildlife Fund).
Join the St James’s Eco team at Piccadilly Circus.
The main advertising billboard at Piccadilly Circus is turned off for the hour.
Let us know you are able to come: email Petra at email@example.com. We will have some placards, candles, and will be singing Taize chants.
Friday 12 July 2019: eco-pilgrimage to BedZED eco-housing development with optional lunch and walk including Beddington Farmlands Nature Reserve
BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development) in South London Zone 4 is the UK's first large-scale eco-village. See the flyer here
Eco Church January blog from Petra Griffiths
From a new evolutionary threshold to a call for a cosmological, relational, and more organismic understanding of the universe
Diarmuid O’Murchu’s talk at St James’s in November 2018 addressed the meaning of incarnation in our times. Diarmuid reminded us that God's creativity throughout creation is mediated through bodies, from the vast universe right down to subatomic particles.
In this new vision, God’s revelation is considered to be in the whole of creation. Divine revelation is mediated primarily through the embodied processes that facilitate growth and flourishing. The discussion after the talk led on to what we can do today in the face of the level of destruction of our life systems which we ourselves are bringing about. The work of Paul Hawken, author of Holy Unrest. The Biggest Movement in the World that No-One Saw Coming was a point of interest. This unnamed diverse movement is made up of a myriad of local environmental and social change groups, and involves millions who are working for the good of both people and the earth.
Diarmuid has worked all over the world and is an educator, author, social psychologist and member of the Sacred Heart Missionary Order. His vision is clearly challenging us to think in much broader terms than is usual within our churches. The response to his talk was very positive and there was a strong call for more talks informed by this kind of vision:
“Very redemptive and empowering.” “Inspiring – really good to feel part of a spirited embodied community.” “Exciting. Hopeful.” “Really, really good. We need more talks like this!”
The Eco Church series of Sunday events is continuing in 2019 and we are very fortunate to have on our programme a talk by John F. Haught on Christian Faith and Ecology in an Unfinished Universe. John Haught is Distinguished Research Professor at Georgetown University and author of many books including The New Cosmic Story. Inside our Awakening Universe and The Promise of Nature: Ecology and Cosmic Purpose.
In his writings John Haught speaks of a “sacramental approach to Christian ecological theology…” which “goes beyond the apologetic variety of environmental theology by arguing that our present circumstances require a whole new interpretation of what it means to be Christian. In the face of the environmental crisis it will not do simply to take more seriously our inherited texts and teachings. These are still important, but they must be carefully sifted and reinterpreted in terms of a cosmological, relational, non-hierarchical, non-patriarchal, non-dualistic, and more organismic understanding of the universe.
We are looking forward to this radical input into our future vision. Come along and give us your response. This event on Sunday 2 June 1.50 – 3.30 pm is put on by Eco Church at St James’s Piccadilly and Living Spirituality Connections. To book a place email firstname.lastname@example.org
As Lucy said in that morning's sermon, it was a really pertinent time to be celebrating a Harvest Festival:
“On Monday the news was full of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which effectively called for nothing less than a revolution in the way we are living to avoid catastrophic damage, not only to the poorest people in the world, but a drastic reduction in biodiversity and an increase in the rate of extinction of creatures. For Christians this isn't just an ecological or a scientific issue or an issue of the survival of our own species, but a spiritual issue, a theological issue, because it's God the creator we celebrate the one who made us and all that is seen and unseen.” Click read more to discover -