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')
During our time in the garden we've noticed the Earth speaking through birdsong, the wind in the trees, or the sounds of the city waking up to a new day. As busy city dwellers, this is often for us an experience of an entirely new language. The priest and eco-theologian Thomas Berry describes this - he says: “The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not objects to be exploited. Everything has its own voice. Thunder and lightning and stars and planets, flowers, birds, animals, trees - all these have voices, and they constitute a community of existence that is profoundly related.”
Liturgy is a language, and every liturgical event is a contribution to an ongoing spiritual conversation about our relationship with God, our fellow human beings and our whole Earth. The word “liturgy” itself means ‘the work of the people’ - thus liturgy is usually seen as a very human, or even anthropocentric, activity. However, the liturgical language of the Earth is fundamentally different from our own. Our own human liturgy helps to appreciate the wonderful strangeness of the Earth, as we encounter it speaking in its own liturgical native language.
This new encounter with the Earth has the potential to change our actions towards the Earth. Encountering the Earth as it really is requires us to be a pilgrim church, on a journey towards understanding the Earth but with the humility which acknowledges that we have not yet reached this understanding. Part of this journey involves being open to listening to the Earth, even if what we hear challenges us and shocks us.
Evidence shows that climate change has devastating consequences - we need to act now. However, as a church community our action needs to be grounded in compassion and love of our neighbour. At St James's, this compassion already underlies our response to the needs of vulnerable people in our community. This compassion can be extended as the basis of our response as a church to climate change - on this issue the Earth is our neighbour. Just as our response to community needs are not purely focused on emergencies, our response to climate change must be similarly holistic, operating in both the short-term and the long-term.
I wonder if as a church we can somehow look beyond emergency measures against climate change to become compassionate healers in a long-term partnership with the Earth. Can we become healers who can somehow ‘come alongside’ the Earth to share in its experiences and feel its pain and joy? Can we renew a sense of wonder which seeks an end to climate change in order that we might experience more of the Earth's beautiful, rich diversity?