Sunday, November 11, 2007

Green Sunday

On 1st July 2007 we properly introduced the morning congregation to our Eco-congregation plans with a Worship Together service - the order of service used Iona Community Wild Goose Worship Group and Christian Aid materials (some significantly adapted like the confession to include confessing to younger people what we've done to our world), a sketch taken from a link to the Eco-congregation website, a Creation drama I had written and a powerpoint presentation on the crisis in the environment and our response.

We started horribly late because we couldn't get the loop system working but that gave time for everyone to arrive and for us to organise the children who were doing the drama. One member of the congregation said she was almost in tears during the powerpoint, despite the unintended comedy moment when an image of a mountain gorilla appeared on the screen just as I said 'As Christians'. For others the highlight was the Creation drama - the pantomime dinosaur was a hit and it took everyone by surprise when the two dads who'd carried on closed cardboard boxes so nonchalantly lifted their toddler son and daughter from inside. Stuart had spent hours adapting the powerpoint presentation specifically ensuring that the rotating image of the earth was how our planet had looked earlier that very morning (luckily he noticed it was rotating the wrong way before we started).

Order of Service 1 July 2007

On screen at the front as people come in – image of the Earth with ‘The Earth is the Lord’s and Everything in it’ - Becoming an Eco-Congregation written below it

Light a candle on the altar

O God, who called all life into being
The earth, sea and sky are yours
Your presence is all around us
Every atom is full of your energy
Your Spirit enlivens all who walk the earth
With her we yearn for justice to be done
For creation to be freed from bondage
For the hungry to be fed
For captives to be released
For your Kingdom of Peace to come on Earth

Please sit. This morning’s service is a part of our commitment to becoming an Eco-congregation. Becoming an Eco-congregation is about bringing care for creation into three areas of our church life – the spiritual, the practical and our relationship with the wider community. At the end of this service we would like to invite everyone to help develop an action plan for this process.

As an all age worship I’m hoping all you children will find the whole service interesting, but just in case there’s the odd brief boring bit, we have prepared an activity sheet for under twelves – if you don’t have one please pick one up from the tables at the back of the church. These sheets tell the story of Joseph great grandson of Abraham whose story we’ve been looking at in Exclaimers. Joseph was sold as a slave to passing camel traders by his jealous brothers and ended up in Egypt – on the activity sheets you’ll find the story of how God warned that there would be no harvests but that Joseph and Pharoah were careful with the earth’s resources so that the people of Egypt did not starve. It seems a good story to bear in mind as we think about the threat of global warming.

This service is about our relationship with the natural world and the implications of that for our relationships with God and with all of God’s children. Inevitably we’re going to be thinking about the threat of climate change to our planet and its people. But we want to begin with a celebration of the goodness of God’s Creation.

We begin with a hymn that celebrates that goodness and what it tells us of God
Hymn – How Great Thou Art

Please sit. Jonathan and Naomi will read a story of the Creation

Voice 1. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, there was nothing. And God said
Voice 2. Y’he cymbals crash Let there be
Voice 1. Through the Word all things came into being and the Spirit of God swept over the face of the void. In the first minute of time, the universe stretched a million billion miles across. Two minutes more and God had made 98 per cent of all the matter there is or ever will be.
Perhaps about 9 billion years passed.
And God caught up a swirl of gas and dust 24 billion kilometres wide and from almost all that gas and dust God made our sun. But around it still spun the dust grains that became its planets. God spent two million years fashioning this planet earth.
Throw the planet ball back and forth across the central space.
And God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning. The first day.

Voice 1. About 500 million years later, God said
Voice 2. Let there be life
Voice 1. And beneath sulphurous vapours in boiling seas bacteria swarmed. And some became blue-greens who could photosynthesize. And God saw that it was good.
Two children walk on covered with blue and green crepe strips and blowing bubbles.
The blue greens sent up bubbles of oxygen - like beads of silver on the surface of the deep - and over millennia these transformed the atmosphere and built the ozone layer.
And there was evening and there was morning. The second day.
Children sit to the side

Voice 1. And God said
Voice 2. Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.
Voice 1. Plants grew in the seas. Corals and sponges formed.
Children with white crepe jelly fish outfit or worms on sticks walk on wiggling them
Worms and jellyfish swam, then trilobites and ammonites.
God made fish about 160 million years after the ammonites.
And there was evening and there was morning. The third day.
Children sit to the side

Voice 1.And God said
Voice 2. Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed and trees of every kind.
Voice 1. And it was so.
Child wheels in wheelbarrow of plants to set around the bottom of the altar
God planted mosses and liverworts along the shoreline. And sowed the horsetail and club-mosses that would become our coal.
God planted the ferns that waved among them and the pine trees and the cedar that towered above.
Child walks off with wheelbarrow
And God saw that it was good. And God said
Voice 2. Let the earth bring forth creeping things and insects that fly
Voice 1. And it was so.
Children bring in insect mobiles (made previous week at Exclaimers)
Millipedes crept through the mosses and silverfish slid across the ground. Amphibians, some of them four metres long, dominated the earth for about hundred million years. Grasshoppers chirped and the blue dragonflies hovered over head.
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening and there was morning. The fourth day.

Voice 1. And then God created the great land monsters that were the dinosaurs and also the tortoise and the snake and then the opposum.
Dinosaur with two Exclaimers under it walks on
And 180 million years ago God said
Voice 2. Let the waters under the sky be split into smaller seas and dry land spread around the globe
Voice 1. And God split the plates of the earth asunder and the continent of Pangea broke up and moved about the earth.
And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning. The fifth day.

Voice 1.And God said
Voice 2. Let these lands be filled with wild animals of every kind, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky; let plants bring forth flowers and great whales swim the seas.
Voice 1. And all this was so for God created the wild animals of the earth and the birds of the air, the flowering plants and the giants of the deep.
65 million years ago the climate changed and the earth grew cold and the dinosaurs died. And then God made many more wondrous creatures.
And perhaps just 3 million years ago, or perhaps less than a hundred thousand, God said
Voice 2. Let us make humankind in our own image and likeness, that they too may delight in these works, and create with us, and share in the husbandry of the fish of the sea, and of the birds of the air, and of every living thing that moves upon the earth.
Two dads carry on large boxes marked as if posted and lift their babies out
Voice 1. So God created humankind, male and female, in God’s image. God looked at everything and indeed it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning. The sixth day.

And on the seventh day God rested.

But God’s creating had not stopped nor were the plates of the earth stilled. And in their scriptures people celebrated a God who watches over the calving of the deer and helps the lion hunt its prey, who fathered the rain and gave birth to the ice, who gave the horse its might and by whose wisdom the hawk soars.
And God so loved this world that ‘he became flesh pause and dwelt among us’

This is the world of the Lord

Leader: Thank you.
What do you love most about Creation? Please take a couple of minutes in threes and fours in your pews to share with others the things that are most precious or wonderful to you about the created world.

Let us come together to give thanks to God for Creation and for our place within it in the words of Psalm 8. Please stand.

Psalm 8
women: Your glory glows in the heavens.
It is babbled by babies and sung by children.
men: You are safe from all your enemies;
Those who oppose you are silenced.
women: When I look at the sky which you have made,
The moon and the stars that you set in place:
men: Where do human beings fit in the pattern?
What are we, that you care for us?
women: You have made us only a little lower than yourself;
And crowned us with glory and honour.
men: You share with us responsibility
To care for sheep and cattle, wild things, birds and fish,
Everything that lives in the sea:
To work with you, within creation

Please sit. We need a doctor

Richard and Rosemary's Planet doctor sketch

Extinction/climate change powerpoint
Our planet has entered the sixth great extinction event of its history, triggered not by natural phenomena but by human actions.

Ever since the introduction of farming 10,000 years ago we have been changing the balance of life on our planet

But in the last two hundred years things have been changing rapidly. Today tens of thousands of species are under threat because we are destroying their habitats – for our food, for fuel, for tourism, for gold and jewels, for hardwood furniture, for cheap clothes, by accidental pollution, to build roads and so on.

For instance, in the last 150 years 93% of tiger habitat has been destroyed – there are probably only about 6,000 of them left in the wild.

The Wind in the Willows is James’s favourite book – the hero Ratty is of course a water vole

In the course of the 1990s the British water vole population dropped by 88 per cent. Modern farming practice, water pollution and escapee mink from fur farms have made ratty our most endangered mammal

As Christians we are called to prioritise the least. To cherish and protect the vulnerable. In today’s world perhaps that is not just the widow and the orphan. Perhaps it is also the mountain gorillas of whom only 700 now remain.

Now we understand just how interconnected life on earth is. Now we know that the rainforest trees are the lungs of our planet.

Now we know also that plants in these threatened habitats can be crucial to our lives – the Madagascan Rosy Periwinkle can increase the chance of surviving childhood Leukemia from 10% to 95%.
Perhaps it is fair now to understand the rainforests as our neighbours.
And it is not just distant wildlife that is precious. Scientists are now associating some mental health problems, particularly in children, with a nature deficit disorder. Physically, mentally and spiritually we need a better relationship with the rest of God’s Creation.
But now an even greater threat looms – on top of this current extinction event, there is the emerging catastrophe of global warming

Global warming is already happening. This graph shows temperatures suddenly rising up to the year 2000 but the trend is continuing – 2005 was the hottest year on record, but last April was the hottest April on record.

The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are directly contributing to higher global temperatures, and that humans are responsible for this increase in carbon dioxide levels. In the past 150 years we have burnt up fossil fuels that took 200 million years to produce.

The consequences of continued warming will be catastrophic for many species. And humans too are already suffering. Higher temperatures mean more extreme weather conditions
In 2003 Europe was hit by a heatwave that killed 39,000 people
In 2004 there were more tornadoes in the US than in any other year in history.

But those hit hardest are the poorest.
Tens of millions of people in low-lying nations such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Egypt will be threatened by further sea level rises caused by ice sheets melting.

But in countries like Senegal droughts are rendering land infertile.

A staggering 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by the end of the century.
The Red Cross has estimated that already 25 million refugees (58 per cent of the global total) owe their displacement to climate change. Christian Aid fears there will be a billion more.
Climate change threatens to undo all of the progress made by development agencies in recent years – that is why organisations like Tearfund and Christian Aid are urging us passionately to do all we can to stop this catastrophe and why the Church of England is committed to cutting it’s carbon footprint to 40% of its current level.

Again it is a matter of our obligations to the poorest and those already most vulnerable. At the moment the energy hungry lifestyles of those who live in rich nations are condemning the poorest to lose their livelihoods and their lives. While each of us emits almost 10 tons of carbon dioxide every year, those in sub-Saharan Africa emit less than a ton.

To help us address this personally, Christian Aid have produced a carbon calculator so that we can make an estimate of our own CO2 emissions and consider our response. Our home group have already used these and found the results surprising. If you would like a copy please let me know after the service. To avoid catastrophic climate change scientists estimate that each of us should emit no more than 2.5 tonnes. That is a hugely ambitious target.

With all this in mind, we turn to our confession. Please stand. Can I invite Andy and anyone else under 25 who wants to come up to the front at this point to do so – we will need you for the absolution
Let us confess our sins
Creator God
Your fertile earth is being stripped of its riches, your living waters are being poisoned, your clear air is dark with the smoke of burning oil and forests
Open our eyes to see

Creator God
The rich plants and wondrous animals you gave us to care for are under threat – orangutans face extinction so that we can have palm oil, tigers are dying out so that we can have coffee, rainforests are burning so that soya can be grown for chicken feed – a million species will be lost in just fifty years if we cannot stop our climate changing
Open our eyes to see

Creator God
Our sisters and brothers are losing their sources of food and fuel, the poorest in our world are being made poorer, drought and floods threaten to make millions of refugees and to undo all the progress that development agencies and debt cancellations have made. Our sisters and brothers are dying because of the way we live
Open our eyes to see

To all the children and young people we make our confession too. All those over 25 saying together
We confess to you that we have sinned through thoughtlessness, through idleness and greed, by the destruction we have caused and the actions we have failed to take.
We are truly sorry.
We repent of all that we have wasted and the bounty we have squandered, knowing that the world will be poorer for your generation.
Inspire us to turn back the tide and work to heal this broken planet. Challenge our complacency, nag us when we fall short and keep us accountable for your future.

Children: May God forgive you, Christ renew you and the Holy Spirit guide us all to rebuild this world.

(thank children and send them back) Please remain standing for a hymn from the Iona community –
Hymn: Inspired by Love and Anger

Joanna: Please sit. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis in Creation which faces us and to feel burdened by humankind’s responsibility. Our homegroup recently watched the film The Matrix which is a futuristic nightmare of a computer dominated world. In one scene the computer generated Agent Smith argues that people are not really mammals because all other mammals regulate their population according to the resources of the land they inhabit, humans, he says, are more like a virus that devastates its host.

Christianity doesn’t see it that way. Humankind is an integral part of a very good Creation. More than that, humankind is made in the Creator’s image. One of Christianity’s most famous ‘green’ heroes is St Francis and I recently came across a poetic translation of some of his words which celebrate the mysteriously beautiful relationship between humans and the rest of God’s Creation.

We bless the earth with each step we take.
And the firmament too needs our touch:
Someday your tenderness will reach it.
Look how the birds climb some invisible staircase
and lay their hands upon Him.
Of course I am jealous, when I too cannot do that.
The seas waited long to sing. Not until we leaped out laughing
Was their birth of us complete.

We have a huge task ahead of us, but St Francis’s words encourage me that we are mentally and spiritually equipped for it, even designed for this task, to be good for the Earth, to work in a positive relationship with life on Earth. And we are not alone – the Holy Spirit who breathed over the waters at Creation is with us, making things possible.

But where do we begin? Clearly it is something to be worked at on so many levels – in prayer and political action and our everyday lives. For different people different aspects will be easier and I think it is crucial to feel ourselves working in community with others and with God because otherwise our efforts can easily appear too small to make any difference.

That is where becoming an Eco-congregation comes in. Those of us who have been meeting up over the last few months have sent off a preliminary action plan to register ourselves with Eco-congregation but would like to use this service to build on that. The idea is that once we feel we’re really quite a green church we apply for the Eco-congregation award, a bit like being registered as a fair-trade church, and our efforts will be assessed by someone associated with Eco-congregation.
Please think about what you would like to change in the life of the church and in your own lives? Wild daydreams are allowed at this stage but we’re especially keen on actions that you are prepared to set in motion!

This is a summary of our action plan so far:

Powerpoint summary

Joanna. In the gallery there are large sheets of paper on the tables – at some point between now and when you leave the church please write your ideas on these sheets – all ideas: crazy and practical, about the spiritual, the practical and the community focussed – and preferably put your name beside your idea. If someone has had the same thought, please add your agreement so that we know which ideas are most popular.
And what about our lives beyond church? It makes sense to start with just one issue and build on that. To start empowering ourselves for that we thought it would be helpful to break into discussion groups on certain themes and for each group to put together a poster of ideas that others can look at over lunch – hopefully there’ll be no more than about 10 people in each group so everyone gets to talk.
We thought the young people would prefer their own discussion groups, so Ann Morrison will co-ordinate under 10s . . . and Alison will co-ordinate the over 10s
For adults we’ve come up with five issues to talk on –
If you’re interested in questions of food and shopping – see Ali, Helen or Josie
For questions of transport see Richard
For energy and water use see Alex or Nigel
For recycling and re-using Rosemary
And for political action – me

Joanna: Please can we return to our seats to offer up all that we have been discussing in our prayers.

Let us pray
Creator God, take our feet off the path of destruction. Help us to treasure and conserve the resources of the Earth. Help us to share your bounty fairly. Teach us to find joy in living more simply and to love your world.

Please stand for our final hymn
Hymn: The Servant King

Let us remain standing to bless one another in the words of a Celtic blessing
Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you

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