Sunday, November 11, 2007

In the Beginning

Report of meeting held on 3rd October 2006 to discuss Eco-Congregation

Why did people attend?
We agreed that those present share the passionate belief that respect of and care for God’s created universe is fundamental to a right relationship with God Himself and with our fellow human beings.

We are deeply concerned about the current threats to the natural world. This is an abuse of a most precious gift from God and in distancing ourselves from the rest of Creation we distance ourselves from ways of understanding God. Moreover, to quote from Tearfund’s latest publicity, ‘Climate change is not just an environmental issue – it’s a threat to people living in poverty’.

We are conscious that Tearfund, Christian Aid, Cafod, Oxfam, WDM and other development agencies have joined the Stop Climate Chaos coalition precisely because the most vulnerable people on this earth are those whose lives and livelihoods are already being destroyed by climate change. It makes little sense to support fair-trade initiatives without also responding to the impending environmental catastrophe. We are also aware that the Church of England has launched a national environmental campaign, Shrinking the Footprint, endeavouring to reduce the Church’s energy consumption by 40%.

We take heart from the fact that experts in the environmental field assure us that meaningful action can still be taken. The substantial reduction in water consumption in the Thames Valley this year is indicative of people’s willingness to act for the greater good in such matters. The Church of England’s website cites the feeding of the 4,000 (Mt 15:32-39) as an apt parable: ‘At Jesus’ request, the disciples gave up what little they had (which was still more than the rest) for an apparently impossible task. In the end it was more than enough.’

What is Eco-Congregation?
Eco-Congregation is ‘an environmental toolkit for churches’ produced by ENCAMS and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Becoming involved with Eco-Congregation entails undertaking their ‘Churches environmental check-up’ and producing an action plan as a result which endeavours to develop environmental awareness in three areas;
Spiritual – linking environmental issues with faith eg through worship
Practical – eg energy consumption, recycling
Community – working with or through the local community on environmental issues eg litter pick, project with a school or similar, getting positive publicity.
When this threefold environmental commitment can be demonstrated we can apply for an Eco-congregation award.
Eco-congregation provide a range of resources which we can use if we find them helpful.

Summary of issues covered by environmental check up:
1. Life and Mission of the Church – does care for the environment have sufficient weight within the church’s mission? This is assessed by looking at the five marks of mission formulated by the 1988 Lambeth Conference -
a. To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom
b. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
c. To respond to human need by loving service
d. To seek to transform unjust structures of society
e. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation; to sustain and renew the life of the earth

2. Worship
3. Theology
4. Children’s work
5. Youth work
6. All-age and Adult education
7. Church property
8. Church management
9. Church land
10. Personal lifestyle
11. Community outreach
12. Overseas concerns
This document is available in full on the eco-congregation website

Do we think Eco-Congregation would be good for St John’s?
St John’s is clearly already environmentally aware, obvious examples being last Sunday’s Harvest Service, Oasis’s contribution to the forecourt garden and through our overseas interests – Rosemary brought along Tearfund’s latest campaign card which calls on the government to play its part in stopping climate chaos. Nonetheless, there are many other things we could do and which the Eco-congregation ‘tool-kit’ would help with.

We feel it is particularly useful right now as we embark on the ‘Lost for Words’ course. Getting involved with the wider community on green issues would be an obvious ideal opportunity for conversations with non-church goers in which we can begin by explaining that our involvement is inspired by our faith.

We are conscious that young people especially see much of church as irrelevant to the real world. However, they are concerned about what is happening to the planet and would be attracted to the church if it was seen to be engaging with issues whose importance they understood.

Observing the enthusiasm in the room, Jo commented “this is what it means to be ‘energised by faith’” – this is something that would be good for St John’s as a congregation.

What next?
Sacred Space – use 19 November’s Sacred Space service to explore ideas about Care for Creation and to distribute Tearfund’s booklets For Tomorrow Too (on ways to reduce our impact on the climate). This would enable more of the congregation to discuss these issues.
A planning meeting for this service will be held on 7th November.

PCC – Give a copy of this report to all members of the PCC and ask them to consider a proposal to work towards an Eco-congregation award at their 20 November meeting.

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