Friday, December 19, 2008

Reclaiming Christmas

About ten days ago I revisited Operation Noah's site to find out more about their Reclaim Christmas campaign. Here's a summary:

Advent was traditionally a period of penitence and quiet anticipation. But now it seems no more than four weeks of frenzied consumption in which stress, needless debt and damage to God’s creation have become its defining hallmarks. Did you know:

Countless unwanted “gifts” will end up, at best in the charity shops and at worst, in the landfill.

If Jesus returned in December 2008, what would he make of us doing all of this in His name?

So, instead of shopping, we want you to come together to celebrate and anticipate the birth of Christ together, in community, reducing your consumption footprint over the Advent period, the time famed for its excessive rate of consumption and to build friendships whilst doing so.

We say no to singing Santa mugs, golf ball washers and umbrella hats that will be discarded by the 12th day of Christmas, and yes to living simply, together, over the Advent period.

They've got some great posters, a couple of which I printed out for church. They also suggest encouraging people to make things for themselves instead of all the buying. As it happened we'd already planned just such an event for Oasis the following Wednesday - we encouraged the cafe mums and toddlers to join us to make Christmas cards and decorations and to decorate biscuits. It was a somewhat chaotic affair with hundreds and thousands almost decorating the cards, a good deal of glitter and a surprising number of aliens on the kids' cards, but I think we all came away surprised by, and proud of, the works of art we'd made as well as having a good social time. There was some coming and going but about 20 adults present in total and four children.

This past week at Oasis there was more creativity, many of us just wrapping and packing the Christmas hamper boxes but also lots of home made mince pies being prepared ready for this Sunday's carol service. (Naturally we checked that these were up to standard before the morning was out).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Comment on Power

I've had a couple of comments on the previous entry - please do read the one attached. At the PCC one member had information from the green electricity website which he said gave details of Ecotricity's New Energy Plus sources of power. This listed 18.3% coal and 18% nuclear among others which was rather a shock to me and inevitably undermined the case I was making to change to this company.
Following the comments to the blog entry I have checked up the website and found that this table of sources actually refers to all of Ecotricity's power sources, not just New Energy Plus which is indeed sourced 100% from its windfarms and other renewable sources that they have bought. It's an easy mistake to make given the website layout but I apologise to Ecotricity for failing to check this out in more detail earlier.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Monday of last week was the crucial PCC vote on changing our electricity supplier. I had given everyone a briefing from which my 1 September blog on this subject was written. I was recommending Ecotricity because it is investing in more renewable energy sources than any other company in this country and because it is significantly cheaper than Good Energy. To my surprise, despite the impending rise in the parish share and other strains on our budget, the general feeling was that if we're going to do this we should opt for whatever is genuinely greenest.

The coal and nuclear contributions in Ecotricity's so-called 100% green option caused concern among many. Eventually we voted not on the specific company but on whether to change our supplier and this was carried by a signficant majority. Three of us were then asked to go away, do more research and present the PCC with 'the greenest option' at the next meeting. I do have a concern that there is no such thing as 'the greenest option', only better options from different perspectives. However, it's great that we're now on track to make a really significant cut in our financial support for carbon production.

A quick note on banking - it seemed to make sense to refer this back to the diocese since so many of Oxford's churches bank with NatWest and we would clearly make a bigger impact if we acted together. I've e-mailed the diocese's social responsibility officer on this and await the finance officer's response.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

World Toilet Day

After the success of last year's Clutter Sale we thought we'd ask the Exclaimers to organise another. They suggested raising money for Water Aid. It's not a charity I'm very familiar with so I looked it up on the web and discovered that aptly the Wednesday after we'd scheduled the sale is their World Toilet Day. It sounds a funny concept, but that's because we're not among the 40% of the world's population without the basic human right of adequate sanitation, a lack that leads to 2.4 million child deaths every year.

We chose this Sunday because the Scout's Nearly New Sale is next Saturday and they're going to try to sell what we did not. Unfortunately we didn't realise we would clash with stewardship Sunday, which may have contributed to the lower income than last year. Nonetheless many people were generous and we raised £103.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Diocesan Synod

Just back from the Oxford diocesan synod in High Wycombe. Along with Eco-congregation representatives from All Saints, Wokingham and from Great Missenden I had about 2 minutes to talk about what Eco-congregation means to our church. This was part of a motion being proposed by the Diocesan Board for Social Responsibility:

This synod affirms its commitment to the Fifth Mark of Mission‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’ and accordingly:

Recognises and commends the work of the Oxford Diocesan Environment Group (ODEG);

Aims to implement the motion on carbon emission reductions adopted by synod in 2005;

Draws attention to the resources offered by Eco-congregation;

Recommends that each department at Diocesan Church House nominate a link person to work with ODEG in co-ordinating a diocesan strategy on climate change issues;
Welcomes the General Synod’s plans to set up an ‘adaptation fund’ to mitigate the disproportionate burden of climate change in other parts of the world, and encourages parishes to make use of this.

What struck me most about the accompanying presentation is the fact that the average Tanzanian's carbon emissions are equal to those of my freezer alone. All my freezer contains at present are ice lollies I'm usually too strict to let the children eat, an occasionally used ice-cream maker and some beef burgers from a student barbecue here that need to be transferred to the freezer of someone who actually eats meat - that is a scandal. (Of course I always mean it to be full of home-grown produce but my gardening has been utterly chaotic this year).

Guessing what was most appropriate to say to the delegates was not easy. I aimed for referring to easy-to-do, visible actions like the recycling boxes, clutter sales and LOAF meals that involved a number of environmental/development issues at once. Even as I did so I was aware that it felt very small scale. I should of course have mentioned political campaigning, but beyond postcard signing most members of the congregation haven't done much on this issue. I've not been on a demonstration myself since my youngest was in utero.

One of those who stood up to comment afterwards compared it with making buckets when we need an ark. Another asked whether we should be buying fair trade sugar or locally grown Silver Spoon.

The event has been reported in the diocesan newspaper, The Door.

The motion passed almost unanimously but I was left feeling it was inadequate - are we achieving any more than creating a culture of green consciousness?

All the campaiging that made the government agree to an 80% emissions cut target was clearly good, but on Thursday I met with Reading Faith Forum's environmental group which includes a borough council rep: I was struck by how very low the immediate carbon reductions targets are and the lack of planning for meeting the 80%. Those making the commitments will not be on the political scene to be held accountable if the grander targets are missed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

God's Green Word

The switchover to greener cleaning is progressing. I found SquirtEco is 1/3 off in Sainsbury's at present so bought six bottles but have just learnt that we can order from Natural Collection via Christian Aid's website and then Christian Aid get 10% of the cost. So once we've got our system sorted out this will definitely be the way forward.

Our home group began following Eco-congregation's Exploring God's Green Word study series last night. I admit I wasn't immediately sure that it was going to develop into a particularly constructive discussion, partly since the Creation stories do seem very familiar stories and partly because our group has already done a lot of thinking about Creation issues. However, it did prove very fruitful so we'll certainly be continuing with it.

I have been persuaded to rethink on plastic recycling, but am hoping to find someone who actually shops at Sainsbury's who would be prepared to deliver the plastic once I've sorted it.

I've been distracted while typing by a handful of little birds just outside the window, including one of my favourites - a long tailed tit - hence today's picture.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I've recently stopped collecting the church's plastic bags and wraps for recycling. Unfortunately I simply couldn't find time to sort it all out which meant that we were gathering a hazardous amount of plastic in a two-year-old's home, plus it was getting costly to post off. Part of the problem was the large quantity of unsuitable plastics that appeared, especially so-called 'degradable' plastic which is apparently actually made of tiny particles of plastic (which never will break down and are therefore a pollution hazard) bound together with starch which must not be mixed with polythene in the recycling process. After the last sort out my bin was looking disturbingly full.

However, I've just found out from the Christian Ecology Link e-mail group that the plastics I was previously posting can be put into recycling banks at Sainsbury's. Consequently I'm hoping the congregation members who got into the habit of collecting will continue to do so and have just sent off the following message for inclusion in next week's notices:

Plastic Recycling: Please don't stop collecting your plastic to recycle, but please sort it carefully. HDPE (2) and LDPE (4) or bags which say they are recyclable polythene can all be put into the plastic recycling bins at large Sainsbury's stores. They can also be posted to PolyPrint Mailing Films Ltd, Unit 21a Mackintosh Road, Rackheath Estate, Rackheath, Norwich, NR13 6LJ ()1603 721807). It is essential that you do not include 'degradable', 'biodegradable', 'oxydegradable' or compostable film - this all contains starch which messes up the process and will ruin the entire batch of plastic. Please also carefully cut off any paper labels which will block the machinery.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Autumn flowers

At Oasis again today (unfortunately by car again, this time because I'm trying to squeeze too much in to my day - not because our vicar's recent history of cycling accidents is putting me off). Finally got round to putting some heather and cyclamens into the newly bare spaces in the garden - my toddler enthusiastically directing operations and desperate to water them afterwards (with the cafetiere that was the only 'watering can' I could find).
We clearly have quite a long way to go in moving to greener cleaning products: the kitchen smelt of bleach even though the Ecover spray is apparently being used by some people, and I've realised we have a vast stock of 'conventional' washing up liquid to get through before we can transfer to something greener. Since the items in use in the kitchen are visible not only to the congregation but also to the school mums who drop in to the new morning cafe this is a disappointing lack of green witness. On the positive side the tea and coffee at the cafe is fairly traded and someone has taken the opportunity of putting out leaflets from the True Food Co-op there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gardening and graffiti

Early frost gave way to a gorgeous autumn morning and I was kicking myself for not mending my bike as the car crawled towards church. However, the car turned out to be very useful on this occasion: Oasis (the women's study group) were gardening at the front of church and the volume of prunings filled both my car boot and Rosemary's (now most of my share are in my green bin). It is only a very small garden and has to be pretty vandal proof but was alive with bees today, perhaps in part because we were disturbing the wonderfully scented lemon balm and lavender but also because flowers were becoming more visible as we pruned. I took my two-and-a-half-year-old with me (proudly wearing his own gardening gloves) and he was happy to help with the initial litter pick. When I moved on to the grimmer task of graffiti removal he helped his godmother shifting prunings. On the subject of graffiti - the church office had a variety of graffiti removing potions. They mostly use some noxious smelling wipes which took quite a while to rub off the metallic scrawls but did eventually do the job. They also had a much less offensive liquid (claiming green credentials) to wipe on, leave for 30 minutes and then scrape off. This was certainly much less time consuming and avoided inhaling the poisons of the other option. Unfortunately the bricks looked a bit scraped and there was still a fine silvery line left behind. So I'm still looking for a green graffiti remover that works.
22nd October

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Harvest Festival - how to feed 6 billion

On a strangely warm, very rainy morning we had a smaller congregation than usual for Worship Together (a number were at the priesting of a former congregation member) but we did have the cubs and plenty of children. About forty people stayed afterwards for our vegetarian meal (with salads from my Riverford veg box) - we'd been preparing for 60+ so everyone ate very well indeed and salads and bread were taken back for a student lunch tomorrow.

The theme of the service was the world food crisis, using materials from Christian Aid and Tearfund to explain this as well as inspiration from John Bell's talk on miracles at Greenbelt, specifically the feeding of the 5,000, to prompt thoughts about our response. But we began with lots of wonder and thanksgiving and a reminder that this is Animal Welfare Sunday. As people came in, lines from Psalm 148 were on the screen to set the tone:

Leader 1:
This is a time to celebrate God’s abundant gifts to us. Let us begin by saying together the prayer on the screen

God of ripe plums and meadowsweet, thank you for summer.
Thank you for warmth and beauty and wonder and rain.
Thank you for life (slightly adapted to suit this year's wet summer from Ruth Burgess's Bare Feet and Buttercups)

Song: Our God is a Great Big God

Leader 1:
Some of this service has been inspired by the weekend many of us spent at the Greenbelt Christian Arts festival in August – its theme was Rising Sun
cubs threw a soft earth around a bright sun
The earth orbits the sun astonishingly at just the perfect distance to sustain life. The earth’s circling forms the seasons whose cycle produces our glorious harvest.
Throughout history Christians have played on the word sun – meaning both the star of our solar system and the son of God, Jesus. This flaming ball gives us light and life, our physical energy, our food; spiritually it is Jesus who gives us light and life.
The cycle of death and rebirth in the sun’s seasons also echoes Christ’s story: death and rebirth to give us life
I’d like to share with you a song on this theme which is one of James’s favourites – and for this please can I invite children (especially small ones) to come to the front and lie down, as if you’re playing sleeping lions – there will be a time to leap up and jump for joy – you’ll know when. Those not lying down, please join in from your seats with the words on the screen.

Song: Sad, sad day (from Julia Plaut, Jumping for God - this was even more popular than I'd imagined)

Invite cubs to help Rosemary and encourage other children to sit close

Leader 2:
Children were given large cut outs AOKTNYHU - the congregation had to guess what they were supposed to spell and then tell children to move left or right accordingly until it read THANKYOU. Each child was asked their favourite something - colour, food, flower, fruit etc The congregation were given small cards and pens to make 'thank you' cards for God.

Song: Cauliflowers Fluffy (the cubs' choice)

Harvest gifts, cards and collection were brought up as music played.

Hymn: We plough the fields and scatter

Leader 1
God’s Creation is so plentiful, over abundant. Even with six billion people on this planet, this year enough food was grown to feed all of them according to the UN. But not all were fed. For millions of people in the developing world food has become unaffordable.

Leader 3
Two 'families' were given shopping bags of food to lay out on a picnic blanket before them - one a typical day's food for an ordinary family in England, the other the equivalent for Bangladesh (based on the most recent issue of Christian Aid's magazine)
Leader 1
Every day 25,000 people die of hunger and hunger related diseases
Asked the congregation for suggestions as to why there is such a food shortage and answers were typed up to appear on the screen

A picture of WALL-e was shown on the screen - the children were asked who he was and what he did . . .
human overconsumption has made the earth uninhabitable. 700 years after humans abandon the planet a robot probe discovers that photosynthesis has begun again – (plant in boot lifted up from behind lectern) a tiny plant in an old boot becomes the emblem of hope for life on earth: for the restarting of seasons and harvest. I place that here now as we say sorry to God for what we are doing to our planet and our neighbours. Let us say together the words on the screen.

God we are sorry for the way we use your gifts to us so carelessly
We are sorry that our actions are spoiling the precious balance between the earth and the sun so that our world is becoming too hot
We are sorry for wasting food while others go hungry
We are sorry for wasting water when some children spend four hours each day collecting it
We are sorry for buying things we do not need
We are sorry for throwing away things just because they are old or unfashionable
We are ashamed that the world is such an unfair place
We are sorry when we choose to bury our heads in the sand rather than seek fair solutions.
Lord forgive us and disturb us until we change to make your world a better place

Song: Beauty for Brokenness

'Reading' Mark 6:30-44 (memorised and delivered with some drama and an unplanned crowd of playing children)

Leader 1
One of the speakers at Greenbelt was the Iona community’s John Bell who spoke about the challenge of Jesus’ miracles. He spoke of the feeding of the 5,000 and a popular theory that the offering of loaves and fishes prompted others in the crowd to share their food too. This he suggested would have been a miracle of moving from possessiveness to generosity that has yet to be achieved in our world. But then he asked, is it harder to believe that Jesus could feed 5,000 people, or that the people of Britain could throw away 40% of their food while the people of Haiti eat mud cakes?
Is it more astonishing that Jesus could multiply those loaves and fishes or that a quarter of British children are overweight and obese while half of Indian children are undernourished?
This of course is a tragedy for Britain too. We have lost our sense of the value of true food because we are bombarded with apparently cheap food produced at high cost to animal welfare, to the environment, to its producers, to the migrant workers packing it and often to our own health. And it is our poorest who suffer most too
The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 challenges us to ask, ‘how can we fairly feed 6 billion?’

We have some visual aids:

Children then wheeled in a series of wheelbarrows with props to prompt suggestions:

A veg box – [On the screen]: Locally grown food means less fuel has to be burnt to transport it. Anything that reduces greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to stop the floods and droughts that are destroying food crops. Organic food like this does not use nitrogen fertilizers which contribute to climate change and damage eco-systems.

Fairtrade food - Fairtrade food means children do not have to work in the fields. A fair wage for farmers means people can afford a better diet, as well as medicine and schooling for their children. Often it means wells can be dug so women and children do not have to spend hours each day walking to fetch unhealthy water.

Campaign cards - Poorer countries are trapped by world laws made by rich countries to benefit rich people. Organisations like Tearfund, ChristianAid and Traidcraft have lots of campaigns to change this horribly unfair system. After the service, please take a card or two from this barrow and act on them.

Vegetarian food and recipes - meat requires far more land and water to produce the same amount of protein as grain or beans. Much of the ‘greenhouse gas’ methane is produced by cattle. Moreover, most of the recent destruction of the Amazon rainforest has been caused by cattle ranching.
Apples from people's gardens to share - Sharing our harvests, as Hugh and Judy shared their apples, and sharing our possessions builds community, avoids waste and leads to lower greenhouse gas emissions

Empty barrow - We simply need to consume less. Everything we buy new causes more carbon emissions. What we throw away causes methane emissions or other poisons in the land. We can also buy more frugally – Reading market is often selling supermarket rejects and the Scouts will be having a jumble sale next month

Barrow of money and giving leaflets - on screen with images and read out
None of us have barrows full of money but the poorest of the poor need help from Tearfund and Christian Aid who depend upon us
At Greenbelt we saw how they are helping the people of Burkina Faso, where climate change has brought a 30 year drought and turned fertile land to desert
£62 pounds pays for a day’s training for a whole community in drought resistant farming techniques like building rock belts to hold in water . . .
£7.50 provides a farmer with enough drought-resistant millet seed to harvest a year’s food for four people - from the desert.

One more thing we can do – we didn’t put a barrow for this because I thought it was becoming a health and safety hazard, but it is just as important, it is to pray.
Let us offer God our hopes and our fears in prayer now

Creator God, please give us the strength and the imagination to help feed all the people on your planet

We pray for Britain’s farmers, we pray for the poor in Britain, and we pray for everyone affected by the current financial crisis.

We pray for those across the world who are hungry, and those who hunger for justice..Bring them peace, we pray, bring them food.

We pray for your beautiful planet and all its creatures

We pray for politicians all around the world – guide their decisions

We pray for Alison Wilkinson in Nepal , for Rowan and Matt in Bosnia; for Eddie Orme being priested today and for all those from this congregation working to build a fairer world.

We pray for all people we know are ill, or sad, confused, or lonely

Creator God, this earth and everything in it are miraculous and beautiful. Throughout history you have moved people to do amazing things for the sake of their neighbours. Inspire us now to stop climate change and to build a fair world for people and animals, a world where your will is done as it is in heaven. Amen.

The feeding of the 5,000 is a miracle of hope. Faced with all those tired and hungry people the disciples shared what little they felt they could spare, for an apparently impossible task. In the end it was more than enough. Through small steps with God miracles occur.

Song: Jubilate

The blessing of the God of life be ours
The blessing of the loving Christ be ours
The blessing of the Holy Spirit be ours,
To cherish us, to help us, to make us holy. Amen


Over coffee we showed a Tearfund DVD

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Creation Time 2

What happened about changing our electricity? Unfortunately few of the green team PCC members could attend the crucial meeting so this debate has been postponed. As for the bank - in the current climate I don't suppose the campaign about dirty development is top of their agenda of concerns but hopefully we will pick this up soon. On the positive side the vicar's choice of 97% natural, petrochemical free Naked soaps (not tested on animals and in bottles of recycled plastic) have been greeted with enthusiasm in the toilets! I've given bottles of several Ecover and Bio-D cleaning products to the cleaner and arranged to replace them as this becomes necessary, but she has a rather large stock of more toxic products to work through first.

The Creation Time leaflets with green tips and encouragements to celebrate Creation have gone out each week, although I think most of the congregation are unsure what they're doing in the notice sheet - something to rethink for next year. The talk on green electricity was well attended and followed by many questions. Leaflets from Christian Aid about changing to Ecotricity were available to take away, although I don't think a great many went.

This Sunday, although officially just after Creation Time, is really the climax of this season since it is our harvest festival. On a theme of feeding 6 billion we've used Christian Aid and Tearfund materials in preparing this. Afterwards there will be a shared lunch, the savoury part will be vegetarian and hopefully as much as possible will follow the LOAF principles.

In his wonderfully translated/adapted Love Poems from God Daniel Ladinsky includes the following words from St Francis that sum up the theme of the service:

There are beautiful wild forces within us.

Let them turn the mills inside
and fill

that feed even

Monday, September 1, 2008

Creation Time

At the Third European Ecumenical Assembly (2007) official representatives of Europe's Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches recommended "That the period from 1 September to 4 October be dedicated to prayer for the protection of Creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change". The reason for the dates is that September is traditionally the time for harvest festivals and 4 October is the feast day of St Francis. Churches together in Britain and Ireland are encouraging all churches to be involved in this by providing various resources.

We've decided to celebrate Creation Time at St John's and began this Sunday by handing out the first weekly 'diary' of ways to celebrate and protect Creation. Today's entry included a quotation from Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem God's Grandeur which I have typed out in full below (it's best read aloud). Hopefully over the next few weeks there will be particular mention of environmental matters in the intercessions and elsewhere in the service.

Next Sunday there will be a brief talk on green electricity (covering the themes in my earlier post today on that subject), before our regular shared meal, after which there will be a group joining Reading Faith Forum's Friendship Walk receiving hospitality from various faith groups around the town.

God's Grandeur
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod:
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins 1877

Nb he doesn't mean tin foil but gold foil which, when shaken 'gives off broad glares like sheet lightning'

Cleanliness next to Godliness?

Greening up our cleaning products is something we've been putting off for far too long, aware that other churches have struggled with this, although we have habitually been using Ecover washing up liquid in the kitchen as well as recycled paper for the paper towels and toilet paper. A few weeks ago an Amway rep persuaded one of our ministers to try out his products, claiming that their Liquid Organic Cleaner (LOC) is 'green'. There was no obvious evidence for this claim on the bottles (aside from the fact that being concentrated meant less packaging was required), so I started investigating:

There was absolutely no reference on Amway's website to their products being green (just a lot about how much money they make!), so I googled them and found a Wikipedia site which referred to various controversies over their business ethics as well as a link to a site which did mention green credentials although it was rather vague.

So then I tried looking into the information we have on the product:
According to the National Geographic's green guide the term 'organic' is relatively meaningless when it comes to cleaners, unless it refers specifically to certain 'certified organic' ingredients
'Although "organic" in the grocery store refers to foods grown without synthetic pesticides, in chemistry it refers to chemicals that are carbon-based, including some VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that release harmful fumes and may cause brain damage or cancer'. (not that I'm suggesting this does, only that organic is not necessarily a positive description).
The main ingredient of Amway's LOC (besides water) is sodium c-12-15 pareth sulfate which is a synthetic compound derived from petroleum and ethylene oxide - it is a surfactant which means it's what helps physically remove the dirt. It is generally the surfactants that are the concern in these products because some have been found to be toxic to plants, animals and humans. Petroleum derived surfactants in particular often break down incompletely and contain toxic impurities that are highly irritant, cause allergic reactions and are endangering to plant and animal life (according to Bio-D's website). Googling those listed in LOCs ingredients I found several references to skin irritation.
LOC has between 5 and 15% anionic surfactants and less than 5% ionic surfactants and is 90% biodegradable
Ecover cleaning products have less than 5% of either (and their multi-surface cleaner is also concentrated so I think this is a fair comparison) they do not contain petroleum derived surfactants and are 100% biodegradable.
The Bio-D cleaner does not give percentages on its packaging (although its washing powder is also less than 5% surfactants and again there are no petroleum derived products).
Looking through my own cupboard at this point I realised that some of my other cleaning products which claim to be green (one even has a European Union green label) contain phosphates (whereas Ecover and Bio-D use zeolites in their washing powder) or higher quantities of surfactants - clearly there are different shades of green.

In conclusion I will be giving our cleaner samples of Ecover and Bio-D to choose from for her use, Ecover washing up liquid will always be used in the kitchen and the vicar will buy a biodegradable soap for use in the toilets. Hopefully.


Green Electricity

According to The Good Shopping Guide, one third of our country’s carbon dioxide emissions come from power stations (the biggest single source). Consequently Christian Aid and Tearfund have teemed up with suppliers of renewable energy to persuade us to reduce the emissions that are causing climate change and the consequent tragedy for the world’s poorest people:

According to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, unless urgent action is taken now the world faces these consequences:
250 million people will be forced to leave their homes between now and 2050.
Acute water shortages for 1-3 billion people (ie up to half the world’s population)
30 million more people going hungry as agricultural yields go into recession across the globe
Sea levels edging towards increases of up to 95cm by the end of the century, submerging 18% of Bangladesh.

Our church’s current electricity supplier is Scottish Power. Scottish Power ranks top among the major power companies in the UK according to a WWF survey of their environmental efforts. However, none of these major companies even figure in The Good Shopping Guide’s green energy tariffs because their efforts to green their act are negligible in comparison with genuine green energy suppliers. Should we be changing our supplier?

I asked one of our congregation who works with renewable energy for an explanation of 'green electricity':
Green electricity - a bit of background. A few years ago the government introduced the Renewables Obligation. This requires suppliers of electricity in UK to obtain a certain percentage of it from renewable sources. This percentage is increased every year, and was 7.9% for 2007/8, and will be 15% in 2015. Someone generating renewable electricity receives from the government (actually through OFGEM, Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) a Renewable Obligation Certificate, or ROC, for each unit of electricity. These can be traded, so suppliers that fail to generate enough renewable electricity can purchase ROCs from other generators. At the end of each year, suppliers have to submit ROCs for the required percentage of the total electricity they have sold, and if they fail to meet the obligation they are fined a certain amount per unit (kilowatt-hour, kWh), set by the government. This fine effectively sets the premium in price of renewable electricity over conventional electricity generated from fossil fuels. It was 3.43p/kWh (or £34.3/MWh) in 2007/8. In practice, ROCs trade at a higher price, because no-one wants the bad publicity of being fined.

The problem with most ‘green’ tariffs from electricity suppliers is that they charge a premium for green electricity, but are actually just selling you part of the renewable electricity they are obliged to generate anyway. So it just gives them extra profit, while giving the appearance that they are doing their bit for the planet. It is ‘green-wash’, makes no difference to the environment whatsoever, and should be illegal.

The ideal tariff would be one in which those subscribing to green electricity would be guaranteed that the company would supply this in addition to its renewable obligation. There is not a single major power company that does this. There are, however, some small, specialist suppliers who do guarantee additionality, such as Good Energy.

There are some companies who use the money generated by green tariffs to invest in more green generation, such as NPower’s Juice tariff. It does some good, and is better than nothing, but does not really tackle the problem head on.

There is a good website to compare both prices and how ‘sound’ the various tariffs are at

All genuine green tariffs cost more, but not a lot more.

I asked him about Christian Aid's recommended supplier, Ecotricity

Ecotricity seem good. They have two tariffs, New Energy and New Energy Plus. The latter is 100% renewable (and so better, but more expensive), the former is not. Ecotricity’s benefit is that it is investing in renewable generating capacity. Their website is a bit crafty, in that it is not easy to find out that their standard tariff (New Energy) is not 100% renewable (it is about 25%), and they dismiss people some other good renewable suppliers because they are not building renewable capacity, even though many of the other suppliers are 100% green supply. But they are a reasonable choice, and actually quite a bit cheaper than Good Energy, even for the 100% green tariff.

My family changed our own electricity supply to Ecotricity several years ago and didn't notice any difference in price. So I rang up Ecotricity and Good Energy to find out about their business rates and was shocked to discover that changing to the cheapest option would almost double our bill. Would it be appropriate stewardship to make this change? Those of us in the Eco-congregation green team have decided that even at this cost it is still 'the right thing to do'.

In our proposal to the PCC we argue:
Given the impact of our carbon dioxide emissions upon the lives of the world’s poor it is hard to justify not acting. Already almost half of India’s children are undernourished. The early church was a radical social and political institution, centuries ahead of the rest of ‘civilisation’ on issues such as care for the poor, women’s rights, appropriate responses to violence or the personal worth of slaves. Surely we should be at the forefront of constructing the society in which civilisation is still possible without oil. This is the kind of prophetic gesture the church needs to be making.

If we do decide that we must change our supplier, we also need to decide how we propose to pay for this:
Make a yearly one off request for ‘on average £10 per congregation member’ specifically for this issue, with an appropriate brief reminder in the service of the vital importance of this to the world’s poor?
Make it the recipient of several worship together meal collections?
Organise a specific fundraising event for it?
Any other suggestions?

Others on the PCC may see our stewardship obligations differently - I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Money matters

One of the matters Eco-congregation encourages churches to consider is their banking. St John's currently bank with NatWest and we've finally got round to looking into their environmental record. I recently sent the following e-mail to the green team and included something similar in the pewsheet:
As you know, we were looking into how ethical our church bank - NatWest - is. On the whole the conclusion seems its probably no worse than other high street banks. Indeed, aside from the Co-op it is the only one to give an environmental report. It is also involved in supporting Eco-schools and is working with WWF on a 'better business pack' for Defra as well as stopping using company cars. However, it has (like many others) been involved with funding Asia Paper and Pulp who are responsible for rainforest devastation in Indonesia and as part of the Royal Bank of Scotland it is involved in serious funding of fossil fuel projects.
It seems to me that pulling out is not necessarily the logical option. Rather I wonder if we could try to repair some of the damage our money has been doing with Nat West? There is a church in Settle that is trying to raise funds for the World Land Trust which is a charity specifically devoted to buying up endangered habitats, especially rainforest, to preserve it as wildlife reserves (patron David Attenborough). What do you think about suggesting we do something similar? The church's blogsite is and that has a link to the World Land Trust. If we do this then I'd want to write to Nat West and let them know we're doing it too. I know that as a church we support many causes so if you think this is one too many I'm not going to be offended! But I'd like to find a way to respond positively to what our money has done.

The responses have varied - the most common is that we should indeed pull out and switch to the Co-operative bank (which many of us use for our personal banking already). Another is that we should join People and Planet's Ditch Dirty Development campaign. This prompted discussion about whether it is realistic to imagine we can persuade the Royal Bank of Scotland to change its attitude to fossil fuel given the importance of fossil fuels to the Scottish economy. However, looking into the campaign I realise that my suggestion that NatWest is probably no worse than other high street banks may not be true given the extent of their responsibility for Climate Change. The third option of trying to redeem what has been done prompted suggestions that since no one had heard of the World Land Trust we should go for a better known organisation such as Greenpeace. The discussion is still continuing at present.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Newtown: a Sacred Space

I forgot to mention the evening Sacred Space service on Sunday 15th which was focussed on our local community. Many of our congregation no longer live (or never have done) actually within the parish boundary. Part of the service was spent on a short walk - we had to choose between themes including youth, age, other faiths, other denominations and bridges. My family opted for 'children' and walked with six other children down to Newtown School where the large barbs over the high gates made quite an impression on us all. We took a detour on the way back because I'd never seen Sun Street community garden although often heard it mentioned. The idea was to walk back discussing what we'd seen (based on some questions provided) and when we got back we wrote down our dreams for the community on this theme. Ali has all the sheets of ideas now - we wait to see what may come of this.

On my arrival home I found a Newtown GLOBE e-mail asking for volunteers to weed at Sun Street the following Saturday - perfect timing I thought, as we were not the only group to visit, and duly forwarded the e-mail widely. Unfortunately it was raining, not knowing if the work would still happen, I wimped out of the cycle ride over to find out and I have yet to find out if anyone else was stronger.

The green woodpecker has nothing to do with the Sacred Space service. It's a tribute to our beautiful, beautiful garden visitor whom we saw knocked down by a car outside our house this morning.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cakes and Climate change

Last Sunday environmental and development issues seem to have been a theme of the children's groups. My four-year-old returned from Scramblers with a poster about Creation, inevitably with a few Thunderbirds added and I couldn't quite fathom why the space for a picture of himself had been filled with a ladybird and a dalmatian. The Exclaimers were looking at the story of Dorcas/Tabitha. Ann used Tabitha's occupation making clothes for widows as an opportunity to look at recycled clothing and what happens to clothes sent to charity shops. This included finding out how rags are rewoven into new cloth in India. Meanwhile the Pathfinders have each been given £2 to make into more money for Christian Aid. Last week Johnny was selling crockery he'd decorated. This week four of the girls were selling cakes they'd baked. Next week we get to throw wet sponges at Josh and (I think) Johnny too.

This week's notices included a last minute plea for more action to make the Climate Change Bill a really meaningful document. Christian Aid want us to e-mail Hilary Benn and ensure the government don't renege on their earlier promise to ensure companies have to report their carbon emissions. Tearfund, A Rocha and Cafod are all trying to get more MPs to sign their support for amendments that will increase the target for reducing CO2 emissions to 80% (in line with scientific advice) as well as to ensure that shipping and aviation emissions are taken into account. The bill is back in the House of Commons this week - if you're reading this in time please click on the links and take action too!

Depressingly I later received an e-mail from Richard drawing my attention to a MORI poll which shows that most Britons doubt that humans are the cause of climate change.
My husband is currently reading William Hague's biography of William Wilberforce: I had not realised that having abolished Britain's slave trade the government then set about closing down the operations of other European countries by effectively buying them off. One of the actors in the film of Wilberforce's achievement, Amazing Grace, likens the abolition of the slave trade to abolishing oil today. If such actions could be taken then . . . ?

I also received a phone call after church from Alison about tomorrow's Panorama episode exposing Primark's use of child labour (9pm BBC1). If I can persuade my e-mail account to start working I'll alert other green team members to this.

I was pleased to note that Mates, Dates and Saving the Planet appears to have been borrowed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Books and flower meadows

Every June 5th is World Environment Day. This year my children's book club (Red House Books) marked the occasion with a great selection of reduced-price environmental books for children, many of which are excellent for adults too. Consequently I bought a handful to add to the children's library. I Wonder Why There's a Hole in the Sky (for age 5+) was immediately borrowed by one family who are relatively new to the church and hadn't yet realised about our eco-congregation ambitions.

For 9 year olds and upwards we have You Can Save the Planet (some parents may blanch at some of the advice - limited toilet flushing for instance)
Especially for girls aged 10+ (and mainly because I like the title) there's Mates, Dates & Saving the Planet: a girl's guide to being green and gorgeous
For 12+ there's You Can Save the Planet: A day in the life of your carbon footprint and
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore (the excellent film of which was watched by our home group plus three younger members a couple of weeks back). I'd especially recommend both of these to adults too. (And anyone who has not yet seen the film, Richard and Rosemary or Mark and I can lend you a DVD).

I also handed out postcards about the proposed eco-town at Weston Otmoor. The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust are campaigning against this location because it threatens to destroy the beautiful wildflower meadow at Woodsides Meadow. In the last fifty years 98% of our traditional hay meadows have disappeared and this is a rare survival. The postcards are to be sent to the Minister of State for housing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jubilee Debt Campaign - Pick up The Pace

Yesterday Chris gave the following notice:

Ten years ago many of us went to Birmingham to help form a human chain of 70,000 people around the area where the leaders of the G8 were meeting, to demand that the huge debts crippling the world’s poorest countries be cancelled.

In the last ten years, as part of the HIPC process, $88 billion of debt has been cancelled for 25 countries who have had to meet a whole series of tough conditions; but this only represents about 20% of the debt that needs to be dropped. 36 of the world’s poorest nations, suffering under a huge debt burden while millions of their people live in extreme poverty- have been left out of the HIPC process altogether.

Recently the focus at St Johns has been on Fair Trade and Saving The Planet, but as the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Jubilee Debt Campaign approaches, we have been asked to help to focus once again on getting un-payable debts cancelled for the world’s poorest people.

You can help to do this in 3 ways:
1. The easiest way is to take a postcard and send it to the International Development Secretary with your signature, saying that you want our government to lead the way once again and PICK UP THE PACE of debt cancellation.
2. Fast for a day to register your support for the 36 countries so far excluded from debt cancellation. If you can do this for one day this week you must take a slip of paper which gives the web address of the Jubilee Debt Campaign so that you can register your fast. YOU MUST REGISTER YOUR FAST
3. Join the JOURNEY TO JUSTICE event next Sunday at 2.30 p.m. at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. Activities begin earlier at 12.30. Details of the event are on the Jubilee Debt Campaign website.

Interestingly, both Tom Wright and Rowan Williams in recent publications have made relevant observations: in Surprised By Hope, Wright refers in general to ‘the massive economic imbalance of the world’ and in particular Third World Debt, as ‘the Number One moral issue of our day (p228); Williams in Tokens of Trust (p128) says that the Church ‘is meant to be the place where Jesus is visibly active in the world’ and that sometimes, just sometimes, we are able to say ‘I have seen the church and it works’. Of the three examples he gave, one was the 70,000 in Birmingham.

All postcards were taken and eight copies of the website for registering a fast.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Green cones

This morning Ali gave a notice regarding Reading Borough Council's special offer on green cones. For those wanting to follow this up, the link is here. A green cone is a device that breaks down all food waste (including cooked food and meat) nutritiously in the garden without attracting rats.

Much supposedly biodegradable waste in landfill sites cannot biodegrade because the sheer volume of waste restricts the flow of oxygen and consequently as the waste breaks down methane is created - a much more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Keeping waste at home also reduces the carbon emissions from transporting it. The waste in the cone simply leaches into the soil. At the time of writing the council is offering 1,500 cones at a mere £14 instead of the usual £70.

In his Scramblers group this morning my four-year-old coloured in a Noah's Ark to which he added a chimney and a pipe for recycling water. (Yesterday he had been very excited to help his dad fit a pump to transfer bathwater to a waterbutt).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

About this blog

I started this blog in November 2007 as a resource and a record of our church's journey towards becoming an eco-congregation. I hope the church members will find it useful, but I hope it is also useful to others with a concern for our environment. Please use any of the liturgy, green tips or ideas on it as you like. It would be lovely to hear back if you do. It would also be great to hear ideas and experiences from other churches.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hope for Planet Earth

Last Thursday evening three members of one home group went to Newbury to see 'Hope for Planet Earth'. This event was part of a national tour, exploring the science behind climate change from a Christian perspective and the impact of climate change on people and the planet. It involved experts from Tearfund, A Rocha, John Ray Inititative, the Faraday Institute and Share Jesus International exploring the relationship between science and faith and challenging myths surrounding climate change. Apparently it was very inspiring and encouraging to act more.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Green Borrowing Book

Yesterday we institutued the St John's Green Borrowing Book. This was a suggestion made at the Green Sunday service last July. The idea is that congregation members write in items which they are willing to lend to others so that we don't all need to buy so much.
We also started a polythene recycling box. HDPE (2) and LDPE (4) can be recycled if sent to
PolyPrint Mailing Films Ltd
Unit 21a Mackintosh Road
Rackheath Estate
NR13 6LJ
paper labels must be cut off and your name and address should be included in the parcel so they can return any packaging sent in error. As a general rule, if it stretches it is likely to be polythene but if it snaps when pulled it is probably cellophane or PVC and they cannot recycle it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Coal fire power station at Kingsnorth

Last week I received an e-mail from Greenpeace about the proposed Kingsnorth coal-fired power station. So this week I encouraged people to go to their website or that of Christian Aid to protest about it, or to sign the following letter to John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business. There was lots of support for the letter, although many rightly also raised the question of what power we should use. Many also referred to the recent news about increased air travel - a subject for next week's campaign letter?

Dear Mr Hutton
We are writing to you to express our grave concern about the possibility of a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. We know that coal is the most environmentally damaging means of generating electricity and understand that Dr Jim Hansen has warned the Prime Minister that ‘the single greatest threat to the climate comes from burning coal’.

We understand that you are hoping to use carbon capture and storage technology. However, since this is not yet commercially available, and may never be, it seems an appalling risk to take. Clearly it will not be available for the first years of the Kingsnorth plant’s emissions. In just ten years it would be responsible for greater carbon dioxide emissions than he 30 least polluting countries combined. This is morally unacceptable.

Please do not make a mockery of the forthcoming climate change bill by permitting this power station to be built. At the very least a public enquiry should be held on this matter. More effort must also be put into developing renewable energy sources.
If we do not act responsibly over our climate emissions we must expect to deal with
- The creation of 150 million environmental refugees – overwhelmingly in poor countries
- Acute water shortages for 1-3 billion people
- 30 million more people going hungry as agricultural yields go into recession across the globe
- Sea levels edging towards increases of up to 95cm by the end of the century, submerging 18% of Bangladesh.
Please stop this madness.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Christians Together on Climate Change

Last Saturday Ali and I were helping to run a workshop on Eco-congregation for the Christians Together on Climate Change day organised at Greyfriars Church by CCOW, A Rocha, Christian Aid, The Diocese of Oxford, Operation Noah, Reading and Silchester Methodist Circuit, SAGE and Tearfund. It was an inspiring day, beginning with a panel of representatives from South Africa, Jamaica and Alaska, with shocking stories to tell. Dr Ernst Conradi of the University of the Western Cape said the issue at stake was 'moral imagination' - the need to imagine a different world is possible. I was astonished to learn that South Africa's average carbon dioxide emissions per person are the same as those of the UK - about 9.8 tonnes annually. This is because the richest South Africans emit 41 tonnes each per year. Conradi says he claims to have 60 children because each of his two uses the same resources as 30 children in Uganda. Maggie Ross, an Anglican solitary who divides her time between Alaska and Oxford has posted her comments on her own blog: Her inspirational, passionate and controversial call was for us all to reconnect with our core silence that would lead us to want to live more simply.

A second panel was chaired by Mark Dowd of Operation Noah who asked questions of the bishop of Oxford (the Rt Revd John Pritchard) and of Dudley Coates, past Vice-President of the Methodist Conference. The bishop described the right wing Christian notion that climate change was the desirable hastening of armageddon and the rapture as 'almost the sin against the Holy Spirit, calling bad good and good bad'. Mark Dowd suggested that the threat of climate change speaks to three major issues that are threatening the Christian church in our country:
our lack of young people (who care passionately about this), the tension with Islam (whose environmentalists share our concerns) and the science v religion debate.

There were then a series of workshops to choose between - one for before lunch, another after. Over lunch most of us took the opportunity to walk round a series of displays by various interested organisations (we had helped with one for Eco-congregation) and to fill out Christian Aid postcards regarding the Climate Change Bill. Ali and I were leading one of the afternoon sessions. As part of this we set up prayer stations much like those used for the Sacred Space service back in November 2006 (see post on that). I had lost the original labels for the strings attached to pieces of clothing so made some more:

At the centre of the station a sign read:

"And wy do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these . . . "
What strings are attached to the clothes we wear today

Then the following facts were attached to appropriate items of clothing:
Uzbekistan's $1 billion government-controlled cotton industry has taken so much water from the Aral sea that only 15% of it now remains and its 24 native species of fish are now extinct. Tens of thousands of children are taken out of school and forced to pick cotton during the harvest months. Some of these kids go temporarily blind due to the harsh pesticides used on the crop. If any UK shopper bought cotton items from ten different shops or market stalls, the chances are several will be of uzbekistani cotton.

In the past decade the price of clothes has plummeted due to cheap and expendable sweat shop labour in the developing world, especially following the 1999 collapse in parts of the Asian economy which made labour even cheaper.

Only 10-20% of cast offs in clothes banks make it to UK charity shops. The rest are sold off in the developing world, undercutting local textile manufacturers: in 1991 there were 140 textile manufacturers in Zambia, by 2002 there were just eight.

Conventional cotton production accounts for 25% of global pesticide use. Some pesticides contribute to global warming and depletion of the ozone layer.

20,000 litres of water are required to produce one T-shirt.

About 50% of all emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide are derived from nylon production.

I also had a couple of new facts for the Taste and See apples from different sources:

The transport of food destined for UK consumers produced 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2002, of which 10 million tonnes was emitted in the UK, almost all from road transport. Local shops are more likely to stock local and regional produce than supermarkets.

The manufacture of fixed nitrogen for fertilisers involves large-scale use of fossil fuels for extracting hydrogen and heating it with air. A quarter of all natural gas consumption in the United States is devoted to making fertilisers. The nitrogen oxide emissions accompanying the use of fertilizers are also a potent source of greenhouse gases.

Ali set up the other stations
On rubbish/recycling for which she had bits of rubbish, recycling boxes and objects made of recycled rubbish, with the words:
When the five thousand had eaten their fill Jesus invited the disciples to
“Gather up the pieces left over so that nothing is wasted.” John 6 :12

Archbishop Rowan reminded us in his New Year message that God builds to last,
He does not give up on us and start again, God doesn’t do waste.

Here is some of my rubbish, what might we do with it?
How much of this could be recycled

and do you know where that can be done in your area?

On Water - with a bowl of water with glass stones by it:

“Water will be more important than oil this century”
Boutros Boutros Ghali, former UN secretary General

Remember a favourite lake or waterfall, recall the sound and smell.

Recall what it feels like to paddle your feet or
to turn on the tap for a glass of cold water when you are thirsty.

Drop a stone gently into the water and watch the ripples.

What ripples do I make across the world? Am I careful with the water I use? How often do I stop to be thankful for the water I have such easy access to?

Pray for countries that are water- stressed, with too much or too little.

Travel - with my four-year-old's bicycle as a prop


What sort of mark are you leaving behind on this earth?

Are there changes to your life style that would be more gentle to this planet and that you are prepared to make…for yourself, your family, your workplace?

Draw round your foot or shoe and cut out a foot print. Write a prayer or commitment that you would like to move towards making and leave it for others to consider.

Cars account for 15% of the carbon emissions produced in this country

71% of road trips by car are <5miles
46% are under 2 miles

20% of rush hour traffic is children being driven to school.

Car parking in Britain covers and area twice the size of Birmingham.

Develop good driving techniques, where safe, accelerate gently and avoid sharp braking, this can save 25% of fuel. Driving at 40-55mph uses 30% less fuel than driving at 70mph

We had far more people than we were expecting, which meant we had to move furniture and the space for prayer was not ideal, but I think it was still helpful. I was surprised that several people said the young people at church were fed up with hearing about climate change because they do it too much at school. There were a couple of people from other would-be Eco-congregations who were able to help inspire and contribute other ideas which was great.

After the workshops Martin Salter MP received questions. He told us that a Defra survey was told that only 3% of people are prepared to do things which cost more or significantly inconvenience themselves to avoid damaging the climate. He also pointed out that our demand for cheaper consumer goods from China and Inda is what is causing them to build more coal-fired powerstations.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fishing on the Sea of Galilee

In Exclaimers we were looking at the calling of the first disciples and particularly at Simon Peter. We included various fishy games, discussion about following Jesus then and now, and a look at some photos of the Galilee and the church over Simon Peter's house now. We concluded by talking about fishermen today - even in Britain it is a dangerous and poorly paid job.
According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, on the coast of West Africa fishermen are starving as foreign pirate trawlers dredge up kilometres of sea-bed, only to throw back 90% of their catch dead into the seas. I showed them a can of 'sustainably fished' tuna as an example of the response we might make to this. We then discussed the plight of the fish themselves and other marine life around our own shores. I explained about the imminent Marine Bill. Following this Andy and Zach enthusiastically collared as many congregation members as they could over coffee, explaining about the need for marine reserves and asking them to sign the Wildlife Trust's petition on them.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Carbon Fast

Tearfund are encouraging us all to use Lent to cut our carbon emissions with a carbon fast. Rosemary found 50 takers for Tearfund's leaflets which give one new carbon reducing idea for each day of Lent. Several congregation members are giving up meat for Lent as well. To quote from Tony Juniper's How Many Lightbulbs does it take to Change a Planet?

The World Bank concludes that the recent destruction of the Amazon rainforest has been 'basically caused' by cattle ranching. The UK is one of the biggest consumers of the beef produced there. . . In the EU 41% of all methane emissions are from agriculture, mainly from animals. To this must be added emissions of nitrous oxide (another powerful greenhouse gas) arising from the nitrogen fertilizer applied to grasslands to improve meat and milk yields from grazing animals.

Plans are now afoot to produce a vegetarian recipe book for the church to help with this. This Sunday also, Jane initiated a mini clutter sale - a table at the back of church with items she no longer needs, inviting us to take any we can use and put a donation in the refectory fund box. Whoever brings the stuff is responsible for taking the leftovers away again afterwards so we don't need to time it to coincide with a scout jumble sale.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Epiphany - journeying to Jesus

We had an informal Worship Together service for Epiphany including the following sketch about the wise men's journey:

We’re going to eves-drop on their journey, as told by David, Josh and Zach
Three figures in cloaks (one with bike, one with scooter)
Magi 1 (the littlest): Are we nearly there yet?
Magi 2: I have no idea. We are going to be SO late – it’s embarrassing. We should have just booked those Easy Jet tickets like I said.
Magi 3: Maybe we would have been on time, but I just couldn’t face kneeling before the King of all Creation knowing he knew I’d just sent a couple of tonnes of CO2 into his upper atmosphere. I don’t think he’d appreciate me helping flood Bangladesh just to get to see him a bit quicker.
Magi 1: Well I reckon motorbikes would have been much more sensible – we’d still have been on time and little boys love motorbikes.
Magi 2: I’m not sure this one’s quite like other little boys. Anyway, you’d have had to leave me behind – I get so travel sick. (make retching noise)
Magi 3: I still think that guy in the bazaar with the magic carpets was worth listening to.
1 and 2 look at 3 in disbelief.
Magi 2: Well this isn’t getting us any closer is it? Come on, let’s keep going.
Magi leave.

We subsequently approached our confession in the light of the wise men's mistake in discussing their journey with Herod:
The wise men had assumed that they should look for a king in the big city of Jerusalem. They had expected to find wisdom in the king’s palace. They were simply acting according to the logic of the world they lived in. But their detour to Jerusalem meant that Bethlehem’s baby boys were killed.
Living our lives according to what appears to make sense in this world can similarly lead to tragedy. The impending catastrophe for our climate is an obvious example, the apparent logic of free trade which nonetheless keeps the poorest poor is another.

Towards the end of the service we discussed what we need to pack for our own spiritual journeys. In considering both aids to prayer and things that bring us closer to God more generally, it was decided that opportunities to be outside in the natural world were valued by many of us (a pair of walking shoes was duly included in the suitcase).