Sunday, March 29, 2009

Putting People First and the Easter Garden

I didn't make it to church this morning due to chicken pox in the family. However, I know the plan was for Exclaimers to make an Easter garden. Perhaps it's a bit early, but this way the schoolchildren get to see it for a week before they break up.

Rosemary reported a good atmosphere at the march yesterday, and especially at the service at Westminster. Richard has put up a display of photos and posters of the event on the mission board at the back of the church.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Preparing for Easter and further cleaning complications

I turned up at Oasis on Wednesday just after a spot check by the Health and Safety folk: apparently they're not happy with Ecover in the kitchen because it is not anti-bacterial. Given all I've read questioning the value of anti-bacterials this came as rather a surprise.

We were doing another crafty morning, inviting the cafe regulars to join us. On this occasion it was one cafe dad who kept us company painting eggs and eating the home made hot cross buns that Monika finished preparing in the kitchen. Diana taught us calligraphy for making Easter cards and my son very much enjoyed painting half egg shells to be filled with cress seeds (actually I was meant to bring the cress but couldn't find it so we're growing mustard instead - it's just started sprouting).

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Putting People First, Earth Hour and Bikes

This morning's notices included one from Rosemary about the Put People First march next Saturday. Six people from the congregation will be catching the train to join the service at Central Hall, Westminster and for the march afterwards. This march is to give a message to the G20 meeting in London on 2nd April:

Our future depends on creating an economy based on fair distribution of wealth, decent jobs for all and a low carbon future.

There can be no going back to business as usual.

I gave a notice too: we have applied for the Eco-congregation award and will soon be visited by assessors. I've put the details of the application on the Eco-congregation notice board for comments, queries and additions.

As usual on Mothering Sunday, the cubs and scouts were present to hand out the flowers. Often it's a worship together service but this year it was a normal communion so we invited them to join Exclaimers for the middle part of the service. Exclaimers have been looking at the Lord's Prayer this term and had reached 'Deliver us from evil'. Among many other definitions and explanations the issue of climate change was mentioned and we all made beeswax candles, both as a symbol of the light of the world that drives away evil and specifically to use in Earth Hour, also next Saturday: an hour to switch off all lights to demonstrate our support for action to protect the planet, especially in the run up to the London G20 meeting. I was surprised by how few people have heard of Earth Hour since Reading Borough Council and Reading football team have apparently signed up to it and it is being well advertised on buses around town. The very safe and easy to make beeswax candle kits came from the Museum of English Rural Life.

Over coffee afterwards Vicky came up to tell me that we have a pleasant problem with cycle parking. Vicky's dedicated cycling in all conditions inspired me to get a grip on my own fear of night cycling. Now that spring is upon us more folk are coming to church by bike - we only have four bike racks (ie space for 8 bikes) but there were twelve bikes parked out the front this morning.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ecotricity and cleaning

Jeremy just forwarded this link affirming that Ecotricity is the right electricity company for us to be with, which is good news.

I've realised, as more un-green household stuff accumulates in our parish centre, that I've been delaying too long on sorting out cleaning materials etc - Reading has a fabulous True Food Co-op that sells green cleaning materials at reasonable prices, and I've been trying to work out a system that involves them so that we're as green and as cheap as possible, but not reliant on me being the go between since I've given up the car and it wouldn't be sustainable when I leave the church (a system that depends on anyone in this way would not be sustainable). I've finally realised this just isn't going to happen at the moment, so it looks like we're going to use the Christian Aid/Natural Collection scheme I mentioned a few months back. 10% of the money goes to Christian Aid so I'll feel a bit less bad about the church paying extra for cleaning stuff. Plus since it can all be ordered on-line that makes our parish administrator's job much easier than keep liaising with me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Greening Faiths

Two of us from St John's (Jan and I) have been involved in organising what looks to be a really exciting multi faith day conference. Today was our final meeting so now we just need to wait for more people to sign up. Here are the details:

Reading Faith Forum, supported by Stronger Together, will host the Greening Faiths conference on 4th April 9.30am-3pm at The Warehouse, Cumberland Road, Reading to discuss environmental concerns from a faith perspective and promote sustainable living in faith communities.

This unique meeting of local people with many different spiritual beliefs will highlight the scientific facts behind the current environmental crisis and suggest how faith communities can work together to address the issue.

Speakers include: Jagdeesh Singh of the Sikh Environment Network; Muzammal Hussain from the London Islamic Network for the Environment (LINE); Hindu Monastic Swami Ambikananda Ji and Rev Ian James, formerly from Reading University’s Department of Meteorology, who is also the C of E Diocese of Oxford’s Environment Advisor.

This event is free and there will be opportunities for networking over a free lunch. Please book by Friday 27 March 2009 as spaces are limited, so please book now to ensure your place.

To book a place contact:Jan Hearn, Multi-fora Coordinator
Stronger Together
Reading Voluntary Action
35-39 London Street
0118 958 4849

Sunday, March 15, 2009

'Age of Stupid' and a meat debate

In this morning's announcements I said Rosemary and I would be attending the People's Premiere of the Age of Stupid this afternoon. It's a film starring Pete Postlethwaite in a 2055 world devastated by climate change, wondering why the human race were too stupid to act when they had the chance to avert it. We weren't expecting it to be very cheery but planned to give up this beautiful sunny afternoon for it as we'd been advised that the more people turned up for the premieres the more cinemas would book future showings. However, when I came to book tickets this afternoon I was delighted to find there was only one seat left. So, I do still plan to attend when it comes on general release next week, but this afternoon I booked our nearest Common Wheels car and took the family out to see the lambing at Rushall Organic farm instead (we were not the only congregation members there).

After the service Jeremy and Rachel were discussing their thoughts on trying to eat vegetarian and local food from now on, asking us which we prioritised since trying to do both could end up rather boring. I have to admit that for us it's the vegetarianism that came first and aiming for local food is secondary. I found myself thinking that perhaps a bit of local organic meat would actually be a good idea, especially since I understand from a recent Riverford newsletter that organic meat farmers are particularly suffering as the credit crunch prompts supermarkets to focus on cheap meat, factory-farmed (and often foreign factory-farmed with far lower standards than here). I've never cooked meat in my life because I turned veggie as a kid, but it's something I might dare to consider since it has long been my feeling that eating meat per se is not wrong, just the way we usually do it in the west (in terms of animal welfare and wider environmental consequences).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sacramental Furniture

This morning's service included a presentation about the new altar, font and paschal stand that have been commissioned. The craftsman is one of our congregation, Mark, and he explained how he saw the creation of this furniture as an act of prayer. The designs are intended to reflect the architecture of the church but also to represent the Trinity and the church as interconnected supports for our community. Each piece is to include glass which should catch the sunlight (in short supply in a church with few windows) echoing the skylight above but also reminding us of the symbolism of light.

Mark always uses FSC certified wood. He intends to use oak for the tops. Unfortunately in Britain we have failed to invest in oak plantations so the only ethically sourced English oak tends to be from fallen branches, not a very practical solution. Consequently he'll be using French oak. The paler supports and arches will be either maple, sycamore or possibly ash. We fell to discussing the matter of plantations. He observed that it would be lovely to be able to use tropical woods, if only people would have the long term vision of profit to manage rainforests in a manner that made this possible. Instead all logging is forbidden or they're destroyed (mostly for the beef industry). Even in this country I know someone whose decision to give land over to an oak plantation a couple of years ago was ridiculed by those without vision.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


The school have arranged for chicken eggs in an incubator to be kept at the back of the church for ten days. They started hatching last night and by the time we arrived for Oasis there were seven little bundles of fluff in there. Although the main church is usually restricted to school use in the day we were able to bring our toddlers through to take a look. Mine was very excited about 'chicks hatchin in their eggs'.

Several of the adults present said sights like that made them think about turning vegetarian! I suppose that was the sort of thing that turned me vegetarian well over twenty years ago but these days I feel eating other animals is natural, it's just the way most of them are treated that makes me not buy them. More recently concern about the climate has been an extra consideration (a recent Swedish study compared the greenhouse gas emissions caused in the making of four meals and found that a vegetarian meal with local ingredients caused 190g CO2 whereas a meat based meal with mostly imported ingredients caused 1800g. Moreover the World Bank says recent destruction of the Amazon rainforest has been 'basically caused' by beef production - much of that eaten in the UK). These particular chicks are destined to return to their parents' organic farm unless the school is persuaded to keep them.

On the subject of chicks, in the photo you can just about see one of the two bird boxes I put up outside the church on Sunday (well, put up with some help from Richard and Mark as I am very incompetent with hammers). The most visible is a robin box and the one further back is supposed to attract bluetits etc. I know there is a risk of them being vandalised but decided to be optimistic and bought FSC certified boxes from the RSPB which seemed the greenest option in this context.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Daffodils, Leeks and other veg

Our St David's Day service was led by the vicar, Vincent, who is Welsh. As well as various songs/prayers from the "Celtic" tradition, it included building a small mound of earth in the middle of the church as a reminder of a miracle which reputedly occurred once when St David was preaching. When those at the back complained that he could not be heard, the earth rose up so that he was stood on a mound, echoing Christ's own sermon on the mount. I'm afraid my two-year-old thought it a great mound to run through and plant leeks in. He also apparently got his patron saints mixed up - he shredded the dragon he was supposed to colour in.

Today's notices included a reminder of the call to donate unwanted bras for recycling/reusing in Africa - we have a 'bra bank' in the foyer.

Over coffee after the service a few of us gathered together to share veg growing tips. We had hoped to encourage some would-be veg growers but in fact we have all had some experience. Nonetheless it was a great opportunity for sharing knowledge and we were last in the queue for lunch. For me the most valuable information was the existence of the East Reading Horticultural Society and their Trading Shed. Tips shared included growing carrots in stoney ground by putting them in toilet roll inners full of compost; growing lettuce in knee high pots near the kitchen door with curving over lips which the slugs can't get over - cutting salad regularly seems to be easier than trying to grow successive rows; helping runner bean flowers to set by spraying them with water; mini cucumbers are apparently easier to grow than the longer versions; and appropriately there were various suggestions for improving on my very poor leek crop last year.