Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Just back from the GREN AGM. One of the first external events I attended as an Eco-congregation co-ordinator was the meeting which launched GREN - the Greater Reading Environmental Network. It's a network of the very many groups in the Reading area with concerns about the environment, be that urban wildlife, veganism or climate change. As a yahoo group it's proved a very useful way of keeping in touch with the variety of things happening, as well as a source of local information (in my case including the greenest way to dispose of my car). But it also organises events and the next focusses on Copenhagen:

Thursday 12 November 7.30 pm
RISC, 35-39 London Street, Reading, RG1 4PS

The Science:
Professor Jonathan Gregory, Climate Scientist, University of Reading

The Campaign:
Phil Thornhill, Campaign against Climate Change

The Politics:
Martin Salter MP, Reading West

An opportunity to learn more and to send your message to the UK government.

Other Reading Christian Ecology Link members have been part of organising this, one of whom will be chairing the evening - please come along!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reading International Festival

We're currently in the middle of the Reading International Festival. The day that the programme for this was handed out with our service sheets in church it so happened that three of us were standing up to advertise events in it anyway (including last week's Tearfund Climate Change Evening). Inevitably we've found ourselves bumping into other congregation members at these events, particularly at Ann Pettifor's talk at the university last week "Chasing the Moneylenders from the Temple of our Democracy: Credit, usury, political power and the Millenium Development Goals" - since my husband was organising this I was at home with the boys but it will eventually be possible to watch a video of it on the university website so I'll put a link up when that's possible. I've heard a lot about how impressive this was.

This evening Hamish and I were both at RISC where one of our Eco-congregation assessors, John Madeley, was launching his first novel after many years of writing factually on development issues: Beyond Reach?. It's set in the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005 and he explained that he'd turned to fiction in the hope of spreading his message to a wider audience, emphasising that if ordinary people really understood what poverty means they would find a way to stop it, despite the apathy of governments. He encouraged us to buy a second copy at half price to give to a friend who was not involved in the campaign - good Christmas present potential. It so happens that one of the endorsements on the back is from Ann Pettifor: 'Be warned, this book could change your life'. Carl Rayer wrote: 'In the tradition of Saturday, this outstanding novel weaves together the world of public events with the private world of individual lives'.

I took the opportunity to hand out posters for our forthcoming showing of Age of Stupid - yes, despite my reservations about its angry tone there has been such interest in the congregation that I have decided to organise a proper public showing. It'll be at the church on Thursday 19 November, doors open 7.30, show starts 8pm. Entrance will be free but with a retiring collection in the hope of recouping some of the licence fee. Hopefully there'll be plenty of info there for people to be inspired to go out and act upon afterwards.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reading Churches Campaigning Network

This morning we concluded St John's Season of Creation. The sermon came in two parts - our vicar began with the Gospel reading and Jesus' entirely practical response to blind Bartimaeus's need. Then Hamish introduced us to Reading Churches Campaigning Network: fighting against world poverty and economic injustice (formerly the Reading Jubilee Debt Campaign). He explained the great need for Christians to try to get to grips with some of the complexities of the issues that need campaigning on in order to make an effective difference. He and others often hand out campaign postcards that we take away and sign, but more is needed. He invited us to do some 'sacrificial reading' - giving up time to work through a dossier that would help us better understand the economic situation that keeps 800 million people at near starvation level. He observed that these issues are not getting anything like as much attention as they ought to because of the focus on climate change, but really it's part of the same battle for a fair world.

All today's songs and hymns reinforced this 'kingdom building' message, powerfully. Afterwards a number of us collected sample papers from the dossier to explore. Mine is onTNCs, water and mining.

We've decided to keep on using the fairtrade wine which everyone is happy with. The home made communion bread needs a bit of working on - I'd forgotten to specify milk free bread (many bread makers have milk in the recipe) for vegans and dairy intolerant folk, plus too much consecrated bread can be a bit of an embarassment so we need to specify a smaller size or just a few slices. Probably a few of us will fill the freezer up on a regular basis but hopefully others will contribute on a more casual basis.

Tearfund Climate Justice Evening

Last Thursday's climate justice evening was attended by over fifty people, making it quite a squeeze in our church refectory. I think just over half were not from the congregation. The evening began very hospitably with coffee and cakes before we sat down for a general introduction to the issues. They particularly focussed on cases in Malawi (a video many will have seen at the Hope for Planet Earth evenings) and Nepal, where climate change is already destroying livelihoods and community.

They explained that there are three 'legs' to Tearfund's campaign -
speaking/writing to those in power
changing our own lifestyles

It was when we broke into two groups (on each of the first two subjects) that I found I learnt more stuff that I didn't already know. I chose the campaigning group. They explained that Tearfund are campaigning specifically on the reduction of carbon emissions and an adaptation fund for developing countries but there are other big issues up for discussion at Copenhagen too, notably deforestation (my note - you can sign up to the Prince's Rainforest Project to contribute to campaigning on this) and technology transfer (issues of who has the rights to use/benefit financially from newly invented green technologies).

Our carbon dioxide emissions so far mean that a rise of 1.5 degrees is inevitable. Some islands won't survive this. For the Maldives 2 degrees will be too much. Tearfund's campaign is for a commitment from developing countries to reduce emissions to 40% of 1990 levels by 2020 (ie in the eight years after the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012). For developing countries a $150 billion adaptation fund is needed (not from other development budgets).

Much discussion followed, including concerns at how the adaptation fund would be used to benefit the poorest and fears that our little efforts cannot make a difference. I entirely agreed with the speaker's point that we need to do the 'right' thing even if we're the only one since it is about our relationship with God and our neighbours, but also that lots of tiny drops together do make a difference.

At the end we had a chance to flag up things that our churches were doing, Rita advertised the coach she's organising to The Wave on 5 December and I mentioned the Ecclesiastical Electricity plan to get solar panels on a church roof in Reading by encouraging Christians from across the town to contribute rather than one church trying to do it alone (the idea being that their profits from selling back to the grid would help to get more panels on more churches).

Stand Up Take Action Against Poverty and Inequality

Last Sunday's service was a Stand Up service. It began with an introduction to the Millenium Development Goals and the concept of Stand Up. These then featured in a short video and the subsequent intercessions. Once all the children had rejoined the service we all (just over 80 of us) stood up to read the pledge together. I'd been leading Exclaimers so we had been looking at the Millenium Development Goals too and the children then wrote letters or produced art work which I took home with the order of service and pledge script to send off to our MP.

Reuse, Recycle - clothes swap and tip visit

A couple of weeks back there were two green events I've been meaning to record. Suzanne took a group from Oasis and the cafe to the Civic Amenity Site to witness the recycling process there and apparently it was quite an eye-opener. Last Sunday Alison stood up to talk about it briefly and advised us to talk to her, Monika, Bridget or Suzanne if we want any more information. The amount of contaminated stuff going into the recycling is absurd (duvets very common, but also a deer and a goat in the past year!). Apparently the biggest headache is the plastic bags that get put in, especially full of cans, hence all cans have to go through the sorting process twice to give the poor sorters a chance to grab all the bags going through.

Then Anne and Helen organised a clothes swap party at which 15 folk turned up with clothes they no longer wanted to exchange for someone else's. This was a fun evening and the left overs went to a charity shop.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Truth About Climate Change

Last night was the second of our 'Creation Time' film evenings. I was not very optimistic that anyone would want to venture out on such a soggy October evening, but to my surprise seven folk turned up, most of them walking. David Attenborough has been a hero of mine since childhood and this kind of down to earth BBC documentary is something I feel much more comfortable with than the dramatic films probably. We just watched the second episode because there is a certain amount of repetition and it seemed an appropriate follow on to our last film. This also meant there was plenty of time for discussion afterwards, and there was certainly plenty of inspiration for discussion in the programme.

Its main focus is the predicted consequences of the rising temperatures, primarily using modelling fom the Met Office's Hadley Centre, and this makes pretty bleak viewing: 'somewhere between severe and catastrophic'. I was surprised, however, by the exent of the optimism that we can at least stop carbon emissions at 2006 levels (it was made three years ago).

Monday, October 5, 2009

Home, update

We welcomed two home groups to our front room a couple of weeks back to watch the film Home (lucky we live in a clergy house). It is a very powerful film and does offer a bit more hope than Age of Stupid towards the end. As long as 'we still have half the world's forests' counts as hope? For me its greatest strength is that it makes it more obvious what it is we're fighting to protect because it is stunningly beautiful (in its shots of people as well as, primarily, landscapes). As far as I noticed there were no shots of British countryside, so since I happened to be on the Cornish coast a couple of days later, that's what this picture is of.

October is a busy month in the run up to Copenhagen - upcoming events in Reading include an event at Caversham Heights Methodist Church at which CAFOD's head of policy will be talking about the importance of acting to avert climate change at 7.30 on Friday 16th. This will be one of a number of Stand Up aganist Poverty events that weekend. Then on Thursday 22 there will be a Tearfund Climate Justice Evening to equip people to respond to the crisis.

Rubbish Art

Last October our Eco-congregation assessor, Rob White, finished a challenge to fill only one bin bag of rubbish in a whole year. He subsequently took his bag of rubbish to various school assemblies to talk about recycling. Once that was done he was looking for an alternative to simply throwing it away so a member of our home group, Sue Batchelor, turned some of it into a work of art. She chose to make a vase of flowers because of Rob's job as a gardener. These tiny photos don't really do the art justice so if you can enlarge them to admire them please do. On the single flower you can see some of the writing on the plastic still.