Monday, December 14, 2009

Bishop dedicates Eco-congregation plaque

Last Thursday the Bishop of Reading, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, visited the church to dedicate our Eco-congregation plaque. He also got to see the beautiful sacramental furniture which local craftsmen and congregation members Mark Ripley and Andrew Boddington have designed and made for the church.

Many of those present had been at the Thursday morning communion and the cafe. I was delighted that our Eco-congregation assessors Rob White and John Madeley were both able to be there too. Proceedings began in the main church when the bishop congratulated us on the award, appropriately in the week that the Copenhagen Climate Change summit began. The St John's school Eco-team were present too and he talked with them. We showed the Pathfinders' Christian Aid video about climate change and then I talked briefly about some of the things we've done at church. Afterwards most of us managed to squeeze into the foyer where bishop Stephen encouraged us to keep up the work (the award only lasts into 2011) and led us in prayer.

After photos with the school children and an opportunity to look at the sacramental furniture it was time for lunch. Ali and the cafe members had made fresh bread and a gorgeous soup. We talked over lunch about the Wave (at which many of the congregation had met bishop Stephen) and then he got some tougher questions on theology.

The photo above shows the Eco-congregation plaque in situ (with the vicar, Rev Vincent Gardner, plus Rosemary and I).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent - Why We Are Waiting

Some months back I signed up to receive the Church of England's Advent e-mails at With my typical lack of organisation I've just sat down to go through a week's worth - they're really worth seeing. Dec 4 is about solar power on a church roof, many are similarly about 'green issues' or about the importance of taking Sabbath moments, reconnecting with God's earth - all very Eco-congregation.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Wave

It feels like we've been talking about this all year - the day of The Wave finally arrived. This was the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition demonstration in London just ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

Preparations at St John's began a few weeks back when the Pathfinders made their splendid banner. Then this Friday sixty cyclists turned up at the cafe - they'd come from Bristol and had stayed the night at St George's, Wash Common in Newbury en route to the Wave. They'd asked for a stopover for toilet and coffee but they got bacon butties for breakfast too courtesy of the Friday cafe.

Today about 25 of us headed down to London by less strenuous means - coach and train. When last I looked the BBC were reporting 20,000 marchers, Sky News said 40,000 but SCCC and Christian Aid said 50,000. Some of us arrived early enough for the service in Westminster Central Hall. The key phrase one of them reported from the service was that God told us to preach good news to all the world - not merely all people, but the cosmos.

By the time our family turned up there was a capacity 3,000 people inside and still an optimistic queue, but we headed downstairs for the Cafod children's activities, bumped into several old friends and the St John's Pathfinders, played climate change games, made banners and got blue hands painted on our faces (plus a good cup of coffee). Making a three-year-old walk the full route seemed a bit optimistic so while most people headed off to Grosvenor Square for the rallying talks and march start, we had a picnic and then visited Westminster Abbey. By the time we came out marchers were passing Parliament. The highlights for the boys were a wonderful blue dragon, meeting Tearfund's Super Badger and the cycle-powered music.

The rest of the congregation did walk the full route. The Pathfinders met our bishop, Stephen Cottrell, on the march (a photo of that should be appearing soon on the church's new website: There was more a storm of noise than a wave of hands at 3pm and the marching continued long after (we were on the platform at Waterloo when a friend rang to say they'd reached Parliament Square).

Changing our bank

Many months ago I mentioned discussion about banking. The Eco-congregation materials encourage churches to ensure they are investing ethically. Our bank was Nat West, well known for its investment in oil, gas and coal projects as part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group. Since many of the congregation bank with the Co-operative Bank some suggested we should change to this. Others thought it might be worth while supporting People and Planet’s Ditch the Dirty Development campaign – asking RBS-NatWest to change to funding renewable energy and threatening to boycott if they don’t. This latter option seemed more likely to work if other churches were on board so we were awaiting advice from the diocese on this.

However, the credit crunch has forced our hand – as interest charges drop while banking charges remain, it is no longer economically sensible to bank with Nat West. Consequently at the last PCC we chose to move our money into accounts that won’t be funding oil, gas and coal production. Other churches may be interested to know that for our current account we have chosen the Charities Aid Foundation bank because they provide an online banking system which allows charities and churches to sanction transactions with two e-mail accounts, like the two signatures on their cheque books. They also have far fewer bank charges than NatWest.