Friday, December 3, 2010

Community Buildings Event

The Community Buildings event that I mentioned last month went really well. There were about 22 groups represented, of whom half were churches.

The evening opened with a presentation from a member of the United Sustainable Energy Agency who began by urging us all to REDUCE ENERGY CONSUMPTION FIRST before considering alternative methods of generation. He recommended checking the energy efficiency of boilers at and replacing those over 15 years old. He gave a variety of tips including mentioning that foil behind radiators and energy saving light bulbs will usually be paid back in energy savings within a year. For those considering alternative energy schemes he urged us to ensure that the installer is MCS accredited and explained the various finanical benefits. In the discussion following it emerged that it is important to get advice on ensuring you have the best inverters available (generally European made ones since these companies are more established).

Then Rev Rob Weston of Park URC reported on their scheme for pv panels and a biomass boiler. On the latter subject the ethics of wood burning were discussed and one of those present explained that in Britain we have a problem of unmanaged woods at present so that, on a certain scale, demand for wood for such boilers will lead to better management and therefore better wildlife habitats.

Anne Wheldon of the Society of Friends explained how they'd made spectacular cuts in their emissions by a long list of measures, each of which alone often looked quite small. She also pointed out that it is a much cheaper way of cutting emissions than the initial outlay of microgeneration. She explained that the first step is to start reading meters at least once a month and make an audit, looking for opportunities that will tie in with routine maintenance, such as the thermal reflective blinds when their old blinds needed replacing.

Gabriel Berry briefly introduced Reading Energy Pioneers who are currently organising a bulk buy of pv panels to enable homeowners to buy them more cheaply.

Jane Wallis of LoCUS (Low Carbon Understanding for SMEs) explained how they could help negotiations between landlord and tenant businesses to arrange for energy saving measures to be installed in their buildings.

The event was primarily organised by RITE with help from GREN volunteers and those present have received copies of the slides presented so if anyone would like these forwarded to them, just let me know.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Big Climate Connection

In the Reading East Constituency five people, including two from Reading’s Christian Ecology Link, lobbied Rob Wilson MP on 5 November as part of the Big Climate Connection Stop Climate Chaos Lobby. We were cordially received and given over half an hour of his time. We reminded him that in the hustings prior to the General Election the first two questions were concerned with climate change and environmental matters and that the lobbyists represented the tip of an iceberg of concern among his constituents.
We brought four local initiatives to his attention asking for his support where needed.
  1. The initiative of Reading Energy Pioneers to promote renewable energy installations to home owners and support them to bulk buy as a group. An idea spawned from an event organised by the Greater Reading Environmental Network (GREN).
  2. A new initiative suggested by GREN’s board member on the Reading Climate Change Partnership (RCCP), a sub group of the Local Strategic Partnership, proposes a new public/private/voluntary company to undertake a major local initiative on energy efficiency/renewables installations in homes across Reading, particularly in the lower income/private rented homes.
  3. Neighbourhood groups are forming across Reading as part of the Transition Town movement. Also GREN is working on a vision for a truly sustainable Reading. These have obvious links with the Big Society agenda.
  4. Action is being taken by the Faith Communities; in particular Park United Reformed Church plans to install photovoltaic panels on its roof and a wood pellet boiler for its heating system.
We drew to the attention of the MP policy demands on home energy efficiency, an emissions performance standard for fossil fuel power stations and international finance.
Nationally we asked for the following to be included in the Energy Security and Green Economy Bill:
  • A strong Green Deal to ensure that by 2020 7 million homes in the UK have had an energy efficiency makeover, reducing their emissions by at least 60 per cent.
  • Minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector so that by 2016 the most unhealthy homes (below Band F and G) cannot be let.
  • Enabling legislation so that a strong Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) for fossil fuel power stations can be set to enable delivery of a decarbonised electricity supply by 2030.
Internationally we asked that at the Cancun International Climate talks in December the UK must:
  • Support the establishment of one common climate fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change, develop in a low carbon way and protect their forests.
  • Support and champion new and innovative sources of public climate finance, including revenue from measures to tackle aviation and shipping emissions, and a levy on financial transactions.
  • Guarantee that UK money for adaptation in developing countries will be provided as grants rather than loans, and push other donors to do likewise.
In particular we asked Rob Wilson to write to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State at DECC expressing support for these policies; we also asked him to work with us over the next year to ensure progress on this agenda and indicated that we wished to have further meetings to enquire about progress.
Rob Wilson spoke with confidence about the commitment of Mr Huhne, the DECC Secretary, enthused about the Green Deal and expressed his views on nuclear power which differed from those of most of the lobbyists. The MP did not know at what level the UK participation at Cancun would be.
Those present at the lobby were Paul Harper (GREN), Katherine Watts (WWF), Chris Burden (Friends of the Earth) and Rita Belletty and Owen Jewiss (Christian Ecology Link), each contributing to the exchanges.
Owen Jewiss
11 November 2010.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How to use your community building to generate clean energy

An information evening for voluntary, faith and community organisations:

This event is for you if your community, faith or voluntary organisation owns or rents a building.

On the night there will be:

* Impartial advice from an Energy Savings Trust expert plus local project study from Park United Reform Church

* How to save money making your building more energy efficient; a case study from Friends Meeting House

* Don’t own your building? Expert advice on how to convince your landlord to help

Please book a place by emailing or call 07828 498 315

Tue 23 November 2010 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Friends Meeting House, 2 Church Street, Reading, RG1 2SB

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bottle greenhouse

Collette has now finished her mini-greenhouse made of plastic bottles, pictured here. The frame is a playpen. We've now moved into Kingdom Season, and the new service booklets celebrate some efforts at building the Kingdom with images of congregation members at the Putting People First march last year and this summer's cycle ride.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How to use your community building to generate clean energy

Park URC are now well on the way to installing pv panels and a biomass boiler, having secured most of the funding needed. They hope to be installing the panels before the end of the year and the boiler next May. So, a speaker from there will be among those encouraging users of other community buildings in Reading to take advantage of the current very generous Feed in Tariff rate to help them produce green energy for themselves and the grid:

How to use your community building to generate clean energy and get paid for it

An information evening for voluntary, faith and community organisations:

This event is for you if your community, faith or voluntary organisation owns or rents a building.

On the night there will be:

* Impartial advice from an Energy Savings Trust expert plus local project study from Park United Reform Church

* How to save money making your building more energy efficient; a case study from Friends Meeting House

* Don’t own your building? Expert advice on how to convince your landlord to help

Please book a place by emailing or call 07828 498 315

Tue 23 November 2010 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Friends Meeting House, 2 Church Street, Reading, RG1 2SB

20 10 2010

On Wednesday of last week Rev Jesse Jackson addressed a Christian Aid supporters day at Central Methodist Hall, urging activists to 'Keep dreaming' of a world of justice, clean water, peace, more health care and education . . . ending poverty in the developing world. Three of our congregation were there for the event and afterwards lobbied our MP Rob Wilson about the government's role in responding to climate change and ending poverty.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creation Flourishing?

As we wait in hope and prayer for good news from the UN conference on biodiversity in Nagoya, St John's two months of Creation Season have almost finished. This year we were rather more low key - I asked intercessors to include environmental concerns and we included pictures of Creation Flourishing in the overhead images during the service. I didn't manage to provide examples from Reading for every week (not because there are insufficient examples, time failed me).

We also have a map of Reading on our Eco notice board on which I've asked people to mark their favourite green spaces in Reading. Today I decided to try out one suggested by Rosemary - High Wood on Church Road. It is indeed a treasure (pictured above). I'd been in town earlier so caught the number 17 bus (which passes very close to St John's) up to the Three Tuns and it's a short walk down Church Road from there. We did hear various birds and watched squirrels but what seemed to be flourishing most there were fungi in beautiful variety.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Visitors from Sweden

This Wednesday some visitors from Oxford's twin diocese in Sweden were visiting to explore the outworking of Oxford's 'Living Faith for the Future' programme and wanting to see what environmental things were going on, so they were directed to St John's. We spent an hour or so in St John's cafe. In my enthusiasm to share all our experiences I unfortunately didn't get round to asking what their own experiences were - so if any of you are reading this blog, it would be lovely to know what the equivalent schemes in Sweden are? Luckily both Suzanne and Ali were able to be present to answer many of the questions, as well as Owen who is leading the EcoCongregation movement at St Barnabas, Emmer Green.

At the foot of Mount Sinai

Last term my Sunday school group were working through Genesis with a particular eye to environmental themes - several weeks on Creation followed by the very obvious environmental parallels in stories including Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel and the famine in Egypt. The emphasis was on appreciating and caring for creation. This term we've moved on to Exodus which instantly struck me as book to help us 'Sustain the Sacred Centre' to use the Oxford Diocesan theme for this year, and prepare ourselves spiritually for building the kingdom. We began with Moses's mother who trusted in God but did not sit back and wait for her child to be rescued, she acted in that trust. Then we looked at the two different responses to injustice embodied in Moses' responses to witnessing his fellow countryman being beaten (murder and consequent exile) or women unfairly treated when waiting to water their sheep (standing up for them and consequent marriage to one) - ie espouse non-violent responses to injustice (climate or otherwise). This week we came to the burning bush at the foot of Mt Sinai and an opportunity to talk about prayer, finding quiet places to do this. The children were very keen to take their flame decorated bush outdoors and we found ourselves in the little garden at the heart of the church/school plant which was a great space. Contemplative prayer is not suited to all six-ten year olds but hopefully even those who fidgeted the whole way through might one day remember the techniques when it's helpful!

Meanwhile the harvest bounty continues - Hugh gave us a carrier full of grapes that my boys very much enjoyed pressing with bare feet for wine.

Reading's Local Travel Plan

The council are currently developing a new local travel plan, encompassing a strategy plan for up until 2026 and an implementation plan for the next three years. I've been looking at it as part of my role on Reading Climate Change Partnership but anyone can comment on the current draft by going to the council's site. Please do - I was chatting with someone at the over-crowded bike racks on Broad Street and mentioned the plan: he assumed that it would not cover cyclists but it does. At first sight the 175 page document does look a bit daunting but actually it isn't that scary and you can skim through to the nitty gritty that affects the areas of Reading that matter to you.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Park URC - on the way to sustainable energy

Below is an e-mail I've just received from the Minister at Park URC: exciting news that means Reading should have a church with PV panels on it very soon. They'll still need another £15,000 so if anyone would like to contribute do get in touch with the Minister, Rev Robert Weston. Hopefully this will be a very visual reminder to people at this busy spot on the outskirts of Reading of the importance of trying to limit climate change:
I’m delighted to let you all know that we have been given a ‘conditional offer’ of a grant of £39088 from the Community Sustainable Energy Programme – Capital Grants Scheme, towards the cost of PV solar panels to go on the church roof and a wood pellet boiler to provide heat to the church and church halls.
This is fantastic news for us and reflects the huge level of support given by members of the church and the local community. We will now be seeking to secure the remainder of the funding required for these two important eco-projects.
Please join us in giving thanks and praise to God for this wonderful news!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Churches responding to Climate Change

The EcoCongregation journey has taken me, via co-ordinating Reading Christian Ecology Link, onto the Reading Climate Change Partnership (part of the LSP, involving reps from the council, business, university, NHS etc as well as voluntary sector) so I attended my first meeting of that earlier this month. It was very much a finding my bearings meeting for me, lots of acronyms and other stuff to learn although, as this week my family hand back the car we've been borrowing for holidays this summer, I did volunteer to join a sub-group responding to the Local Transport Plan.

The following week several of the same people were present for the Green City and Open Spaces Forum at which I gave a presentation on what churches in Reading are doing to respond to climate change. I'm hoping we'll have a RCEL website sorted by Christmas and I'll put the full report on there, but the highlights included Park URC's exciting plans for a biomass boiler and pv panels, the Quaker meeting's very impressive carbon emissions reductions and involvment with 10:10 (2008-9 emissions were 30% lower than 2004-5 and they expect to be down another 10% this year) and a growing number of churches involved in the EcoCongregation programme. I also mentioned Sir John Houghton's well-attended talk at Wargrave which can now be downloaded from their website.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Greenbelt 2010

Greenbelt now seems rather a distant memory, but I mentioned it in the last post so might as well up date. This year did seem a bit disorganised compared with usual, plus I was probably more disorganised and somehow managed to miss most of the art on display. As for my hopes of being reinspired about tackling climate change - compared with last year it felt the subject was barely being whispered. Admittedly I still plan to download one talk on it that I couldn't make but it did feel a bit disappointingly as if we don't know what to do after Copenhagen's failure.

But on the good side, Rosemary reported how inspirational Bruce Kent was, still optimistic and persistent after all this time; I heard Clare Short urging action on Israel/Palestine; Earth Abbey were present foraging again; my youngest spent a long time making paper windmills for Christian Aid's wind of change harvest campaign (enjoying the story of the wind-powered well in Afghanistan) while my eldest struggled to comprehend the tax system in Christian Aid's maze, and we all appreciated the Mother's Union's free and fun games heralding their very important Bye Buy Childhood campaign. Their president, Reg Bailey, reported that each year £99bn are spent in the UK on child orientated products so that marketing aimed at children is big big business and consequently, as the MU website caption reads, 'our kids are growing up believing they are what they own'. Obviously this drive for consumption has serious environmental implications as well as causing damage to children including stifled mental development and poorer health as well as family conflict (sometimes deliberately and explicitly fostered by the marketers).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Harvest approaching

Last Sunday there was a lovely foretaste of the approaching harvest season with a generous quantity of apples, plums and damsons donated by Hugh and Judy from their garden for anyone to share - we've just enjoyed a plum crumble and some damsons and apples went into my husband's latest homebrewed ale.

Harvest season is also Time for Creation, or Creation Season, which we will again be celebrating through September and October. This year's theme is 'Creation Flourishing'. As the prayer team have decided to set up some prayer stations, including one in the central garden that is shared with the school, this will be an appropriate time to set that up.

One of our congregation has been inspired to build a greenhouse of plastic bottles so now we can reuse our bottles instead of merely recycling them. Unfortunately some of the other recycling has got a bit out of hand lately with people being away too much to sort it. We're thinking of stopping the foil and plastic bags now that it's much easier to do those elsewhere and trying to encourage people to take their batteries elsewhere too. The principal kitchen recyling is a bit of a problem since those of us who most often used to take bits home are all now so rarely in cars that we cannot take it with us any more: a new strategy is needed.

This weekend many of us will be at Greenbelt, hopefully picking up ideas and inspiration for responding to the current rather unhopeful outlook on climate change.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Forbury Fever

Reading Christian Ecology Link (Churches Together in Reading's Environment Group) again held a stall at Forbury Fever this year. FF is the council's environment day in Forbury Gardens. On previous years it has been held on the Saturday closest to World Environment Day but this year was held later in order to coincide with Reading Water Fest nearby. This seemed to attract more visitors or perhaps it was the addition of a stage in the gardens on which there were various displays of dancing etc. The weather was also much better than last year! At our stall we focussed on climate change and biodiversity. For the latter we had a large 'treasure island' map for people to hunt for wildlife treasure - they would often be told 'no treasure here' due to habitat loss (but everyone was allowed to keep trying until they'd won a fairtrade sweet). We also had a display based on Genesis 1 with observations on species loss and actions we might take to protect those surviving. For climate change we had literature from various development agencies and Operation Noah, campaign cards from Cafod and a display about some of the consequences for people in the developing world. As last year, we also displayed leaflets from Reading Islamic Trustees for the Environment and one of their members joined us for a while on the stall.
My sons considered the highlights of the event were the Heatseekers van (where they got to see the technology that measures homes that are wastefully losing heat) and handling slow worms and moths on the econet stall. I was certainly inspired to promise them we'd set up our own light trap for moths as soon as we have a free evening.

Sir John Houghton

Last Thursday a handful of us from St John's attended Sir John Houghton's lecture on 'Global Warming and Climate Change: A Challenge to Scientists and Christians' at Wargrave church. Their website will soon have details of how to order a recording of the talk. The church was packed. We came away surprised at how upbeat he had been, rejecting the notion that we need to radically change our lifestyles, beyond reducing flying. He was emphatic that we have the technology to respond, we just need the political will. He observed that some people are now talking about the G2 - China and America who need to agree to reduce emissions so that the rest of the world falls in line. He highlighted some of China's efforts to address climate change, assuring us that they are taking it seriously, but quite reasonably expect action from the US. He emphasised our moral duty as humans and Christians to bring good news to the poor by bringing pressure on politicians to act and concluded with the story of Joseph, Pharoah's dream and the careful use of resources to survive climate disaster.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I've just received the following post from Greater Reading Environmental Network. Liz mentioned the film to me at church on Sunday but I'd forgotten to put it on the previous blog entry:

On Tuesday June 15 there will be a screening of H2Oil, a new film highlighting the impact of oil at the Alberta tar sands. The film will be shown at Reading Vue Cinema at 6.30 pm.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A snail in the holy city . . .

This morning Rosemary was distributing Tearfund's latest campaign cards, all of which had been signed before I'd finished clearing up after Exclaimers and helping with coffee duty. In Exclaimers we were looking at the Garden of Eden story, as in last week's service, but carrying that forward to the synoptic Gospel accounts of Jesus's own temptation (a redemptive mirror experience) and to the image of the Tree of Life in Revelation. The Garden of Eden story was the one that they reported back on in the service - perhaps if I'd had visuals for the others it would have helped, also I'd chosen Mark's sparse account of the temptation rather than the details of Matthew and Luke. But for their craft work they made trees out of twigs, modelling clay, paper etc: two said they were making the tree of knowledge while the other two opted for the tree of life. One called it "an 'ever-fruiting' tree instead of just 'evergreen'", and then beside it planted a 'tree of happiness' too. As we sat in church I noticed a snail shell among the drawings of fish in the river of the water of life 'I found it under the chair', my son explained. I naively imagined it was merely the shell, until they were stood at the front with their creations and a head popped out. There was much protesting when I insisted on taking it out to the garden.

Friday, June 11, 2010

RE-Inspired - ducks in Bangladesh

A number of the St John's congregation help out with RE-Inspired - a project in Reading whereby people from local churches go into schools to help teach aspects of the national curriculum on RE. A few months back, with my Reading Christian Ecology Link hat on, I invited one of their co-ordinators to a RCEL meeting to discuss weaving more creation care into the events offered by RE-Inspired. Within weeks they'd received an invitation from Whiteknights Primary School to talk to year 4s on how Christians respond to global issues and so got back in touch with us. The curriculum explanation specifically refers to Christian Aid so I took this as my starting point for talking about climate change.

The session was yesterday and the children were in three groups of twenty. I began with a Christian Aid envelope (which the majority of them recognised) and explained how the organisation is motivated by the great commandment to Love God and to Love our Neighbours as ourselves. Then I showed them a wonderful video from the Christian Aid website in which a batch of ducks was helping a farmer in Bangladesh to cope despite the flooding. I quizzed them about the commentary on the video leading into finding out what they knew about climate change. Following a very simplified explanation of cause and effects I asked if they knew what things they could do to reduce it, and suggested some more. Then I put up a picture of Noah's ark for them to identify and gave a brief version of the story, emphasising Noah's role as a man who listened to God and therefore looked after God's world and suggesting that the dove be seen as a symbol of hope that we can protect people and animals from climate change. They then made paper doves to hang in their rooms and some wrote on them suggestions of actions to limit climate change.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Refugee Week 14-20 June - "In this World"

As part of Refugee Week our church will be hosting a film night in partnership with Newtown Information and Reading Refugee Support Group:

"In this World"
6.30 pm Sunday 13th June
St John and St Stephen's Church, Orts Road

the story of two Afghan refugees in a camp in Peshawar, Pakistan in their attempt to reach their dream of a better life in Europe. It represents the hell experienced by hundreds of thousands of refugees every year.

Throughout the week there will be events celebrating the contribution refugees have made to life in Reading including an exhibition of photographs at Reading Central Library and a Cultural Evening at South Street - for more info see

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Environment Sunday

Today we marked Environment Sunday with a service celebrating biodiversity. The service began with an explanation of biodiversity. The theme was chosen because this is the UN International Year of Biodiversity – a crucial issue at a time when it is estimated that every six hours another species of plant, animal or micro-organism becomes extinct.

The first part of Adam and Eve’s story was read out from a beautifully illustrated children’s book by Jane Ray: The Garden of Eden. There followed reference to the valuable role of our own gardens in preserving biodiversity as well as bringing us closer to God. The congregation divided into groups to look at exhibits borrowed from Reading Museum – each was a case containing an animal that lives in an oak tree, ranging from squirrels and a jay to a stag beetle and many moths. The groups were invited to think about where their specimen belonged in the web of biodiversity and what it might reflect about its Creator.

At the confession the taking of forbidden fruit was compared with taking too much of the earth’s fruits today. Finally it was remembered that God has a habit of choosing those seemingly least fitted for God’s tasks, giving us hope that despite past form we humans can care for our planet: a meditation on Psalm 104 concluded with references to recent conservation successes. Meanwhile many of the children present had been fashioning wonderful creatures out of ‘magic maize’.

Only when I wrote out that summary did I realise I'd perhaps tried to cram a little too much in! The 'stuffed animals' caused concern among some of the adults, although they were happy to have moth boxes. The feedback afterwards was great as several had taken the accompanying museum notes to their groups and wanted to share some of the amazing facts they'd learnt. The children all sat around the storyteller as she read from Jane Ray's book (and images appeared on the screens for the adults), but otherwise most were very industriously colouring and making their own dragonflies, moths etc (I assume from the number of stag beetles that they were listening in with at least half an ear to the rest of the service), but we'd brought them right into the middle of the half circle in which we worship, beside the worship leader to make them feel more part of the service.

In case anyone would like to adapt prayers we used I'm copying the confession and intercessions at the foot of this post.

After coffee seventeen of the congregation set off on a gentle and sociable cycle ride concluding with a picnic beside the canal. A similar number joined them in shared cars for the picnic. I couldn't make this myself, hence the photo above is only of the departure, but apparently it was a 'really happy time' with two or three participants who hadn't cycled in years now considering more cycling. Below are a couple of photos taken after the service: people had a chance to look at the objects not shared in their group and these are a very small sample of the children's creativity.

Creator God we have not tended your garden as we should

We have let the rainforests be burnt down

We have used oil so fast that we are overheating our planet

Your poorest people and many of your creatures are suffering and will suffer more because we choose what is easy, what seems cheap, what we are told is fashionable

For all this we are sorry

Help us to find ways to live lightly

Teach us to look after your world


Creator God, we give thanks for your beautiful world. We thank you for the red kites flying in our skies where they did not fly thirty years ago. We thank you for the otters that have returned to the Thames and for the small blue butterflies returning to Warwickshire.

We lift up to you the wildlife trusts, Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum and all those here and abroad who are working to protect the biodiversity of your planet, grant them inspiration, courage and strength.

We ask you to guide the leaders of our nation and of the world in all their responsibilities.

We lift into your loving arms all those who are weary and heavy laden – all those who need to feel the wind in their hair and the grass beneath their feet – lead them beside still waters metaphorical and real, we pray.

Exploring Genesis 1 and 'dominion'

Over the past few weeks Exclaimers have been continuing to look at Genesis 1, considering issues such as protecting fish stocks or encouraging birds to the garden as we looked at the appropriate section as well as picking up on related Biblical stories such as Jonah or God valuing even the birds. The last session I did was the creation of mankind. I hadn't expected to find discussing 'dominion' so difficult. Of course we talked about responsibility and Christ's model of lordship but the translation we were using had the words 'rule over' and I found it hard not to see that as a dangerous position. Last night I was leading a homegroup at Greyfriars church, having been asked to come to talk about eco-theology and eco-congregation. I included the Genesis 1 passage I'd been struggling with but didn't mention my own response. I was struck by one of the group who said that, for the first time, he'd suddenly noticed how positive that section was because he was used always to thinking of human beings wrecking the planet yet here was the message that God believed we were up to the job of looking after His creation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fair Trade Worship Together

This Sunday's Worship Together was led by our fair trade rep, Rosemary, and focussed on Traidcraft's campaign to get the big tea producers to go fair trade. My six-year-old was reluctant to help out with a game of hangman that eventually spelled 'Justice' but later decided that was the best bit. The teams called upon to build towers out of straws or newspaper admirably illustrated the importance of having decent materials to work with (amazingly the newspaper tower stayed up until the end of the service in spite of running pre-schoolers). At the end our signed campaign postcards went into the collection plate.

I was taking down the 'sharing board' postcards, prior to putting them into a booklet for people to refer to, and was asked if it had achieved anything. I've been asked for a DVD set, but I said my impression had been that it wasn't really working, despite the enthusiasm of some people for the ideal - delightfully I was proved wrong later that afternoon when John turned up on our doorstep asking to borrow our jam pan. So, I'm now going to try to put regular reminders in the news sheet (with examples of what's on offer) in the hope that this will help encourage more carbon-reducing sharing. Suzanne also suggested that sharing time/skills would be similarly valuable. Given that I've recently been too busy even to keep up with maintaining a weekly green tip slot I may be being over ambitious here, but this is the plan anyway.

Election Hustings - Reading East

Having just read the Reading Post on-line article on the hustings held at the Hindu Temple for Reading East, I'm deeply disappointed to find the author made no mention of climate change. The first two questions were about climate change - what had the candidates done themselves and were their parties committed to 40% reductions by 2020. They all agreed that climate change is a very serious issue. The Conservative candidate, Rob Wilson, said he'd installed good insulation in his home, the Labour candidate, Anneliese Dodds, said she had given up her car and the Lib Dem candidate, Gareth Epps, recommended the green electricity company he uses (I'm afraid I forgot to take a notebook and cannot recall which it was). There were also several questions touching on international development which were again disappointingly ignored by the article.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Creation in plasticine

For the first Sunday back after Easter we've lost a couple of our older Exclaimers to Pathfinders but gained a large contingent of six-year-olds. It seemed like a good opportunity for a term looking at the beginning of all things. So, for the next few weeks we'll be going very slowly through Genesis 1, weaving in some understanding of the marvels of Creation and thoughts on what we might learn about God from this (thinking Romans 1:20) as well as the importance of caring for it all, inevitably.

Today we looked at days 1 and 2 (plus nearly 10 billion years from the Big Bang to the formation of planet earth). To escape the building work in the school, we used picnic benches in the playground so we enjoyed the gorgeous sunshine and clear, clear blue skies. The sight of them all fashioning their plasticine planets was beautiful but I hadn't got my camera - this image is of my son's contribution, slightly squished on the way home. Several of the children did make mini earths, one even included a representation of the earth's atmosphere (we only mentioned the beneficial effects for today, although many of them are already familiar with the consequences of carbon emissions). I've never thought to thank God for gravity before, but one of them did in our final prayers, which struck me as important.

Vulture Funds Victory

Last Sunday there was an opportunity for spontaneous applause when Hamish P stood up to announce the surprise victory in the vulture funds campaign that he has been encouraging us all to send postcards about.

According to the Jubilee Debt Campaign press release:

Landmark Law Passed to Tackle Vulture Funds

UK becomes first country to ban ‘Third World Debt’ profiteering in final hours of Parliamentary session

A landmark bill to protect the poorest countries in the world from profiteering by so-called vulture funds became law today after passing in the House of Lords during the ‘wash-up’ at the end of the Parliamentary session.

Jubilee Debt Campaign welcomed the successful passage of the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill, which is the world’s first law to restrict the ability of Vulture Funds to sue some of the world’s poorest countries for full repayment of debts that they have bought up cheaply.

Last November two Vulture Funds were awarded $20 million in the High Court from Liberia – the second poorest country in the world - for a debt dating back to the 1970s. This law is expected to make that verdict unenforceable.

There was an outcry last month after the bill was blocked at third reading by an unidentified Conservative MP – thought to be backbencher Christopher Chope. But the Government made time for the Bill in the wash-up, after securing cross-party agreement with a sunset clause which will mean the law has to be reassessed to be made permanent in a year’s time.

International support for the bill has been expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana.

Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:
“This is a landmark law. With this act, the UK has become the first country in the world to stop vulture funds using its courts to profiteer from poverty. It will mean the poorest countries in the world can no longer be attacked by these reprehensible investment funds who grow fat from the misery of others. We now call on other governments, particularly the US administration, to take similar steps to outlaw vulture practices.”

“We hope this is the first step towards creating a more just financial system, which operates for the great majority of people, not a tiny minority of unethical investors.”

Andrew Gwynne MP, Sponsor of the bill said:
“I am absolutely thrilled that my bill has been passed into law. It was completely unacceptable that a small number of companies were ever allowed in the UK courts to profiteer off the third world debt market. These “vulture funds” were completely unjust and it is to the credit of this parliament, and the efforts of the Jubilee Debt Campaign that we have finally managed to pass this law. I said I would put a stop to these vulture funds, and I did.”

Sally Keeble MP, who took the bill through the House of Commons, said:
“These vulture funds are international predators. Their victims are the poorest people in the world. It is excellent that at this stage it has been possible to get this piece of legislation on to the statute books to outlaw the activities of these vulture funds. This was a victory for a broad based campaign led by jubilee debt and other NGOs which brought this issue to public attention.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Preparing for the Election

Last week's notice sheet included the following announcements:

Reading East Election 2010

Quiz the Candidates on sustainability issues with

Professor Chris Garforth of Reading University on Tuesday 13th April, 8.00 pm, at The Warehouse.

Climate Change, a sustainable Reading, who gets your vote?

In 2010 Reading East will elect its MP for the next five years. Find out what your candidates would do to combat Climate Change and help build a more sustainable Reading

Do you have a burning question: Environment, Energy

Transport, Biodiversity, Sustainable Economy?

Submit it in advance at

Question YOUR candidates
Reading East
: Monday 19 April, 7.30pm, at

Reading Hindu Temple (car parking on local roads)
Reading West: Monday 26 April, 7.30pm, at

Tilehurst Methodist Church (parking at the local Co-Op)
Reading Faith Forum are giving you the opportunity to meet and question your candidates. We need your questions before the meeting, so please send them to Jan Hearn ( 35-39 London Street Reading RG1 4PS) by April 6.
Please indicate whether you will be at the East or West meeting to ask your question.

This is especially important in Reading East which is a marginal constituency. To prepare ourselves for this the Earthing Faith website has gathered a number of resources, some of which I've copied below, but do go to the site to find more:

sk the climate question

Ask The Climate Question brings together a coalition of UK environmental and development charities and not-for-profits to put climate change firmly on the election agenda. Focusing on the marginal seats where the candidates and political parties are listening the hardest, they are calling on everyone to: Ask the Climate Question.

Further information and resources: Ask The Climate Questions main website | Tearfund (including a poster for your window: colour and black & white ) | Christian Aid | Friends of the Earth

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) have produced material to help churches to prepare for a General Election:

On an entirely different subject: this year's church phone directory recently appeared, now with photos on the front and back, two of which effectively highlight the church's identity as a community concerned with the environment because they're of the Wave.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Living Hope

We were blessed with gorgeous spring weather for the Living Hope conference at Great Missenden on Saturday, enabling us to enjoy the stroll between church and school for the various events of the day. The proceedings began with questions to Richard Weaver of Tearfund on the consequences of the disappointing results at Copenhagen. He encouraged us all to keep campaigning, especially in the run up to the general election and the UN climate talks this year.

There were then speeches on the theme of Living Hope from a panel: Paula Clifford (Christian Aid), Chris Sunderland (Earth Abbey) and Dave Bookless (A Rocha).

Paula Clifford argued that Living Hope begins with being thoroughly informed in the face of increasing climate change denial, living a low carbon lifestyle is not enough because we must also be prophetic. 'Climate change kills' - committing ourselves to act is to give hope to people in the global south. In the run up to the general election she reminded us 'politicians are a renewable resource'. She suggested three ways to live hope:
1. Re-establishing the importance of community. Church, as the body of Christ described by Paul, is the community par excellence but it is also an elusive ideal. Locally, nationally and internationally we need to re-establish community.
2. Recognising interdependence, which enables us to relate to those outside our community.
3. Seeking new ways of doing mission: what does mission look like in a carbon neutral world?

Chris Sunderland argued that climate change is a symptom of a wider malaise that cannot be cured with technical fixes. With half of the easily available oil having been used in his lifetime and the world population having grown from 2.5 billion to 6.7 billion in that time, we need to re-imagine human culture in a radical way, a way that is inevitably spiritual. He pointed out that the Biblical narratives come out of an agrarian community and that only 200 years ago most of our ancestors were agricultural labourers, whereas now 80% of the UK population live in towns and cities, as do 50% of the world's population. Without romanticising the harshness of rural life in past centuries, we need to recognise that something about humanity resonates with the land. Professor Edward Wilson has used the term biophilia to describe the human propensity to love the natural world. Chris pointed out that there exists a radical lifestyle movement today in which people are opting to work fewer days in order to be active in their community but that much of this is outside church community. Earth Abbey sees itself as part of this radical lifestyle movement. Working together is hugely important because it rejects the enlightenment idealisation of the individual.

Dave Bookless began by saying that the context of hope has never looked worse, in the light of the failure at Copenhagen, concern about climate change slipping down the political agenda and the huge missed opportunity of the financial crisis when the world community could have radically rethought the system. He too sees climate change as a symptom of the real crisis: a crisis of consumption and population 'we are the virus species on planet earth . . . the environment has a human problem'. He referred to Lord May's suggestion that we need to call on the fear of a divine punisher to make people act on climate change - a suggestion he recoils from. Rather Dave argued that, like St Francis, we need to undergo a triple conversion, to
1. God
2. Earth
3. Other
1. In conversion to God we recognise our fallenness in our idolatrous attitude to possessions (and remember that Jesus said more about money than anything else). The first great commission in scripture was to look after the earth and its creatures.
2. We need a Copernican revolution in understanding that the earth does not revolve around us - the earth was made for and by Christ. We need to reconnect with the earth, take up Rowan Williams' challenge to go for a walk, get wet, dig the earth.
3. As climate change causes millions of would-be migrants to our shores we need to put ourselves in their shoes and work out how to respond.

In the questions afterwards people queried the practicality of such radical vision and suggested that we needed to be 'green without being mean', to which both Dave and Chris were able to assure them that their greener lifestyle was much more fulfilling and stress-free than their previous habits.

Then Paul Chandler of Traidcraft officially opened the Big Brew with very heartening statistics on the rate at which fair trade is still growing: up 12% to £800 million in sales this year despite the ecomonic climate. He pointed out that Cadbury and Nestle in changing their flagship bars to fair trade are responding to consumer demand, we need to keep at it.

After our fairtrade tea and coffees the first workshops took place in the school.

I was leading one on how to become an Eco-congregation - thank you to everyone who turned up! As part of this I used items from our Sacred Space service back in November 07 - some of the resources can be found on that posting (click on the 'worship resources' tab if it's easier), others I'll put in at the bottom of this post. I mentioned our fairtrade communion wine but couldn't remember the source - it is Poterion.

Through the window into the next classroom I could see what looked to be a really interesting presentation from St George's Wash Common about their wonderful plans to become carbon neutral.

Lunch was an opportunity to catch up with friends in the sunshine and browse the various stalls (we had one for Reading Christian Ecology Link). Then there was another round of workshops at which I learnt a great deal about eco-schools. Back in the church the local MP emphasised the value of personal handwritten letters and face to face contact for lobbying, describing petitions as a devalued currency. The day ended with an act of worship prepared in one of the morning workshops - the creation story was humorously and imaginatively presented, as was the subsequent mess. Unfortunately technology let them down at the prayers (inevitably prompting comments on bearing that in mind on the larger scale) but it was a positive end to the event, including an invitation to decorate a tree in the chancel with a leaf (while praying) and a blossom (to indicate a commitment to act on something more).

alongside the bar of chocolate I put poems from the Divine website (which also has lots of useful info including teachers' resources), information on child slavery and cocoa farmers.

'And why 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?

Labels on strings pegged to clothing read:

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

Uzbekistan's $1 billion government controlled cotton industry has taken so much water from the Aral Sea that onl 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, chances are several would be from Uzbekistani cotton.

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

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 only eight.

Some of these statistics came from Leo Hickman's A Good Life, a very useful resource!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fairtrade Fortnight

It's Fairtrade Fortnight and Fairtrade tea producer Vinay Devaiah was talking at the university last night about how fair Fairtrade really is - when the video is up on the website I'll add a link, although apparently it was the unfilmed question session afterwards that was really inspiring. He's staying over at our house for the next two nights although he has such a busy schedule I'm not sure how much I'll get to speak to him!

At Exclaimers as the fortnight opened we were using Traidcraft's resources for kids and their excellent short video about the impact of Fairtrade on people's lives - things we take for granted like education or a pension are dependent upon that Fairtrade premium. I'd brought along lots of different varieties of tea to talk about origins (the historian in me can never resist a quick lesson on such things) and for sampling. The overwhelming favourite among the children was, I'm afraid, not actually Fairtrade Foundation certified but it is from a small scale company that do do Fairtrade - vanilla rooibos. The Traidcraft campaign this year is to make the major tea sellers in this country turn truly fair trade, and the Exclaimers were enthusiastic at taking petitions around the congregation afterwards to achieve this.

I'm looking forward to celebrating Traidcraft's Big Brew myself this Saturday at the Living Hope: Green Churches, Green Schools event at Great Missenden. I'm leading a workshop there on how to become an Eco-congregation.

A channel of God's Peace: anti-nuclear campaigning and Franciscan poetry

On 14 February the Exclaimers were looking at St Francis (not with me). Together three of them wrote this poem:

Windows seven
Nothing like Heaven

X box Elite
too lazy to eat

our brains are dead
our books aren't read

games consoles
suck out our souls

use our visa
day trip to Pisa.

DSI in the sky
PSP or nintendo wii

Trainers from Nike
to ride my bike

Stop a shooting star
with a chocolate bar.

Take ur valentine
out 2 dine

Raban shades
Night club raids

Super Mario Brothers
No kisses for mothers

That evening the church was filled with campaigners from across the country and abroad for the demonstration against the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston on Monday. Some 300 of them were fed vegan meals in the church on the Monday and many slept on the floor in the church itself and in the school hall on Sunday and Monday nights. Some were from Christian CND, some were not Christians. Ali, one of our Ministers who was present at the demonstration too, reported the very special atmosphere in the church over that time and the awe many felt at sleeping in a religious building.

The demonstration itself was a peaceful occasion with some 800 people present, including our bishop, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell. According to the Church Times, he said that the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system was “a matter of principle from a Christian point of view”, and there were “no circumstances you could imagine using these weapons; therefore there is no justification for owning them”. He also questioned whether the UK was in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as, although there would not be an increase in the number of weapons, their overall capacity would be much larger. “The real needs of security of a nation are not serviced by nuclear weapons, and I don’t think ever have been. People are really questioning whether they are the right solution for the 21st century. What right do we have to say to other countries they can’t have them when we are busy investing in them ourselves?”
(The picture above is from the Church Times Website)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chasing the Moneylenders from the Temple of our Democracy

Back last October I advertised Ann Pettifor's talk at the University. It is now possible to view this (and other chaplaincy lectures) here.