Friday, January 28, 2011

"God on the Box": Peter Owen Jones

Last Wednesday Reading University Chaplaincy's New Year lecture, "God on the Box", was attended by a large number of St John's members, including two home groups who usually meet on Wednesdays. The speaker was Peter Owen Jones, presenter of Around the World in 80 Faiths, Extreme Pilgrim and How to Live a Simple Life. It was an inspirational and challenging evening with a lot that was relevant to the EcoCongregation journey. It will soon be possible to watch the lecture, although not the questions afterwards, on the university's tv website RU:ON.

Many of us were struck by his explanation that most television now is driven by 'jeopardy' - in order to keep viewers hooked they must be persuaded that the subjects they are watching face jeopardy. This means that many interesting and important subjects just don't make it into TV documentaries any more because there is no element of jeopardy. It also means that we have so much jeopardy thrown at us that it is hard to separate what really matters, eg climate change and 'the crime of extinction', from the fabricated jeopardy.

He also talked a lot about anti-consumerism - if you disagree with bankers' bonuses, take your money away from those banks! He said that his three months without money had 'de-toxed' him from the need to buy. He has enough possessions for the rest of his life. He will be talking more about this at the forthcoming Christian Ecology Link conference in London on 5 March which a couple of us plan to attend: End of the Age of Thorns-Surviving Consumerism.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jesus, the Earthly Powers and Us

On Sunday Hamish gave me a copy of a new Lent course that Reading Churches Campaiging Network have put together and it's really interesting stuff. It was Owen at Reading Christian Ecology Link who mentioned the course to me because he wrote much of the section on climate change. The course draws on the work of Rowan Williams, Steve Chalke, Walter Wink and Michael Northcott, looking at Jesus' political activity: how 'Jesus centred his ministry on subverting the "received wisdom" of his day and challenging the ruling upholders of the status quo. That is why, after a brief ministry, they had him killed'. The course is going to be used by several churches in Caversham but I don't think any decisions have been made about it at St John's yet.

On another note, I'd like to highlight the Church Urban Fund's Greening your church project which Paul at GREN has just drawn to my attention. Often it seems the 'green agenda' is seen as something of a distraction from the more immediately important church mission of ministering to those in need on our door stop. So, I was really pleased to find that the Church Urban Fund are encouraging people to see the crucial interconnections in these issues.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading Transport

I've just got back from a good meeting with Reading's Lead Councillor for Strategic Planning and Transport, Richard Willis. I was part of a GREN delegation who had arranged to see him in the light of Reading's evolving Sustainable Community Strategy and Local Transport Plan (Reading Christian Ecology Link submitted a response to the draft of this plan which I put together, hence my involvement in this meeting). Within the confines of my hopes for the meeting it was a really positive experience - Cllr Willis was enthusiastic about promoting cycling, promising very positive developments in the near future and was able to assure us that the forthcoming 20 mph areas, while not as widespread as we would like, will be more significant than we were expecting. On the subject of buses he was able to tell us that the £1 to town scheme between some stops in Caversham and the centre of town has been a huge success (disappointingly I realise that the similar £1 to the hospital scheme has expired, but I can only hope that similar schemes might emerge for some of the poorer areas of Reading. This is a matter for the bus company rather than direct council intervention).