Sunday, June 4, 2023

Environment Sunday

Today was both Trinity Sunday and Environment Sunday and our focus was on the former, but we were outside in the glorious sunshine and the sermon slot talk - which involved a scavenger hunt and much flag waving - made frequent reference to God as Creator as well as to our blue planet. So it felt very apt for Environment Sunday nonetheless. The EcoChurch team had invited Tricia Marcouse of Reading Climate Action Network to give us a talk over coffee - for those who missed it or couldn't hear well, my notes on the talk are at the bottom of this post.

Afterwards we enjoyed a delicious lunch which (with a few tiny fishy exceptions) was vegetarian - a range of quiches, tarts and pizzas with salads plus puddings galore. The proceeds from the lunch will be going to Ripple Effect (previously Send A Cow) to "twin" our garden with one in rural Kenya. 

Throughout lunch we took it in turns to check on Jemima - the crazy duck who has decided to nest in our courtyard even though she won't be able to get her ducklings to water from there. Nikki, who keeps ducks, has ordered us some appropriate food and a proper water container for her to drink from while she's nesting (she's had to make do with a plant tray of water and bird seeds since I found her on Wednesday) and we're probably going to have to install a temporary pond.

As we were cycling home, I made a last minute decision to cycle left instead of right to join the Wildlife and Conservation group of the Friends of Reading Old Cemetery - they meet on the first Sunday of the month at 2pm, and to be honest my introvert brain is usually so fried after a church lunch that I've been putting off going since I found out about them last year. Realising it was 1.55, and knowing they'd advertised a Love Your Burial Ground week event, this felt like the moment to fight off the urge to slide into the hammock with an icecream at home and find out what was going on. It was not the biodiversity survey I had been expecting, but a working party building up habitat piles from the many fallen branches (I was very poorly dressed for the job), but it was such a lovely couple of hours. Wonderfully friendly people, tea provided half way through, plenty of scope for quietly getting on with the job or chatting to others as suited - we were working in the shade and kept catching sight of speckled wood butterflies in the dappled sunshine. Three of us were new and were given a tour of the cemetery part way through (caught sight of lots of holly blue butterflies there, as well as damsel flies, and the telltale remains of a sparrowhawk meal) - just a tiny glimpse of its fascinating history. I can see that finding out more about it could get quite addictive and am looking forward to going back soon.

Notes from Reading CAN talk:

Tricia began by explaining that Reading Climate Action Network consists of the same people as Reading Climate Change Partnership – ranging across many sectors of Reading including the hospital, council and university. While some of the sector leads, eg transport, do so as part of their paid work, others, such as herself heading up nature, are volunteers. Their budget is very small.

She began with an introduction to draughtbusters who help people in fuel poverty, referred to them from various routes. If we know of anyone in this situation, she recommends referring them either to the Council’s Winter Watch programme or the Citizens Advice Bureau. They are also keen to train up more volunteers if anyone is interested – she assured us it is “remarkably not complicated” and suggested we could host a workshop in our community to advise local people what can be done. They are trying to link up with housing associations to train them, but so far have only been linked with one in Oxfordshire, and they have started 8 other groups doing the same work.

Then she moved on to talk about protecting and promoting biodiversity in Reading. There are lots of little voluntary groups around town looking after plots of land belonging to council to increase biodiversity and carbon storage along with its existing use (our nearest is probably Newtown Community Garden).

They are also trying to future proof Reading for a future hotter climate – more shade will be needed in public open spaces so we need to plant now for the future. One plot they have worked on is Shinfield Road Recreation Ground. She showed us posters from this of children’s designs for nature projects for home and school. So far all the trees  they planted there are ok, but a portable BBQ had melted the plastic seats chosen to avoid them rotting. She recommended cycling over to Clayfield Copse where the bank of wildflowers they have planted looks magnificent.

In Reading at present there are a lot of problems with people trying to have tree preservation orders overturned. We really need legislation that in principle you cannot cut down trees.But good things are being achievedShe mentioned that the biggest single thing we can do is have a wildlife pond in our garden and she is happy to help provide suitable plants since they multiply easily yet cost a fortune in the garden centres.

She concluded by urging us to join the climate festival events, this starts with the Water Fest where she will have stall where there will be the opportunity to handle slow worms.

In the questions afterwards, as well as making suggestions for dealing with the duck nesting in our courtyard, she mentioned events for children happening at Holy Brook Nook in the triangle between the railway lines in Coley.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Campaigns, Courtyard Garden and Collecting Litter

The Climate and Ecology Bill was reintroduced to Parliament earlier this month, so a couple of weeks ago we sent postcards to our MPs encouraging them to support the bill. We used cards with images from the Lost Words, which seemed appropriate.

Last week I welcomed the St John's School Eco Club and Gardening Club members to do some planting - tomatoes, strawberries, peas and salad. Hopefully the former two will be ripe before they break up for the summer while the latter should be ready for a church lunch eventually. The children were hugely enthusiastic and the courtyard was a whirl of industry - when the dust settled not all the plants were quite where I was expecting them and there weren't enough pots left over for the rocket (which is why it's still by the back door), but it was great fun and they're keen to come back and keep watering when they get the chance after their half term break.

Last Sunday I used resources from Tearfund's Rubbish Campaign to frame our Godly Play session on the Good Samaritan. I was hoping to get the older children to write some campaign letters afterwards but a couple of them were certain there was no point because the government never listen - that led to other discussions, but sadly no letters. More positively, they were very keen to help clear up the rubbish in the local park, with the litter pickers borrowed from a Green Party councillor in the parish. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Enjoying the Sunshine and Christian Aid Week

Over the past two weeks we have had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous weather. On May 7th we took our Family Service out to the front of the church for the first of outdoor service this year. We headed back inside for a Coronation lunch (there was a vegan alternative to the Coronation Chicken available) - and money raised will go to Christian Aid. 

Our main fundraiser for Christian Aid week was a very well attended quiz on Saturday night organised by Rosemary and Liz. At half time a speaker from Christian Aid updated us on what Christian Aid has been doing for the people of Ukraine. Sunday's service drew on Christian Aid's worship resources for this year so it felt apt to take the children out for part of the service to do some planting - not of pigeon peas but wildflower seeds. We added a few plants to each pot in case the seeds don't come up.

In the afternoon there was Forest Church - looking forward to Ascension with the aid of lots of bubbles.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Big One

Over the weekend thousands of campaigners, including several of our congregation, joined a protest in London, calling for meaningful action to tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crises. Although national news gave the impression that all those present belonged to Extinction Rebellion, the reality was that lots of other organisations including Christian Aid, Tearfund and A Rocha were present too. On every day there were services led by different church groups in addition to daily Franciscan prayer walks. Former archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu, tried to deliver a letter of protest to Shell headquarters - you can see what happened here.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Diocesan Report

At last week's deanery synod the report of the diocesan synod was all about environmental issues. Reading deanery's motion to make it easier to put solar panels onto churches was passed, as was a motion from Wantage:

That this Synod, embracing the principles of the Sustainable Church Flowers movement, which encourages a living into the Fifth Mark of Mission by promoting the use of local, seasonal and fully biodegradable/compostable flowers and foliage without floral foam, 1.) encourages a sustainable approach to church flowers throughout the diocese and 2.) strongly discourages the use of all floral foam in churches and churchyards across the diocese. 

Their supporting paper is here.

We were also encouraged to take a look at the Diocese's plan to reach net zero, which was accepted by the synod. This has ambitious targets aimed at tackling the Climate Crisis, and both the Diocese and parishes have a part to play in meeting them.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Green Meetings and Mothering Sunday Flowers

It's been a week of 'green' meetings - last Saturday the Berkshire Area of the Third Order Franciscans were here at St John's and I was asked to talk to them about our EcoChurch journey.  Some of them were already members of EcoChurches and could share their experience too, while others said they were enthused to set their own church on the path.

Daffodils left over from Sunday morning - the art on the walls in our Café, inspired by the CofE Lent theme "Dust and Glory", includes quite a few images that also celebrate Creation

Then there was the pre-service gathering on Sunday to assemble the Mothering Sunday posies. Unlike most cut flowers, daffodils are typically grown in Britain, so they're definitely a better option than the mixed flowers that can occasionally be handed out (I'm told even roses!). Nonetheless, I miss the tradition we had at Tadcaster of collecting the flowers locally (one of the downsides of an urban parish). The gorgeous-smelling greenery that was bound with the flowers did, however, come straight from Chris S's garden, which was lovely. This year we abandoned the practice of wrapping them in aluminium foil in favour of more re-usable elastic bands. Had we more time, I know, raffia bows would have been better - something to aim for!

On Tuesday, vicars from two of our neighbouring parishes joined Jeremy and I for lunch (the regular Tuesday Café baked potatoes) to share experiences and suggestions for reducing our carbon emissions (and heating bills) with greener energy. St Johns's own plans are still awaiting agreement from the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust because the project will give much of its electricity to them.

That evening we had our regular EcoChurch team meeting. Some of the discussion was about the buildings section (do our new paper towels from recycled tetrapaks work as well as the old FSC ones, how long until all the lights are LED etc!) and our little bits of land - time to renew the weeding rota. We also discussed 'global and community engagement' - eg how to encourage more people to get involved with local Newtown Conservation projects: the Community Garden (meeting this Sunday) and the Cemetery (first Sunday of the month) - there is still time to join in after our service has finished.

Finally, on Wednesday I was at RISC, representing Reading Area Green Christians, as a partner of Reading Climate Action Network, in a 'Strategy Room' session, looking at potential new policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As one of the other participants mentioned, it's really worth keep reminding people that our food system is responsible for about a third of all climate changing emissions - this and heating were the targets of the suggested policies.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Many of us joined the Big Garden Birdwatch at the weekend, including the young people at Forest Church who saw pigeons, robins, crows and a woodpecker as well as kites overhead.

A couple of congregation members also headed over to Newtown Community Garden where there was birdbox building, bulb planting and more - see their Facebook Page for some great photos.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The Letter: A Message for our Earth

Before Christmas, a couple of members of our EcoChurch team watched The Letter: A Message for our Earth. It is the story of Pope Francis's Laudato Si' encyclical and some of the many many people who are acting on the issues it raises. 
They were so impressed they suggested we invite home groups and any other congregation members to join us to watch it together at church.  This will be happening this Thursday, 2nd February at 7.30 - all are welcome to join us and refreshments will be available.