Bishop highlights the environment in BBC Harvest Service

by Michael Ford last modified 02 Oct, 2019 10:21 AM

'Seeing earth from space changed the way we think about ourselves, but so has the more recent Climate crisis.'

Bishop highlights the environment in BBC Harvest Service

Assistant Curate Ben Rundell-Evans, the Bishop of Salisbury, BBC Producer Alexa Good, reader Judy Bridger and Associate Priest Jacqui Clark

That was Bishop Nicholas' message in his sermon broadcast by the BBC from Devizes on Sunday (29 September).

Read his sermon here

Harvest thanksgiving, with specially chosen seasonal music and hymns, rang out over the airwaves from St John’s Church, Devizes, on Sunday, 29th September, when the BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship was broadcast live.

The service provided a fitting culmination to Creationtide - the period in the annual church calendar dedicated to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life that is celebrated from September 1st to St Francis Day on October 4th.

At a time of heightened awareness about the harmful effects of human activity on the environment, the worship combined traditional harvest celebrations with the concerns of many about the pressures facing our natural world. This was highlighted in the first part of his sermon Bishop Nicholas said:

"This beautiful blue planet looks different to any other. Having an atmosphere and water makes an environment where life flourishes. It is very good.

"Life on earth is extraordinarily strong and it is also very fragile.

"For the past two hundred and fifty years we have been burning fossil fuels that took millions of years to lay down in the ground. They have given us rapid development and brought enormous good, unevenly distributed around the world but producing astonishing economic prosperity and population growth.

"For all of my life, Harvest Thanksgivings have included thanks for the industrial harvests of processed foods in tins and packets. We once had a tractor in the church along with the fruit and vegetables. Coventry Cathedral had a car as part of the harvest thanksgiving of the West Midlands.

"There were prayers for the just distribution of what we grow in a world in which half of our economic wealth is owned by 1% of the population and two billion people live on less than $2 a day.

"Now our Harvest Thanksgivings have an environmental focus. As Greta Thunberg said last week, “The science has been clear for thirty years.”

He added:

“When God gave people dominion over the fish, animals and plants it can’t have been the sort of lordship that dominated, amused and selfishly exploited the earth.

“We were all made to serve and conserve the earth, he affirmed, whilst acknowledging that the scale of problem was overwhelming with some experiencing anxiety and depression about what was happening to the planet:

“Our ecosystems are interconnected and easily damaged – fires in the Amazon affect us all.”

Progress would be limited without changes of policy and production, but individuals could do their bit by ‘starting with our own actions, learning to live more lightly on the face of the earth. ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ was a helpful mantra, he suggested.

The service was led by Assistant Curate Revd Ben Rundell-Evans with contributions from members of the congregation and choir, including singing of an anthem ‘The Mystery of Christ’ written by St John’s Director of Music, Chris Totney.

The service also featured the new especially composed "Song for the Season of Creation".

As Bishop Nicholas told the congregation and the wider radio audience, the words of this poem by Malcolm Guite, composed by Ian Stephens in this new song remind us, as we give thanks for the Harvest, everything holds together, everything:

From stars that pierce the dark like living sparks,
To secret seeds that open every spring,
From spanning galaxies to spinning quarks,
Everything holds together and coheres,
Unfolding from the center whence it came.
And now that hidden heart of things appears,
The first-born of creation takes a name.

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