Churches Caring for Creation

by Gerry Lynch last modified 14 Nov, 2016 10:34 PM

Heytesbury Deanery holds special study day for parish churches and the environment

How can we move from a “vertical” view of creation where humans dominate the rest of creation, to a “horizontal” view where we are interdependent with other species?

That was one of the questions addressed at a study day on the environment for Heytesbury Deanery hosted by the Upper Wylye Valley Benefice earlier this month. Over twenty people attended the event at Sutton Veny Village Hall.

The event explored climate change and related issues from a parish church perspective. The day started with a Team Service celebrating Creation, with a special liturgy. The Revd Dr Mike Perry, Vicar of the Woodford Valley with Archer’s Gate, preached. Mike, who is an active member of the Diocesan Environment Group, reminded those attending to stop and wonder at Creation. His sermon first raised the idea of moving from a “vertical” view of creation in which humans under God have dominion over the earth, which too easily led to irresponsible exploitation of earth’s resource, to a “horizontal” view in which we are one species among many, interdependent but tasked with serving and protecting the earth.

The keynote address was given by Dave Bookless, Director of Theology for A Rocha International, and author of several books on environmental issues. He reviewed the current challenges to the environment. Reflecting on the sense of hopelessness many feel about climate change, he reminded attendees of the biblical promise not to destroy the earth but to renew it. He reviewed St Paul’s vision of the whole of creation waiting for humankind to liberate it from bondage.

The immediate perspective of the renewal of the world is uncertain and fragile, he said, but in the light of eternity it is fixed and guaranteed, though that future world is beyond our comprehension or imagination. Our place in creation is not as dominant overlords but as keepers and stewards. He described some practical examples of “greening” the urban landscape, citing the Minet Country Park in Hillingdon, and some smaller-scale urban gardens and green spaces.

Stephen Dominy, Regional Coordinator for Christian Aid, outlined the Christian Aid concern for climate change and the care of the planet, pointing out that one of the Anglican Five Marks of Mission is “[t]o strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”. He described work by some of Christian Aid’s local partners in different countries to respond practically to climate change, and he urged churches to implement The Big Church Switch, an initiative to enable churches easily to change to a green energy supplier.

Visit the Big Church Switch website: here.

After a home-made lunch, Mike Perry developed some of the themes from his morning sermon, before going on to describe the Eco Church initiative, an award scheme which equips churches to express their care for God’s world in every aspect of their life and witness, and in the personal lifestyles of the congregation.

Visit the Echo Church website: here.

He ran through some of the questions addressed in the Eco-survey, which raised a lot of interest among those present. The potential for competition between churches was not ignored!

Richard Palmer, energy adviser at Butler Sherborn, Rural Services Consultants, was the final speaker. He explained practical solutions for creation care within churches and community buildings. He reviewed the economics of current government energy policy, and looked at ways of using available technology and renewable energy resources to maximise energy efficiency and save both costs and energy, which also means saving and carbon output. Some parishes with heating problems paid particular attention!

The day concluded with a panel discussion and questions which reflected the breadth of issues covered.

In thanking the speakers, Revd Alison Morley, Team Rector, gave notice that a similar day would be held in three years’ time, to evaluate how far local churches had travelled along the road to sustainable living.

If you would like more information about the event or material from it, please contact the Revd Alison Morley, Team Rector of the Upper Wylye Valley Benefice, on 01985 840187 or email upperwylyevalleyteam@gmail.com.

A series of Eco Church events will be held across the Diocese: find out more: here.

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