Earth Day is on Saturday 22nd April

What is Earth Day? It was first introduced in 1970 in America and now includes events in more than 193 countries. It is held each year on April 22nd to give attention to the issue of protecting our environment. This year’s theme is Invest in our Planet. It is another opportunity to raise awareness of the need to protect our environment, and for
schools, colleges, businesses, and people come together to try to make a difference. We are being encouraged to continue to avoid single use plastics, to plant trees or plants to avoid loss of habitat for wildlife, to look at our buying choices and to build a healthy society.

We are all aware of the debates about the impact of our food choices and our wasted food
on greenhouse gas emissions, and so on April 23rd our small eco church team will be leading
morning worship and we will be looking at what our Faith says about food and how we value
it, use it, and choose it.

Two years ago, we set up an eco-church team, and with Church Council’s approval we joined Eco church A Rocha along with many other churches and began to work towards our Bronze
Award. We achieved that and are working towards our silver award. Please see more about
this on our Eco display board at church. The audits within the scheme encourage church members
to use food at home that is “LOAF”, and when having church meals to try to include food that complies with at
least some of the “LOAF” principles.

So, what does “LOAF” stand for? It doesn’t mean just eating bread! It stands for Locally grown, Organic, Animal-friendly and Fairtrade products. For many years the Mint has served Fairtrade Tea and coffee and also had a Traidcraft stall. Although Traidcraft itself stopped trading, the church is still able to source Fairtrade products from other sources for our drinks. In many shops there are now Fair Trade items and over the years many of us have become accustomed to looking for the Fairtrade symbol. So, the challenge is for more individuals to see how they can adhere (or are adhering to) some of the other principles. Obviously, some products can be more expensive but
seeking out where to find them can be worth the work. Farmers’ markets and locally sourced or locally produced food can be found in many places near to us. Animal friendly products doesn’t mean avoiding meat completely although some people choose vegetarian or vegan diets. What is very important too, is the choice of where the meat comes from – ideally from higher welfare systems. Eating Locally grown means eating fruit and vegetables that are in season. Perhaps you can think of other important food principles. If anyone would like to know more about Eco Church and the team, please speak to Sue Cordery or Stephen Mosedale and we’ll introduce you to others in the team. Sue Cordery.

Photo: African Blackwood Conservation Project

Knowing Creation, Knowing God: The Mpingo Tree

In the dusty bushlands and savannahs of sub–Saharan Africa there lives a rather unremarkable, slightly scruffy–looking tree. It grows extremely slowly, and never reaches a great height. Its many stems and branches are twisted and gnarled, with spines 2–3cm long. The bark on the trunk flakes off, and larger trees often have heart–rot. By all appearances, this is not a very attractive or valuable tree.
But this is the Mpingo tree, or African Blackwood, and first appearances can be deceptive. Not only does it survive bush fires that destroy other vegetation, it has multiple uses. As with many indigenous trees, preparations made from different parts of the tree are used for a range of medicinal purposes. A decoction of the leaves helps alleviate headaches, cramps, sore throats, heart problems and dysentery, and root and bark can be used to treat toothache. The leaves, bark and pods can all be used as animal fodder and the heartwood provides a red dye.
It is the dark heartwood of Mpingo which gives it its western name of African blackwood, and makes it one of the most economically valuable timbers in the world. It has exceptional mechanical properties so is perfect for carving, and has a beautiful finish. The Makonde people of Mozambique and Tanzania are famous for their blackwood carvings of intertwined figures.

Photo: Iain Cridland on Unsplash

In Europe and North America, Mpingo wood is highly prized for making woodwind instruments such as clarinets and oboes, as it can withstand the stresses of being turned, bored and drilled, as well as the changes in moisture and temperature that occur when an instrument is played. Many musicians feel that Mpingo instruments create exquisitely mellow tones that cannot be achieved with instruments made of other materials.
Such quality doesn’t come quickly or easily. The tree can take 70–100 years to reach harvestable size, and the twisted trunks mean much of the wood is wasted as offcuts; so supply is limited, further increasing its value. Drying before use may take up to 5 years, and the wood is so hard that metal working tools and tungsten/carbide tipped saws are used.
Yet in the hands of master craftspeople and musicians, the apparently unremarkable Mpingo tree produces art and music that lifts the spirit and speaks to the soul. When we’re feeling a little bit ordinary and non–descript, or even prickly and bitter, perhaps we can learn a lesson from the Mpingo tree.
Roger Day.