Think Global Act Local
The Exeter churches have prepared for the important United Nations Climate Summit by using it as the theme for the united city centre service at the Mint on Sunday 26th November at 10.30am. As ever the service is available on the Mint’s YouTube channel for those who aren’t able to be in the building or who want to catch up afterwards. It includes opportunity not only to learn about why COP 28 is important and what the priorities for action are, but to discover what each of the churches has been doing in the last year to take fuller responsibility for the wellbeing of God’s creation.
Plan for Exeter
- The Council has drafted “The Exeter Plan” which looks at how the city will evolve over the next 20 years. A consultative process has been designed to allow people to give feedback on the draft plan in a variety of ways. Visit https://exeterplan.commonplace.is to find out more information and then fill out short surveys on one or more chapters including Sustainable transport and communications, the Natural environment and Climate Change as well as many other sections. You can also visit one of the exhibitions being held throughout the city.
- 5 Dec : Alphington Village Hall, Ide Lane, EX2 8UP, 1pm to 7pm
- 7 Dec : Positive Lights, Sidwell Street, EX4 6RD, 1pm to 7pm
- 12 Dec : Newcourt Community Centre, Blakeslee Drive, EX2 7FN, 1pm to 7pm
- 13 Dec : Toby Carvery, Rydon Lane, Middlemoor
- Roundabout, EX2 7HL 4pm – 7pm
- 11 Jan : Marsh Barton Social Club/St Thomas Cricket & Social Club, Grace Road, Marsh Barton, EX2 8PU, 1pm to 7pm
Lifestyles: Exercising Citizenship
A couple of years ago the Eco Church group developed some materials for house group sessions on eco awareness, the third of which listed 9 steps to living more lightly (from www.greenchristian.org.uk). Number 9 was said to be possibly THE most important thing we can do; “Exercise citizenship. Campaign to protect the Earth”, including signing petitions, writing letters, and emailing MPs. So I’ve given it a try.
Official guidance on writing to MPs is here: www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-an-mp-or-lord/contact-your-mp/.
One opportunity to write is when there’s an important upcoming vote in parliament. The way in which you write may depend on whether you think your MP is likely to agree or disagree with your view. Either way, you can tell them how you think they should vote, and why. You can also request your MP to raise a particular issue with a minister, either in writing or even in the House.
As it’s not always easy to know when parliamentary votes are coming up, many organisations send alerts to their mailing list subscribers suggesting when to write.
Often they provide a pre-written well-worded letter, and all you have to do is insert your name and address, click the button, and off it goes. It’s probably better if you edit the letter so it’s not identical to hundreds of others, but if you don’t have the time or inclination, this is a quick and easy way to make your views known. You need to be signed up to e-newsletters from organisations that are campaigning on issues you’re interested in. Have a look at www.operationnoah.org, www.greenchristian.org.uk, www.arocha.org, www.greenpeace.org.uk.
Another approach to voicing your opinion to those in power is to sign petitions. Any citizen can start a petition to parliament, or sign one that someone else has started (www.petition.parliament.uk/). They stay open for 6 months, and if 10,000 people sign up the government will respond. If 100,000 people sign then your petition will be considered for debate. There are currently over 1300 open petitions, so you have to search for what might interest you. A popular current petition is about not banning the XL Bully breed of dog – and there’s another in favour of banning it! But there are others on environmental issues.
Organisations may also invite you to sign an open letter. For example, Greenpeace currently has an open letter to political party leaders about taking action on climate change. In October this year over 400 church leaders in UK signed an open letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to cancel development of the Rosebank oil field. Signatories included 40 Methodists (mostly ordained), so perhaps another route to getting heard is to encourage our circuit, district and connexional leaders to exercise the influence afforded by their position.
If you’re so inclined (personally I’m not), you can also contact your MP via social media. This means others can see what you’re saying, and even voice support. But they may also disagree, and not always politely.
Sometimes I wonder “what good will this do – I’m only one small voice”, and it can be discouraging to receive standard non-committal replies from your MP. But you never know what the impact of your words might be, and as Kathryn said during all-age worship a couple of months ago (quoting Greta Thunberg), you’re never too small to make a difference. Roger Day
Dreaming of a Green Christmas
We may speak of the Christmas story, but there are actually two. This often happens when we visit the gospels, discovering one story in Matthew, Mark, Luke or all three, and another if instead we choose to read John.
The nativity collage we compile from pieces of Matthew and Luke (Jesus is already grown up when Mark begins) is loved by many, including plenty who say they are not religious. It has a baby in a manger, angels, shepherds, a wandering star and visitors from the east, plus the cruel king to complete the panto. From an eco perspective the baby’s bed had been upcycled at no cost, the wise travellers didn’t arrive by air, and any lamb on offer was pasture-reared not factory farmed. Frankincense and myrrh were from sustainable sources although they unfortunately launched a tradition of inappropriate and unnecessary gifts that still persists!
But in most churches the tradition is respected that on Christmas Day we should hear the alternative story with which John begins the gospel of Jesus Christ, and similarly carol services that use a number of scriptures alongside the songs typically climax with that passage. It is the story of how Creation, Incarnation and Salvation, the three great acts of God, are inseparable, bound together in the person of Jesus. Instinctively people hearing the passage recognise John 1:14 as its key declaration, “The Word became flesh and lived among us”. The environmental significance of such an account of Christmas is colossal.
In becoming a human being the holy God affirmed the goodness of creation in the most dramatic way possible. Other gods may be considered to act in ways to save favoured human beings out of situations themselves regarded as beyond redemption. But not our God! Rather than establishing a way to take us out of it, God acted to join us as part of it. The Father of Jesus Christ, who wants us too to choose to be part of the family, shared the worst experiences and abuses that humans can inflict on each other alongside the damage and destruction we also wreak on the non-human creation.
So at Christmas we celebrate that Love came down not to whisk us away from earth’s defectiveness and people’s self-interest, but instead to start the transformation from within the community of creation. The project is nothing less than that the kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven.
As we allow the incarnate Word to “live among us” rather than to be a word addressed to us from elsewhere, we will not only “see his glory” as that verse of John’s goes on to say, but we will see ever more fully the glory of the whole creation.
The natural world around us this Christmastime, even the ugliest aspects of it, doesn’t need snow to make it beautiful but only the light of Christ in our eyes because that transforms the way we see and relate to everything.