eco-church

Sunday 3 February 2019

Readings: Proverbs 8:22-36 and Luke 6:43-49

Introduction

Good morning everyone. For those who don’t know me I’m Helen Parker- Jervis, or PJ and I started as the new Merseyside Coordinator for Christian Aid back in September. More interestingly for you though probably are two things, one I live round the corner, and two I’m working with Liverpool Diocese on environmental strategy and policy right now, and sit on deanery synod as a rep for St Brides.

So why am I here?

My grandfather was a Vicar and my first memory of anything to do with faith is him saying grace, which he always finished with, ‘thank you God for this food and may you bless and keep all those who go hungry.’ His influence led me down a path which brought be here, culminating in writing a Masters dissertation on Climate Justice in Merseyside and now working for Christian Aid.

So that’s a little bit about why I’m here with you today, but now I’d like to chat to your neighbour for a moment about why you are here this morning, what is it that gets you out of bed on Sunday morning?

Discussion and feedback

We are all in our own way building God’s Kingdom

Joy in creation

The first reading we had today is one of many that has a really emotive description of creation and its beauty, I especially love the part:

“When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.”

I moved to this part of the city specifically because of the parks and the beautiful nature around here and for my Masters I got to spend a lot of time in mid Cornwall, there are a few beaches and woods there that are some of the most spiritual places I have ever been. I’m sure you all have places in creation where you feel the beauty of creation and maybe a closeness to God.

However, you don’t need me to tell you that creation is being damaged now by pollution and climate change. Just this last week there was the mining disaster in Brazil, but also decades or plastic pollution in the ocean, not to mention CO2 emotions from burning fossil fuels causing global warming.

In his encyclical letter from a couple of years ago Pope Francis writes extensively about this, he writes, ‘The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.’

However, even just in the last year things have slowly started to change. Initiatives like Eco-Church which I’ll speak a little bit more about in a moment, mean that churches, otherwise known as the largest community group in the country, are producing less and less waste and campaigning and giving to support those who are suffering the real effects of this destruction.

One example from Christian Aid are the couple that are the focus of our Lent and Easter appeal this year, Lope and Eva who are fisherfolk in the Philippines but also climate activists. As the coral reef around them has slowly degraded and the waters become more polluted it’s become harder and harder for their community to fish sustainably, so many were fishing illegally, using explosives and other things. Lope and Eva were supported to help build an artificial coral reef to help and also have been planting more inland and trying to diversify their income. There’s much more info about them on our website about how you can support them and other similar projects, all of which are at major risk because of climate change.

Climate Justice

My Masters was on Sustainability in general, but it became increasingly clear to me over the course of it, and indeed before, that at this point climate change is not a scientific question but a moral and a social one. Real change is going to require moral and social leadership and the church is, in my view, perfectly placed to help inspire and bring about change.

Also, climate change is specifically a justice issue; it is caused by the wealthiest and the worst consequences are suffered by the poorest, and this is true at every level, between countries of course, but also within them and indeed within cities. For example, air pollution is caused by those who own cars but it is the poorest who live where the worst air is. And while wealthy nations may suffer extreme weather, like Australia and the US right now, it is the poorest in those countries who are the most likely to die, the wealthy can buy heating or air-conditioning, or move away, the poor cannot. It’s the same on a huge scale with climate change, compounded at every stage by the unjust structures of society.

One of the most helpful frameworks for us on this I think is the Five Marks of Mission. One of the few documents that the entire Anglican Communion agrees on. Have you all come across these before? do you know what they are and in what order?

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  3. To respond to human need by loving service
  4. To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

I have always viewed the five marks as a pyramid, you need Five secure to do the others, and I think that the parable from Luke says that too; your house, metaphorical or physical, needs to be built on rock; we need a to safeguard the integrity of creation, and challenge unjust structures to go about doing the work of the Church and building the Kingdom. The Diocese strategy explains this very succinctly too: Bigger Church, Bigger difference.

The Bishop of Salisbury is the Chair of the Environment group for the Church of England, and a few years ago he visited Malawi with Christian Aid, he says that:

‘I saw directly the impact of climate change on some of the poorest people in the world. What was really impressive was seeing very poor people investing their time in adaptation, planting fruit trees…Honestly if the poorest people on earth can make that sort of investment, it’s quite a challenge to me.’

So what can we do? How can we start righting these wrongs? There are a thousand answers to this question but there’s two I want to highlight:

  • The global Divestment movement. This movement is asking financial institutions, banks pension funds, universities to take their investments out of fossil fuels, and move them to funding mitigation and adaptation work.
    • Divestment has a really strong financial argument as well as a moral one and is the fastest growing boycott or divestment movement ever, in terms of money moved, and is a sure way of wining success, has done so in the past with apartheid, the tobacco industry and others.
    • Christian Aid’s part in this is called ‘The Big Shift’ and at the moment is specifically asking HSBC, a leader in the banking sector, to stop funding new coal power stations. Currently they have promised to do so everywhere apart from three countries, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. We think that is not good enough. Please have a look on our website if you would like to write a letter to the CEO of HSBC, or ask me, more about it.
  • The other amazing movement right now is Eco-Church which I touched on earlier. 
    • Eco -Church was founded by Aroche in January 2016 as a joint project with Christian Aid Tearfund and several Church partners.
    • It’s basically an online survey for churches to gauge their environmental impact, in all parts of church life, and then start working on improving it, and along the way you can win bronze silver and gold awards.
    • It only started a couple of years ago, but there are now well over 1000 registered Eco Churches, and 300 with awards. Also 18 Dioceses have pledged to become Eco-Diocese, of which Liverpool is the latest.
  • There are as yet, no Eco Church awards in Liverpool Diocese, so we have our work cut out to get there but also a really clear direction of movement, maybe Christchurch could be the first!

So, I’ve hopefully given you a couple of ideas there of what you might do as a church or as individuals to help be a Bigger Church and make a Bigger Difference. But now to finish I’d like you to chat to your neighbour again, two questions:

  • What you might do now, tomorrow, this week, to help make that bigger difference? Maybe arrange a church meeting to go through the Eco Church survey? Or something else?
    • And then finish with one thing that gives you hope.
Helen ‘PJ’ Parker-Jervis Christian Aid/Eco-church

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