Category Archives: News

EVENT: The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a grown up economy by Wellbeing Economy Alliance

If the only way is up, how do we know when the economy has reached its destination? What does it mean for an economy to Arrive?

Instead of pursuing endless growth at all costs, it’s time for governments and other decision makers to prioritise shared wellbeing on a healthy planet.

In their new book “The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a growth up economy”, Dr. Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams present the exciting new concept of economic Arrival. They invite us to consider that “the agenda of fighting for survival could be over if the economy were to engage with a new challenge: that of building ourselves a lasting home in this place of plenty.”

Join the authors for a short talk on the book, followed by a Q&A and discussion about applying these ideas to contemporary Scottish politics, hosted by Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland. The discussion will be followed by a book signing and light refreshments will be available.

 

On being both Jeremiah and Barnabas

Barnabus and Jeremiah


I had somehow not anticipated how much environmentally-flavoured preaching at this time involves being a bearer of bad news. Being, proverbially, a ‘Jeremiah’.  


Even in the couple of months since I began this job, the prospects for the state of the world well within most of our lifetimes have quite dramatically worsened, at least as regards public reporting of climate science consensus and of the limited success of such  nations of the world as are seriously pursuing even the upper limit of the Paris Agreement


And yet at the end of a chaplain’s visit, quite diverse congregations are not emerging weeping or shaking with fear. 


When I first began training for ministry, my grandmother observed that I was ‘smiling more’ and  I do hope that worship is a nourishing experience as well as a serious one.   One of my Bible heroes is Barnabus, the Encourager. 


 But I don’t think I’m seriously underplaying the situation, or being unduly jolly. And through it may be, to some extent, because few of us do not quite think through the implications, though I don’t think this is why the  Eco-Congregations I have so far encountered do  exhibit a certain spiritual  buoyancy.


The safe space of Christian worship, at its best, is a place both for good news and bad news, for joys and sorrows.  As a distinctively Christian  environmental movement, we bring to the fraught and sometimes bitter environmental debates a trust in God, the experience of grace, and the remit of forgiveness, which may also involve receiving  the forgiveness of our own complicity in the crisis,  if only to  set us free to act.


At the staff meeting today,  we heard from 1 Corinthians 13, both the acknowledgement of the mystery and unpredictability of life, and of the affirming gifts of faith, hope, and love.  


As a Member of the Iona Community, I like to claim that other triplet, as part of one of our most loved prayers: “Courage, faith, and cheerfulness”.


My online  Advent Calendar, as a devotional project for this season of reflection has led me into some unexpected thoughts based on the Sunday readings. 


Most of all, though, the importance of building up the confidence and faith of the church, to be a People of Hope,   and of hospitality, come what may. 


How many Eco-Congregations does it take?

It’s amongst the oldest of  Christian cracker-jokes:  How many Catholics, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, Methodists,  Presbyterians....[fill in the gaps] does it take to change a light-bulb?   It’s probably best just  to give the answer for your own tradition, at least until you have very good ecumenical relations!   So, for my own church: How many URC folks does it take to change light-light-bulbs to LED? Probably, a Church Meeting, then a synod, then a General Assembly, then an assembly committee, then an additional special assembly to finally make the decision.  Then another Church Meeting to see if they really want to take notice.  Then, just one, to go out and  get the bulb.  Hmm. I’m sure you could do better, but the saddest answer is probably “Change? -We don’t do change!” Although the reflective time of Advent comes first for most Christians,  a friend of mine is thinking of making her own, plastic-free Christmas crackers, and was wondering what might be included to give the jokes a wee bit more bite.  Humour is a great gift from God, with, sometimes, the power to introduce ideas which would be ruled out as too hurried, too  dangerous, too different, otherwise to be entertained.  It’s a holy  task, to challenge and bring folks with you, with the solidarity of  a laugh, rather than an insult or  smugness. As, also, to lift spirits in the face of worrying news. The jester. or the king’s ‘fool’ was amongst the most important minsters of state in European royal courts. They could say what no one else could get away with, and, sometimes, was needed to be said.  In a society which loves to portray Christians as stuffy, naive  and boring (and therefore not even worth persecuting) this may sometimes be our surprising role. Our hearers’ guard is down if they’re not expecting anything worthwhile from us.  Then, joyful  humility, rather than pride of status, can take us far. We have nothing to lose by telling the truth about climate crisis and the urgency of action, as well as the importance of holding on to hope in this strange time in which we live. As to the opening question: we have 430+ congregations, but there's always room for more!  Keep on talking, keep on praying, keep on being the Church, for the greatest of all stand-ups, the Master of one-liners. a  mere carpenter from Nazareth,  born at the bottom of the heap, is the light that lights our way.

Evidence submitted to MSPs on new Climate Change Bill

THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND LAND REFORM COMMITTEE

Eco-Congregation Scotland (ECS) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the committee on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets)(Scotland) Bill in advance of appearing on 6 November 2018.

Who are we?

Eco-Congregation Scotland is a Christian environmental organisation that helps local church congregations address environmental issues through their life and mission. There are over 430 eco-congregations in Scotland. 139 of them have the EcoCongregation Award for environmental excellence. 

Our programme has three strands:

• Spiritual living: Making the link between environmental issues and the Christian faith

• Practical living: Taking practical action in the church and in the home to reduce our environmental impact

• Global living: Influencing attitudes and taking action in the local or global community on issues like climate change

Encouragement and peer support is provided through 20 local networks across Scotland with two network co-ordinators promoting local activity. 

Action on climate change 

As a faith driven organisation we encourage congregations to consider in prayer and worship why care for creation is an essential part of Christian faith; and how they should respond to climate change.  Creation Time is a new fixture in the church calendar each September and has been widely taken up in Scotland as elsewhere in Europe as an opportunity to explore care for creation in worship.

Practical action to reduce carbon emissions in churches includes working with the Energy Saving Trust and its delivery partners to encourage churches to take advice on energy management in church buildings and in their own homes. Church buildings are notoriously difficult to heat and a project in Cowal churches in Argyll identified air source heat pumps as the most effective low carbon heating for remote churches off the gas grid.   The project recently won a Roman Juriga award from the European Christian Environment Network as a leading example of energy management in churches across Europe. 

ECS receives funding from the Scottish Government to promote awareness and behaviour change.  This has helped deliver a range of activities including carbon conversations with church groups around Scotland.  There are signs of significant behaviour change with minsters and other church members installing low carbon heating at home, driving electric cars and promoting community food and other low carbon projects. Many other churches have taken advantage of Climate Challenge Funds and other grants to promote low carbon projects in church buildings of benefit to the wider community. 

Activism includes encouragement to church members to get involved in campaigning activity with partners such as Christian Aid, SCIAF, TearFund, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS) and others. It is noticeable that, at lobbies of parliament and other SCCS events, church members are prominently represented.

What motivates action?

One of the principal drivers of climate action in churches is the impact of stories from partner churches around the world.  Messages from church members in Tuvalu or Malawi or Bangladesh about the loss and damage consequent on climate change have a big impact on church audiences in Scotland, probably more so than scientific reports or statistics.  It is worth considering how such stories could be shared more widely across Scotland to increase awareness and promote behaviour change.

What next? 

That over 400 churches have registered with ECS is indicative of the commitment and concern in churches. In worship and advocacy many churches are actively engaged but there remains concern that members of congregations will struggle with behavioural decisions necessary to achieve the target of a zero carbon emissions Scotland by 2050, whether that is in changes to domestic heating, food, other shopping or travel.

One opportunity of increasing interest is in decarbonising finance.  We know that many church members have concerns about investment in fossil fuel companies but the debate is beginning to spread to the role of savings, investments and pensions. Promoting awareness, campaigning and action on fossil fuel finance is likely to be a priority for coming years. 

Commitment 

ECS and sponsoring denominations are committed to supporting the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government make the rapid transition to a low carbon economy.  We have joined other SCCS members in calling for a net zero carbon emissions (100%) target in the Bill and offer our commitment to support the Scottish Government and others in helping bring about this outcome.

 

Oil companies urged to tackle climate change

 

Eco-Congregation Scotland has joined the Church of Scotland and Christian Aid Scotland in sending an open letter to the chairmen of three oil companies, asking them to align their business plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

As the Church of Scotland currently invests in BP, Shell and Total, the letter calls on action from each of those companies to keep global warming as far below 2°C as possible.

In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that urgent changes are necessary to achieve climate targets and avoid the dangers of drought, extreme heat, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Mary Sweetland, chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland said: "We need to drastically reduce our use of carbon fuels as the recent IPCC report shows. Big oil companies promised to clean up their act to meet the Paris commitments; now we need to know how quickly they are changing."

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council stated: "Oil companies have a critical role in deciding whether or not global warming stays within targets set by the Paris Agreement of 2015. That agreement was to limit global warming to 1.5°C if possible and at most 2°C. I am now writing to ask them to tell us if they are committed to limit global warming and if so what are they going to do?"

Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland commented: "Right now, climate change is eroding life for the most vulnerable in our world and robbing our children of a future. Right now is the only time we have and time is running out. Christian Aid Scotland stands together with the Church of Scotland and Eco-Congregation Scotland in asking oil and gas companies to be leaders and solution-makers, moving intentionally and quickly to a fossil-free future."

Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal causes carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere, one of the principal causes of global warming. The Paris Agreement urges a transition toward low carbon energy sources.

Commissioners at the Church of Scotland’s 2018 General Assembly voiced serious concerns about climate change and instructed the Church and Society Council to open discussions with the oil companies and press them to align their business plans with the Paris Climate Agreement.

Read the joint open letter.

When Government fails to respond to climate change, we have a duty to act

Its been a few weeks of bad-news stories in the climate action movement.

The UK Government is failing to respond to the overwhelming calls for climate action, which some are calling a failure to govern and unforgivable betrayal.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas and six other MPs, including Labour’s Clive Lewis and former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron signed the letter, which says “pushing policymaking into the long grass of Brexit at this stage represents an abject failure to govern in the interests of the people you are elected to serve.” Read more here:

Others have gone further, calling the Government’s failure a breach of the social contract and cause for the climate action movement to step up a gear. Many, including figures like Rowan Williams, are calling for mass civil-disobedience in protest.  

The latest IPCC report a  says time is already running out and we need to change now to prevent drastic climate break down. Most of the world’s children are already breathing toxic air

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about taking stronger action in your life and church, maybe its time to hop down on the side of hope?

Theres so much you can do to bring the change we need to see.

Register as an Eco-Congregation and help us make the world a better place. Or let us know what you’re doing at home and in your congregation so we can share it to inspire others.