Rev’d David Coleman is eager to get to know local congregations’ initiatives, and to hear of your trials and joys, and to lead or share leadership of worship, when appropriate, taking note of your own tradition. Encouraging the committed core of congregations is also a high priority. David is an experienced, ordained minister in the United Reformed Church, a mainstream Christian church in the UK, and is also a Member of the Iona Community, having led programmed weeks at the Abbey.
Invite David to visit you by getting in touch through our staff page here
In preaching and in presentations, David makes exciting use of multimedia (see one of his videos below), and is well-equipped to work in very varied venues, not just on Sundays, or Sunday mornings.
A visit from the chaplain is an opportunity to celebrate what it means to be an Eco-Congregation.
Continue reading to follow his thoughts and reflections:
In the midst of the very considerable restrictions on the previous shape of my work of travelling to visit, encourage and challenge churches, in September, I was able, thanks to a visit to congregations in Skye, to spend a couple of reflective/active days in the landscape of Scotland. This was also a way of marking my 25 years in ordained Christian Ministry ( September 1995).
On the walls of ancient churches, like Iona Abbey, you may find both a cat (contemplative) and a monkey ( active). For these few days, I combined the two.
Here I present my video diary, and some of the Psalms which I took with me, having asked friends which Bible passages they felt would be spoken to by amazing locations. I am an occasional hillwalker, rather than a mountain-climber, so I didn’t go up things I was likely to fall off, but enjoyed some wonderful sights.
Filming is, of course, rough and ready. but as good as I could manage. The locations stretch perception. Overall, a reminder to place yourself, either imaginatively or actually, in the concrete situations referred to in Biblical imagery, rather than watering things down with abstraction. The majority of the visuals are from the immediate occasion, with some added.
25th Anniversary Retreat Video Diary….
Part 1; Red Point : the End of the Road
[Goes with Psalm 8 under the stars) https://youtu.be/9htGaJcYDps
Part 2: The Skye Cuilin on an open-ended day
\-What do we need to set out? https://youtu.be/Fz04lNrRkwQ
[Goes with Psalm 121 on Sgurr Alastair https://youtu.be/oRJ9N0BJ0Nc
Part 3 Bein Damh – with the view that brought me to Applecross.
Cake and Eat it/ What a Mountain really is….
[Goes with Lord’s prayer https://youtu.be/6OTQdsQVY1A
Part 4: Rest Day: the Cycle of the Kingdom
(building on my observation of the cyclic nature of Creation and the Kingdom) We are Mostly Water.
Part 5: The Lost Valley, panting with the deer, and some reflections on the value of the Reformation, and love-songs.
Psalms as pilgrimage
It’s a recognised way of Bible reflection, to read passages over and over. I added to that what came to mind in a location.
Psalm 8 as a pilgrimage https://youtu.be/QnmQFYJAe6c
Psalm 121 as a pilgrimage https://youtu.be/QxtfZvzVtcY
Psalm 139 as a pilgrimage https://youtu.be/YT7mPZEK48U
Psalm 95 with dancing strangers https://youtu.be/DwtB4MF2X-s
Psalm 36 by a mountain stream https://youtu.be/FI_uliYNULkContinue reading →
I’m extremely grateful for these demo recordings of the hymn texts offered for the Season of Creation
Wording and credits can be found in the description box on YouTube in each case. They’re also on my Facebook page ‘EcoChaplain Online’
Please do use, if they have a place in your worship or devotions.Continue reading →
Now Christ lives here ( Courage Brother)
Now Christ lives here ( Blaenwern)
Our Legacy is dire ( Kingsfold)
One Day I said sorry ( St Deinio)
Deep our Longing ( Westminster Abbey)
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EcoCongregation Scotland has been preparing material for use during the ‘Season of Creation’ for some years, previously gathered by Miriam McHardy of ACTS and my predecessor Rev Trevor Jamison. We've struggled this year, with the background of COVID, which has added to everyone's workload and stress, and we are thus all the more grateful to this year's writers who found they were able to take part after all.
We began the project looking forward to preparations for the COP conference, which will now happen next year in Glasgow: we have a breathing space to work towards a fruitful use of the opportunities for prayer, and the raising of consciousness which that will bring.
We aim to provide something which is of real use to local churches, many of whom will be using the Revised Common Lectionary, or its close relative used by Roman Catholic congregations.
We’re grateful for permission to use the graphic from the Global Catholic Climate Movement this year, as we’ve very much aiming at partnership rather than competition, and the overarching theme of Jubilee for the Earth has deep biblical resonance.
We also welcome the initiative of Climate Sunday from Churches together in Britain and Ireland, whose launch coincides with our first ‘Sunday’.
Our approach, quite appropriately, is encouraging and challenging, though never prescriptive: use these things as seems good to you and the Holy Spirit. Work it in together with the way you do things: between us we provide both the medicine and the spoonful of sugar to help it go down. Grab a phrase, an image, or an idea, and run off with it! Have fun! Get carried away! See what you can get away with!
We’re indebted to the care taken by Church of Scotland Weekly Worship in shaping their own very helpful guidelines, though, necessarily, we go further.
We are not ‘filling in a gap’, but rather making space. We bring to this task a belief, born of current and practical experience, that much of the Bible can immediately be read, with integrity, in a way which highlights the rootedness of our faith in the partnership of God with Creation - variously described as ‘covenant’, in which human beings have a vital part to play, though by no means the only part. We are, as Pope Francis has said, “ruled” by the Earth.
I’ve discovered that this may require the cashing in of some reserves of daring. We often exist in a theological environment patrolled by what Alastair McIntosh calls “silverbacks”
“:Silverbacks” = older and once eminent men (as they usually are) who still pronounce with a head-of-department authority on matters over which they’re either out of touch, or aren’t within their field”[Riders on the Storm, published 13th August 2020 ]
So sometimes we need to say things differently, which seemed long ago to be settled. But God alone is unchanging. To be clear :we never impugn the integrity of those who came to different conclusions in a different time and context, but we do need, most urgently, to open wide eyes ( including our own) to the signs of these particular times, which are not by any means exclusively, of the virus threat, which seems, prematurely and lethally, to block out all others.
The surprise for some is that no mode of churchmanship has a monopoly either on ‘climate’ issues, nor, for that matter, the problems of denial and incrementalism within our communities. We turn up treasure new and old.
Once a church, congregation or community learns to trust and read the Voice of Creation through the honesty of science, Christian commitment compels involvement.
I’m relieved that I’m not a ‘climate’ chaplain only, as there are so many stacked up but interweaving environmental crises, of which COVID 19 is but one.
in our writing, we have required the discipline of taking note, but not being overwhelmed by the crisis which has forced us online , thereby actually multiplying the scope of our audience.
In Bible poetry - frequently - the mountains dance, the trees clap hands, the stones (threaten to) shout aloud and Creation groans. Poetry is so often the most emotionally accurate way of expressing deeper truths - without conflict with science.
The currently renewed appreciation of the sentience of fellow creatures, brings a new depth of meaning to this imagery. We ‘hear the voice of the earth’ as never before, though we have a whole raft of wonderful ( and well-financed) strategies for ignoring, or postponing action on what that geo-prophetic voice might have to say.
The most obvious images ( beasts, birds, seas, skies, soil) are not at all the only ‘creation’ themes. As environmental scientist Gus Speth has famously said,
“The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy”,
Thus themes emerging from this year’s texts are as follows:
Responsibility ( Given our (collective) complicity in global damage.... It is responsibility, more than ‘control’ that God gives to our species in Genesis 1:26
Love for neighbour (taking neighbour rather widely). There’s a very serious need to hear and be shocked by the partisan xenophobia of some of the passages; to grow beyond local parochialism to a global concern.
’Payback’ and revenge vs Forgiveness = as enabling power.
Urgency in all things: though set against the disabling idea of ‘already too late’.
Maybe forgiveness, and the experience of grace will be the key to the most effective Christian environmental witness, especially where churches have been bombarded with the demand to “do more”.
This last attitude is, of course, one of the errors which is killing the world with the pursuit of endless growth.
It takes little study of the New Testament to confirm that Jesus’ practice was to liberate with forgiveness first, before evidence of changed life came to light, so encouragement takes precedence over condemnation.
Should it be a surprise that the best we have to offer in the state of the world today are also the best expressions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The sheer practicality of making forgiveness/healing/enabling a priority over vengefulness shoes through.
If the one who sings prays twice, then the one will also hurt twice, who insists on suffering and punishment, rather than a more ‘restorative’ sort of justice.
Enjoy the Season, and see where the Spirit leads!
If Ian Bradley’s ‘God is Green’ is a primer for green theology, Professor Alastair McIntosh’s ‘Riders on the Storm’ is a handbook for well-informed and authoritative activism. Two hundred pages bursting with quotable and meme-able sayings to reflect- and act – on.
As activists and pastors, actors and prophets in this spiritual, environmental, ecumenical movement, [EcoCongregation Scotland ] we seldom have time or space to read every book that’s going.
To be practitioners, in an age of urgency, we seldom have the luxury only to be students. Reading matter on which we can hitch a ride, without being taken for one – not even the pleasure cruise we think we’ve paid for – turns out particularly rewarding.
With startlingly frequent permissions to ‘skim over’ this or that chapter, and an apology in the acknowledgments that this, actually quite short, book is twice its intended length, Alastair is clearly mindful of that. However, even if you think you know what you ought to know about the climate emergency ( the more pedestrian ‘climate change’ is used throughout) this small library of interwoven books will repay attention, and perhaps non-sequential reading. “Be warned that I love few things better than moving from hard science to spiritual reflections by a Hebridean loch”.
And it’s seriously up to date in late 2020. Great preparation for COP in Glasgow next year.
As a public speaker, Alastair has the charming knack of speaking with authority: irritating, independent-minded, but the twenty-three pages of meticulous notes at the back of this volume should leave you in no doubt of his rigour; why he’s hard to dismiss, and why he pulls off what others might see as the scandalous trick of combining the insightful power of science, academia, poetry and eclectic spirituality.
We discover why the notoriously cautious IPCC ( Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is “an incredible organisation”, and also how to interpret its jargon of “highly likely” “unlikely” , and so on. We unpack the crucial difference between emissions and concentration. We are forced to reflect on why “Climate change denial is a waste of time, but climate change alarmism is a theft of time”.
“My view is that if a case can’t be made without it being over-egged, either the case is not valid or those to whom it is being pitched are being spun. “The unembellished science is quite bad enough to be good enough”. For the reader, anxious for the tide to come in of radical actions and commitment, have patience: the ninth wave is on the way! (“‘Sustainable economic growth’ . There’s an oxymoron if ever there was one”.)
This writer has the courage to be discerningly, compassionately critical of friends and movements like Extinction Rebellion, without falling prey to the idolatry of false equivalence:
““There is no substitute for balance. That said, the balance says that only by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and thereby stabilising and preferably heavily reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, can very serious future risks be averted.”
“What if nations were to dig into their treasuries of poetry, song, literature, mythology and spirituality, and draw out oft-forgotten material..” Precisely for those who approach climate change from a faith perspective, this is excellent advice. “ “If the journey of the head looks like solar panels, heat pumps and green new deals, what of the journey of the heart?”
Alastair delights in myths, and values their capacity to point to truth, but is ruthlessly hard on any that are wantonly unfounded. Pseudoscience of every kind has a bloody nose from this radical moderate who, whilst walking the walk in personal commitment, refuses to deny his- and our – complicity in a situation of threat to life and being even beyond that of warfare. “Climate will remain the most pressing global leadership issue of our time.” Although facts, figures, and peer-reviewed science provide a playing field, with this book, we gain courage to assert that spiritual emptiness, the clearances of the soul, constitute the more determinative malaise to be addressed in building resilience of community and planet. As in Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, justice for the planet is absolutely inseparable from ‘integral human development’. Justice and ecology are near-identical siblings.
As we each only can, Alastair brings out of his treasure of a lifetime’s activism and study, treasures of experience which inescapably ground the crisis in our own homelands and coastlands, refuting with humour many of the denialist staples, for instance, about the small amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, comparing it to mine but dangerous blood alcohol levels: “Our whisky is quite the best, but at 414ppm you’re banned.”
If we might be tempted by the ‘devil we know’, Alastair makes a point of introducing us to all the devils we need to know. Though face to face with Pacific islanders – fast becoming the go-to example of a comfortingly distant crisis – we’re left in no doubt that, with sea-level rises in our lifetime “ . On the beaches of Harris and Berneray, “it’s happening before our eyes”
This should be the end of any Scottish complacency, any delay in pulling out “all the stops of sustainable development”. Or of reclaiming the wilder spiritual resources, so often born in times of trouble, that providence and love have made available to humanity.
Hope-lessness is no valid option, nor to take refuge in pernicious narratives of the pointlessness of individual action and commitment, indeed Alastair conveys a heartfelt case for doing whatever you can, without succumbing to burnout and toxic indispensability .
“As with the making of the proverbial stone soup, if we can all add just one ingredient, we can end up with a rich broth round the hearth”.Continue reading →
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(Released in September: Available for order from DLT http://dltbooks.com)
This is a fuller version of a review that may appear elsewhere.
The first edition of ‘God is Green’, by Rev Prof. Ian Bradley, has lurked in my bookcase since it irked the tutors in my training when I was inspired by the epidemic of ‘Creation Spirituality’ at that time.
That tendency itself perched on twin shoulders of the late twentieth century environmental movements and an interest in the justice and peace dimensions of what might be gleaned from the remnants of a ‘Celtic Church’, with which Ian Bradley is very familiar, and of which he has held differing opinions over time. Our movement includes plenty who bring with them a fond familiarity with all that, and they will welcome what Ian describes as a “short book” from such a stable.
Even back then, Ian Bradley offered one of the sounder, more orthodox - and therefore more deceptively radical - approaches. There is more to be said for bringing the resources of your faith with you into environmental crisis than fumbling around to cobble a new one together from scratch.
Thus, God is Green, if it introduces to a congregation, a study group (discussion points are provided after each chapter) or an online fellowship, something hitherto un-heard of, will be an enrichment, and a reinforcement, and not a threat.
Christianity, despite slings, arrows and much to be apologised for, emerges as the hero of this book. It is heartening to have such allies on board in the struggle to be the Church for these strange and threatening days.
All the more so, on those occasions when someone with rank to pull, but not having woken up to the crisis, says “you can’t say that!”.
Green preaching and worship - which our movement works to make less of an endangered species than Ian suggests it currently might be - involves a fair bit of sticking your neck out, both in congregations and in the public sphere. Although, in common with most academic writers, Ian always finds an external authority to say what he wants to say, the risks and leaps we need to make will seem less foolish and fragile with Ian beside us. He also has the confidence to say “I believe” in some conclusions. However much evidence he may have assembled to make his point, he is honest about the fragility and provsionality of all we proclaim. Though this is insufficient cause to pipe down!
Alongside dignified humility at our self-centred wrong turnings there is also grateful acknowledgement of the positive initiatives of the churches, such as EcoChurch and EcoCongregation.
Some of the quoted exemplars of past narrow-mindedness finally seem all the more crass in 2020, yet we are reminded that these attitudes remain for now, part of the landscape of our churches. There’s some considerable giant-slaying there too: Calvin, Aquinas and Newman lined up with horrendous statements on the dispensability of non-human life, and it might be good to investigate how all three can also, on occasion, be quoted in support of wonder at and appreciation of Creation. This might forestall the widespread phenomenon of ‘blaming Augustine’ for all the church’s ills, without actually having read him.
I would feel completely happy if this current edition found its way into every one of the five hundred congregations of EcoCongregation Scotland, as, like a good sermon, there is so much food for thought, so many occasions for further reflection and action. And none of it would hinder or handicap the process of ‘ecological conversion’ which Pope Francis identified as the mode of pilgrimage for faithful Christians today.
Revisiting ‘God is Green’ in this edition is a delight and an affirmation of the directions which should urgently be commending themselves to everyone in any sort of leadership role in every sort of church, and for which, so we discover, we are actually well equipped as active communities of faith. With Herbert, Hopkins and Teilhard de Chardin, it does get very cultural at times, and Ian’s wide ecumenical overview of the spectrum of environmentally aware Christianity and literature will be nourishing, though there’s not much cited more recent than ‘The Circle of Life’ from ‘The Lion King’.
The changes in tone and conclusion in this edition, especially those highlighted, with explanation, in the final chapter on the place of human beings, encourage the reader, excited by the green meaningfulness of Christianity, to continue the journey, led by the prophetic voice of the Earth, equipped with with a readiness for further guidance and insight.
The key insight of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, that we recover the Biblical habit of addressing and listening to the Earth and creatures as ‘who’ rather than ‘it’, as subject rather than inert object , runs all the way through, with rich support from many theological and literary authorities.
Whilst ‘God is Green’ has not been converted into a resource of existential urgency, nor one which risks much dalliance in the ‘scarier’ apocalyptic resources of Christianity, which may be commending themselves to those in most acute situations, it is an authoritative toolbox and annotated booklist par excellence on which the day-to-day life of the churches can confidently build.
If a scribe of the Kingdom requires treasures both new and old, the strength of God is Green - some will feel, reassuringly - is in the treasuring of older, yet deep green threads which not only comprise, but hold together, the faith of Christianity.
A welcome transformative rather than additive approach to the defining festivals and ceremonies of Christianity is encouraged: who knew how ‘cosmically aware’ was Wesley in the original version of ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing? Is your church’s Christmas ‘greenery-free’, at least in the story you will tell?
Though played by Queensberry rules, this is, thank goodness, a book that pulls few punches. Ian abruptly calls back to scripture many who might be under the illusion that their anthropocentricism (humans as God’s be-all and end-all) rested precisely on that foundation. If a complacent attitude of disregard to the life and dignity of fellow creatures seems to be well-explained, you can look forward to it being knocked flat in the following paragraph.
Without neglecting the usual culprits - the ‘dominion' problem in Genesis 1:28, God is Green offers a good wide spread of Bible quotes and references, with discussion of how the consensus of their interpretation continues to evolve. Theology is a snapshot, but also like an Iona Pilgrimage: those at the front may think they’re getting there, but it only works if we take care to cherish those who move more slowly.
‘God is Green’ hasn’t become a book for ‘the last days’, yet leaves plenty of room for ‘bells to ring’ as you recognise the inherent immersion of liturgy and scripture in our partnership with Creation.