Baton Relay

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Eco-Congregation Scotland is taking a baton to Paris, to express the demands of churches in Scotland that negotiators agree to a deal that promotes global climate justice. The baton, which will pass around churches in Scotland throughout the summer of 2015, will carry the hopes and aspirations of Christians across Scotland for climate justice to be central to any agreement reached at the conference.

What is happening ?

  • Greyfriars Recycling of Wood have made a baton for Eco-congregation Scotland from recycled church furniture.
  • The baton bears the message Time for Climate Justice: Churches in Scotland Demand a Deal in Paris, December 2015.
  • The relay was launched by Aileen McLeod MSP, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform at our Annual Gathering on 25th of April:DSC_0064b
  • In December 2015 the baton will be taken to the UN climate change conference in Paris to share our message with other churches and delegates.

 

See where the baton is going

You can have a look at this map and calendar of where the baton is going  to get an idea of when it will be in your area. There are two batons in order to cover as much as Scotland as possible (which is why it will appear that it is in two places at once on many dates!). Green markers indicate where the baton has travelled so far; red markers indicate where it will be going.

 

 

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If you are a local church congregation you can book the baton to visit your church when it is passing through your area. As the route is dependent on who signs up please contact us as soon as possible to get your name on the list. Please send an email to manager@ecocongregationscotland.org (or use our contact form here) stating the name of your congregation, its location, plus your name and phone number. We will get in touch to arrange a date.

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We ask that all congregations receiving the baton do the following:

  • Fill out one of the postcards and post it to us so we can collect them together and give to the Climate Change minister to show where the baton has been.
  • Contact the local press (newspaper or maybe local radio).
  • Put an article in your own church magazine.
  • Contact other local congregations (of all denominations) and ask them to take part.

When you receive the baton there will be a pack containing printed information. If any of this is missing you can download a copy here:

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If you see the baton, tell us where it is, hashtag: #cop21baton


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  • Farewell to the piggies

    PICTURE: The pig-with-bagpipes gargoyle at Melrose Abbey


    There’s a group of UK churches who do important things together: the Joint Public Issues Group (JPIT) is the umbrella, dealing with substantial justice issues like migration, refugees, and of course, the climate crisis. 


    JPIT are encouraging folk in the various churches - and of course, beyond - to use the traditions of Lent to develop our personal and public response, with a programme they are calling  ‘Living Lent’


    It’s very easy just to sit back and lament, in resignation, the alarming damage that is being done, now at a brutal pace, to everything which feeds and provides habitat both to us and our fellow creatures. 


    The Season of Lent has always offered opportunity for an exercise in spiritual growth, earthed in a strictly  manageable level of commitment.  How appropriate to dedicate and channel  Lenten observances towards greater environmental awareness and personal active  participation in our response. 


    I have already  given up buying beef, because of the huge carbon footprint which that meat source has  compared to, for instance, chicken (see the national Geographic film ‘Before the Flood’ available for free download ), but as with any addiction, getting to the point of  being meat-free, and seeing that as a liberation, is a step or two further. Thus the encouragement of ‘Living Lent’ is rather helpful.  And as  ‘Living Lent’  points out, vegetarians have about half the carbon footprint of regular meat eaters.


     I will be joining in myself, as the project has given me the kick-start to get back to vegetarianism. I really appreciate  the odd bacon sandwich, and as a minister, there will be times when honouring hospitality ( as in sausage rolls at funerals) may provide exceptions, but I can’t simply ignore the basic, easy, manageable stuff: like giving up meat. 


    The other option, ’Buy nothing new’ also has its liberating  attractions and challenges, but one at a time! 


      Recognising that the support of a community has more chance of embedding change in lives, the campaign is itself ‘live’ and will develop and take shape as Lent proceeds.  Having ’subscribed’ to my commitment,   I’ve just received a friendly acknowledging email from Hannah and the JPIT team.


    To take part is a small and worthwhile step. And each small step, like a prayer, is in God’s hands.


    I’m making a wee video clip about the experience, so I decided, a bit early,  to get the wherewithal for my final bacon roll, not from a boring anonymous plastic shelf, but from a proper hands-on  butcher, who knew where  the meat came from and the conditions under which it was raised. 


    If, after the exercise, I do go back to meat, this is what I would need to go back to. And yes, it’s dearer,  but perhaps that better reflects the cost to the planet.


     I was delighted to see, in a display in the  butcher’s shop, the mantra ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ about their approach to packaging, as well as information about the farms they buy from, and the welfare  of the animals.  


    Over and over again, the ‘small step’ of commitment turns out to be like ripples in a pond: doing the right thing for one reason ends up rewarded with a wider bonus.  If I were a meat eater, these are things I should always have been concerned about.


    I’m going to really appreciate that last bacon roll! 


    Continue reading →
  • The tatty wee guide to green reading

    [First published by the Iona Community in 'e-Coracle' online magazine.]


    When  you hear ‘Heaven’look at the sky, and what is happening today. The sky is perhaps ‘out of reach’, but not remote to your experience. It’s always there. It doesn’t need to be talked about to be brought to mind. And it’s in danger, same as the earth! In the Bible, Heaven/Sky are the same word, most of the time. Heaven and Earth are one Creation, and belong together, in the same breath. Look it up! Next time there’s thick fog, have a walk in Heaven! But if you insist on separating them, experience Sky first of all, and only then bring your imagination into gear for ‘Heaven’.


    When you hear ‘World’touch the earth, stroke an animal, drink water. Eat bread, exchange a sign of Peace. Don’t be funnelled down only into the genuine, but not universal, narrower meaning of ‘human culture’. ‘World’ includes every living thing, every creature. This is our starting point today. This is what God so loves that he gave his only Son … And the depths of the word’s meaning suggest something worth delighting in.


    When you hear ‘Spirit’go outside and stand in the wind and feel its movement. Breathe in and out. Spirit, breath and the wayward gusty wind belong together in the Bible, and require no additional rapture to step into. But if you are given some sort of rapturous vision, remember, the community needs to interpret it, rather than just you yourself. 


    When you hear ‘Redemption’ always substitute ‘liberation’. Christ and the truth (both, without conflict) set us free! Freedom goes with finding your place and purpose. Don’t wait till you’re dead to find it.


    When you hear obedienceobediently and faithfully question who or what it is that you are being asked to be obedient to. When at Christmas someone sings ‘Christian children all must be/mild, obedient, good as he’, read again the only story we have of Jesus’ childhood, when he disappears in the middle of a crowded city and drives his parents to distraction.


    When you hear servant/slave remember that it is the useless ones that do only what they’re told.


    When you hear of God in Christ Jesusremember and respect how the Church has insisted on (though also often ignored) the full and unreserved humanity of Jesus, revealing the holiness of that of which he was made. Feel your own body. Go to the toilet. Get hot, get cold. The radical implication of the Incarnation, if you don’t limply pass it off as a mere metaphor, is that Jesus also shares our evolutionary history – thus also that of all living things.


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  • Befriending the elephant

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    Acts 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. KJV



    Many are the elephants in church meeting rooms. 


    The big beasties, staring us in the face, that won’t go away. That, if they chose, could mess everything up. Some of them have been around much longer than I have. If you choose to notice  them, you can, perhaps, befriend them. If not, they remain a threat.  


    There’s one such mammoth, in whose desperate obscuring  I have long been wilfully complicit as a grassroots pastor. 


     But the other day, it popped out and stood in my way. Not yet trumpeting or charging, but it looked me in the eye, and  there was no way round it.


    The Eco-Chaplain experience of encountering  the habits of churches is nerve-racking and disquieting. 


    When the otherwise good, wholesome and faithful life of churches makes no provision to acknowledge the environmental crisis, or perhaps sidelines it under another heading, it  now feels like singing a hymn to the Trinity, with only two verses. Like Advent or Lent with a week missing. 


    These are Good Things, though lacking, and therefore less equipped for challenge,  or for “trial”. 


    I find encouragement in the Lord’s Prayer as  used within the Iona Community. The line ‘save us in the time of trial’ chooses the realistic option: acknowledging the bad things that do happen.  It’s in the awareness of these  trials, and , being honest, the associated discomfort,  that we cry out for help. And become more ready to receive it.


    There are  many schemes and programmes, generating  resources, which you can take or leave. Ideas which provide  positive encouragement for community development.  If you’re doing them, don’t stop now.


    The ‘Five Marks of Mission’  originating in the Anglican Communion, and adopted or acknowledged by many others, leaves it to (the near afterthought) of  number five to include ‘care for creation’, but at least it’s there and clear.


    With Holy Habits, (book 2016) which has the backing of my own Church, it’s nowhere, initially,  to be seen’. The programme is based on the Holy Habits of the Early Church, as seen in Acts 2: biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, giving, service, eating together, gladness and generosity, worship and the making of more disciples.


    I’m not simply  going to suggest just tagging on ‘Care for Creation’, and thereby risk it being ‘just another module’.  


    Every single one of those Holy Habits’ is being actively  transformed by our context, not least ‘the making of more disciples’, for  a church which is realistic about climate challenge, is an attractive spiritual home.


    The ‘gap’ in that list, is actually the omission of something present in Acts 2, which  I have struggled to own up to as a part of my faith, namely ‘fear’, which can, of course be toned down and tamed as ‘awe’.  


    Throughout my ministry, I have worked to promote ‘awe’ and wonder at the works of God, certainly convinced that this is a ‘Holy Habit’, transforming and nourishing  of life and faith.  But awe and wonder is allowed for  in Acts 2:43. Fear is also still there. 


    So today, I find courage - or foolishness -  recognising, in the same helpful way that “it’s all right not to be all right”  that appropriate fear, not of God, but of our planet’s prospects, is indeed a ‘Holy Habit’. 


    Holy, because we can be honest about it before God, and in Christian Community. 

    Like that other activist's Holy Habit of anger, (cf Ephesians 4:26) it's there to move things on, not to be permanent. It has its place. It can be befriended, transformed, lived with.  But not denied. 

    Prayer is the opposite of denial. 


    In our alertness to the state of the planet, God help us acknowledge, and work through, the Holy Habit of Fear.


    Continue reading →
  • Apathy the enemy



    With the rise of social media (including this blog)  has come an explosion in sources of news. 


    In one way, this can be seen a a democratisation. 


    As the group that live-streamed my induction service, ‘Independence Live’  like to put it, ‘Don’t hate the media - be the media!”. Small groups  can indeed bring the unexpected  truth, or a welcome alternative slant on events. 


    Nonetheless, we’re probably still the right side of the horrific  tipping point when nothing anywhere is trustworthy at all.


    That said, in the semi-global environment of the English-speaking internet, there is plenty of scope for fake news, and indeed, for those sincerely looking for clarity to gain completely false impressions. Worse still, these can be picked up by - you guessed it- the media. The impression can be given that churches or faith groups are obstacles to the acceptance of the alarming scientific insights which can help nations wisely encounter the challenges of climate crisis.


    Inevitably, I have encountered some folk in the churches, instinctively suspicious of what they see as an imposed narrative and timetable of climate crisis, with implications for all our lives and lifestyles. You may have a few in your own congregations. 


    These good friends are prime fodder for climate denial campaigns,  YouTubers bloggers and vloggers, as well as those with some sort of  scientific background, eager for research funding. 


    It is well-known and well-established that some energy industry corporations give (to you and me) huge backing to climate denial groups focussed primarily on the United States.


    Thus, if climate denying friends direct you to their latest assertively and aggressively voiced YouTube clip, which is holding them back from bringing their commitment on board with your environmental programmes, do check the accent!  It takes only a little jargon to blind with (non-)science. 


    As we are beginning to assemble material for Creation Time/Season of Creation this year, I have been looking over the lectionary readings for September 2019 ( Year C). 


    To the extent that there is a common thread, it is one  familiar to mission-minded Christians:  ‘bringing the baddies on board’  or the imperative of convincing and enlisting those whom you (or I) might see as annoyingly misled, unqualified,  or in some sense ‘the wrong people’. A challenge, in other words, to our own prejudice.


    But since our ministry as EcoCongregation Scotland is located here, rather than across the Atlantic, there is a different context, and indeed, there are different obstacles.


    Look around, and ask around. 


    In the UK,  there are, as far as I can see, (and I have checked)  no mainstream Christian or religious groups actively involved in climate denial.   


    Our biggest challenges  in Scotland are apathy, postponement and sidelining: where lip-service to the importance of the climate issues is formally  paid, but strategies are employed to keep things on hold.  


    And this happens  not out of malice, but rather because that is the way things are done. All of which we probably understand, and all of which, many of us (either knowingly or otherwise) condone or take part in.  It might be nice to carry on this way, but the urgency of climate crisis compels many re-assessments.



    Perhaps readers of ‘Lord of the Rings’ might be encouraged to  recall the difficulty the Hobbits had with the Ents, here  shamelessly paraphrased:


    “Climate change? yes.

    it affects us all.

    But you must understand, young EcoHobbit

    it takes a long time to say anything 

    in Old Churchspeak,

    and we never say anything 

    unless it is worth taking a long time to say. 

    (cf The Two Towers. JRR Tolkien)


    When the Ents (a sort of tree-like giant) were eventually convinced, they became formidable and committed allies. The engagement of churches, -especially when they have the confidence to act as churches - is a powerful force for good.


    Don’t give up on your churches, even if they’re taking a while to wake up. 


    Be encouraged by the good news from other active EcoCongregations. (And come along the Gathering in Dundee, 30th March)  


    Be graciously impatient, And shout loudly: your good news can change minds. 

    =============================================================

    PS: Another encouragement possibility.



    Continue reading →
  • The cutting room floor

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    The accommodation provided for the chaplain includes a garden, which contains an apple tree. Some apple crumble has resulted, as well as chutney and jelly, made by a close friend. But this year saw a bumper crop, and we didn’t manage to (or were too lazy to) pick up all the apples. Now I could always blame this on the deceptively wise and ecological  guidance in Leviticus , but the fact is, it has been a huge  source of delight for my family, to look on, as a variety of wild birds piled in and devoured the windfalls. 

    So often, the things we disregard, neglect, or avoid,  turn out to be of great value. Anyone re-reading the Bible with a ‘green’ awareness is going to discover something similar. But not just the Bible.

    Long before the possibility of being the second Eco-Chaplain was even on the horizon, it fell to me to review, for the United Reformed Church’s magazine ‘Reform’  the 2015 papal encyclical ‘Laudato Si’  (‘Praise be to you…’) ‘On the environment and human ecology”.

    The review  was one of those jobs you take on, and then think ‘ what have I got myself into’.  The text is densely written.  But overall, it was a reminder to re-think any prejudices I might have had about official church documents, especially given some years of numbing experience. 

    I know every denomination has its jargon; its ways of finally getting round to saying what needs said, but also that squeezing urgent environmental messages into the ponderous procedures of synods and assemblies is a demanding task. Those of us in ‘organised’ churches may need to have our wits about us, to help their life and work be responsive to the global disruption of which each day brings additional confirmation.

    One of the wonders of the New Testament, by contrast, is that so little is smoothed over and homogenised, or forced to agree too precisely with other parts.

    In the age of climate disruption, we can be grateful  for the remnants we can turn to of the historic  apocalyptic preaching of Jesus, expressing a vibrant consciousness of threat, and encouraging alertness in disciples, to the ‘signs of the times’.  That New Testament writers  invested the time and commitment to bring these things into a written medium suggests both commitment, and perhaps, that they had ‘nothing to lose’ by  passing on memories of the  robust, provocative,  and experiential imagery employed by Jesus.

    That’s why Laudato Si  is amazing. It uses and acknowledges the conventions of a Papal encyclical, but goes further, to challenge every reader of good will. The Pope is writing as the Pope, not sloping off somewhere incognito to do a bit of environmentalism on the side. What he is writing is integral to his role and calling. 

    This  is what Eco Congregation looks to the churches for:  to be. whilst being recognisably themselves,  the beautiful gift of God  they’re called to be  in this day and age.  Like Scripture,  Laudato Si includes  many gems that are easily missed on first reading. What took my breath away, reviewing my own review, was this quote:

    “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs..”

     

    “governs us”

     

    There’s lots of argument, and some easy point-scoring about the idea of human beings having ‘dominion’ over the Earth, which most wise Christians interpret as a mandate for care and stewardship, rather than ruthless exploitation.   but perhaps here, Pope Francis challenges that remaining shred of unjustified  superiority that we cling to, when we think of the rest of Creation on this planet. Yes, like it or not, we are governed by the Earth.  We aspire  to dominate,  but that brings danger for all. Good government requires wise citizenship, and partnership, and acknowledgement of mutual need, rather than greed and anarchy. An ecology, indeed.

    Many of us, even in Christian  environmental circles, struggle to make the leap from seeing Creation as an object ( a’thing’) to respecting her as a subject (a ‘person’, perhaps, a soul). In this lyrical sentence, the Pope leads us several steps further: Creation as part of the government of all our lives, and all life…. to break faith with which, we do, perhaps, at peril.

     

     
    -A further instance of the Pope’s environmental witness, last year: http://www.climatechangenews.com/2018/06/09/pope-francis-tells-oil-chiefs-keep-ground/

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