Category Archives: News
Life as EcoChaplain, inevitably, evolves, as the climate crisis unfolds.
What seemed at the outset a fairly straightforward task – the assembling of reflections to support congregations and fellowships looking to observe a Season of Creation/Creation Time/Creationtide during the Sundays of September, just into October- has offered very different challenges, especially in how it should fit in with, encourage, or challenge, the life of the churches.
Our inherited context was close co-operation with a denominational weekly resource, tied strictly to the Revised Common Lectionary. Although not universal, this system, closely related to the Roman Catholic Lectionary is very widely followed. Elsewhere in the ‘Creation Time’ movement, compilers had instead cherry-picked Bible texts relating to ‘Mountain Sunday’ ‘Oceans Sunday’ and so on. …Which might initially be more satisfying, even though it risked encouraging the dangerous illusion that you have to pick and choose to discern any green thread at all in Scripture. The lectionaries, however, were compiled well before any mainstream church involved even conceived that the environment would be other than a marginal issue in the guiding of a global Christianity.
My first impression was certainly that some of the passages prescribed would require an undue – or even inappropriate level of tweaking and arm-twisting in order to yield any satisfying level of environmental wisdom. And yet, whether I would or no, ‘gap-filling’ has remained a fairly clear expectation, along with, perhaps, that what fills the requisite gap might not be too challenging. That said, it’s clear that tweaking and arm-twisting is the everyday fate of scripture: the philosophies and agendas behind particular popular translations frequently add valuable depth, though they may also obscure. Don’t blame them: they have done their best. Become aware of the slants and biases your favourite Bible version has chosen, and take responsibility yourself to read with rigour, and seek whatever help is going.
I have certainly revised that first impression, not least this year, when there are so many inescapably dark, forthright and shocking passages, especially those framed with the crackling urgency that is built into the Gospel of Mark, and the Letter of James. What sort of anaesthetic would we need to provide in order to read with a calm voice and an unperturbed brow, of gangland executions, plucking out eyes, cutting off hands and feet? Maybe we’ve been doused in it for some decades.
We might be familiar with this scenario in other ways. A discreet golden crucifix adorning the neckline of an attractive human being is seldom allowed to scream of torture and sacrifice. Yet that’s what it portrays.
[Sacrifice! – What a terrible, shocking and controversial matter “sacrifice” also is! One more anaesthetised word which should otherwise engage ‘fight or flight’. Who sacrifices whom for what and how? But ‘sacrifice’ remains a religious word, only when safeguarded by holy ground from abuse by privilege, by vested interests and populist leaders.]
In my lifetime, hopelessly apologetic ‘apologians’ for Christianity have often talked about ‘making the Gospel relevant’ . Right now, may I suggest, that such is a counsel of despair. Outrageously-phrased warnings with a take-it-or-leave-it urgency are the stuff of the Gospels and a vital spiritual resource in a very scary age. The task it to let these voices speak to our needs and fears, and for our encouragement. Are we prepared for the onslaught of the untrammelled relevance of the Gospel to our time and place?
Creation Time is on the way, with a great deal of behind-the-scenes thought, prayer and hope.
Make of it what you can. To God’s glory and the health of the Planet!
UN climate talks start 31 October
Call for all churches to act
With only 100 days now counting down until the COP26 United Nations climate conference begins in Glasgow, Eco-Congregation Scotland is joining renewed calls for all churches to commit to action before talks begin.
Please read our latest briefing on what COP26 is and all the different ways you can get involved with your own church. We will be sharing much more in coming weeks.
Over 1,500 churches across the UK are already taking part in the Climate Sunday initiative, with hundreds more planning to do so, demonstrating growing climate action by local congregations.
A key milestone before COP26 is a major Nations’ Climate Sunday Service with Glasgow Churches Together from Glasgow Cathedral, streamed live online on Sunday 5 September 2021 at 4pm, to share church commitments across the nations of the UK and pray for bold action with courageous leadership at COP26 in the city this November.
Climate Sunday is an initiative of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), with backing from a range of denominations and Christian charities. We are encouraging churches to take action in the run-up to COP26:
Hold a climate-focused service, to explore the theological and scientific basis of creation care and action on climate, to pray, and to commit to action. Explore the Climate Sunday website and our own resources for inspiration to suit all church traditions and styles of worship. Please register your service so we can count you in!
Make a commitment as a local church community to taking long term action to reduce your own greenhouse gas emissions. Use Climate Stewards‘ new 360°carbon calculator for churches and register as an eco-congregation – or work towards an Eco-Congregation Scotland Award.
Use your voice to tell the UK Government that you want a cleaner, greener, fairer future at the heart of plans to rebuild the economy – with finance to support poorer countries affected most by climate change. Read and sign ‘The Time Is Now’ declaration both as a church and as individuals.
Eco-Congregation Scotland is also proud to be a partner of the new Climate Scotland campaign in the run-up to COP26, with 30 other organisations including Christian Aid Scotland, SCIAF, Tearfund Scotland and Justice and Peace Scotland.
Our climate and natural world are in crisis. It’s threatening our communities, our food, resources, and our beautiful places.
Decisions by world leaders at COP26 could get us on track to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It’s a real chance to create a better future for our communities here in Scotland and around the world.
There is hope. But we also need our leaders in Scotland plus those attending COP26 to know just how much we care, with thousands of voices being heard. Please share why action on climate and nature is important to you. It takes just a few minutes to add your own voice at: climatescotland.org
With 100 days to go until COP26, the Scottish Government also announced today its indicative Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), outlining Scotland’s contribution to preventing warming of more than 1.5 degrees. We will continue to support and encourage efforts in all our communities towards making Scotland a Net Zero Nation – and link Together For Our Planet across the UK in this special year of climate action.
Our next confirmed events, activities and training are online and being updated regularly, including:
Breathe: Fresh Air for All
Let’s talk about the climate emergency
Monday 26 July 2021, 7.30pm
Embracing Greener Travel: Electric Vehicles
Workshop with Home Energy Scotland
Wednesday 28 July 2021, 2.00pm
Please register for the Zoom meeting links at:
Register for free and begin your church’s journey as an eco-congregation.
Please consider church membership to become more active in the charity and support our Network activities – join online.
Please donate if you can, to help support our work and encourage growing interest across Scotland’s churches.
If you or others in your church would like to receive this newsletter regularly, please subscribe.
COP26 venue Scottish Events Campus header photograph courtesy of Glasgow Convention Bureau.
Our office is currently closed due to the coronavirus situation and staff are working from home. Please contact Eco-Congregation Scotland manager Stephen Curran at:
0141 423 4671, 07554 905275, email@example.com
In their eagerness to praise God, hymns sometimes neglect the place God has given to the life of the world on which we depend. To appreciate our reliance on fellow creatures honours God; the inherent value, wonder and mystery of the Earth is not in competition with the Creator and Sustainer, nor are these fringe benefits for humanity the only purpose of Creation. In the chain of enablement, Creation, directed by God, very much ‘calls the tune’.
Tunes: St Michael (Genevan), or Sandys
1)Creation calls the tune;
no voice can sing alone:
our song needs Trees – because we breathe-
the Earth, for flesh and bone
2)God’s covenant’s diverse:
sustained by love’s embrace
the branch cut from the Tree is dead
though Earth brings fruit from death.
3)We claim God’s likeness true
and rule by right divine;
Yet Christ the Vine, by God, by Breath
sustains, creates, combines.
4)God gives us to the Earth
to till and tend and love;
though chosen violence is done
to soil, sea, heaven above.
5)Creation calls the tune:
a chorus-woven joy
of praise and justice: gifts of God
for healing to employ.
Hello. my friend. You come to mind this morning, as the early summer sunlight in Scotland wakes me up (sunrise is 4.33am) and I wander over to my notes for a sermon (Isaiah 55) as Environmental Chaplain. You come to mind as I recall the shock I felt when you prophetically quoted Desmond Tutu at the CWM ( Council for World Mission: global church family) Assembly in American Samoa in 2012: “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.” .. though I think you put it a bit more strongly than that. I spoke up as a descendent of the culture responsible. Looking for a constructive way forward , and we became friends. That’s where humanity is with the Earth. The outcome of human injustice – often directed in the first instance at other humans – is the devastation of Creation, and yet we depend on the life of the Earth. And the Earth depends on our wise prearedness to intervene, engage and sometimes leave well alone with the processes of that life. We are part of that web. Emnity with Creation, or even penitential disengagment is not an option: we need partnership and reconciliation, acknowledging fully and openly what has been amiss in the way humanity has exploited and abused fellow creatures . And finding, as God’s gift, by God’s grace, a joy and encouragement to sustain us in healing. So this very early morning, I’m thanking God for the challenge through your speech. And that, through the technology that links us, though lives diverge, we can read and ‘like’ what we each write, as friends in Christ.
used with: Isaiah 55:6-13 Luke 13:6ff
In the strand of thought in this hymn-poem, Jesus, – with the irony of God- becomes Christ Crucified ( cf 1 Cor 23 etc) when human violence unites him with the Tree. That’s who I mean by “Christ the Tree”. Christ tree-ified. Elsewhere I’ve already re-cycled the much admired older song ‘Jesus Christ the Apple-tree’
For so many artists over the centuries, it has been unthinkable that the Cross of Christ (and so often theologians speak of the Cross when they mean Christ) is not also a tree, with leaves and fruit, using and delighting the birds who make the sky Sky/Heaven, just as humanity can be said to make the Earth the World and the fish the sea Sea .
Through Christ the Tree, the violent imperative to eradicate and defeat rather than to be reconciled is itself self-defeating. Trees are also, at least as we encounter them from ground level, the creatures who quite literally unite Earth and Heaven/sky, with roots in the soil, and leaves that – thanks to the biodiverse habitats in which they live, – create what we and so many other life forms need to breathe and thrive, let alone be nourished by the fruit they produce. Trees, of course, participate wholeheartedly in the natural cycles of water, carbon, oxygen and more, which for Isaiah 55 and in Jesus’ images of the ‘Kingdom/reign’ express the active will of God.
I’ve always been happy to sing hymns which expand my own vocabulary:.“Burled” (v3) refers to the fascinating knotty growths which adorn wilder and older trees, badges of honour which distinguish them from those trees which grow more obediently in straight lines. An inclusive church with room for all, will be a church of Good News.
Melody 8787 e.g. CH4 255 Gott Will’s Machen
CH4 139 Laus Deo
Ch4 509 St Andrew
Possibly CH4 226 Shipston
1)Christ the Tree, tight holds Creation
Sky soil water, nourish round
river’s flow, and cloudburst freshing
God’s the Reign that mingles, bound.
2)Christ the Word, sent earthwards, warning:
Urgent seeking: urgent change.
Love with eyes wide open, hiding
nothing scary, nothing strange!
3)Christ the gardener, last-chance saviour
dirty-handed for the world:
pruning grafting, fertilising
every wood: the straight, the burled.
4)Christ whose thoughts, though we can think them
show us God’s alternate mind
unifying what we fractured:
root and branch to heal inclined.
God above us around us beneath us, within us
We delight to share with all life
the building-blocks of cells and the minerals of which we are made
We acknowledge the limits of our knowledge, limits which become the more apparent, the more we learn.
We wonder at the mystery of our radical interdependence, the waving of the web of life, as the snakes and flowers weave together on the high stone crosses of this island;
And we are inspired by those artists of the past, for whom it was inconceivable
that a cross of salvation would not also be a tree.
Feeding and offering habitat to all the birds of the air.
We see much too, that seems cruel and vicious in what we call nature.
Predators, who nonetheless ensure the balance
of life and environment
And human selfishness and arrogance
which afflicts us as a species, expressed in
injustice and the oppression of the poor.
For if we are yet to find our calling in the communion of Creation
then we must needs model it on how we treat ourselves.
And so, appalled at the damage that has been done
But encouraged by the beauty which remains
we seek and claim the forgiveness
which Jesus so often offered
before folk could put right the harm they had chosen.
God in Christ, hear us, continue to warn us
help us to turn
and rejoice in your way.