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:
Invitation to contribute: Season of Creation 2023
view the video first
Hello: I’m Rev David Coleman, EcoChaplain for EcoCongregation Scotland:
it’s that time of year when we’re looking to you to be part of the Season of Creation Resources for 2023: covering the Sundays of September and the first Sunday in October, both with prayers and reflections for every passage in the Lectionary AND thematic items. Something that caught your attention in the Bible or the environment, which would help churches with their life and work. This is offered by EcoCongregation Scotland to any and all churches in Scotland and beyond
We’re delighted to include excellent guidance from Church of Scotland’s Weekly Worship, on written prayers and comments; but also encouraging you to be creative in other media: video, poetry, sculpture – whatever allows you to share your inspiration with others. Stuff from young people, older people, and from those in training for Christian leadership is especially welcome, and I’ll go out of my way to enable your own original work to be presented as beautifully as possible.
Yes, “Houston, we have a deadline: “ in the can by the middle of June at the latest would be wonderful, but we can stretch it just a bit: you know we always do!
Finally: I’m not looking for the content of your bookshelf. The climate crisis pushes us up and over into different insights: you know more than the big old names do about the state of the world: so do’t just go up the hill and back down again: push on a bit further and share what shakes, delights and surprises you about following Christ in Climate Crisis.
Please get in touch straight away via
Church of Scotland Guidance for written material ( adapted for EcoCongregation Scotland)
Weekly Worship, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, is offered to those who are creating and leading worship – in any capacity – and provides resources that can be used in worship in all settings or adapted to a particular context, equipping and encouraging worship leaders to become more creative.
Choose any one, or even all of these categories
Scripture Passages: 250 – 500 words for each lectionary reading
Provide thoughts or a brief exegesis on the background of each of the scripture passages and the ways you approached the texts. This is an opportunity to demonstrate different ways of engaging with the passage(s) and themes. For example:
What in the text really piqued your interest or curiosity?
Where did your curiosity lead you?
What questions arose that helped you to shape your material?
3. Sermon Ideas: 250 – 500 words
NOT a full sermon, but suggested themes reflection on how the passages resonate today.
Include a few sentences on your approach to writing this section and any useful experiences of delivering your ‘sermon’ ideas in a worship gathering.
Not all gatherings include a sermon; people engage with scripture in different ways so you are encouraged to include alternative approaches that might be used, e.g. Q&As, conversations in groups, or other ways to approach scripture and share learning.
Please provide the prayers indicated below, introduced by a few sentences describing your approach (e.g., using news media, or IPCC reports to guide your thoughts around environmentally significant world events and situations). Comment on any specific language used in the prayers or how a worship leader might frame these prayers to maximise participation for the whole church community .
Gathering prayer /Prayer of Approach/ Call to worship /Opening responses
Confession / Repentance
Thanksgiving / Gratitude
Prayer for others / Intercession
Blessing / Closing prayer
5. Musical Suggestions
We’ll be linking to the superb project at Trinity College, though any new material, or something relating directly to the lectionary readings may also be featured.
Please use gender-neutral, expansive and creative language, especially when referring to God and the Holy Spirit, to make the material more accessible and inclusive. Avoid ‘stewardship’- we’ve moved on from that!
The NRSVC is the starting point for Bible quotes: so please specify if you use a different translation.
As far as possible make sure that this is completely your own work, and avoid footnotes. It’s a great discipline and builds confidence in yourself and your readers.
If you are using quotations, please take responsibility yourself to ensure that all sources are clearly identified and references given. Material published on the website is subject to the laws of copyright.
Please save your file in the a format which helps us keep track of it e.g., your name and the Lectionary reference, e.g., 1 December_Jane Smith_1 of Advent.
We reserve the right to edit all materials submitted, and to use them during and beyond Season of Creation 2023 without further permission.Continue reading →
Coronation Tree Dedication
A draft – for you to adapt. Adapted from words used at the planting of a sapling oak to mark the Jubilee, with the church of Colonsay in 2022
‘As the days of a tree, shall the days of my people be’ [Is 65:22], says the prophet, but planting this wee tree, we’re looking -God willing – way beyond the life of anyone here. To do so implies a wee partnership of mutual care between the people who plant and tend and the trees who give life in so many ways.
Indeed, when God gave King Solomon wisdom the King spoke of animals, birds, creeping things, fish, and of course trees.
And of all the ways in which to mark a milestone of our own nations and cultures, the dedication of a tree is now, more than ever amongst the most appropriate
I think that I shall never see a carbon capture technology as lovely as a tree, though we’ve learned from the scientists of COP and elsewhere that what matters is the right tree in the right place. It might be more difficult to dedicate a bog or a grove of seagrass, so trees it is!
If an oak [research may fill in if a different tree is chosen, e.g. rowan, apple etc ]
An oak has a very special pedigree: it was a species of Oak that hosted the meeting of Abraham and Sarah with God. Isaiah and other prophets cried out against the blasphemous desecration of the self-evident holiness of Oak trees in the abusive cults of Israel’s neighbours; It’s the right trees and as for the right place: Columba, a friend of these islands, learned much from the legacy of his Celtic ancestors about the sanctity of the Oak, which is throughly born out by the environmental science of our day.
Dedicating this very long-lived tree is a sign of hope which, in their lifetime connects as we are connected with ancestors of our faith in Scotland, just the lifetime of an oak ago. Thus it is very much in faith, looking into a future we can’t know, that we mark the beginning of King Charles’ reign in this way, remembering also how, together with the late Queen, over the seventy years of her reign, the planting of trees has been a joy, a delight, and a sign of hope.
Dear God who shapes the trees from the same stuff as your people, we dedicate and ask you blessing on the planting and the continuing care of this young oak .[or other tree as applicable ]
As a young sapling, may they be a sign of hope and inspiration, and the gratitude we feel today.
As a mature tree, and perhaps within our own lifetime, a fruitful habitat and refuge for the birds of the heavens and the many other creatures on whom, unbeknown, we so crucially. May every creature with breath praise God – as we breathe in what trees breathe out, in all our work and worship.
And if, by your grace, some centuries hence this [Oak] tree reaches that venerable final stage of their life, giving back to the Earth, playing their part in the web of life whilst still offering their rich hospitality, then by that wonder may God’s name be praised.
But for us today, as we dedicate this Oak tree on the occasion of the Coronation, in the words of Isaiah
“May your heart and the heart of your people be moved as the trees of the forest are moved by the wind.” and by the Spirit of God, to the care of CreationContinue reading →
Book Review : Cherishing Creation – Nourishing the Spirit.
A train journey to meet with churches in Caithness provided the opportunity to look through the new anthology from the Unitarian tradition, Cherishing the Earth – Nourishing the Spirit, Edited by Maria Curtis and published by the Lindsey Press: here’s how it turned out.
Cherishing the Earth – Nourishing the Spirit – the Unitarian Laudato Si?
The title connects what should never have been seen as apart: that mutually-blessing way of world-care as self-care. But maybe it needs to be stated and re-stated in an intimidatingly objectifying global north culture. And in religious cultures where the need for ‘self-denial’ brownie-points leads us into spiritually unsustainable actions and commitments. Because we’re not in control, and our individual actions won’t ‘save the planet’ the ones we do choose need to nourish us too. Cherishing the Earth doesn’t happen on flat spiritual batteries. This is a power-pack.
At a time when some spiritual writers are still trawling the Big Name authorities of the late century on creation topics, Climate Crisis debunks the medieval conceit of “midgets on the shoulders of giants”, grassroots worshippers, poets pastors and activists really are better informed -and can easily become so – than those who by definition, could not take into account the urgency of the crises we’re now in the middle of. We honour them by recycling, but not by restricting ourselves to their insights.
This project is both an expression of and encouragement to that rebellion, with a very mixed bag of modes of writing, each ‘essay’ adorned with a postscript of more overtly creative writing, and section introductions which tell you want to look out for before you trip over it. There are aspects of ‘primer’, but also of manifesto here.
Don’t be daunted by a preface, a foreword AND an introduction before things seem to get going. These are part of the value of this book, and not incidental reading.
I understand why our friend Alastair McIntosh’s foreword, which is a delight in itself, doesn’t waste time picking up highlights of the book elsewhere , but contributes his own scientifically and spiritually literate perspective, with the anecdote of his being sternly warned at a Unitarian Conference :“‘Don’t give them too much Christianity”. So I gave them lots!”This collection is rightly bold in giving readers “lots of Unitarianism”, looking for their distinctive gifts, and arriving, blessedly, at what – because I’m seeing them in so many spiritual traditions – need to be recognised as Public Domain conclusions,: taking science seriously, seeking kinship with the non-human, resisting both despair and (permanent) lament, and delighting in the creative recycling of spiritual resources we might hitherto have shelved or even despised.
Thus it’s good to be able to endorse the assertiveness of some of the writers -and indeed the project as a whole – in sticking their necks out to present something which recognises for the first time in any book I’ve yet come across, that our challenge is no longer “what if” and “it might…” but rather, by the standards we’ve heard in our own lifetimes “too late”!
Tipping points have tumbled, the crisis is now! Thus the book is a welcome contrast to the Grand-old-Duke-of Yorkism [to the top of the hill and down again] of British mainstream churches as they struggle to find an appropriately urgent response to a pile-up of crises in which even Unitarians begin to see the point and purpose of apocalyptic modes of speech and thought as a spiritual response to threat, seeking a balance of blessing.
‘Stewardship’ – that comfortable shibboleth of liberal Christians who didn’t like ‘dominon’ but just haven’t grasped the need for kinship and friendship of a Creation on whom we depend – makes only two appearances, and those do no harm.
Thus this compendium of densely-written pamphlets, or perhaps ‘season of lectures’ bound together in one volume bears fair comparison to that other less transparently group effort under the umbrella of a particular tradition, Pope Francis’s ‘Laudato Si’.
The writers are recycling reassessing repurposing the treasures of their tradition, and therefore affirming its value both to them and the kinship of the Earth. Maybe the purpose of faith is to equip us in response to crisis, and here, a liberal faith, priding itself on a relative absence of dogmatic clutter – though here noting with honesty the traditional shackles of individualism – is offered both to Unitarians and others of goodwill.
Despite occasional lapses into bibliography in the body of the text, ( prompting the reader to wonder why they didn’t just go straight to Joanna Macy or Henry David Thoreau ) the struggles insights ands solidarity of these Unitarian writers of the Now, shines through, Like the multiple inventors of television and telephone, shared inspired ideas need to be shared and widely owned, rather than encouraging a copyright mentality of hesitation to express them and own them yourself in your own terms. As a reader who’s a practitioner rather than a student, I’m far more interested in what the writers have to say than in what books they have read.
Don’t swallow it all at once. It’s a menu, and the ingredients are fresh. But read it now. Don’t leave it too long.Continue reading →
Short Thoughts for Lent and Easter
Less than 2 mins 30 – compressed from the full length reflections at https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/lent2023/Continue reading →
Getting my breath now that the Chaplaincy is continuing beyond 2023….
Not bragging but explaining. A bit of a review, now the Chaplaincy has been reviewed to be relaunched on September 17th – 28 years and a day after my ordination.
As chaplain, the actual number of ‘pieces of work’ that I produce is probably less – though not that much less – than in my time as a local church minister. Over and above visits and online resources, especially those connected with Season of Creation, there are also requests for articles and video input from various other mission organisations like, this Spring, the World Day of Prayer.
There are protracted email conversations, which sometimes bear fruit. There’s one getting lively now, pinging away on my computer as I write. A vitally important aspect of the Pope’s film ‘The Letter’ was how the impacts of the climate crisis brutally impinged on the experience of the people he had drawn together as ‘voices’ of youth, indigenous, poor, and nature, even in the graced midst of the experience they shared in Rome. Whatever we say, pray and do, the background is frighteningly constant upheaval.
So, life as chaplain goes on, with contacts with students, lecturers, pastors, and “irritating” local activists. Reponses to contacts with journalists, for which I’m very grateful, though handled with caution after some painful times in previous ministries, which still leave their internet footprint. (Maybe I’ll know the Kingdom is near when the D**** M*** gives sympathetic coverage to sensitive matters.) The dangerous amount of personal energy involved is, quite comparable to some ‘normal’ full-time ministry, with, perhaps, even more scope to dig pits before you realise you’ve stepped in them. The higher profile dictates greater care on copyright and other matters which frequently pass under the radar at a merely local level. Personal resources have to be firmly managed, space made for family, and signs which might lead to burnout – or even ‘singe-out’, kept an eye on. The loving and informal good advice of friends ( you know who you are) is always heeded and welcomed, even if not always “followed”, because even that, like other Good News, involves discernment.
But what is it, that quite reasonably justifies the allocation of an entire ministry post to the environmental chaplaincy when local churches struggle to fill vacancies? For the provision of housing and expenses across denominations? There’s a case, of course, for seeing the project as an expensive luxury, but also as “the perfume poured over the feet”. An offering , in love. What it can’t and mustn’t be, is one more excuse, merely to appear be “doing something” .
From week to week, I spend time most of all with the carousel of lectionary texts which have spun round and round in my daily work over the last quarter century. I’m enjoying and valuing them more than ever.
Especially when dealing deeper than the English of popular translations brings up a far greater inclusiveness, even in ‘original’ texts than I ever would have imagined.
If it felt right, I have plenty to fall back on, even after a major breakdown of my key hard drive ( don’t ask further!) . But what takes the most time, energy commitment and foolhardy daring – all of which I’m trying to encourage in churches and my colleagues in ministry and those in training – is dealing with the respectable ‘voices in my head’, as it were, which prescribe and prohibit, because of the deep respect I have for the academic and ecclesiological culture which provided my training and formation in Christian ministry. In which, to caricature somewhat, nature is subsidiary, or even expendable, rather than protagonist in the Work of God, and in which humanity, or even ‘men’ is the default definitive. Inevitably, almost all published theological writing is going to be behind the crest of the wave of the climate crisis. Even the most prestigious writing from the end of the last century does not and cannot take into account current pressures -and readable signs – for a differing relationship with Creation.
If this job is to be done conscientiously and with integrity, I will be sticking my neck out pretty well every day.
So, like some other chaplaincies, in hospitals or with the military, perhaps, this has emerged as a distinct and often lonely vocation. To embody, at cost, the confidence I long to see in the churches I work with: the confidence of Moses to turn aside to the blazing bush, rather than dutifully be bogged down with the flock. The confidence of Joseph to take note of his dreams rather than pursue received decency and withdraw from Mary and her baby, the lifeline support they needed. There are plenty more examples to be inspired by. Especially those where the deepest loyalty had to be expressed by something which, on the surface appeared subversive or disobedient. Jesus above all, has not come to seek the setting aside of the Law, but its fulfilment. And for me, fulfilment implies continual, dedicated, responsive recycling – which enables the enjoyment of some good old songs as well as exciting new ones!
So, although my foundation is the long experience of a general practitioner in pastoral ministry, each day is also pioneering. Each step into the risky unknown, but carrying the heavy responsibility for the orthodoxy and theological coherence of what I say, do, record, edit and upload. URC vows require ‘a holy life’ . Church of Scotland specifies ‘circumspect’. The Presbyterian Church in Wales, which provided part of my ordination, looks to ‘God’s unspeakable gift’ (!!!) for which we give thanks.
It actually sometimes hurts, and feels unsafe to depart from well-worn voices which speak, like the conscientious translators of so many ‘versions’ of the Bible in English (or what I want to check, in German or French too) in the idiom they believed they were expected to use. Martin Luther’s “look the people in the gob” (dem Volk aufs Maul schauen!). As a linguist too – 4 years of German at University including one at Mainz – I’m constantly aware of how seldom a precise equivalent can be given of a particular thought; and how the process of Biblical interpretation – especially in that poetic, spiritual and pastoral task we call preaching – always has about it something of ‘conversion’ in the sense of change-of-mind, repentance, rethinking. This is something to live with and enjoy, rather than shy away from or feel frustrated about.
With every sentence and every sequence of video: what is the Spirit saying/what is the wind blowing into the Church today, that the Church may give Good News to all Creation? Even if, like the Gospels themselves, a great proportion of that Good News takes the form of warning.
So for every sort of sign that things are getting through, thanks be to God!Continue reading →