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:
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.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:
- Information sheet for congregations explaining what the baton relay is all about.
- Leaflets to give to the general public or congregation members.
- Postcards (front | back) to send to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Minister to tell her where the baton is .
- Advice for contacting the local media.
- Press release (Word format | PDF).
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If you see the baton, tell us where it is, hashtag: #cop21baton
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A great opportunity to go along to St Mary’s Church in Dalkeith, watch a film and take part in a discussion about the impact of food waste on the environment.Continue reading →
Mark the 21st of March 2020 in your diary.
Cadder Parish Church, Bishopbriggs, are offering an opportunity for you to consider your response to climate change. Come along between 10 and 12, to hear speakers from Eco-Congregation Scotland and Christian Aid, Scotland. Join in discussion and find out what other folk are doing personally and in their congregations in response to climate change.
All are welcome. To help with catering, please can you use the form on this page to indicate if you are likely to attend.
At my induction, the approach to Biblical interpretation that we might call ‘poetic theology’ was affirmed.
What I’ve since noticed, is that regarding prayer and creativity, as they were in the past, as legitimate tools of theological enquiry often gets you to the same sort of destination as more formal methods.
Theology is a quest for meaning. This is one approach, which is not in competition with rigorous formality, but sits alongside it.
Insights don’t need to be definitive to be valid. I’m not competing with, or aiming to defeat other methods.
Whilst being aware of these limitations, I’ll share here a small part of what is convincing me that Christianity needs the ‘green specs’ that folk have expected to see in my work, and maybe a bit more than was expected.
I noticed, as I have before, – but never gave it further thought-, that the ‘kingdom’ (‘basileia’) which many have preferred to call ‘reign’, in Matthew’s Gospel (alone) is mentioned a remarkable 32 (!!!) times as the ‘kingdom of heaven’. Or the reign of ‘heaven’. The way heaven is ruled…. It is perfectly normal to make the leap to assume that the ‘Kingdom of God’ (approx 70+ occurrences in the New Testament ) is identical. In practice, few preachers ever notice or register the difference. That is accepted, but for now, I’m just looking at Matthew’s preference. (Matthew also does use Kingdom of God).
The other principle which is not just my own, but observable wherever people are doing theology in the light of the Climate Crisis, could, I suppose, be described as a ‘reconcretisation of metaphor’. An overwhelming majority of the ‘images’ in Biblical language are rather more firmly grounded in the experiential than we have allowed for. If we read of Jesus suggesting ‘look at the birds’, have we actually looked at the birds? If we read his advice to look and learn from ‘all the trees’. The climate crisis is the death of abstract metaphor. Creation literally groans. Stones shout. Science, as the codification of experience, is our ‘universal translator’ of the prophetic witness of Creation. Though again, such things are not limited to the formal.
The ivory tower of the abstract theologian is exchanged for an immersion in the threatened cycles of nature.
And having noted that our use of the word ‘heaven’ tends to shunt our daily experience of the sky into a remote and abstract dimension, let’s just allow that the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ can be imagined as ‘the way the sky is ruled’. Which in the case of the very well-known phenomenon of the water cycle, is cyclic. A circular economy, as it were. What else is the background to Isaiah 55:10-11, when the ‘sky/heaven’ itself becomes a major player in the cyclic purposes of God, and not as a mere catalyst, but an active agent. Science has added to the water cycle, the carbon flux. And human activity is messing them both up royally.
Having ‘Got Creation Done’, (!!!) God is Sustainer, and the Way God ‘Rules’, is by ‘recycling.’ See also the previous blog post about the recycled God that we know as the Trinity., rather than as a vertically hierarchical single-use Boss-bird-and Junior . The dance of Creation, and of God, is a circle-dance. Let that sink in. And test it out against Jesus’ many stories of the kingdom, its order and even its apparent (relative) chaos.Continue reading →
After that gentle blog (above) about claiming the green, now something a wee bit heavier, but, I hope, all the more liberating.
Classic Christian teaching frequently seems difficult to defend, possibly because it’s culturally easy to dissociate it from the expression of love, rather than the oppressive rules of a hierarchy of some kind, whether supported by law and violence, or self-deceiving pretensions to definitive and final authority. Or that’s the way it looks from the outside. That’s even expected.
But this is the first ‘hermeneutical’ principle in this exploration: “love is why we teach it.”
Following from that, the fresh look that an ecochaplain is obliged to take, (on the fringes of a cultural context which prizes re-use/repair/re-purpose/recycle as a prominent ethical value-cluster,) frequently ends up as an affirmation of Christian mainstream.
It’s nice that you’re often surprised. I’d prefer ‘delighted’. But hey….
One area of ‘marginalised orthodoxy’, (which probably sounds like a complete oxymoron to those whose experience of ‘orthodox’ goes with oppressive lovelessness), is the most distinctive teaching of Christianity, the idea of God as Holy Trinity.
The grotesque hierarchical depictions of the Holy Trinity which so totally negate the idea of the equal persons of the Creative Unity as to be characterised as ‘Spot the Pigeon’ (I’m quoting the most memorable bit of lectures by Prof Sara Coakley in Oxford in the early 90s) or ‘The Boss, the Bird, and the Junior’. (see above, Cologne Cathedral)
These depictions (or, strictly, what they imply) drive a coach and horses over the affirmation that the definitive and exemplary nature of God, as shown through Jesus, is as persons lovingly “coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial” .(Nicene Creed, some versions).
These pictures are markedly in contrast with the ‘Celtic Trinity ‘symbol, the ‘triquetra’ in which the three components form an ever-interlacing knot. Tellingly, this appears on notice-boards for recycling stations, (see above) and for a while, was adopted by DEFRA.
(I wrote to DEFRA at the time, disingenuously asking if they intended to use any other religious symbols on their letterheads. They wrote back, claiming they had no such intention).
In the Triquetra Trinity, the Three are equal, connected, dependent, distinct. It saves pages of theology. (And I have it tattooed on my shoulder, not that you need to know that).
It’s been in devotional use by Christians for a good 1400 years, and used by other faiths before and since.
I’d like to see a really convincing argument (and I don’t think there is one) to suggest that the feudal system, whose remnants we still cherish, has not skewed Christian devotional language in favour of kingship rather than any other model of leadership, and kings, having been absolute authorities, didn’t fit at all with the fundamentally collaborative Trinity.
And since, in the Old Testament, God is, demonstrably, far more a reshaper and recycler than Creator out of absolutely nothing, perhaps Christians need to recognise a greater holiness and dignity in ‘making all things new’ rather than ‘making new things.’ In all aspects of life and faith.
The ‘Boss, bird and junior’, which, staggeringly, often passes by unchallenged in our churches, is by contrast a ‘single-use model of God, allied to ecological devastation because it prioritises domination rather than (costly) partnership.
It sees no need to collaborate, or rethink, only to be obeyed. Vertical hierarchy, rather than collaboration, is a game of extinction. Unenriched by trinitarian theodiversity. Ever only upwards, like the idolatry of unlimited economic growth, which never pauses and re-makes.
And that’s not how to be Christlike. Not the model of the one who came that we should have life in abundance, and joy in fullnesss.
My hope is in the recycling and recycled God. Who calls us out to be recycled, repurposed, reinvigorated too.
Our world reflects what we believe.
Yep, it matters, this theology game.Continue reading →
Claim it for Green: rejoice in the ‘ordinary’.
(illustration: the lower part of my EcoChaplain stole #2
Many of the churches and chapels ( or however they identified themselves ) where I preached in training and in the earlier years of my ministry were enriched with pulpit drops/falls, of which some bore the legend, often in ornate and therefore barely legible script “IHS”. It had taken me a few years to identify this ‘Christogram’ as”IHS” or “IHC”, denoting the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus, ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, iota-eta-sigma, or ΙΗΣ.
In the meantime, other worshippers, noting that it was a more or less permanent part of a worship space, had found other interpretations, which served them well enough: “In HIs Steps” was pretty postive, “I Have Suffered”, maybe requiring a bit more thought. Some of the dictionary definitions , whilst trying to sound authoritative, were no more accurate or worthwhile.
I was fortunate, in an English free-church background to encounter the beautiful game of liturgical colours. (My tradition is one which is open to take or to leave as contextually appropriate, the repertoire of world Christianity.) Rev Murdoch MacKenzie, one of my mentors when I was new to Christian commitment, brought such things through from his work with the Church of South India. . For some of you liturgical colours in the churches are is less of an ‘option’, but a level of creative spiritual interpretation might nonetheless be in order. (And a bit of fun, which keeps us going).
If you have just entered what might, a touch boringly, be described as ‘ordinary time’ when green is the colour that pops out of the cupboard and onto the tables, altars, pulpits and stoles, perhaps give some thought to the scope it gives for environmental storytelling:
A standard web search (or a delve in an encyclopaedia) will come up with something like “a colour of growth”, but green is of course, the colour of chlorophyll, the truly miraculous substance that enables most plants to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and produce oxygen. It’s the colour of natural carbon capture, of the breathing of the Earth, of hope as green shoots emerge after a bushfire, of health, as science catches up with the obvious insight that immersion in ‘green pastures’ restores the soul”…. I hope you yourselves could and will go on and on: how about one creative interpretation (for a spare space in the pew sheet) every week? “Look at …all the trees,” says Jesus… Green as the colour of awareness….
Or, when the time comes to commission some new vestment or item of furniture, give some thought to the environmental story it could be telling.
I know that even the word ‘ordinary’ has other origins, but it is in our creative use of the ordinary, mainstream gifts of the Churches that change of mind, heart, and conviction about our place and purpose as Church at this time is consolidated.
If your church or your worship leader is adorned with green, pick it up and run with it.
As ever…. get on with it!Continue reading →