Blog

Open event encouraging views on Just Transition for housing

Just Transition Commission and Church groups team up to plan a socially inclusive path to net-zero for Scotland’s housing

Scotland’s Just Transition Commission, established to make recommendations to ministers on how Scotland can transition to a net-zero economy by 2045 in a way that is fair for all, has teamed up with the Methodist Church in Scotland and Eco-Congregation Scotland to host an online event on Saturday 17 October 2020, from 10am until 12.30pm.

Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets will require the housing sector to radically transform itself at a pace previously unseen. Making homes more energy efficient and heated from low carbon sources presents an opportunity to improve the quality of our housing stock, tackle fuel poverty and create jobs. Concerns have also been raised about how this is paid for, and whether the shift to net-zero in the housing sector could risk sliding more households into fuel poverty.

We have to find ways of meeting our climate targets which make lives better not worse for the least well off in our society.

Attendees to the open online discussion will hear speakers from the Just Transition Commission, Warmworks, Scottish Federation of Housing AssociationsExisting Homes Alliance Scotland and Power Circle who will share their thoughts on how we can combine meeting our climate targets with improving energy affordability and lowering fuel poverty. Discussion will then open up to all participants, able to contribute their own ideas on how Scotland can reach net-zero emissions in housing.

Just Transition Commissioner, Norrie Kerr says: “We need to put an end to fuel poverty with bold action to make people’s homes warmer and cheaper to heat. Equity considerations must be central to climate action, if we are to make the transition to net-zero in a way that improves the lives of the most vulnerable. This event will provide an opportunity to hear from experts and ordinary people on these issues and contribute ideas on how Scotland can achieve this.”

Rev Mark Slaney, Chair of the Methodist Church in Scotland, who will be chairing the event, said: “We have to find ways of meeting our climate targets which make lives better not worse for the least well off in our society. I look forward to an imaginative and stimulating discussion which will contribute both to the work of the Commission and to Scotland’s preparation for the COP26 climate summit next year.”

There is still time to register for this free event, pre-registration is highly recommended. Further information and registration can be found here: 

This event has been arranged by Stirling Methodist Church and Eco-Congregation Scotland, in collaboration with the Just Transition Commission.

Presentations will focus on the key challenge: how do we combine meeting our climate targets with improving energy affordability and lowering fuel poverty?

Speakers:

Adrian Shaw, Church of Scotland climate change officer, will also outline how churches can meet the opportunities and challenges presented by Glasgow hosting the COP26 United Nations climate talks being held in November 2021.

Eco-Congregation Scotland will be encouraging all Scottish churches to become more focused on addressing the climate crisis over the coming year. Eco-Congregation Scotland is an ecumenical environmental charity supporting over 500 local churches of all denominations across Scotland, committed to environmental activities in their life and mission, with Stirling Methodist Church one of the most active eco-congregations.

A ‘Cat-and-monkey’ Retreat : looking after what matters

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).

The moon will not strike you by night

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.

https://youtu.be/T9_9o_thJbI

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_uliYNULk

Church of Scotland sets 2030 net zero target

Image

 

Christian environmental and development groups welcome General Assembly decision

Christian environmental and development charities Christian Aid, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Operation Noah joyfully welcome the decision of the Church of Scotland to set a 2030 net zero target.

At the Church of Scotland 2020 General Assembly on Saturday, the Church’s Faith Impact Forum brought a proposal to the General Assembly ‘for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030’.

General Assembly Commissioners voted to support an amendment from Rev Jenny Adams, Minister of Duffus, Spynie and Hopeman Parish Church.

The amended motion passed by General Assembly reads: ‘Instruct the Faith Impact Forum to work with others to develop a strategy for the Church to transition both locally and nationally to net zero carbon emissions by 2030, reporting an outline strategy to General Assembly 2021.’

We are delighted that one of our key partner Churches has committed to transitioning to net zero in the next 10 years.

              Mary Sweetland, Chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland

The decision to set a 2030 net zero target is especially significant as Glasgow prepares to host the UN climate talks, COP26, in November 2021.

In her speech to the General Assembly, Rev Jenny Adams said: ‘This is a climate emergency and the next 10 years are crucial. I hope that by working with others within and beyond the Church, we will be able to get going on this difficult but vital transition, for the sake of all creation.’

Commissioners at the General Assembly also voted in favour of a motion on fossil fuel divestment proposed by Seonaid Knox. This motion called on the Church’s Faith Impact Forum to ‘report to the 2021 General Assembly on the ethical, scientific and theological arguments for and against urgent disinvestment from oil and gas companies’.

The Church of England voted to set a 2030 net zero target earlier this year. Many local authorities have also made this pledge, including the City Councils of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Christian Aid, Eco-Congregation Scotland and Operation Noah applauded the decision to set a 2030 net zero target. They said that the Church of Scotland now needs to end its investments in fossil fuel companies in order to demonstrate climate leadership ahead of the crucial COP26 climate summit.

Sally Foster-Fulton, Head of Christian Aid Scotland, said: ‘The communities with which Christian Aid works, in many of the poorest parts of the world, are calling for urgent leadership on climate change, and this decision from the Church of Scotland demonstrates that leadership. We welcome it warmly, and look forward to working in partnership with the Church of Scotland to help realise these ambitious new goals. One of the steps that the Church could take in the short-term is to commit to end its investments in fossil fuel companies, and we hope that is part of the plans brought forward in 2021.’

Mary Sweetland, Chair of Eco-Congregation Scotland, said: ‘We are delighted that one of our key partner Churches has committed to transitioning to net zero in the next 10 years.’

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah, said: ‘It is wonderful news that the Church of Scotland has set a target of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. In order to demonstrate leadership on the climate crisis ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow next year, it is vital that the Church of Scotland supports a just and green recovery from Covid-19 by divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in the clean technologies of the future.’

Notes:

1. Operation Noah is a Christian charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis. It works with all Christian denominations. http://operationnoah.org/

2. Christian Aid holds a vision of a better world, free from poverty and climate change. For over ten years, Christian Aid Scotland has been campaigning for the UK and Scottish Governments to take climate change seriously for the benefit of those who are impacted first and worst by its effects. https://www.christianaid.org.uk/

3. Eco-Congregation Scotland is a movement of Scottish church congregations, of all denominations and none, committed to addressing environmental issues through their life and mission. https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/

4. The Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council recommended that the Investors’ Trust divest from fossil fuels ‘as a matter of urgency’ in December 2019. https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18122752.renewed-call-kirk-sell-shares-oil-gas/

5. The Church of England set a 2030 net zero carbon target in February 2020. https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/general-synod-sets-2030-net-zero-carbon-target

Demo Clips: Hymns on YouTube to trad tunes.

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.
————————————
Now Christ lives here ( Courage Brother)
https://youtu.be/p7SLOxOR2J0

Now Christ lives here ( Blaenwern)
https://youtu.be/jTXBZYg787c
—————————————-
Our Legacy is dire ( Kingsfold)
https://youtu.be/JzEwGMvjVS0
——————————————-
One Day I said sorry ( St Deinio)
https://youtu.be/cKA8PvX86YA
—————————————————
Deep our Longing ( Westminster Abbey)
https://youtu.be/ljdOzsMQ50A

Livingston United Parish Church Silver Award

Creation Time Activity – Map of Scotland in stones.

We are delighted to announce that Livingston United Parish Church, Nether Dechmont Community Centre, Livingston has been awarded an Eco-Congregation Scotland Bronze Award on 06/09/2019 in recognition of their work and commitment to caring for creation.

Livingston United Parish Church were especially commended by the assessors for the level of involvement of many individuals in the planning and the continuing good communication links, as well as the way communications are made.

They were also commended for the way they embed creation themes into worship, prayer and learning. A foundation in spiritual living & worship is embedded in the ethos of the worship team in promoting all matters of environmental & peace and justice concern. This is achieved in a variety of ways with all ages and places on the journey included.

Also noted for special commendation were the number of varied actions and creative activities available to the congregation and local community which continue to be supported as well as the evident embedding of the eco congregation values into what they are doing.

Eco Awareness Stand

Selkirk Parish Church Gold Award.

Selkirk Parish Church have been awarded their Eco Congregation Scotland Gold Award.
The Parish Church has just achieved the highest award as an Eco Congregation, only the sixth in Scotland to receive a Gold Award, and the first to experience a virtual assessment via Zoom.
The congregation was delighted to learn that all the criteria under the headings of Spiritual, Practical and Global Living were met or exceeded. They were particularly commended for the use of the pop-up shop as a monthly Recycling Clinic and drop off point. So thanks to those in the community for collecting and bringing those hard-to-recycle items to the pop-up shop. (eg crisp packets, bottle tops, old watches, jewellery and mobiles) The church eco group ensures these items are recycled in an environmentally responsible way, benefitting a number of charities. These practical actions demonstrate the congregation’s conviction that caring for the environment is an essential outworking of their Christian faith. The Gold Award criteria also require the congregation to take action on a wide range of other environmental issues including bio-diversity and climate change.

The congregation hopes to celebrate this achievement when the current restrictions allow. Please follow the Selkirk Parish Church Facebook page for the latest news and events.
“The Gold Award challenges us all to maintain and build on the achievement!”

Season of Creation: Thoughts on the launch

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!