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Easter 2021: being nothing, yet not inferior

Christ is risen …let’s work with Christ!
When I began as EcoChaplain, there was no shortage of advice:  …..
’Oh you’ll be able to….’ stuff, some of it envisaging a life of leisure, free of funerals and local church irritations.  Whatever else, it has turned out to be highly rewarding, and in a way few of those well-wishers considered.
Simply working with a felt obligation to find the ‘treasure in the field’ of what the Spirit is saying to the churches today has gifted the most creative relationship with the Bible I can remember since I first began to feel drawn back to the church in my early twenties. 
Yes, if you want to know what books to read in EcoCongregation Scotland, please, always, include the Bible, (wow!)  though how you read it, given your awareness of the urgency and threat of multi-layered environmental crisis may be more crucial than any other resources anyone might point you to. 
 Just as, with recorded reflections, ‘location is the language’ don’t ever kid yourselves that you approach scripture neutrally, without any agenda or prior concerns. Get used to that. Be happy with it! Don’t resist it, or regard it as a weakness.
The same goes for everything people have discovered, suggested, and rethought about how and when the texts were written down, used, and interpretatively translated. It’s all a gift. Play with it!
Some of this really is unexpected: my first look at the part of the job which involved gathering lectionary resources for Creation Time/Season of Creation, (when most churches are  locked into a programme of Bible reading whose compliers had been oblivious of the threats and urgencies of climate ‘change’) suggested it might require some unduly hard pedalling to come up with environmentally relevant insights . 
Which, initially , it did, though the discipline of ‘finding the green’ is one you can become more fluent in, without  twisting the Bible’s arm. What’s already there is richer than what you might try to cram in.
But none of that is beyond the capabilities of any competent  general practitioner in local church preaching and Bible study.   
I suspect that what holds many colleagues in local leadership  back from plunging in with both feet is a combination of the underappreciated heavy pastoral demands of local leadership, and a fear of overstepping the bounds of what they feel they ought to do.  Can you catch a breath in the permissible lull after Easter?
Cartoon by Jay Robotham, used by permission.
Even ecotheology has developed intimidating and disabling hierarchies. And has not been immune to “we’ve settled that matter!”
There’s also ‘attribution syndome’: the inability to utter an original thought of one’s own (which is very different from not having original thoughts) without desperately tying it down to a greater academic authority.  The study of theology accordingly  carries much more clout than doing it.  
But a note to preachers: have you ever thought that your congregation might actually be more interested in what you yourself  have to say,  than someone they know, love,  and trust less?  Especially if you go into it with the mutual, gracious,  understanding that, doing your best, you can also learn from getting it wrong.
That said, the leadership of some prominent figures has been vital, perhaps beginning with Pope Francis, but including moderators, bishops and the like who realise they are in a position to stick their necks out.  At conferences, festivals,  synods,  assemblies and more.  To dare to challenge  the (currently) toxic anthropocentricism (human-centredness) of our inherited approach to the Bible and re-establish historic links to a partnership and relatedness to fellow creatures, with whom, science insists, we have so much in common. 
Others, well-meaning, want to be seen to be taking climate crisis seriously,  but are hesitant to  take advantage of their office to make that leap from the respectably minimal nursery slopes of Genesis (“dominion, made safe as stewardship”) , Revelation,  (“leaves of the tree”)  and nothing much in between. 
If you have their ear, befriend them, encourage them. They are human too!
Still, the greatest leap that any traditional Christian can make -without needing to become anything other than a more committed mainstream traditional Christian – , is to learn to look fellow creatures in the eye;  to look and learn from the birds, to recall how Jesus spoke just as firmly to winds, waves and trees as he did to people in need of guidance.  To sing with the Psalmist as part of  the choir of trees, mountains, waves, lands, birds and other creatures.
Then there’s  the intimidating legacy which I probably locate somewhere in the sixties: the ‘demythologisation’ of truths which are necessarily expressed in the sophisticated medium of mythological language.  At times it seemed as if, for something to be mentioned in Scripture was taken to be a guarantee that it can’t have happened. Some took this further with a fundamentalism of what you ‘mustn’t believe’  rather than letting poetry be poetry, story be story, in their power and beauty. 
The congregation I worked with for a while in the south of England included people who were surprised that holding the view that “all that stuff about Jesus – which heaven forbid you should bother newcomers with – is just made up”  did not make for a sustaining or viable church.
Whatever irritates me, personally, though, about all that’s described above, I’ve also recognised that theological ‘stable’ and churchmanship is absolutely  not the decider as to whether your faith is expressed in care for the Earth today:  it’s whether you can learn, not without critical discernment, to trust the witness of science, whilst still being aware of its provisional nature, its margins for error, its caution, and the cultures of behaviour and thought in which it happens.  The expressions of our faith – and how could it be otherwise – are not independent of the time and planet in which they occur.  
Thus, I’m not, myself bothered about whether what I do has validity beyond my own time. I can happily acknowledge the integrity – but not the continuing unassailable  authority – of those who wrote and prayed in very different circumstances.
So we come to Easter 2021. Last year, as Lockdown began, and many churches, understandably, floundered,  I put together what I imagined would be exceptionally time-consuming pieces of work to provide online what local churches were not going to manage face-to-face. 
This year, some are taking steps back into their buildings, but many have also got well up to speed with digital media.
This sets me free not to compete, but to offer something alternative and complementary to local church Easter.  In the year when lectionaries concentrate on the Gospel of Mark, I’m having a wrestle with the untouchable, marginalised ‘old long ending’ of Mark 16. 
It’s a summary of resurrection happenings which my eminent teachers at Oxford University simply told me to leave alone.  It has, nonetheless,  accompanied the churches through many centuries of faith, and made its way into the Iona Community’s constituting body of prayer, with its great commission to bring good news “to every creature”.
There’s some explosive, or even superficially embarrassing  stuff alongside this wonderful phrase, but the last couple of years have taught me not to give up on the Bible. 
Indeed, the best response  to those who still put hope in God being ‘in charge’, specifically as an excuse for not engaging with change of life and outlook, is to go with them straight back to Scripture. Where God is certainly in charge, but disasters happen when we take no notice of that.
Whatever else, though,  all I can offer is ‘what seems good to me and the holy Spirit’.  A snapshot of inspiration, which insists on not being definitive.  
Even theologically,  ‘when I am weak, then I am strong’, though that verse too, has become far more meaningful in a world which is not going to be ‘fixed’  but where our partnership with Christ and with fellow Creatures gives us a place and purpose which would not occur outside of crisis.  
Mark 16:20 is one of those verses which looks back on our own work, as well as that of our siblings in the Gospel, this first disciples.
And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.”
Good News. Everywhere. Let’s do it. Working with Christ.

Holy Week 2021

Good News to every Creature

Eco-Congregation Scotland shares reflections this Holy Week and looks forward to celebrating an Easter message that brings ‘Good News to every Creature’. We also encourage job applications and campaign activities next week as we look further ahead to the Scottish Parliament election in May and the COP26 United Nations climate summit in November. Thank you for your continuing involvement and support of our activities and events. Wishing you in advance a very Happy Easter this weekend.

Eco-Chaplain Rev David Coleman is very grateful to St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh for being able to record a major Palm Sunday reflection on Mark 11:1-11 and to Our Lady of Loretto and St Michael Catholic Church with final reflections in a special Musselburgh Covid Stations of the Cross.

As many churches opened their doors for the first time since Christmas with changing coronavirus guidance, our Eco-Chaplain has also been sharing reflections online for devotional use this Holy Week, complementing local worship and prayer across Scotland:

Maundy Thursday – “Let the sea come and wash your feet”, a Holy Thursday footwashing reflection first shared last year, with scripture matched alongside images of our coasts and waters.

Good Friday – reflection on “The Dream of the Rood”, a dream in which the “True Cross” speaks in an ancient “heroic” Passion poem of Creation.

Easter Sunday – reading and reflection on Mark 16:9-20 “Dangerous Words”, live from 7am on 4 April 2021 and accessible any time after on our Facebook page.

David outlines the special reflection for Easter Sunday: “Exceptionally, this works from the neglected ‘old ending’ of Mark’s Gospel, which contains the Inclusive Commission of the Risen Christ to bring ‘Good News to every Creature’, as well as some other untamed and challenging verses.”

“It’s presented as a complement, not a substitute for your own local church events, and will premiere live on our Facebook page at 7am on Easter Sunday.”

Easter 2021: being nothing, yet not inferior – Finally for Holy Week, David shares an Easter post on the Chaplain’s Blog proclaiming “Christ is risen…let’s work with Christ!” – and may be spotted ringing a bell at Gullane. Please contact our Eco-Chaplain to connect and work with your own church, online or in person.

We also encourage you to join in individual or household prayer with Christians across Scotland at 7pm on Easter Sunday evening:
Scottish Church Leaders Forum Statement and Prayer


Eco-Congregation Scotland is delighted to be working with Glasgow Churches Together and its COP26 Co-ordinating Group, a special ecumenical committee encouraging local churches, denominations and faith charities to co-operate in unity on activities and events relating to the city hosting the climate conference.

There is still time to apply for two exciting job opportunities to support the Glasgow Churches COP26 Co-ordinating Group, funded by Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS), with applications sought by Easter Monday, 5 April 2021:

Glasgow Churches COP26 Ambassador
Encouraging Churches to prepare for, engage with and be changed by COP26 coming to Glasgow. Self-employed consultancy basis for at least 40 days, April to 30 November 2021.
Further information.

COP26 Administrator
Support before and during COP26 to member and partner churches, 0.4 full-time equivalent. Co-ordinating hospitality and welcome, including offers of accommodation to individuals and premises to groups visiting Glasgow.
Further information.


Share, Show, Shout for Climate Justice
Wednesday 7 April 2021
6pm – 7pm

Register at this link

We are sharing work from coalitions we are members of and key partner organisations towards the Scottish Parliament elections on 6 May, encouraging candidates to hear directly on the demand for Scotland to do more in championing climate justice. At this training event policy experts and experienced campaigners will share the most effective ways for making your voice heard. There are three ways you can make a difference today:

1. Share the message
Post this video on social media or share with your group chats.

2. Show you care
Strike a pose and share a campaign selfie on social media with your message of climate action, using the hashtag #ClimateJusticeScot.

3. Shout out loud
Reach out to your local candidates to ask for a 15 minute virtual cuppa over Zoom.

This Stop Climate Chaos Scotland campaign is supported by Scottish Communities Climate Action NetworkChristian AidSCIAFTearfundJustice and Peace ScotlandQuakersGlobal Justice NowWater AidOxfam ScotlandWWF ScotlandArkboundJubilee ScotlandUnison Scotland and Water Witness. You can read more in the campaign toolkit.


Monthly Prayer Gathering
Thursday 8 April 2021
4pm – 5pm

Register at this link

South Glasgow and North Glasgow Local Networks of eco-congregations invite you to join their open Monthly Prayer Gathering in the run up to COP26, taking place in their city this November.

Palm Sunday 2021

Rev’d David Coleman was delighted to visit St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh to record a major online reflection for Palm Sunday on Mark 11:1-11.

With churches now able to open for worship from this weekend, please contact our Eco-Chaplain to connect and work with your own church, online or in person.

We are also encouraging you to join in individual or household prayer with Christians across Scotland at 7pm tonight, Sunday 28th March:
Scottish Church Leaders Forum Statement and Prayer

Earth Hour 2021

Earth Hour in Scotland
Saturday 27th March 2021
8.30pm – 9.30pm

https://www.wwf.org.uk/scotland/earthhour

Eco-Congregation Scotland is again delighted to support WWF Scotland for this year’s Earth Hour. Millions of homes across the world will switch off non-essential lights for one hour this Saturday at 8.30pm to show they care about the future of our planet. Please join the movement. Find out more about Earth Hour in Scotland at this link and join the event on Facebook.

Coasts and Seas

Let’s talk about the climate emergency

Let’s talk about the climate emergency – Coasts and Seas
Monday 29th March 2021
7.30pm – 8.30pm

https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/event/coastsandseas/

As Scotland comes into the spotlight hosting COP26 – the United Nations climate talks due in Glasgow this November – we are calling on all Scotland’s churches to join the conversation and take action on the climate emergency.

One of the most powerful ways we can encourage change is in talking, listening and telling our stories. Eco-Congregation Scotland has produced “Let’s talk about the climate emergency“, monthly themed resources to help congregations take part in awareness raising conversations about the climate emergency, encouraging everyone to take action.

Throughout March our theme has been Coasts and Seas. Scotland has a beautiful coastline, but marine pollution is now noticeable all along our coasts and in our rivers. Plastic bottles, cigarette butts, cotton buds, crisp bags and sanitary applicators form the top five pollutants found on beaches. Much of this waste enters the food chain.

Fishing is still an important part of the economy and identity of many coastal communities. However, it is not without controversy. Climate change will bring sea-level rises and more extreme weather, which will affect vulnerable parts of Scotland’s coasts and threaten the very existence of some nations and communities across the world.

Join us on Zoom, to talk and reflect on Coasts and Seas – you can download the two March pages on this link, or the full year of “Let’s talk about the climate emergency” resources. Breakout discussions will ensure all taking part in small groups. Now and in coming months – let’s talk about the climate emergency.

https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/event/coastsandseas/

For all working in the marine environment, for the protection of the marine environment by all people and by politicians, for all communities and nations affected by increasing sea levels due to climate change.

Jesus,
you walked on the shore of Lake Galilee,
at a threshold of land and water.

You loved those who worked at that threshold,
calling them to come,
forgiving them their mistakes,
and sending them to share your love.

Rev Jenny Adams
Duffus, Spynie and Hopeman Church minister
Eco-Congregation Scotland trustee

Climate Sunday

Join our special Scottish launch

Climate Sunday – Scottish launch
Monday 22nd March 2021

7.30pm – 8.30pm
https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/event/climatesunday

Join us for a special Scottish launch of Climate Sunday, providing focus in the year of the COP26 climate conference for churches committed to action combatting climate change.

Local congregations are encouraged to hold a special Climate Sunday service on any Sunday over the months leading up to the start of September, with free resources for every tradition and style of worship.

An initiative of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), Climate Sunday calls on local churches to take one or more of the following three actions:

Worship
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 our resources and the Climate Sunday website for inspiration and worship resources to suit all church traditions. Please register your service so we can count you in!

Commit 
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.

Speak up
Use your voice to tell politicians that you want a cleaner, greener, fairer future at the heart of plans to rebuild a strong economy. Read and sign the ‘The Time Is Now’ declaration both as a church and as individuals.

Climate Sunday culminates with a major online service in Glasgow on Sunday 5th September 2021, the first Sunday in Creation Time, to share church commitments across the nations and pray for bold action with courageous leadership at COP26 in the city this November.

Organised by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) with backing from a range of denominations and charities in CTBI Environmental Issues Network, we are encouraging more Scottish support for Climate Sunday and all churches to pray and act in the run-up to COP26.

Join Climate Sunday project coordinator James Anthony to hear all about the initiative – with great ideas on how you can worship, commit and speak up through your local church.

Please register now for the link to join us for this special Scottish launch:

https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/event/climatesunday

“We need to take action as Christians who care for God’s creation, tackling the climate emergency with urgency now and for future generations. When we welcome thousands from around the world, online or in person to COP26, we can all demonstrate that we are taking action and leading by example in our own church and across the country.”

“We all share a unique opportunity this year for transformational change, taking practical steps to change our own behaviour and calling on governments to agree global action when they gather in Glasgow. Climate Sunday helps link this directly with our spiritual life, focussing local churches on the environment in worship, prayer and action.”

Eco-Congregation Scotland chairperson Mary Sweetland

On the 5th Sunday in Lent, our digital visiting preacher Rev David Coleman joins the Netherlorn Churches – Kilbrandon, Kilchattan, Kilmelford and Kilninve in Argyll – with a reflection on John 12:20-33 ‘The Tipping-point’

All our worship material is now shareable for any church on Eco-Chaplain onlineFacebook and our website where we are building a catalogue behind the scenes – and fits perfectly with a Climate Sunday service.

This coming Sunday 21st March at 7pm we also encourage our volunteers and supporters to join Christians in prayer across Scotland marking the anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown.


Anglican Communion Webinar
COP26, Divestment and Investment for Climate Justice

Thursday 25th March 2021
7.00pm – 8.30pm

Register at this link

Eco-Congregation Scotland joins the Anglican Communion Environmental NetworkOperation NoahChristian Aid and Tearfund as organisers of this global Anglican Communion Webinar. Among the speakers is Very Revd John Conway, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, on the Cathedral divesting from fossil fuels and next steps in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

This follows our recent, well-attended ‘Scottish Churches’ Webinar: COP26, Divestment and Investment in the Just and Green Recovery‘ which you can now view online.

Hymn Text for Lent 5: what will change your life’s direction

Meter 8787337
Use with John 12:20-33. The emphasis not only on the turning point, but the re-useability of revelation, and the Word of God : ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again’.


(e.g. use with Groeswen, ( uplifting) or ‘Meine Hoffnung’ ( haunting) or Michael, ( hopeful)
If with Michael, then you may prefer to add the word ‘loud’ after repetition* in verse 2
============================


1)What will change your life’s direction?
Whose the story you need hear?
Which of all our fellow creatures,
when endangered, we hold dear?
All alike face the threat
Christ, alert, alongside, yet!



2)Prophets, pilgrims, foolish martyrs
Gave their all to warn and guide;
Seeking signs and scanning stories
till it’s time to fling gates wide:
“God won’t hide turning tide!”
-glory’s repetition, *cried!



3)Christ, with mission and momentum
building on his own land’s creed,
recognised the common calling:
sky and soil and flesh in need!
Once again, Jesus’ reign
active for a world in pain



4)Tipping points and one-way journeys:
Glory and God’s word, employed;
love re-purposed, re-committed
lest green beauty be destroyed
Once more, Christ, dawn’s bright ray:
hope from crisis, crafting day.