PICTURE: The pig-with-bagpipes gargoyle at Melrose Abbey
There’s a group of UK churches who do important things together: the Joint Public Issues Group (JPIT) is the umbrella, dealing with substantial justice issues like migration, refugees, and of course, the climate crisis.
JPIT are encouraging folk in the various churches - and of course, beyond - to use the traditions of Lent to develop our personal and public response, with a programme they are calling ‘Living Lent’
It’s very easy just to sit back and lament, in resignation, the alarming damage that is being done, now at a brutal pace, to everything which feeds and provides habitat both to us and our fellow creatures.
The Season of Lent has always offered opportunity for an exercise in spiritual growth, earthed in a strictly manageable level of commitment. How appropriate to dedicate and channel Lenten observances towards greater environmental awareness and personal active participation in our response.
I have already given up buying beef, because of the huge carbon footprint which that meat source has compared to, for instance, chicken (see the national Geographic film ‘Before the Flood’ available for free download ), but as with any addiction, getting to the point of being meat-free, and seeing that as a liberation, is a step or two further. Thus the encouragement of ‘Living Lent’ is rather helpful. And as ‘Living Lent’ points out, vegetarians have about half the carbon footprint of regular meat eaters.
I will be joining in myself, as the project has given me the kick-start to get back to vegetarianism. I really appreciate the odd bacon sandwich, and as a minister, there will be times when honouring hospitality ( as in sausage rolls at funerals) may provide exceptions, but I can’t simply ignore the basic, easy, manageable stuff: like giving up meat.
The other option, ’Buy nothing new’ also has its liberating attractions and challenges, but one at a time!
Recognising that the support of a community has more chance of embedding change in lives, the campaign is itself ‘live’ and will develop and take shape as Lent proceeds. Having ’subscribed’ to my commitment, I’ve just received a friendly acknowledging email from Hannah and the JPIT team.
To take part is a small and worthwhile step. And each small step, like a prayer, is in God’s hands.
I’m making a wee video clip about the experience, so I decided, a bit early, to get the wherewithal for my final bacon roll, not from a boring anonymous plastic shelf, but from a proper hands-on butcher, who knew where the meat came from and the conditions under which it was raised.
If, after the exercise, I do go back to meat, this is what I would need to go back to. And yes, it’s dearer, but perhaps that better reflects the cost to the planet.
I was delighted to see, in a display in the butcher’s shop, the mantra ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ about their approach to packaging, as well as information about the farms they buy from, and the welfare of the animals.
Over and over again, the ‘small step’ of commitment turns out to be like ripples in a pond: doing the right thing for one reason ends up rewarded with a wider bonus. If I were a meat eater, these are things I should always have been concerned about.
I’m going to really appreciate that last bacon roll!