Tuesday 28 September 2010

Why not join us next Monday, 4th October?

Nenagh Churches Together
Invite you to an ecumenical celebration

Creation Flourishing
- a time for celebration and care

St Mary’s Church of Ireland, Church Rd., Nenagh
Monday, 4th October 2010, at 7.30 PM

Thursday 9 September 2010

September Prayer - A Grace by Bp Lancelot Andrewes

Prayer is the living breath of Christians. Within our Anglican tradition we are blessed with wonderful resources to draw on, some harking back a millennium or more, which perhaps we do not always value as we should. So within the Nenagh Union of Parishes we will be selecting each month a spiritual jewel suitable to the season to pray together throughout the month. We are delighted to offer them for you to use too – you might choose to learn some by heart. A Grace suits September well, as a month of harvest thanksgiving. Here is one by Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, altered to put it in contemporary English.

Loving God,
you give food to all flesh,
you feed the young ravens that cry to you,
and you have nourished us from our youth up:

fill our hearts with good and gladness
and underpin our hearts with your grace.


Bishop Lancelot Andrewes, 1555 – 25 Sep1626.He supervised the translation of the King James Bible.

Engraved portrait of Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

from the frontispiece to a 17th century volume of sermons

Sunday 5 September 2010

Do we need a Green Charter?

This piece appeared in the September 2010 View from the Pew column which I write for Newslink, the diocesan magazine for Limerick & Killaloe.

What wonderful creatures honey-bees are!
One of the most popular stands at the Nenagh Show this year was the Beekeeping Association’s, where I watched bees at work through glass inside a sealed hive – what single-minded industry! We all love honey of course, and the finest candles are always made from beeswax, but even more important is the service bees give the rest of creation by pollinating flowers. I am concerned not to have seen a single honey-bee in my garden this year – not one - and I think their absence may account for the bad set on the broadbeans. I think I shall take a beekeeping course this winter, and set up a hive in the garden.

Wild bee colonies have been killed off, beekeepers tell us, by the Varroa mite, an alien species inadvertently introduced by human beings from overseas. This is just one of many ways in which human actions are damaging biodiversity – in other words, unravelling the wonderful web of life which God has created on this planet. God chooses to continuously create new life through the mechanism of evolution. Bees have evolved in an intricate three cornered dance of life with flowering plants and animals including ourselves. In this dance, plants provide pollen and nectar to sustain bees; bees in return pollinate the flowers so that they can produce fruit and seeds; these in turn sustain animals, which in wonderfully ingenious ways distribute seeds to start new generations of plants.

We thwart God’s purposes at our peril
God’s purpose in creating bees, I think, is that they should be good bees, playing their part in the dance to sustain the web of life, alongside all the other creatures he has created. In much the same way God created us to be good human beings. We are not bees, of course - we are made in God’s image, as souls with consciences. We are able to reflect on what is right and wrong, to plan for the future, in a sense to be co-creators of it with God. But with this privilege also comes our human susceptibility to those spiritual diseases which we call sin - spiritual diseases like greed and selfishness - which all too often lead us to damage God’s creation in a way other species do not, as well as hurting our fellow human beings. Jesus tells us that the path to eternal life is to love God and our neighbour too – how can we possibly love God if we do not also cherish and protect His creation?

The scarcity of honey-bees should shock us out of complacency. We thwart God’s purpose if we do not cherish and protect not only bees but all of God’s creation. Yet that is what we are doing, through our greedy over-exploitation of the worlds resources – particularly those of us in the rich industrialised world. Human beings cannot flourish while disrupting the web of life.

Our Christian obligation is surely to live as good human beings should, showing our love for God’s creation by caring for it, at the same time as we show love for our neighbours by seeking justice.

Towards a Green Charter
Because I feel this so strongly, I was delighted to see Les Bertram’s report elsewhere on a presentation given by Rev Elaine Murray to our Diocesan Synod about Cashel & Ossory’s ‘Green Charter’. Their prophetic work in this area inspired General Synod this year to ask the Church in Society Committee to propose a ‘Code of Environmental Good Practice’ to General Synod in 2011. All too often the business of synods is tedious and boring, and does not register with ordinary parishioners in the pews. But this is different – it reaches to the heart of our Christian calling, I think.

I feel it is important for people in this diocese to have a way to make their views known to inform the deliberations in General Synod. If you want to do so, email them to me at joc_sanders@iol.ie, and I will undertake to forward combined comments to the Committee for their consideration.

Acting in parishes now
But we need not and should not wait for the long drawn out formal synod process before taking action at parish level. Here are a few ideas:
  • Prayer is at the heart of our parish life. We might make a point of always including prayers for creation in formal intercessions, if we don’t already do so.
  • The Select Vestry might commission a group to carry out an audit of the parish’s carbon footprint and seek ways to reduce it. You will probably find that as well as reducing emissions you can save money on energy too, which should please the Treasurer!
  • Rural churches and graveyards are often a haven for wildlife - you might look for ways to protect and encourage this diversity of life. How about leaving part of the grass long to allow wildflowers to bloom, and asking a local beekeeper to place a hive there?
  • The Church of Ireland is a member of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which every year produces resources for use in ‘Creation Time’ (1st September to 4th October). This year the theme is ‘Creation flourishing, a time for celebration and care’ and you can download the materials from http://www.ctbi.co.uk/. You might weave these resources into your services, or join with other local churches in an ecumenical celebration.
  • You might consider finding a facilitator to run a short parish course on climate change or environmental awareness. I led the Omega Climate Change course over 6 nights as a successful Lenten programme last year, and could be persuaded to do so again.

Diocese of Cashel & Ossory Green Charter

This Green Charter has been adopted by the Diocese of Cashel & Ossory. It has been proposed as a model Code of Environmental Good Practice which General Synod has asked the Church in Society Committee to propose in 2011.

As Christians and members of the Anglican Communion, we have an obligation to protect God's creation, not only nationally but globally. The Diocese of Cashel & Ossory affirms its commitment to Environmental Awareness and Protection by:
Identifying areas of waste and excess.
Encouraging environmental consciousness in every parish.
Promoting environmental responsibility in the broader community.
Spiritually and financially supporting third world development, supporting fair trade and addressing the effects of climate change.
Advocating policy change at local and national level that is environmentally beneficial.

Identifying Waste and Excess

Turn off unnecessary lighting.
Use heating only when essential.
Draught proof windows and doors.
Provide Recycling facilities in all churches.
Identify and deal with inefficient equipment

Encourage environmental consciousness

Infuse the Churches worship with references to God's creation.
Avail of alternative energies or fuel efficient systems.
Impress upon Select Vestries the environmental consequences of their decisions.
Include environmental issues in the Churches education programmes at every level.
Maintain Church environs sympathetically and cherish trees and wildlife.

Promote Environmental responsibility

Lead by courageous and articulate example
Cooperate with other people of faith who share these aims.
Educate members of the public to the moral and economic consequences of inaction.
Dialogue creatively on these issues with members of the agricultural community.
Encourage cleaner and more environmentally responsible urban living.

Support Third World Development

Raise awareness of the effect of climate change on the developing world.
Support projects that assist those who suffer most from Climate Change.
Campaign alongside Bishops' Appeal and similar agencies who work for change.
Think seriously about how our lifestyle and carbon footprint affect the poor.
Break the bread in solidarity with those whose future is crushed by our lifestyles.

Policy Change in Church and State

Use the Churches councils and synods as places of environmental debate and agents of change.
Raise expectations concerning environmental protection facilities provided by Local Authorities.
Demonstrate to public representatives that their environmental policies matter by how we vote, lobby and act.
Draw inspiration from the achievements and experiences of other nations and churches within the European family and seek to contribute ourselves.
Offer informed and understanding prayers for those who carry great responsibilities in these matters.

Cashel & Ossory Green Charter – Presentation to Diocesan Synod

Les Bertram from Banagher wrote this report on a presentation given at the Limerick & Killaloe Diocesan Synod at Killorglin this year. It was published in the September 2010 edition of Newslink, the Limerick & Killaloe Diocesan magazine.

At the General Synod earlier this year at Dublin the Diocese of Cashel & Ossory brought a motion that recommended that their green charter be adopted by the whole Church of Ireland as a way forward in environmental good practice. This was unanimously adopted by the General Synod.

At our Synod at Killorglin we had the great pleasure of welcoming Revd Elaine Murray of the Kilkenny Group, who spoke to us about the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory green charter.

Elaine opened by telling us that climate change is changing our lives, and that we know instinctively that our present day church needs to get its house in order, that at heart of the covenant of God with his people is a call to ‘Do Justice’. Climate change is a matter of justice.

Their diocesan charter was adopted in 2008 and has been rolled out to every parish in their diocese. We were told that their charter was a guide to living generously, committing them to the following points.

  • To identify areas of waste and excess

  • To encourage environmental responsibility in the wider broader community

  • To support third world development both spiritually and financially by supporting fair trade and addressing the effects of climate change

  • To advocate policy change that environmentally beneficial at both local and national level
We were all given a copy of this green charter.

Elaine told that each Parish Vestry was given a copy of the ‘Green Pages’ which is an eco friendly version of the Yellow Pages, never heard of it myself but sounds like a great idea and I must get a copy. They also launched a diocesan Environment Awareness Competition which is now in its second year. Winners include installation of solar panel heating of a church at Freshford, Co Kilkenny. In Stradbally ageing trees in an 13th century graveyard were replaced by 14 new trees which included holly, copper beech, lime and hawthorn, sponsored by parishioners. While young people as part of their confirmation classes learned all about the reproduction system of trees while successfully avoiding free range saddleback pigs in a forest at Johnstown house in Carlow! Sounds like environment issues can be fun. There was much more and the message was that things can change if the effort is made.

Eco Seminars have been organized over the last two years, topics range from ‘Our Christian Responsibility to the Global Effects of Climate Change’, to ‘Practical changes and understanding Government Regulations and Grants’. ‘Understanding Alternative Energy systems and cost effectiveness’ and ‘Wildlife & Fauna Awareness in our Church Environs’.

Cashel & Ossory diocesan environmental committee consists of just four people which keep green matter uppermost in people’s minds by regular updates in the diocesan magazine and updates each vestry by post, strongly recommending that ‘Green Matters ‘ appear on the agenda of each Vestry meeting. Promoting websites like ‘Living Generously’, www.livinggenerously.com an online Christian Community who promote ideas for living in an eco-friendly way, and ‘EcoCongregation’ www.ecocongregationireland.org who can help us think about the link between our Christian faith and care of the planet.

Elaine concluded her address by suggesting the Irish campaign, ‘Power of One’ had been fairly successful but that many people still feel overwhelmed or swamped and helpless when faced with problems of such magnitude, but reminded us that the people in the third world have, and will bear the brunt of the problems caused by climate change and we must do more to help them. Finally saying ‘I hope and pray that the Church of Ireland, in adopting the green charter route can lead the way for church communities everywhere to really show that we have taken our gospel values to heart in the area of environmental good practices ‘.

It was a very good address and it would be of interest to know what green ideas have already been put into practice already in our own diocese. I think its now time to own up.

Les Bertram