Earth be Glad
Earth be Glad is the umbrella title given to work at St John's in deveoping environmentally responsible living. The environmental crisis is the biggest challenge facing humanity today and poses a huge challenge to our faith, theology and lifestyles. At St John's we are engaging with this challenge in a number of ways, co-ordinated by our Green Ginger Group.
Since St John's became an award-winning Eco-Congregation, the Green Ginger group has co-ordinated a wide range of environmental activities at St John's. The focus of the group is on 'gingering' (hence the name) individual members of our congregation as well as those responsible for decision making in the church. That is to say the group does not exist to do the work for people, but to encourage them to find ways of living responsibly and more sustainably for themselves.
What we've been up to
Notes from 2016 Meetings
8 January 2016
Plans are already taking shape for Creationtide 2016. Our theme will be "The Re-wilding of Edinburgh". Expect there to be some walk-abouts where we look and appreciate the wild spaces already in the West End, and what can be done to increase them. This will be in September.
Past Green Ginger Activities...
Send a postcard to help remind, nudge, persuade, support and encourage all our decision-makers and opinion-formers as they face up to the environmental crisis. We have started a sustained campaign, with several designs of card, an address list, and some suggested messages. Do send lots of cards. If any other congregation would like to join in, please contact the St John’s Church Office. This sort of enterprise needs a high volume of traffic sustained over a long period. but then it can make a difference. Consider Amnesty International, for example. So far replies have been received from David Cameron’s office and from Alex Salmond’s office.
All through Lent the focus of the readings and sermons at the 10.30 Eucharist service has been the Book of Jonah. His despair, his warnings to the city of Niniveh, the King’s penitential response, and God’s decision to save the city struck us as a compelling text on which to meditate, in the light of the environmental crisis. Check out the sermons for some thought-provoking and challenging inspiration.
On Mothers’ Day flowers were given out, in a colourful and affectionate tradition, during the Peace at Eucharist. We also gave out wildflower seed, from Scotia Seeds, packaged (with instructions) by our new Biodiversity Action Group. We hope that, this summer, Edinburgh will have a few more wild-flower beds and window boxes, to the benefit of insects and the delectation of passers by. Watch out for photos in due course.
The Green Ginger Group decided to start acting with a higher level of intensity. It was decided to apply the Lenten messages of sin, repentance, metanoia and redemption specifically to environmental issues. At the same time a programme of talks was put together. You can read more about all this on the EarthBeGlad blog:
The feast day of St Francis ofAssisi was celebrated with a traditional service for the blessing of animals. Many pets were brought, with cats and dogs kept separate. The Convenor of the Green Ginger Group, true to his wild gardening principles, brought a small bucket of mixed leaf litter and weeds that housed several woodlice, a large snail, two slugs, miscellaneous mites and bugs, and who knows how many microscopic creatures. Thanks to The Revd Eileen Thompson for agreeing to bless them.
Creationtide. This year we made the despised members of Creation our focus. Even the plants and animals we ignore or dislike are worthy of wonder and respect. A display was made of pictures of midges, worms, couch grass, grubs, ticks and so on, each one accompanied by a few words. This wonderful though from Aldo Leopold (quoted in “A Sting in the Tale” by Dave Goulson) sums it all up.
“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant ‘What good is it?’ If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
Some previous activity & initiatives
- bell ringing outside St John's during the Copenhagen climate summit, as part of the international initiative Bellringing350.org, and participation in The Wave
- making origami arks to send to Gordon Brown during a joint service with Together churches, as part of a campaign by Operation Noah
- a letter to the Prime Minister signed by many members of the congregation asking for a strong deal at Copenhagen
- film shows of An Inconvenient Truth and Age of Stupid
- a visit to an urban wildlife garden, which you can read about in this article [PDF file]
- a member of our congregation, Eleanor Harris, is web editor for European Christian Environmental Network, which links environmental initiatives in churches all around Europe.
Two bigger projects of the Green Ginger group are described below:
'Let the Earth be Glad'
A specific Earth be Glad project was funded by the Scottish Climate Challenge Fund to measure and reduce the carbon emissions of the congregation.
Sometimes environmentalists make us compare our lifestyles to each other and make us feel guilty or hypocritical - an ecology of judgment. But this initiative was about acting prophetically together as a Christian community to 'let the earth be glad' - an ecology of grace.
How did Earth be Glad work?
Earth be Glad involved measuring the average carbon emissions of the congregation in our homes and transport. By measuring the average, every individual act of insulating a window, filling the kettle carefully, leaving the car at home, even getting a solar panel, contributed to reducing it. It didn't matter if, individually, one person used more or less for whatever reason. The aim of the project was, together, to work towards the Scottish climate change targets of a 42% reduction by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050.
The project has now run its course and was instrumental in raising congregational awareness of the way we live as partners within creation - and not masters of it. We have a quantity of promotional literature that we deveoped as part of this project and will be happy to share them with other congregations who wish to engage in similar work. Please vist our contact us page to get in touch.
An award-winning Eco-congregation
The Eco-Congregation programme brings together all our activities and links us to churches around Scotland. St John's was the 29th Scottish church to receive an Eco-Congregation award. This is given to churches who have taken action in spiritual, practical and community environmental initiatives.
Eco-Congregation is a free ecumenical programme to help congregations consider environmental issues and make appropriate practical and spiritual responses. It is adaptable to all kinds of church and over 100 are involved - urban, rural, rich, poor, large, small, high and low! Churches can also link with other churches participating in the scheme through Eco-Congregation networks. St John's has hosted the first two meetings of the Edinburgh network.
Find out more on the Eco-Congregation Scotland website