Paul's Letter

Dear Friends,

As I write, we are drawing towards the end of Creation Time. If you have no clue as to what that is you are probably in good company and for good reason. To begin with, in the Methodist Church, we’ve perhaps not always been as good as some other denominations in marking the different times and seasons in the church year. Beyond that, Creation Time is, relatively speaking, a fairly recent addition to the church calendar, emerging as it did through the ecumenical movement in 1989. Thirty years is quite a long time but, in church terms, something that young is often seen as a new fangled invention!

For the uninitiated, Creation Time - or the Season of Creation - begins on September 1, the Day of Prayer for Creation, and ends on October 4, the feast day of St. Francis. The season reminds us that we are ‘part of a single, wondrously complex web of life that is woven by God’ and it invites us to focus and reflect upon our common calling to be stewards of God’s creation. I mention this now because all the evidence suggests that it has never been more necessary to do this. As human beings we are fast approaching a cliff edge with experts telling us that we should no longer talk of climate change but instead of a climate emergency or crisis.

The Season of Creation website (seasonofcreation.org) summarises the situation as follows:

With each passing day, it becomes increasingly clear that we live in a decisive time for the climate crisis. Across Latin America and Africa and around the globe, precious rainforests are burning at terrifying rates. Scientific analysis and tragic first-hand testimonies also continue to reveal the scale of the crisis, with record-setting heat waves, deadly droughts, and dangerous storms affecting people and places around the world. Most distressingly, the effects of climate change are not felt equally. Disadvantaged and vulnerable people, subsistence farmers, women and girls, and indigenous communities are likely to bear the worst effects of the climate crisis. Experts agree that we are facing a tipping point, with significant changes needed by 2020 if we are to avert a disaster.

At our Harvest service I quoted Greta Thunberg, the sixteen year old Swedish girl who has been striking from school every Friday for over a year, standing outside the Swedish parliament building and demanding better from her government. Her action has struck a global nerve. Hundreds of thousands of students from over 100 countries have now joined the international school strike for climate.

‘The climate crisis is both the easiest and the hardest issue we have ever faced’, Greta writes. ‘The easiest because we know what we must do. We must stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. The hardest because our current economics are still totally dependent on burning fossil fuels, and thereby destroying ecosystems in order to create everlasting economic growth. The basic problem is the same everywhere. And the basic problem is that basically nothing is being done to halt – or even slow – climate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises.’

In the coming weeks you may hear or read about Extinction Rebellion (XR) as it launches its International Rebellion on 7th October. XR argues that ‘conventional approaches of voting, lobbying, petitions and protest have failed because powerful political and economic interests prevent change’. Its strategy is ‘therefore one of non-violent, disruptive civil disobedience – a rebellion.’

I feel sure that when this ‘rebellion’ begins, some of our tabloids will paint negative pictures of the movement, its protestors and its aims. They will refer to ‘a mob’, ‘idiot eco-protestors’ and they will talk about the protestors wasting the resources and police time etc. I can safely predict this because this is exactly what happened during XR’s London protests in July.

Before you become tempted to believe such media-led characterisations, what you might be interested to know is that in the coming days (7th-19th October), when XR seeks to peacefully shut down the City of Westminster, Lambeth Bridge is to become a Faith Bridge as XR supporters of all faiths and none gather to share in “an abundant plenitude of services, talks, prayers, alms, meditations, devotionals and tradition-specific rites in a shared sacred complex of temporary structures, gardens, shrines and altars”. The stated aim being “to hold our holy bridge for as long as we can”.

Not everyone is able or willing to take to the streets to engage in protest, of course, but, just like Creation Time, XR demands a response from those of us who understand this planet and our life upon it to be a gift from God, from those of us who understand ourselves to be “stewards of creation”. We have to do something, however small and seemingly insignificant.

Given that her simple, lone action has sparked a movement and has reminded us that we can all make a difference, I’ll allow Greta to have the final word here:

‘...avoiding climate breakdown will require cathedral thinking. We must lay the foundation while we may not know exactly how to build the ceiling. We don’t know exactly what we need to do. But we have to take the next step. We have to act, to change the politics that allows this destruction to continue. We have to act urgently, because we simply have to find a way.’

Amen to that.

With every blessing,

Paul