Source: Conference of Religious
Members of religious congregations from across England & Wales came together for two large information sharing meetings, in the weeks leading up to Cop26, to reflect on ways of responding to the climate emergency. Dr Emma Gardner, Head Environment, Salford diocese, Edward de Quay from the Laudato Si’ Research Institute at Campion Hall at Oxford, Sr Margaret Atkins OSA, Boarbank Hall and Cumbria, and Brother Loarne Fergusson OFM Cap were among the speakers.
The first meeting attempted to set out the big picture of how the Church in England & Wales is responding, such as: diocesan environmental projects / the network of environmental leads which has been developed to foster collaborative work across the dioceses / the question of investment & divestment / lay led initiatives such as the Ecological Conversion Group and parish/clergy awareness.
The second meeting featured speakers who were Religious who have placed ecology at the core of their ministry, including Columban Sr Kate Midgley and Fr Martin Newell CP. These meetings followed a webinar that was well attended in January featuring Bishop John Arnold and Dr Carmody Grey, as well as Sr Sheila Kinsey (the Rome-based coordinator for a global project that involves Religious, ‘Sowing Hope for the Planet’).
Brother Loarne is currently being seconded to an environmental project at a rural site in Worcestershire. This was a deliberate move made by his congregation to prepare him further for ecological initiatives. Since the summer, he has been living with the ecumenical House of the Open Door in Broadway, specifically to work on a honey project. He is currently involved in the construction of a bee shelter to consolidate decades of beekeeping. The community has historically had up to 60 beehives.
He said, “The focus was on me getting experience and building structures, at no cost with local natural resources.” He created the framework and began searching for the raw materials. The dead ash tree trunks were cut up and sanded to form the shelter’s upright posts. Gravel from a stream, as well as discarded roof tiles, were used as floor coverings. A large chunk of fibreglass was ‘found” and became the roof. Brother Loarne recalls the hard work involved in digging during the summer. He was grateful to volunteers who offered their help, including a local architect. He said, “This is a completely different way of thinking.” “My background was in retreat giving and evangelisation. In the last months, I have been focusing on creating a shelter for bees. The importance of pollinators is a key part of the food chain. He mentioned that many congregations have put a beehive in their grounds. For those who want to learn more, he suggested a ‘Bees’ Needs’ YouTube video. Below is the link. Sr Kate Midgley, a priest, also presented her environmentalism. She dates back to Good Friday some years ago. This was “a lightbulb moment”, which led to my own ecological conversion. “I was able to see the damage we are doing to the planet as humans and I did some personal research to find out what it was.” It is incumbent upon all of us, in this generation, to do something about it. By Easter Sunday, Sr Kate had already connected with an Extinction Rebellion’ protest. She has continued her involvement through ‘Christian Climate Action’ since then. This included participating in awareness raising outside Westminster Cathedral as well as prayer vigils outside Parliament throughout Lent. “The climate emergency can overwhelm us, but praying in front the place where decisions are made feels very important.
Sr Kate joined the first leg a pilgrimage walk from London, Scotland to Cop26. Then, she met up with Melanie Nazareth to record a video interview, as the walkers traveled through Lancashire. Melanie spoke about the rich experience of talking with so many people about the climate emergency and how churches came together to support the walkers. She also commented on the importance of praying in these situations. Cop26 isn’t the end. This is a foundation that must be built upon. Cop26 is in some ways the beginning of a long journey into the future.
In response to the need for a Catholic-specific working group, Fr Martin Newell and about twenty others formed ‘Catholics for Christian Climate Action’ last year. The organisers said at the time, “As members of the Catholic Church inspired by the Holy Ghost to follow Jesus in reading the Signs of the Times. In response to the call of Laudato Si, we focus our efforts on engaging the Catholic Church. This includes Catholics generally, Bishops, Dioceses, Religious Orders, as well as other organisations. Our starting point is the ecological and climate emergency. We believe that the UK must aim to achieve zero emissions by 2030. This is a matter of climate justice, and the good of the poorest and most vulnerable must be a priority in all our efforts..…..The climate emergency requires political action and engagement, including action within Catholic organisations. As a witness to our faith in God, we hope to mobilize the collective Catholic political response on the climate and ecological emergencies in the public space.
Fr Martin Newell stated that he has been involved with Christian Climate Action for seven year and warned that if we don’t act now it will be even worse in future. We are already behind the curve. He explained that radical activism is based on the belief that people need to take individual actions, but the government must lead. Just as it took financial measures to combat the pandemic, so must it take bold actions to address the climate crisis. This is why we participate in so many demonstrations. We pray in public every day. It’s important for people to look back and see that Christians were there. What we do now can have an effect on the future in 10/20 year’s time. It can be difficult for people to grasp the gravity of the situation because of the time lag.
He reflected on the past year of writing ‘to all bishops’ requesting that dioceses make the climate crisis a priority and for clergy & lay Catholics to be made more aware and for people to be encouraged to engage with their politicians on it. He said that the requests were also directed to religious congregations. “We can make changes in our homes in terms of living and community, and we can also press for political change.”
James Buchanan from Operation Noah addressed the question of divestment/investment. He gave an overview of the work done by dioceses as well as religious orders. This movement is constantly growing as more organisations join. www.operationnoah.org
Sr Margaret Atkins spoke out about the extensive ecological work being done in and around her church’s buildings and land in Cumbria. (Boarbank Hall), as well as how the pandemic has prompted hundreds to attend Laudato Si’ retreat/prayer via zoom.
Cistercian sisters present at the meeting asked how Religious and congregations could decide the right course for responding to the complexity of this climate crisis. Brother Loarne responded to the question by referring back to St John Henry Newman’s “convergence of probabilities” – which can lead to greater awareness and certitude. Opportunities for action will be created through stillness, prayer, asking for guidance and guidance on where to begin, he said. “Small steps will appear.”
Sowing Hope for The Planet. – www.sowinghopefortheplanet.org
Bees Needs www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uVeyH7XQXg
Camino to the COP – www.caminotocop.com
You can read an earlier article about Sr Margaret’s work here: https://bit.ly/3iOBJcD
Tags: COP26? Conference of Religious? Fr Martin Newell? Fr Martin Newell CP and Columban Sr Kate Midgley? Bishop John Arnold? Dr Carmody Grey? Sr Sheila Kinsey? Dr Emma Gardner? Edward de Quay? Sr Margaret Atkins OSA? Brother Loarne Ferguson OFM Cap.
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