General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches in Novi Sad has been a place of gathering for 500 delegates, participants and guests from 114 member churches of CEC. The Assembly programme included a number of opportunities for a discussion of care for creation and ecological justice. Assembly workshops and plenary sessions offered a frame in which a number of participants raise their concerns, as well as shared good examples of their work in their respective churches. Especially young participants of the Assembly have been intensively engaged in these discussion. Rebecca Boardman served at the assembly as one of ECEN youth advisors. She contributed to the programme of the Assembly opening worship service with following reflection.
‘When I consider my own relationship with God and with creation I am increasing aware of my distance to the natural world, a distance that creates barriers between my choices and their consequences. My vegetables come wrapped in plastic washed clean of the soil that was essential to their growth. The heavy metals in my phone are sealed within a plastic casing that shields me from the denuded landscapes, polluted rivers and loss of human lives brought about by their extraction.
The rich abundance of creation is a gift that sustains, refreshes and inspire us; and yet we do not steward it fairly and injustice abounds.
Globally we know that those least culpable for causing destruction to our environment are the same people experiencing the most intense negative impacts from environmental change. We also know that as we have inherited this earth from our ancestors, the decisions that we make will determine the state of the planet for our children and grandchildren.
In all of this I am asked to reconsider who is my neighbour and how can I love my neighbour when I am benefiting from the riches and wealth of our planet’s natural resources but exporting the consequences to others?
It asks us as people of faith to consider how we love and live, urgently and radically, in a way that reflects our deep connectedness to every other being on this planet. In doing so we start to build bridges between our choices and the consequences of our actions and become witnesses of the love that God has for creation and every person.
Yet this witness will require each of us to make significant sacrifice. We will have to transform the wasteful lifestyles to which we have become accustomed, to lives built on fairness and justice. We have to challenge the systems and structures that reinforce consumption-driven lives, breaking down the walls built by over-consumption and building bridges to those now, and in the future, who will suffer as a result.
In this respect, there is incredible power in collective action as a community in Christ. During Lent some members of my Church participated in a fast from waste. We created space for worship and spiritual reflection through environmental themed prayers and bible studies. Practically we had online discussions to share suggestions of where to shop, we organised a clothes swaps and a forum for people to exchange or donate household good that were no longer needed. The ideas shared were simple, but through our community it was easier to start taking steps to being counter-cultural.
The value of our relationships go beyond the walls of our local churches. Through community in networks like the European Christian Environmental Network space is given to share knowledge, resources and ideas with one another. We can encourage each other and value the solidarity that comes from knowing that whilst we are all witnessing through the care of creation in our respective places, we are also campaigning for justice together.
And when we speak together on matters of concern we amplify our voices. For example, next month in the UK many churches and church members will participate in the Speak Up Week, uniting in action to bring the issue of climate change to Members of Parliament building bridges to those in power; as CEC can on a European level.
In our disregard for creation we have severed our relationships with God, the Earth and each other. But it is through the building of bridge in the reconciliation of those very same relationships that brings hope that we can all once again rejoice in the joy of creation.’