Happy Season of Creation!
It is sometimes said that the environmental crisis is but a symptom of a deeper crisis, which is a spiritual one. I have a lot of sympathy with this suggestion, but what does it mean?
Spirituality, in a general sense, has to do with what makes us tick. It draws on those aspects of life which we cannot measure such as beauty, joy, kindness, love, relatedness and purpose. Spirit in most traditions implies vigour and vitality - the very breath we inhale and the life-giving energy we find in our heart of hearts.
It is thus both profound but also intangible. We may sense a deep spiritual aspect to our lives, yet we often cannot gauge or evaluate this.
However, the culture we live in tends to value only that which it can measure. We prioritise the material and concrete – money and finance, land or buildings, data and targets. Since the philosopher Déscartes divided the world into the things of the mind and the things of matter, science has evolved into a discipline largely confined to ‘measurables’. So today’s technological information age does not have much space for that which does not generate substantial results. That is why, to quote Oscar Wilde, “we know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”
At the centre of what we cannot measure are our relationships. We cannot reduce bonds of care, compassion, justice, integrity to mere figures and statistics. Relationships have to do with the quality of life more than its quantity – for instance, of having one or two closely intimate friends rather than hundreds of virtual friendships through the social media, or dozens of casual acquaintances.
Eventually all our relationships have to begin and end with the Earth. It is from the Earth that we come (and return) and it is through the Earth we are gifted the oxygen, water, plants, animals, minerals that we all need to live. But for many of us we are so detached from the natural cycles and rhythms of life that we have become fractured and disconnected.
We cannot be spiritual beings without being physical beings. We cannot be fully physical beings without relating to the wider elements that underpin life including such as bacteria or the soil or the weather. Disconnected people cannot be spiritually rich. We need to be earthed in order to be spiritual, but we need to be spiritual in order to be better earthed.
The global ecological or environmental crisis (including loss of species, pollution, resource exhaustion, climate chaos) is a consequence of the human population being out of touch with itself, with the Earth and with the Universe (or for some of us, with God). We need to realise that unless we actively care about and for the planet, the planet will not sustain us. We may have stored up lives full of material possessions (treasure on earth) but remain in poor relations with the wholeness of life (losing our deeper souls).
It is in addressing the holes and vacuums we find within us, that we can heal the brokenness of the world outside us.
Green Action events for September
- Global Book Club Exeter is looking at Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted places on 4th September at The Global Centre at 7.00pm (details)
- Season of Creation. 1st September – 4th October is now recognised as Creation Time across many churches in the world. Find a new prayer card from Devon Churches Green Action here. Also see: Churches Together In Britain and Ireland, and an excellent resource from Green Anglicans network from southern Africa here.
- Feeding Devon’s Future is the title of a new action report from the Devon Strategic Partnership (DSP). The landscape around food in Devon is one that touches all areas of life in Devon. It is recognised that the diverse aspects of food, from growing, processing and cooking through to access, affordability and food security all impact the lives of people in Devonand its wellbeing and economy. So many people and groups are involved in aspects of food in Devon but it is generally just taken for granted. The document is attached and its appendices can be accessed via this link.
- Christian Ecology Link produce regular news bulletins. A CEL call to support ‘Hope for the Future’ letter writing. Campaign can be found here.
- The Beautiful Burial Ground conference on enhancing churchyards and wildlife conservation at The Park, Exeter on 18th September 2014. (details)
- Community Energy projects. There are a growing number of ‘community energy schemes’ in Devon. These are not-for-private-profit companies which set out to tackle energy waste and develop renewable supplies at a local level. For instance, there have been 18 installations on city schools in Plymouth in the last few months. Some of these schemes are involving churches, as well as other community organisations.
For further details check out these links:
Plymouth Energy Community - http://www.plymouthenergycommunity.com/
Exeter Community Energy - http://www.ecoe.org.uk/
Totnes - http://tresoc.co.uk/
Sidmouth area - https://www.visionforsidmouth.org/energy.aspx
Wind Cooperative (North Devon) http://www.energy4all.co.uk/projects.asp?id=ENPR7&m=1
- New Ecumenical Statement from Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch (see attached) emphasises the importance of safeguarding life on Earth.
- People’s Climate March, London. Saturday 21st September. http://www.campaigncc.org/climatemarchlondon
- From Copenhagen to Paris. Meeting in Cornwall on 4th October (attached)
- Embrace us in love. Different version of Lord’s Prayer is also attached.
All places, all people, all things have about them an unexpected sacramental depth
- Archbishop Rowan Williams
with all best wishes: Martyn Goss