16 May 2017
A full house gathered on Saturday, 13th May 2017 for the Faith and the Environment Conference at Edward King House in Lincoln.
The Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, Bishop of Lincoln, was the first speaker in a varied programme that covered subjects such as the global impact of climate change; fracking; renewable energy projects; green space management; conservation; biodiversity and sustainability.
Bishop Christopher offered his reflections on the 2016 USPG International Consultation, which was held in Fiji. The Most Revd Dr Winston Halapua (Bishop of Polynesia and Primate and Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia) had issued a special invitation for the consultation to be held in this location, where some 676 villages are currently at risk of flooding due to a rise in sea levels. As Bishop Christopher said with reference to the consultation, “We learned a great deal about the far-reaching and wide-ranging impact of climate change, and we were encouraged to see the Church as ideally placed to help raise awareness because it is involved in education and in community at all kinds of levels.”
As a result, Bishop Christopher suggested that one of the purposes of the 2017 Faith and the Environment Conference was to “mobilise people of faith and no faith to see how we can raise this issue within our communities, within the environment in which we have influence.” In addition, and looking ahead on a local and international level, the bishop stated that through our diocese “We share a vulnerability to rising sea levels, and this seems to me to be a good reason to try and develop some kind of twinning relationship with the diocese [of Polynesia].”
The keynote address was delivered by the Rt Revd Graham Cray, who was previously the Bishop of Maidstone and Archbishops’ Missioner and Team Leader of Fresh Expressions. Making reference to passages from scripture, the bishop reminded his audience that ‘We are trustees of God’s creation’ and asked ‘Who is my neighbour when it comes to climate change?’, before later outlining his opposition to fracking and pointing to what is known as ‘the precautionary principle’.
Attendees also heard about community-based renewable energy projects from Dr Vicky Dunn (Project Director, Grimsby Community Energy), before Mark Schofield (Conservation Officer, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust) discussed ways in which churchyards might be managed so as to help rekindle wildlife. In addition, representatives from St Catherine’s Church in Burbage (Diocese of Leicester) offered an insight into how their church achieved national recognition in the form of an A Rocha UK Gold Eco Church Award. An award scheme for churches in England and Wales ‘who want to demonstrate that they care for God’s earth’, in recent years members of St Catherine’s have planted bulbs, plants and trees to encourage wildlife, installed cycle racks, a noticeboard made from recycled plastic and arranged wildlife-related walks and talks.
Further break-out sessions allowed for conversations in greater depth, and there were opportunities to browse an information area featuring organisations such as USPG, Green Christian, Christian Aid, Tearfund and many others.
The day was brought to a close by the Revd Richard Steel, Mission Team Leader, and then the Rt Revd Dr David Court, Bishop of Grimsby, and as they spoke a phrase offered by Archbishop Winston Halapua in a short film shown during the first part of the programme came to mind. Speaking at the end of the 2016 USPG International Consultation, the Archbishop said that “We are no longer the same people as when we started”. Thanks to the varied input, wide-ranging discussions and opportunities for shared learning, this phrase might also apply in the context of the 2017 Faith and the Environment Conference.
Further information on the 2017 Faith and the Environment Conference may be found on the conference website.