I am writing to you in my capacity as the lead Bishop for the environment in the Diocese and on behalf of the Diocesan environment working group which I chair. I am very grateful for all your ministry amidst the challenges of the pandemic and I am acutely aware that at this moment the main focus for most of our churches is on how we slowly begin to reopen on a more normal basis. However, as we are all aware, the huge issues around the environment and climate change have not gone away and if anything had become even more pressing. It will be very important in the weeks and months ahead that we all do as much as we can in our churches and our individual lives to engage further with the environmental issues.
So the reason for this communication now is that there are some significant events and activities coming up this year, and it would be good to begin thinking and praying further about our engagement. I intend to send a further briefing, probably in May, to give more details and hopefully by then we will be in a better place with regard to the pandemic and with more time and space to focus on other matters.
“Sometimes, God pulls the threads of circumstance together and our lives are changed forever. This year has been an extraordinary example of such a moment.” Archbishop of Canterbury
Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury addressed international faith leaders with these words, calling on them to take positive action at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) which will be hosted by the UK in November. The past extraordinary year has made clear how globally connected we are as a species, and how intertwined human life is with that of nature. Our damage of the world is directly damaging ourselves and as we contemplate this harming of God’s Creation we see too the social injustice wrought by the climate crisis. Now, as we gradually move out of lockdown into a new phase, we have the opportunity to reflect upon these challenges and to begin to take action. I would like to draw your attention to the following three campaigns:
1. Climate Sunday
In the lead-up to COP26, I encourage Southwark churches to join the Climate Sunday campaign. This is an initiative by a broad coalition of Christian charities and denominations, running throughout the year and culminating on 5th September, in which congregations are invited to hold a climate-focused service on the Sunday of their choice between Easter and the summer, to commit to reducing carbon emissions, and to raise their voices in support of climate action.
2. Fair Energy Campaign
In our collective journey towards becoming carbon neutral, I hope that all churches will take the simple but meaningful step of switching to a renewable energy supplier and I commend the Citizens UK Fair Energy Campaign. This initiative provides resources for churches to run a ‘Fair Energy Switch Day’, in which both churches and individuals have the opportunity to save money on their energy bills, combatting fuel poverty at the same time as reducing carbon emissions. (Email Laura for further information.)
3. Eco Church Scheme
Finally, if your church hasn’t yet signed up for the Eco Church scheme, I hope you will add this to your PCC agenda as soon as possible. As a registered Eco Diocese, Southwark is well on the way to achieving a Bronze award, and the Eco Church scheme provides an invaluable practical framework for environmental action at all levels. You can read about this in the centre of February’s issue of The Bridge. Tearfund have just released a powerful piece of research entitled ‘How the Church Could Lose Young People Over Climate Inaction’, in which teenage Christians express their desire for the church to join the jots between biblical teaching, faith and action. Our work with children and young people intersects with Eco Church just as climate action intersects with our striving for social justice.
The Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) team at Southwark are keen to support churches in finding their own way of taking environmental action so don’t hesitate to contact them for further information on these or other environmental matters. We have recently welcomed to the Diocese a new Head of JPIC, Nicola Thomas, who is supported by our Environmental Admin Coordinator Laura Baggaley, both of whom would be delighted to hear from you. Our Diocesan Environment Officer and Area Environment Advisors are also on hand to help in any way they can: Diocesan Environment Officer: Sue Mallinson , Croydon Area Advisor: Revd Dr Timothy Astin, Kingston Area Advisor: Ian Christie, and Woolwich Area Advisor: Revd Dr Catherine Shelley.
I pray that 2021 will be a year that sees the beginnings of a green recovery from difficult times, and positive climate action in churches and communities all over England.