“It would be a great idea to have a community picnic!” It was the year before the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and members of Churches Together in Haddenham were dreaming of ways to celebrate. I was a relatively new vicar and keen to build community. We collaborated with the parish council and a year later over 1,000 people turned up on Churchend green – families with children, older folk and people from every part of the village. Friendships were made and nurtured, much fun was had and over 400 of the picnickers stayed on for a thanksgiving service in church later in the day.
The picnic was one of many collaborative events in the village, involving church members, the parish council and others. A key local group was a newly formed environmental group now called Zero-Carbon Haddenham. Several church members joined and there was a special concern to support community. The more that happened in the village, the more people stayed to enjoy it (rather than burning carbon to go elsewhere). Friendships grew and safari suppers, children’s activities, concerts, a youth music festival and events and support for the elderly all helped a sustainable community to flourish.
Today, a community orchard project runs seasonal activities for families, and a ‘ReLeaf’ scheme gains permission to plant fruit and nut trees on unused scraps of land, such as corner verges. Members of the community are recruited to care for the trees as they become established and all can benefit from the fruit in the future. A ‘repair café’ run by Zero-Carbon within the church monthly café Fresh Expression helps people come together to mend things that would otherwise be thrown away. We moved just before the pandemic but have seen how the strong community was able to sustain folk in many different ways. Friendships between generations have provided more support for everyone, and has been especially helpful in a community with many ‘incomers’, and where relatives have been left behind in moves for work.
Supporting one another – and the environment
People ask me how church, community and creation care fit together. The answer is simple: do lots together in your local area; support one another; have fun together and you will find that creation care and human flourishing go together – and God is at the heart of it.
Next year is the Queens’s Platinum Jubilee. There is a national initiative called The Queen’s Green Canopy and I would really encourage you to ‘Plant a tree for the Jubilee’ as a community project. And do have a picnic – you never know what might result!
Margot R Hodson is director of theology and education at the John Ray Initiative, a charity that seeks to resource Christians to respond to the environmental crisis. She is a part-time vicar in Oxfordshire. With her husband, Martin, she is author of several books including A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues (BRF, 2021). This blog reflects on her time as rector of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire.