As we put up Christmas trees, write our cards and buy gifts, there is a growing call that we need to do this in a more ethical and sustainable way. While we may accept changes that we can make in our own lives and shopping habits, Helen Stephens, Head of Eco Church, asks does it really need to extend to our churches?
God’s love of creation and authority over it
‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,’ as written in Psalm 24. We live on a stunningly beautiful and intricately designed planet that we’re privileged to share, not just with the rest of humanity but with millions of other species for whom this planet is also home.
However, we have already damaged it to such an extent that the very survival of a million species is under threat and the risks to millions of our fellow humans, our neighbours, could be catastrophic. Climate change and environmental degradation are also social justice issues, most affecting the world’s poorest.
There was an ‘extinction’ garden at the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show at Hampton Court Palace this summer. The garden included the wreckage of a commercial aircraft grounded in an agricultural monocrop of wheat. It was a striking scene, designed to shock and also, in the garden designer’s own words, to: ‘Instil humility, hope and inspiration to save our natural world and our own species from Mass extinction.’
We know it’s not all down to churches to do the saving. However, surely humility and hope are virtues that we would like to be identified with in our churches, as well as providing inspiration, because - Christmas trees and turkeys aside - as Christians we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas and we know the end of the story.
We have hope because of what Jesus has done for us. Colossians 1: 15-20 gives us a holistic view of Jesus. His death on the cross and resurrection is not just for our and the rest of humanity’s salvation, it is for all things - in heaven and on earth. That’s the whole of creation; the restoration of the cosmos, no less.
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross all things can be made new and we’re invited to be part of this reconciliation and restoration work; reconciling people to God, each other and to the creation we’ve been given to look after. While we have hope in God and the future restoration of the world, in the meantime we’re called to be faithful disciples and to bring this hope to our communities.
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross all things can be made new and we’re invited to be part of this reconciliation and restoration work.
Eco Church is a way in which the church can respond to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, arguably the two biggest threats to our planet - to a fair and equal society. Joining Eco Church will provide a great framework, for the longer term, of actions that we can take in our churches that will enable us to nurture, restore and protect God’s creation even (and especially) after events like this year’s COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.
Eco Church is about celebrating creation as a gift, and critically, recognising and taking action in light of our responsibility to care for it, as a community. Churches across the country are taking action in all aspects of church life from how they manage buildings and land, to campaigning for climate justice.
These churches are part of a growing community of people who love God’s creation and who recognise that the care of God’s creation is central to Christian life and discipleship. Who better than Jesus, born in a manger, to show us this?
You can find out more about Eco Church at Eco Church - An A Rocha UK Project.