Category Archives: All Things Green

Eco-Church update – October

Climate Strike Exeter

A few weeks ago in our Sunday worship Martin Nicholls spoke to us about the climate emergency facing our planet and how we can respond as Christians. I was moved by the picture of Martin’s daughter Jess standing alongside the inspirational Swedish teenager and environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. As a lifelong environmentalist I feel humbled that the people to really turn up the volume on the issue have mostly been still at school.
On Friday 20 September I joined the Fridays for Future Climate Strike in Exeter. At time of writing estimates varied but between 3500-5000 people all marched from Bedford Square to County Hall, bringing our county town to a standstill.

What struck me was the huge variety of people in the crowd; young and old stood shoulder to shoulder, professionals taking time away from the office next to creatively attired green activists, people in sportsgear wheeled their bikes alongside others being pushed in wheelchairs. Why such diversity? Because this is not an issue affecting one group of people alone. It is the issue for our time. At Glenorchy we have already made a difference through our commitment to the eco-church scheme. Where next will our green journey take this congregation?

Katie Snook

Jess Nichols first met Greta Thunberg in April in London when Jess was on her way to Brussels with other young activists from the UK to meet the EU for discussions on climate change. They met again at a summit in Lausanne on the “Fridays for Future” movement (picture: Jess on the left)

Jess first got involved with the movement in January, inspired by Greta’s speech at Davos and quickly joined others in Exeter in helping to organise the first school strike here in February. She soon became a leader in the growing campaign and found herself dealing with both local and national media. A remarkable achievement for someone who, like Greta herself, has Asperger’s Syndrome. In September Jess gave an address at Exeter Cathedral : She was very involved in planning the Exeter Climate Strike described opposite by Katie, and has also worked with her young colleagues to produce this very impressive document: Green New Deal is addressed to Devon County Council, but deserves a much wider audience.

Sheila Brain

Eco Church update – September

In her book “Just Living”, Ruth Valerio writes that the Old Testament is a story of fragmented, broken relationships between God, humankind and the natural world. She points out that the state of the land acted as a spiritual barometer for the health of the Israelites’ relationships with God and with each other. She illustrates this by referring to Amos, where because the people had turned away from God and didn’t practice social justice, the land responded accordingly and there was environmental upheaval. In contrast, when people turn back to God, the trees, mountains and hills will rejoice (Isaiah 55). She adds that Jesus came to restore our relationship with God, to restore our relationships with each other and to restore the broken relationship between ourselves and the wider creation.

As I write, there is huge concern over the number of fires in the Amazon rain-forests, depleting the world’s supply of oxygen and devastating many species of insects and wild animals. Whoever is responsible, these have occurred through selfishness and greed – not necessarily that of the Brazilian people, since the fires have in part resulted from a world-wide demand for products which can be satisfied by clearing the forests for crops and cattle. Surrounding all this, we see broken relationships between people, people and God and people and creation.

At Glenorchy we’re doing what we can to care for creation, to improve the life of our community, to seek justice and to look after the needs of each other, in the context of a worshipping community. The Eco Church Award scheme we’re involved with is designed for churches like ourselves to do exactly these things. May we continue to do our best both as a fellowship and as individuals to restore relationships and bring harmony to our world out of love for our creator God.
Geoff Smith

Eco Church – July

At the Eco Church service in May, I challenged people to decide to do something for the environment that they weren’t already doing.

Thanks to those who told me what you have decided to do. Several of you remarked that you are going to eat less red meat – cattle and sheep emit methane gas which contributes significantly to global warming. And Brian Chapman suggested that on the church walks we take a bag round with us to collect any litter we come across. A great idea and let’s hope the weather improves next month to allow us to have our walk!

On 11th June the government announced it would be adopting a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. If ratified, it would make the UK the first member of the G7 group of industrialised nations to legislate for net zero emissions, a huge step forward. Welcome news as this is, A Rocha (who run the Eco Church scheme) point out that the UK is off track to meet its existing emissions reduction targets. So we need the government to bring in much bolder policies and actions to match its words and end the UK’s contribution to climate change even earlier if possible.

Geoff Smith

Eco Church – May 2019

It’s great that the solar panels on our south-facing church roof are now producing electricity and will reduce our electricity costs as well as doing our bit to help the environment. This will also help us towards our goal of achieving the Eco Church Gold Award. Thanks to Bob Austen and Bob Jones for getting through the administrative nightmare which has enabled this to happen!

At our service on 7th April, Revd Martin Nicholls spoke on the passage in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He wept because whenever prophets tried to reveal the Kingdom of God and tell the truth, the people silenced them. Jerusalem had lost the plot. Those in power were living as though they’d forgotten who they were, and what they had to lose. Martin said that we are the body of Christ today and the world is our Jerusalem. The greatest threat and thus the greatest source of sadness is Climate Change. He referred to the climate change campaigns of people like Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager, “a modern-day prophet”, and the schoolchildren around the world ‘striking’ to emphasise the gravity and urgency of the

Martin also highlighted not just the concern there should be about climate change, but the need for action. At Point-in- View they have started up their own Eco Church scheme. They are keen to recycle and save energy and have begun a litter pick in Summer Lane. Through the charity FairShare, they are helping to ensure good food is prevented from going to waste, and they are writing to the Government and our MP to campaign to get things done.

Noel Harrower e-mailed me after the service to ask whether, in response, there is something we could set up, not only related to climate change but also into peace-building. He wonders whether the ‘Prayers for Healing’ might be revived in some way, embracing prayers both for those who request it and prayers for the whole community, possibly involving playing quiet recorded music at a mutually agreed time of day. Do let Noel or me know if you have any views on this!

Geoff Smith

Eco Church update – April

Jenny Newman and I were at the March Synod meeting at Bridgwater. It included a discussion and resolution on disinvesting at the earliest opportunity the shares Synod holds in fossil fuel companies such as Shell, BP and Chevron. There was an alternative resolution which proposed a more ‘softly-softly’ approach involving working together with other parts of the URC and engaging with the fossil fuel companies as shareholders, to get them to move away from investing in fossil fuels. Voting was very close and so a decision was deferred to the next Synod meeting.
There was another resolution, which was passed – “the Synod resolves to reduce its impact on the environment” by amongst other actions becoming an Eco Synod (Yes, there is such a thing!). We are one of 14 URC churches in the South Western Synod signed up to Eco Church. Hopefully this resolution and the publicity within the Synod generated will help to increase the number substantially. In a break from routine business, there was a series of ‘break-out’ sessions in the afternoon, one of which was an Eco Workshop. Revd Rob Weston from Tavistock URC gave a
lively and persuasive talk on what we can do about global warming as individuals and churches, and there were eco questions and issues explored by representatives of churches not yet registered with Eco Church as well as those like ourselves who are.

Noel Harrower passed on a booklet produced by Christian Aid for Lent, “Rise up against climate change 2019”. We agreed to use this material in place of his “Noel’s Prayer Page”:-
It describes how Christian Aid’s partner ICODE helps small, remote islands in the Philippines to thrive. The Philippines is seriously affected by climate change and more than half the
population live in disaster-prone areas. Work is carried out to restore damaged fishing ecosystems, such as building an artificial reef to prevent illegal fishing and protect fish stocks.
Training is provided to enable fishermen to diversify, including production of seaweed ice-cream (!), noodles and pickles. And they are taught what to do when typhoons hit, such as
Typhoon Haiyan which battered the Philippines in 2013. Let us give thanks for organisations like Christian Aid who carry out such fantastic work to help people “rise up against climate change”. Let us be willing to do our own bit to reduce the effects of climate change and to give back to the environment what we have wrongfully taken. Let us pray that richer nations stop the activities which are destroying the environment and violating the rights of the poorer nations. Let us rejoice too in the beautiful created world which God has given us.

Here is a prayer from Christian Aid’s website written by Katrina Rowland:
You spoke into the silence, llght suffusing darkness
You spoke into the silence, blowing clean life-giving air into the space.
You spoke into the silence, warmth and cold infusing the air.
You spoke into the silence.

Geoff Smith

Eco-Church update – February 2019

Almost every day we read or hear of news about our environment. Often the news is negative – like that about the fatberg found a few weeks ago in the Sidmouth sewers – caused by fat and cooking oil being poured down kitchen sinks and non-flushable products flushed down loos.

More rarely is the news positive. One example of good news I recently saw is that renewable energy from solar panels and wind turbines supplied a record 33% share of total UK electricity production last year. According to the environmental analysis website Carbon Brief, electricity generation in the UK has fallen since 2005, with generation per person now back down to the level of 1984. EU product standards on light bulbs, fridges, vacuum cleaners and other appliances have apparently played an important part in this. In fact, making products more efficient has so far been more effective in cutting our CO2 emissions than renewables have in replacing fossil fuels.

The report goes on to say that installing a single low-energy LED bulb may make a trivial contribution to cutting the carbon emissions which are overheating our planet, but if millions do so their efforts will make a small but significant dent in the UK’s energy demand. And changing from a B or C-rated fridge to an A++ rated fridge can halve the energy use so if this is done on a large scale the differences will similarly be significant. This doesn’t just apply to households. Firms including supermarkets have improved their lighting and refrigeration efficiency. And for both, using less energy has often offset the rise in energy prices, so despite prices having gone up, some bills have gone down.

Those who advocate efficiency improvements say that applying them to everything from planes and cars to computer displays and freezers offers the best-value carbon reductions without having to confront people with restrictions on their lifestyle choices. At Glenorchy we’ve reduced our energy consumption by installing low energy light bulbs, insulation and double glazing where we can – actions which are consistent with the Eco Church initiatives. We’re also committed to minimising our use of water (we are on a meter), printer paper and lighting.

And in particular we’re doing our bit to reduce carbon emissions – and our energy costs – by installing solar panels which should hopefully be in place on our church roof shortly after you read this. Individually we can all do our bit to help the environment by doing the same type of things…… as well as making sure we don’t contribute to any potential Exmouth Fatberg!

Geoff Smith