Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climate concern

Unfortunately my press release last week about today's Climate Change conference went astray, but true to form, reporter Ben Glaze called me yesterday and fixed an interview for this morning. We spent an hour together, and he took copious notes, which may lead to a post conference article. I don't mind as long as some interest is generated. Yesterday's local papers carried a nice piece about the tea room, fund-raising and renovation at St John's. I didn't see it in print, but someone sent me the web-link (here) and several who did see it expressed their pleasure. So glad we are good news worth telling. It's not always been like that.

All our conference contributors turned up and did us proud. The uncomfortable truth, clearly state from Alan Netherwood, the City's policy road map to carbon reduction from Julian Steadman, to back our thinking with facts, and then some moving powerful stories from Bangladesh and India from Subash Chellaiah, and more from Northern Kenya from Abdullah Abdi Ibrahim, a muslim working for an islamic aid organisation among drought stricken pastoral nomads whose joy and passion gave him an evangelistic campaigning vigour when it comes to communicating the need for action to all the powers that be. Paula Clifford, Christian Aid's resident theologian gave us an excellent thoughtful and realistic summing up. The evening session in St John's was led by our new assistant Bishop David and gave us opportunity for more free ranging discussion and reflection on the topics of the day.

It was all excellent and worthwhile doing. However, apart from the contributors and organisers there were only 36 participants, and only half a dozen of them throughout the day were leaders of faith communities. This was a great disappointment, given the efforts made to publicise the event. Only a handful of apologies or messages of support were received. The silence is deafening. I knew a pastor who used to say "It's easier to get forgiveness than permission" when he wanted to do his own thing. I have another version. "It's easier to say nothing, than it is to make excuses." Eventually climate concern will become an overwhelming preoccuption, a life or death struggle. Penitence and apology in those days won't extact us from the mess we've allowed to accumulate though having more 'important' things to do.

Paula Clifford made the point that the churches in Europe (not speaking for other faith groups) has largely lost its capacity to give public leadership on social and moral issues, and now has to learn how to listen, discern and follow where others lead, and to support them. I'm not so sure we are much good at doing this. Church communities seem to have become high maintenance entities which busy themselves ... at maintaining themselves and their social status quo. 'Those who save their lives shall lose them' said Jesus. What does it now mean to be 'Church for others' as Jesus was 'man for others'. 'God so loved the world ...' we declare, but is this really true of us?

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