Welcome to RCEL's blogsite

Welcome to Reading Christian Ecology Link's blogsite

"For the Church of the 21st century, good ecology is not an optional extra but a matter of justice. It is therefore central to what it means to be a Christian"
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Park URC Celebrates EcoCongregation Status and PV Panels

On Friday 24th local MP Rob Wilson presented Park URC Minister Rob Weston with the church's EcoCongregation award. The event had been timed to coincide with the completion of the pv panel installation.

Those present for the event included congregation members involved in arranging the installation and Reading CEL members. Afterwards we had an opportunity to talk with Rob Wilson - a discussion that spanned many topics of concern to Reading residents. Rob Weston took the opportunity to emphasise how important it is to the church that we respond to the needs of our neighbours in the poorest countries that are being hit hardest by climate change. While there were inevitably some points of disagreement in the discussions we all thanked him for the government's commitment to the target of giving 0.7 % of gross national income in development aid.

See press coverage here.


Owen, Rob and I were all at the Churches Together in Reading AGM the week before last and Owen delivered a report on what Reading CEL have been doing this year. It was the first time I'd attended an AGM. It was a very thought provoking evening which included presentations on the work of the Rahab Project and Reading Street Pastors. It was moving and inspiring to hear about the work that is going on in Reading at the moment, but saddening to learn from Christian Community Action how those needing their help is increasing, with far more requests for food (not really their purpose) and this more often from families (it used to be mainly single people).

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Meeting last week

We had an excellent RCEL meeting last week with representatives from eight churches in the Reading and Wokingham area. Rob Weston updated us on the exciting progress of the Park URC green energy project, explaining the difficulties of getting planning permission due to the fact that planning regulations in such circumstances do not currently put a value on reducing carbon. He plans to arrange a conference in the autumn to help other churches and users of similar buildings to follow suit and RCEL will take part in organising this.

We were very disappointed to learn that Wokingham Borough Council had unanimously voted against the Rushey Mead wind farm.

I reported on the RCCP and Operation Noah meetings described below and we began preliminary discussions for a meeting in the autumn to encourage more of Reading's churches to become EcoCongregations. Owen Jewiss from St Barnabas Emmer Green introduced Caversham One World Week group's plans to organise an event further into central Reading this year and lots of ideas and offers of help came forward to progress that. Owen also reminded us about Revd Dr. Gillian Straine's new book, For Creed and Creation. A Simple Guide to Greening Your Church and reported on the Oxford diocese's plans to encourage churches to instal pv panels across the diocese. Rachel Chilton of Tilehurst Methodists reported on further campaigning from the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and Friends of the Earth and the correspondence she has had with Alok Sharma MP on this. Owen also reported on CAFOD's latest campaign to reform UK law so that mining companies have to be transparent about their accounts and pay fair tax in the countries where they work. CAFOD are also promoting a specifically Roman Catholic green church award in conjunction with EcoCongregation called the Live Simply Award.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Park URC update

Park URC's pv panels have been installed!! For photos see here. Or for more information on the project, here.

Operation Noah Annual Supporters' Meeting

On 6th June I attended the Operation Noah Annual Supporters' Meeting at the Friends Meeting House in London. It was good at last to meet Penny Dakon Kiley whose church at Didcot will be hosting the Green Faiths event next Saturday. It was also great to see Ruth Jarman who told me that Hartley Wintney's green energy project is well under way, thanks in good part to the event promoting the use of pv panels on community buildings which was organised by GREN and RITE last November.
I arrived a bit late, but in time to hear David Atkinson, Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Southwark, speak of ON's Carbon Exodus project, encouraging us to leave the 'bondage' of the neo-liberal model of perpetual economic growth and hold on to the story of God's faithfulness despite the seeming hopelessness and constant setbacks of the journey to the promised land.
The principal speaker was Lynn McDonald, a former Canadian MP, co-founder of Just Earth and the editor of the complete writings of Florence Nightingale.
Professor McDonald reminded us that the acidification of the seas is 'quite terrifying' and that a mere 2 C rise in temperature is expected to cause 20-40% species extinction on the planet. She challenged those who talk of nature's ability to restore itself by saying that it took the planet 50 million years to recover from the extinction event that destroyed the dinosaurs.
'How we are living now is perilous, it is wrong, it is anti-Christian  . . . but we don't feel guilty' she said because our moral code does not provide for such circumstances, it does not provide for future consequences of present actions or something as massive as species extinction and she acknowledged that our attempts to limit the harm of our actions are hampered by the fact that the whole system in which we live is geared to growth. She recommended a number of authors, including Lester Brown, Plan B: Mobilising to Save Civilisation, B, McKibben, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet and J Hanse, Storms of My Grandchildren. She emphasised that scientists are still saying it's not too late to make a difference.
She suggested that faith groups should be working to make people literate and numerate in climate change, to help them understand the seriousness, saying 'what tends to be taught is light green. People don't hear hard facts very much. We have to upgrade our knowledge'. She warned that green teams can give a false message that stopping climate change can be done cheaply: 'Cheap grace won't do it'. We must resist the temptation to give a soft message and to reassure.
She also argued that it is important to work with secular experts and other faith communities, bemoaning the fact that many people think 'doing their bit' is 'sorting their garbage, not even reducing it'.
She cited Florence Nightingale's dual commitments to faith and reason, science and action. Nightingale stressed the need to 'learn the laws of health' and that mortality could be reduced by learning these. FN once remarked 'it did strike me as odd that we should pray to be delivered from plague, pestilence and famine while all the sewers ran into the Thames'.
McDonald concluded by comparing the situation with the abolition of slavery, healthcare for the poor or votes for women - profound changes accomplished often by small groups of people, but we don't have the time these took to achieve.


The latest meeting of Reading Climate Change Partnership was on 27th May.
The main points for discussion included the proposed Green Energy Opportunity, using pv panels to provide free electricity during the day on selected buildings and profit from the Feed in Tariff to tackle fuel poverty PLUS encouraging people to think more about their energy usage. The criteria for voluntary and community sector buildings who would like to apply to benefit from this will be circulated shortly by Reading Voluntary Action.
More work will be done on studying behaviour change thanks to a proposed six month internship at the University of Reading and officer time made available at Reading Borough Council.
A new climate change strategy will be required from 2013 and we need to begin thinking about that now.