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


At the bottom of the right hand side bar there is a list of environmental organisations with a great many resources for churches and individuals. Below are some video resource ideas followed by notes from a talk about why and how Christians can care for the environment

Great u-tube video from the makers of The Story of Stuff about bottled water

Films with an environmental theme useful for showing to children
The Lorax (even 'greener' than the book)
Arctic Tale
Evan Almighty (PG due to innuendo but that went over our 6 and 8 year olds heads completely)

Notes for a talk by Jo Rathbone who used to run the EcoCongregation Project.

'Why should - and how can - Christians care for the environment?'
Didcot Methodist event
Sat 18 June 2011

  1. God appears in Gen 1 to give humanity particular responsibility: “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”
    1. what kind of ‘dominion’ is this? In the past Christians have used this as an excuse to dominate (visual aid: crown). Indeed, in Israelite history, we see plenty of domination over the non-human (and human) creation (just look at what Solomon did to the forests of Lebanon in building his palaces and temple). But I think God’s If God is our model, then God repents of God’s capriciousness in causing the flood, and instead creates a new covenant including all creation (that God will never again act unilaterally, but instead woos humanity, persuading and cajoling humanity to a vice-regency which reflects the nature of God’s own Kingship, and provides Torah as a framework for mutuality between humanity and the non-human creation. As King of kings, God gives away God’s power to humanity, giving humanity advice over the limits of interaction (‘you shall not eat…’). It’s a picture of self- imposed limiting of exploitation.
    2. In case we don’t get the idea, in Jesus, God demonstrates precisely the kind of kingship –or should we say ‘kinship’ – that God has in mind: servanthood, service, nurturing, encouraging, blessing, healing, restoring (visual aid: towel, jug of water, bowl).
    3. We have to admit that we have power. The question is: how are we going to use it. Are we going to dominate or are we going to establish God’s domination-free way?
  2. The corollary of the picture of dominion, in case we hear dominion and imagine ‘domination’, is given in Gen 2: we might have dominion, but actually we’re part of creation, not separate from it.
    1. Gen 2 creation story: God forms humanity from the humus (visual aid: soil): The Lord God formed humanity from the dust of the ground : we are made from humus: humans from humus
Hubris – excessive pride or arrogance, leading to demise or downfall or ruin
unless we have regard for the non-human parts of creation, we won’t be here!
in other words, how can we NOT care for creation? Not to care for the source of our physical sustenance seems to me to be the greatest arrogance, and basic misunderstanding of how the planet works! And I think God has given us plenty of warning about that…
  1. It’s what we’re aiming for – shalom (so weakly translated as ‘peace’) The Hebrew notion behind this word is life as God intends -
everything fitting perfectly together
As a verb it can mean:
to be complete
to finish
to make an end of

It’s a cosmic vision:
The wolf will live with the lamb,
   the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
   and a little child will lead them.
For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Jesus is the person anointed and empowered to bring this vision into reality, to establish this age of shalom: Prince of Shalom: he is our shalom
Blessed are the shalom-makers; they shall be called the children of God.

This word or concept is principally a declaration about relationships – our relationships with God, with other humans, and with the rest of creation:
infinite in variety and number
yet all fitting together and expressing themselves in perfect harmony
the world as it ought to be: experiencing completeness, unity and fullness

And this is the vision, this is our destiny: all God’s purposes are headed towards this ultimate end. But to experience it is to be exposed to the radical shock of the kingdom of God. When Jesus talked about his vision of the kingdom, it was shocking; it involved things being turned upside down; assumptions challenged; what was thought to be important became irrelevant; the small and insignificant became the means for the kingdom to come.

Perhaps the shock of that message now is that we can no longer rampage around the planet pleasing ourselves, without the resultant imbalancing of the delicate web of creation (visual aid: get small group to pass string between and across the group, so they create a web of string, enough to suspend an inflated globe on. Then ask 1 or 2 to let go of their string – the globe is no longer supported by the web).

We have to recognise that we are part of that web of creation! Will we use our power to destroy the web?

I believe that our purpose, our destiny, our fulfillment as human beings and as children of God, is to bring this vision into reality, to nurture those relationships which encapsulate, or embody this vision.

To me that means looking after the creation in which God has brought us to being, understanding its delicateness, giving up our demands for the sake of other parts of creation. In the same way that Shalom speaks to us of social integration, and our responsibilities for other humans, it also teaches us about our dependency upon the very humus from which we were made. We need to care for that humus, that soil, and everything else which came from it also, but not as those who dominate, but as those who care passionately about every aspect of what God has made, and as those who are prepared to serve.


This is the difficult one, as we are so enmeshed in human structures which by their very nature damage the earth. Everytime we use a bank, we are complicit in an economic system which is based upon unlimited availability of the earth’s resources, and we know that the assumption is simply wrong.

So how do we do it? What actually do we do?

2 levels of response:
  1. Indivs or households or families.
    1. We can make decisions for ourselves, and those decisions can determine things at many levels:
        1. whether or where we work,
        2. where or how we live,
        3. how we acquire the energy that we need, the food we need, the clothes we need
        4. whether or how we travel
    2. But the difficulty for us is that we don’t exist as atomised individuals. Some can more easily make decisions, but for others of us it is very difficult if those who are close to us don’t perhaps share our desire to make radical decisions.
    3. I can only share my own experience, which is that for 30 yrs I’ve been trying to do things which impacted positively on the planet and its inhabitants, rather than negatively. But there are some directions that I haven’t been able to go, because I got married 20 yrs ago, and my husband doesn’t share some of my ideas about how we can best respond to the environmental crisis. So there is compromise. I’ve been working away trying to enable my children to resist the indoctrination from the rest of society about how we might be able to live, but it’s bloomin’ hard!
    4. For eg, we decided to that we would invest money (which we have because my husband has had a steady job as an academic for many years) in making our house produce less carbon dioxide. So we’ve been able to
      1. fit solar thermal tubes, and more recently a wood boiler. But ironically, we have borrowed more money to enable us to do that, and so now I am working full time back in my old career as a social worker to try and pay off the debt! So you see the tangles!
      2. We insulated our coldest bedroom by drylining with insulated plasterboard.
      3. We got rid of our car.
      4. We changed our way of shopping so that we can avoid the major supermarkets and use co-ops, and can afford to buy an organic box.
    5. But, one daughter is good at languages, and wants experiences in Germany, so although I have a commitment not to fly, she is not old enough to undertake a long journey on the train on her own, but can cope with flying!
    6. These are the sorts of dilemmas with which we have to tussle. But to me, this is part and parcel of trying to respond to the demands of the gospel.
  2. Communities
    1. One way that we can help with working out these struggles is to share the struggles with others. So community is part and parcel of our response. I feel privileged to be part of CEL which is currently trying to enable those of us who want to take our responses to the environmental crisis seriously to get together and share our journey. I’m also part of a very small church which meets in our house, and with whom it is easier due to the small size of the group, to share the deeper struggles which I think discipleship demands.
    2. What I’ve also learned from the Transition movement is that it is possible to wrest control of our destinies back from big business and government, and make decisions for ourselves which can create resilience, and change structures which can benefit a much wider community.
    3. The threats to our communities are great from the oil crisis, and the fact that we have built up society based on cheap oil, and it now isn’t. How are we going to respond to the increasing cost of living in a society built around cheap energy? The opportunity for the church and wider civil society to embrace the challenge is fantastic. We can prepare for sharing, build up small community groups, re-introduce interdependence, local resilience, local skill sharing, borrowing, growing together, harvesting to share… We will need to re-discover the skills of previous generations, and rebuild communities which have been atomised by greed and the demand for more fuelled by an economic system with a voracious appetite for profit at any cost.

I don’t think that there are necessarily any clear, easy answers. It is all a struggle, an engagement, but one that is part of our looking to the future, and bringing in the shalom which is our destiny to fulfill.