In the third part of our series highlighting the work of Scottish Episcopal Church partners, we hear from Eco-Congregation Scotland.
Every year, the Church in Society Committee invites grant applications from organisations working on a variety of issues in Scottish society, and includes projects from the local, such as providing school uniforms for a local primary school, to the national, such as a third sector coalition combating climate change.
Here, Richard Murray, Lay Reader in the Aberdeen & Orkney Diocese and now chairperson of Eco-Congregation Scotland, explains the organisation’s role:
“Although we may think as individual churches that the climate emergency is too big for us to resolve by our individual effort, nevertheless when we become a community of others, companions along the path, the pilgrim spirit becomes contagious,” says Richard.
“ECS understands the need to create a single coordinated voice to raise urgent environmental issues. As members, everyone has a clearer sense of how each church can play their part in the public forum, disseminating information and best practice, and investigating potential benefits for the common good.
“For example, four eco-congregations in the Banchory area of Deeside, including St Ternan’s Church, came together to study Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’. Reading his wise words and humbly listening to one another, sharing experiences and expertise, they had a better sense of what needed to be done. A planning group formed and, rather like the missionaries sent out by Jesus, they engaged with all parts of their civil society to plan a number of projects.
“Although the pandemic has disrupted many of these plans, a major biodiversity project is underway to make Banchory a wildlife friendly town. The Banchory group is also now part of the NE Scot-land climate action network, a model for local communities engaging with the government, regional authorities and big businesses, which is being repeated across Scotland.”
Richard continues: “I was delighted to tell this story when part of an international Christian faith panel on climate activism arranged by the Vatican, which was examining community‐building, an environmental citizenship that encompasses different levels of civil engagement.
“The task of praying and working together to protect our planet is a priority for all churches. Liturgy is at the heart of our faithfulness, carried out to enhance the public good and in the spirit of turning challenges into opportunities. ECS is delighted that the Faith and Order Board and the College of Bishops have approved the introduction of a Season of Creation to the liturgical calendar, as a way of responding to the climate emergency and the ecological crisis.
“This is why the Church in Society Committee is keen to support financially the post of the Eco-Chaplain, Rev David Coleman. As a URC minister, member of the Iona community and having a post-graduate qualification in media studies, he brings many gifts to the role. Based in Edinburgh, David spends much of his time visiting congregations, online or in person, providing creation-themed services.”
Mr Coleman says: “Since concern for a partnership with Creation is native to all Christian traditions, the background of climate crisis actually deepens and enriches the particular gifts and treasures of each. Thus, both in existing and developing liturgy, as well as in the observance of the seasons of the Church year, we find resources to build our hope, our spiritual resilience, and our readiness to encounter the challenges that, inevitably, lie ahead. ‘Bells ring’ of meaningfulness, not just in Creationtide, for which we provide original resources, but also especially in the dark and dangerous themes of Advent, where we prayerfully consider the ‘turning of the ages’.
“Liturgy keeps the difficult themes in view and helps us bring the shocking truth about the state of the planet on to holy ground. The awareness of crisis demands that we bring to bear the best we have, for the good of all.”
[There are over 500 eco-congregations in Scotland. If your church wants more information about Eco-Congregation Scotland, click here https://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/get-involved/ for details of how to get involved)