These are bleak times. We live not just with a global pandemic, but accelerating climate change and species loss. Is there hope? And can A Rocha UK realistically make a difference?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes’ to both – if we have confidence in what we know, humility about what we don’t, openness to work with others, and the faith to go where we believe God is pointing us.
A Rocha UK was founded twenty years ago as a local Christian conservation project in a deprived and multi-ethnic area of Southall, west London. That work goes on, based at our Wolf Fields reserve. But who would have dreamed that A Rocha UK would now be leading a fast growing network of Christian organisations committed to managing their land for nature, with Partners in Action in all four UK nations? Or that we would be facilitating an Eco Church movement of more than 3,100 local churches in England and Wales, learning how to care for creation in all they do. Or that we would be hosting an ‘online community’ – the phrase hadn’t even been invented 20 years ago – of ‘Wild Christians’ caring for nature. Of course, there have been hard times and setbacks too. But we are amazed at where God has led, and often carried, us.
But we also grieve, as we believe God grieves, for the loss of species; and we long for a stable climate and clean oceans unpolluted with plastic. It is his creation, after all. And we are not blind to the immense challenges ahead if humanity is to halt and even reverse this damage. Time is extremely short to avoid runaway climate change or mass extinction of species. The UK itself is one of the most nature-poor countries in Europe while the pandemic has exposed how vital access to nature is for mental health – as well as how unevenly this is distributed between the poor and better off in the UK. And scientists are warning that we should expect more pandemics of ‘animal’ viruses unless we restore animal habitats.
So, where is our hope? In a faithful loving God, yes. And in seeds we believe he has planted and will grow. For example: In the UK a fast-growing number of churches, denominations and networks now recognise the importance of caring for creation in the whole mission of the church. With more than 50,000 worshipping communities in the UK – with all our buildings, land, people, prayer etc – Christians and churches have truly colossal potential to make and demonstrate change in every corner of the land.
There is much greater willingness than previously for Christian organisations to collaborate with secular and those of other faiths, around the environment, offering a way to build community and defuse conflict in the process. There is much greater public awareness of the need for urgent action to prevent environmental disaster, and the younger generation – the future leaders – are demanding it.
So what do we believe God requires of A Rocha UK in the critical decade ahead? Firstly, to hold true to our mission: To equip Christians to protect and restore the environment – for God, nature and all people. Secondly to invite all Christians and churches to join us in helping bring about a bold vision of change which we can summarise as:
- Land for nature: We want to see land owned by denominations and networks, Christian organisations and Christian individuals being managed for nature.
- Christians for nature: We want to see local churches and Christians engaged in deliberate and on-going action to protect nature and address climate change practically and by using their voice to speak up for change.
- Nature for All: We want to see the general public actively benefiting from access to nature on land owned or managed by UK churches, Christian organisations and individuals.
To achieve this we will need to work in new ways. And we will need many more people to join us with their time, prayer, voice and support. But if this vision is from Him, we believe God will provide.
Please pray for staff, trustees and volunteers as we refine practical plans to advance this vision.
Image by Albert Butcher: Kingfishers at A Rocha UK’s Foxearth Meadows Nature Reserve