by Kath & Ken Dunstan
“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19)
This was the title of the virtual service on Sunday, 13th September from Foxearth Meadows near Sudbury (which is owned and run by the Christian conservation charity A Rocha UK). It would normally have been held live on the site.
Two A Rocha UK Trustees spoke about their involvement with the charity. James Pearce-Higgins, an ecologist who currently works for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Conservation Science Group at Cambridge University, stressed the importance of Romans 1:20 where St Paul says that God’s nature is demonstrated in creation. David Chandler (who previously worked for the RSPB but is now a freelance writer and wildlife tour guide) shared his qualifications and experiences, including his degree in Zoology, work in Bolivia, and his meeting with the couple who set up A Rocha in Portugal. Later he met the late Keith Morris who founded Foxearth Meadows. David said more Christians should be involved in creation care so (through A Rocha) we must teach and inspire them, set up conservation sites, like Foxearth Meadows, and support Christians working wherever they are. Care for the environment is at the heart of our faith.
Andy Jowitt used 2 Corinthians 13:14 to reflect on how The Grace speaks of caring for God’s creation. He explained how Jesus showed grace, in that “though He was rich He became poor, so that through His poverty we might become rich”(2 Corinthians 8:9). The Love of God was for the whole world – the Cosmos – not just humanity (John 3:16). The fellowship of the Holy Spirit involves sharing and partnership in reconciliation so we are at peace with God and with all creation (Colossians 1:23).
In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands, “go to all nations and make disciples” but the commission verses at the end of Mark’s gospel tell us to go to “all the world” and bring good news to “all creation”.
The service continued with two readings: Deuteronomy 11: 13 – 17 and Jeremiah 17 : 5 – 8.
Mark Prina, Reserve Manager, then spoke about how he had been affected by some words of St Francis of Assisi who said that he saw the face of Christ in everyone he met. Likewise, A Rocha’s aims to spread the spirit of love and harmony, to oppose the barriers of wealth and to plant seeds of equality for all. Everyone belongs to God so we must not see mission as a means for our own self-fulfilment.
Mark also encouraged us to live simply. Jesus’ first followers shared all they had … so God’s love flowed (Acts 4:32). Don’t crave luxury; avoid waste. Our possessions are in trust for God. This stewardship requires care for integrity. At present we have a situation where birth bestows privilege. We must recognise such inequality. For example, soya production for humans is prioritised over forest wildlife habitats. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18, the Great Commandments, especially “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”. Jesus came to fulfil, not to abolish, the law. The land is what the Lord has given us; turning away from God is not an option, so don’t worship the gods of money, power, self-fulfilment. God claims our loyalty but we seem to be tolerating injustices e.g. land-grabbing. The minor (shorter) prophets all speak out in this way.
Jeremiah 17:1-4 points out that national idolatry will lead to ruin. Mark added that we must be vigilant collectively and as individuals. Trust in man turns people away from God (v5). This makes people like a plant in the desert.(v6). Mark noted that over-use of precious land leads to collapse of powerful nation states. Blessings come from trust in God (v7) which makes people like riverside trees (v8). Heat and drought in life can’t stop them from bearing fruit.
But there is no self-help fix. I must play my part and change my heart. This is the key to God’s fruitfulness. There is hope. Jesus has redeemed me and all who call on Him. The living God took the initiative to reveal God’s self to me. I am called to tell others. We have all needed to transform ourselves and others – involving love for our neighbour which will lead to justice, peace and a restored natural world.
The Rev’d Ruth Ridge then led the prayers (see below). We shared in the words of “The Grace” and the service ended with an optional Q & A.
Images of creation used in Ruth’s prayers:
We are rooted in the earth; we can grow and bear fruit, thanks to God. God, help us withstand catastrophes so we must be mindful of the soil and all the new life that comes from it.
From a tiny seed a mighty tree can grow, so there is hope. Foxearth Meadows shows God’s peace too – with transformed lives. Help us to be the seeds of hope and plant seeds of peace.
Water is essential – in the form of seas, rivers and rainfall – in cleaning and making safe our environments, some of which have fewer supplies and so are in need.
There are many different fruits, showing many different skills for people – different roles in church and in A Rocha. Let’s share the fruits; fairer trade is needed; local projects need to continue (not just in Covid times). Make us fruitful, Lord.
Report on Foxearth Meadow’s Creationtide online service, September 2020. Report by Kath & Ken Dunstan, who serve on the Chelmsford Diocesan Environmental Group.