Trainee Ordinand, Chris reports on his recent social context placement at Foxearth Meadows:
I’m writing this having just returned from five glorious days at Foxearth Meadows. The sun shone. The birds sang. I didn’t see an otter or kingfisher, but I was still thrilled to be there! The reason for my visit was to complete a social context placement as part of my training to be a vicar. The idea of the placement is to give you some experience of life outside of the gathered church, to what goes on in other areas of Christian engagement. Other ordinands go to places like hospital or prison chaplaincies, funeral directors, that kind of thing.
I wanted to go to Foxearth Meadows because I’m passionate about understanding, sharing, and living out God’s call for us to be caretakers of the environment; to learn how it is being done now, and how the task is changing and growing. Whilst at Foxearth Meadows, my task was to lend a hand with any activities going on, to use the time to reflect on what God is doing in this area and how humanity and God’s church is joining in, and to think about how my experience might feed into my ministry now and in the future.
During my visit, I also had the privilege of meeting Revd Lynda Sebbage from All Saints Church, Barrow. We had a great chat about the successes and challenges of galvanising churches to be mindful of the way they run their buildings and grounds, and the resources they use when the church is in use, not just on Sunday mornings. Lynda has implemented some great ideas such as a compost toilet (great for churches without running water), swift boxes, running multi-sensory eco-trails through the Church grounds, and including information about environmentalism and faith in newsletters and notice boards. Certainly food for thought for my ministry ahead.
The main focus of my visit was helping facilitate a three-day visit by a group of eleven teenagers and three of their teachers from a Christian school in Liverpool. They were visiting to learn about and get involved with the work on the reserve, and more widely about A Rocha UK. We had great fun building a dead hedge, taking soil core samples, water dip testing, creating artwork for the reserve, and learning how to coppice hazel. We also had times of worship and prayer and enjoyed marshmallows round the firepit! It was a pleasure to spend time with them, they were a great crew, worked well together and really got stuck in.
My abiding memory of my time on the reserve was seeing a barrier woven out of willow designed to reinforce the riverbank and to provide new habitats for wildlife. The reason this barrier stood out to me wasn’t just that I’d been involved in building it several months earlier on a day visit, nor that I was just pleased to see it was still standing! To build the barrier, we took thicker branches of willow, sharpened them at one end, and drove them into the riverbed to then have thinner willow woven around them. If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that the posts are budding. This struck me as such a beautiful metaphor of God’s work in Jesus, to take us and our world as broken and sinful and bring new life; even when cut off, hacked up and hammered into the ground.
All in all, a wonderful, life-giving trip and well worth a visit if you’re ever near.