- Written by Philip Dorling
I am feeling a little sombre at the moment. It may be because I have a new grandchild and I am thinking about what future legacy are we going to leave her. As we know, there are wars and rumours of war constantly. Numerous places where there is injustice and poverty, which has never been globally addressed. We try to shift the problem of refugees, without asking the real question of how can we prevent such tragedy, which affects millions of people. This in turn encourages hidden slavery, and there are more slaves now than at the height of the slave trade. Then of course, to top all these things, we must look to the effects of climate change and global warming. This has affected the poorest nations first, but will come to our door very shortly.
This year we have heard of places such as South Korea, Japan and China who have had over and above the normal rainfall during the rainy season of June and July. This brought death and destruction to many communities. I know South Korea a little and I have been there during the rainy season. The rain is expected and looked forward to, as it will sustain the country for the rest of the year. This year, unlike most, I am sure it has brought fear and anxiety. This has even affected the Scout movement and their Jamboree which was being held there as I write this. Many were moved from the campsite into hotels because of the extreme heat. Then everyone was sent home because a severe typhoon was expected.
Then elsewhere, as we know, there have been fires ravaging areas of land and there is talk of poor harvests which have been the result of intense hot weather. We have been warned for some time of the melting of the ice-caps and rising water levels. One of the prisoners at Haverigg said he was very saddened when he saw a programme showing dead coral reefs, once alive with life and colour, but now white and dead because of the warming of the seas. Someone said to me recently that it has all happened before, it is just climate change. This may be so, but undoubtedly, it is us the human race who has tipped the delicate balance over the centuries.
I cannot help think of the anthropocentric nature of humanity throughout history. How our wants, and more than our needs, have always been above everything else. We have a need for power for example President Putin, Donald Trump and even ourselves.
I have often thought how sad it is that the Church was such a latecomer in bringing to the attention of the world the need to care for our planet. It took organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to remind us that we are meant to be caretakers not overlords, and for many years we ignored their cry.
During the recent past months in June and July, the Sunday readings and collects have reminded me of the General Confession in the Book of Common prayer. “We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done: And done those things we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.” Uncomfortable words but so true.
Many of the Old Testament Prophets and John the Baptist all called for repentance: a broken and contrite heart God will not despise. Jesus told us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbour as ourselves. A call to think of our actions in all we do.
Harry A Williams, in his book True Wilderness, talks of repentance. He speaks of it as not just feeling guilty or sorry for our actions, but it means discovering something about ourselves and realising the potential that we have within ourselves. “Discovering that you have more than you dreamed or knew.” If that is true, it means taking an undiscovered path and venturing on new ground. He expresses the opinion that this new direction is not a sudden activity but a deepening of growing in faith. With it will come many frustrations, but it will also be truly life giving. The repentance Williams is talking about is a very personal one of our individual relationship with God, our own journey with God.
However, what if this visionary repentance is reflected in our churches? That we take on this wider repentance as a church. Which in turn reflects our actions. We are asked by the diocese about our carbon footprint. In many of our churches, because of their age, we can do little to change the way the buildings are heated, or how we retain that heat. Solar panels are not possible. However, we can do something about our money. Where do we bank? Have we asked the question of our banks about their ethical policies. Where do our banks invest their money? Money is powerful, economics is powerful, it even determines the price we pay for our coffee in a coffee shop, large or regular. The Church invests amounts of money both individually and as a whole, irrespective of denomination. There is a lot of information about Ethical Banking that can be explored.
It is also the little things. Do we think of what coffee or tea we have on a Sunday morning in church? Is it Fairtrade? Have we supported local? Fairtrade, once small, is now found in most supermarkets. Do we personally hold shares in companies and do we bother about the share holders’ meeting? What influence can we have? I once went to a share holders’ meeting of Procter and Gamble, eye opening to what consumer pressure can do. What charities do we support if any at all? As we ask for money from our parishioners, do we tithe as a church and pass our good gifts on to others?
Yes, much of the actions that are happening, we cannot change, but we are people of God and God brings hope and salvation. Yet God needs people to work for change. Miracles come when people turn prayer into action. Let this not be just a bitter harvest but one of repentance and joy.