Matt Freer, freelance environment adviser to the Diocese of Oxford, co-ordinator of Earthingfaith.org on the challenge of climate change
The climate has been much on our minds recently. With weeks of rain and flooding causing distress and disruption across the country, churches in Oxfordshire and beyond played their part in providing support and refuge, with St Luke’s, in Canning Crescent, South Oxford, becoming known as the community’s ‘Noah’s Ark’.
These extreme weather events and consequential floods have brought climate change back into the media spotlight.
Politicians have again started talking about the seriousness of climate change, with David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions recently responding to prompting from Ed Miliband by saying he believes “man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces”.
Such attention has been worryingly absent for some time, and this renewed focus is welcome.
The Church has also been reaffirming its commitment to play a leading role in the effort to prevent dangerous climate change.
In February the General Synod of the Church of England voted in support of the Church strengthening its work in this area, and made clear Synod’s desire to see this include the Church’s ethical investment activities and ensure the investment policies are ‘aligned with the theological, moral and social priorities’ of the Church on climate change.
Closer to home, the Diocese of Oxford last month joined Low Carbon Oxford, the pioneering city-wide programme of collaboration between private, public and non-profit organisations, which aims to ensure Oxford’s future as a sustainable and low-carbon city.
On the ground the diocese, working with the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment, has been helping churches access expert energy efficiency advice tailored to their buildings, aiming to reduce carbon footprints and run buildings more sustainably, while also creating buildings that are warmer, more welcoming and cost less to run.
The recent Earthing Faith network gathering, which the diocese runs to encourage and resource churches to connect our faith with environmental issues, in Oxford looked at how churches are developing eco-friendly parishes.
Whether it’s hosting events and courses to explore the issues, managing churchyards for biodiversity, changing heating systems or installing solar PV panels, there is a lot happening.
As we approach Easter, Christians are preparing spiritually in Lent, a season for repentance and renewal.
Following the wake-up call of the recent weather events, repenting for our impact on climate change and renewing our response to its impacts should be part of that preparation.
Some are choosing to ‘fast from carbon’, others may go for a walk to notice the world around them, to catch the first signs of spring and take time to reflect on our impact upon it.
However you choose to mark it, Lent provides an opportunity to reflect on what has been, and, in the waiting, to renew and inspire ourselves for how we might respond to a changing climate.