month I wrote about our churches being places that enabled the
restoration of God’s creation - people and planet. This was
appreciated by some but referred to as ‘preaching’ by one -
something that made me smile inwardly - after all, that’s what I‘m
called to do.
Across universities and development charities like Christian Aid,
there is widespread support for Climate Strikes. Not because they
believe in inconveniencing people, but because they have studied the
science and know that the time for endless talking is over. As the son
of a nature reserve warden I have watched for 40+ years as
environmentalists have educated, petitioned, fundraised and lobbied to
save nature and yet in my lifetime the populations of the UK’s most
important wildlife have plummeted by an average of 60%.
When 11,000 scientists across more than 150 countries ask us to behave
like we are facing an emergency, maybe it’s time to listen and act.
Throughout history the big shifts, the big changes, have only
come after a struggle; the limiting of the Monarch's absolute power by
the Magna Carta, the vote for women, the end of apartheid in South
Africa, civil rights in America. All involved struggle. All were
profoundly ‘messy’. The science is clear, the debate is over - the
time for change is now and those most affected by it, those who will
have to live with it the longest, our young people, are the ones most
vocal, because they have the most to lose. But now they are joined by
professionals, grandparents and working women and men.
The church agonises over the drift of our young people away from
the life of faith.
They are drawn to and energised by people who speak with passion and
integrity. The Church has a choice - we can get involved, marrying words
and action with integrity, or we can be seen to have chosen to sit on
the sidelines and be ignored or viewed as part of the problem. Can we
honestly speak of a God of love and then continue to live as though the
climate crisis is just an inconvenience? Driving our cars for our daily
cup of coffee? Or buying plastic Christmas presents while planning this
year’s flight or cruise?
The Church of England
report ‘From anecdote to evidence’ states “Just as willingness to
change and adapt was associated with growth, the survey findings point
to evidence that unwillingness to change by congregations leads to
decline.” All of us find change difficult, but some people are
able to adapt quicker than others to such changes.
Advent is traditionally a time to prepare ourselves for
Christ’s arrival anew in our lives.
The readings that the Church offers us are tough, harsh even - calling
us to repent, turn from all that separates us from God; to change our
ways and to build a future different from the past. A future fit for
Christ - fit for a king born in a cave, who met people’s needs rather
than their wants, who stood separate from and challenged the powerful
and the rich.
The challenge for the
church of today, and the challenge that will be there for the church of
tomorrow, remains what it probably always has been, and that is to stay
in touch, or to get in touch with the people that it says that it wants
to lead to Christ.
May God grant us the
ability to do that.