This is my final mailing in the Devon Churches Green Action and EcoChurch Southwest series as I step back to retire in a few weeks’ time. Its origins were in a news bulletin which began as a paper circulation in the 1990s under the title ‘Creation, Community and Church’ and gradually evolved into a monthly emailing and then blog post.
I hope to continue my own personal writing in due course but will be taking a break of some months. Thank you all for your interest and support in our work over the past years/decades.
I trust the church in the South West will continue to be a beacon of challenge and change in the face of the ecological crises we face, working ever more for social and environmental justice.
As we know, the world is currently experiencing a new wave of nationalism and populism. In the human search for meaning and purpose, one of the appealing solutions is to retreat nostalgically in mythical past eras and places, or to be lured into simplistic social solutions to complex cultural problems.
This kind of thinking suggests that if only we can detach ourselves from the difficulties caused by others, we can recreate a more secure world unthreatened by those people we do not like or understand.
We easily stereotype or scapegoat other groups that are not like ourselves, whilst at the same time casting ourselves as unblemished and blameless. If there were no migrants or scroungers or addicts, our communities would be safer, we believe. If others were not so greedy, or wasteful, or care-less, we’d be better off – conveniently forgetting our own shortcomings and selfishness. A world divided into us and them is a first step towards condemnation and conflict.
These expressions of self-protectionism may have played an important evolutionary role in the past when we’ve needed to reinforce common borders, or build a sense of shared responsibility or setting codes of ethical behaviour. But are they now required to further the common good? We all need clear boundaries but what if they become unclear barriers?
Surely what would be better for everyone is a broader recognition of our common humanity living in our planetary common home. More than ever before we need symbols and images that unite us.
But our materially obsessed world thrusts us into being competitive consumers, purchasing self-indulgences through infinite debt. Self-possessed shoppers grasp at bargains to buy unnecessary products, passing them on to others who don’t require them in an orgy of meaningless overdose. No wonder yuletide loneliness is so endemic.
Christmas is a season which should overflow with messages of togetherness – mother and child, Jewish Shepherds and Gentile Magi, a new start from an old beginning, peaceful wholeness and social inclusion, cosmic completion through an earthly birth, a fusion of holiness and worldliness.
The first human Adam is the new-born creature from the clay. The second Adam, recognised in the Christ child, draws us back to those grounded roots. Together they remind us of our origins in a fused combination of dust and flesh. Both Adams prompt us to care about (and for) the places we inherit and to pass them on to others as we would receive them ourselves.
Christmas sees Adam re-formed as a baby of light and hope shining in the darkness of oppression, injustice and despair. As the Spirit hovers over all the earth, always the waters of Mary break open a new age of possibility…
Very best wishes for a season of loving anticipation
“I use the term ‘ecological’ rather than ‘environmental’, since with ‘ecology’ we’re thinking about the earth in terms of a set of relationships that exist between the physical environment, the living organisms, ourselves and the overall balance of life on planet Earth.”- Revd Nigel Dilkes