Saturday, 15 September 2007

The European Christian Environmental Network

I woke up this morning to news on the radio that because of melting ice the North west passage through the Canadian Arctic is open and plain sailing for the first time since records began.
This at last galvanised me into writing something about Sibiu and climate change. On the EEA3 website there's a rather slow link here which takes you (after a wait - sorry) to a page giving ideas about how to offset the environmental impact of travelling to Sibiu particularly by air. The European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) has been working on environmental issues for many years. There's lots of interesting stuff on the website including a dossier on church environmental management.
This commitment to the environment is part of the conciliar process and became visible as a result of the first European Ecumenical Assembly in Basel. Taking this commitment seriously should be part of the ecumenical pilgrimmage to and from Sibiu - many participants at EEA3 said that the assembly would actually only begin as people took their experiences home. Archdeacon Colin Williams, general secretary of CEC kept repeating that he hoped people would return to their local churches and "make a nuisance of themselves" by trying to incarnate the ecumenical spirit and message of Sibiu.
At the closing act on Sunday morning, following worship in their own confessions, participants gathered to the uniting sound of all of the churches' bells ringing out over the town. A lime tree was planted by Metropolitan Gennadios, Bishop Paglia, Elisabeth Fischer and Bishop Margot Kässmann as a sign of lasting hope.
ECEN proposes trying to finance a wood in Romania, near Sibiu as a way of offsetting the carbon impact of travel to the meeting.
The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, took this call seriously and committed himself to not travelling by air for 12 months. His journey to Sibiu took 36 hours.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople instituted September 1st as environment day. His All Holiness Bartholomeus I left Sibiu - as did commissioner Barrosso - to attend a symposium in Greenland on the Arctic Mirror of Life. On September 7th a time of silent prayer was held by participants from many religions aboard the boat MS Fram in the Arctic in the face of the melting ice. But His All Holiness had also beforehand called on peoples everywhere to join in the time of silent prayer. The event generated enormous interest and coverage as you'll be able to see by clicking on some of the links.
Bishop Margot Kässmann preached on the issue of creation at the Protestant service in Sibiu.

Three days before travelling to Sibiu I had just completed 12 months without flying and I didn't want to "celebrate" that by flying to an event which had the environment as a key part of its agenda. My carbon footprint is certainly not brilliant - I forget to turn off computers and lights, leave things on standby, use the tumble dryer far too often and am only too happy to take the car to work when my driver is available. I wonder alot about how willing I am to actually organise myself differently and use electricity and gas less profligately. Hmm... the call to conversion and responsibility for the environment is there for all of us who live in the rich world. Just becasue I travelled to Sibiu by train doesn't mean I should not also help plant the forest in Romania or try to get more involved in ECEN.
And finally, the message from Sibiu will include a call to a time for the environment in our liturgies and church life. I can't link you to the message because for political and technical reasons it's been taken of the website before the truly final version (but Ecumenical News International has a report). Think I'd better not say anymore about that!
And I've just heard on the radio about a pair of climate change campaigners who may be holding Britain's greenest wedding today with wooden rings and home grown confetti. Alexia Muskett, aged 38, and Russell Geake, aged 30, are wearing second-hand clothes from charity shops and giving all their guests low energy light bulbs as presents. They met at climate change events apparently. Read more about it here. Here's wishing them every happiness!