Caring for creation, making the link between environmental issues and the Christian faith, and responding with practical action in the church and wider community
“I am establishing my covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature … of the earth …”
We are part of a single, wondrously complex web of life that is woven by God. Each year from 1 September to 4 October, the Christian family celebrates the good gift of creation. This global celebration began in 1989 with the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s recognition of the day of prayer for creation and is now embraced by the wide ecumenical community.
During the Season of Creation, we unite as one family in Christ, celebrating the bonds we share with each other and with “every living creature.” (Genesis 9.10) Every act of worship should be one that is thankful for all of the mysteries and wonders of God’s creation but, in a special way, the Season follows the Psalmists’ call to join our song of praise with the forests, rivers and fields who bring their own praise to the Creator.
The Christian family celebrates the Season by spending time in prayer, considering ways to more sustainably inhabit our common home, and lifting our voices in the public sphere. We all protect creation. It is powerfully good work that is urgently needed. This Season of Creation, we offer our reflections on the web of life itself, in the hope that they might provoke richer contemplation and deeper responses among us.
We all protect creation. It is powerfully good work that is urgently needed. This Season of Creation, we will be offering interactive reflections on the Harvest of the City (in place of the sermon) during our 10.30am Sunday celebrations of the Scottish Liturgy 1982, in the hope that the reflections might provoke richer contemplation and deeper responses among us. For perhaps it’s time to look again at the harvest for our urban community, offering to God the harvest of the lives we live. What is the harvest of our work, in all the different sectors of life and faith? How can we give thanks for the fruitfulness of our community, our local shops, schools, businesses, hospitals and so on? Giving thanks for fruitfulness in our living and workings helps us to see the deeper value of our endeavours and to recognise God at work in the ordinary, everyday parts of our lives in God’s good creation.
28 August: Harvest of Hospitality; 4 September: Harvest of Health;11 September: Harvest of Play; 18 September: Harvest of Education; 25 September: Harvest of our Gardens and Allotments; 2 October: Harvest of our Community (Also our Harvest Thanksgiving)
Week 1: The hidden kingdoms of God and of Microbes; 2: fungi - intreconnectedness; 3: plants - making food from light; 4: animals - sentience and movement (also our Patronal Festival); 5: human beings and the Anthropocene - our impact on the environment; 6: the sea and its harvest (Harvest Thanksgiving and a charity Sunday for the Mission) to Seafarers
Week 1: Seeds; 2: Roots;, 3: Leaves ; 4: Stems/Trunks our Patronal festival; 5: Flowers, 6: Fruit the feast day of St Francis and our Harvest Festival (4th October)
Creation Time is the season of the church year when we reflect on God's creation, and our role as responsible stewards of this fragile planet and its incredible biodiversity. This year we have themed the season around seeds and their germination into plants. The various parts of plants -- seeds, roots, leaves, stems/trunks, flowers and fruit -- provide themes for all six Sundays. Every household at St Ninian's was offered -- and most accepted -- a double seed kit. The hope is that members of our church -- both young and old -- will join in planting these seeds, looking after them with water, light and patience, and watching them grow -- perhaps also sharing photos of the seedlings on this website, or through social media. Above all, enjoy!"
David de Pomerai
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The Eco-Congregation movement in Scotland was launched at a service in Dunblane Cathedral in 2001; the representatives of major denominations signed a pledge regarding caring for the earth. Since then Eco-Congregation Scotland became, in 2010, a charity assisting Scottish churches of all denominations to address environmental issues. Its current mission statement, adopted in 2014 after extensive consultation, is
In prayer, worship and conversation we discover what it means to care for God’s creation.
We put that care into action individually, locally, nationally and globally, desiring to live justly in a transformed world.
We commit ourselves to campaigning on urgent threats to the web of life in our vulnerable world.
More information about Eco-Congregation Scotland can be found on www.ecocongregationscotland.org. There are over 450 eco-congregations throughout Scotland, around 12% of all Scottish churches. Some 150 of these hold an Eco-Congregation Award in recognition of progress across three broad areas of church life:
Spiritual:Making the link between environmental issues and the Christian faith
Practical: Taking practical action in the church and in the home to reduce our environmental impact
Global:Influencing attitudes and take action in the local or global community on issues like climate change
St Ninian’s registered as an Eco-congregation in April 2019, joining some 300 other like-minded congregations. An update of current activities can be found in the Church Groups section of this website.
For the 2019 Season of Creation (1 September to 4 October) St Ninian’s offered a series of interactive reflections on the web of life itself in the place of the sermon at the Sunday all-age celebration of the Scottish Liturgy 1982. The reflections: In the beginning - Earth - Air – Water - Fire - culminated in generous pledges to help various activities/charities linking to environmental issues
In the summer of 2019 Eco-congregation Scotland was setting up an Orchard Twinning Project with a well established orchard project in Hungary with the aim of inspiring church and community orchard planting in Scotland. St Ninian’s is one of 4 churches taking part in this pilot project funded by the European Christian Environment Network.
St Ninian's: planting of apple trees November 2019
On the 9 November 2019, St Ninian's welcomed the Bishop of Edinburgh, local residents and representatives of Comely Bank organisations to a ceremonial planting of a mini orchard of 5 native apple trees in the front garden. St Ninian's is one of 4 churches in Scotland selected by Eco-Congregation Scotland (ECS) to plant fruit trees with the aim of enhancing green space for people and for wildlife. ECS is a charity which assists Scottish churches of all denominations to address environmental issues and, in this case, link with orchard planting in Hungary.
Gathering in the church beforehand, guests, who included Tibor Csaba Szendrei (Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary Hungarian Embassy, Vice-Consulate in Edinburgh) and Warren Taylor (Community Matters Representative Waitrose and Partners) were welcomed by the Rector, followed by short contributions from a member of St Ninian's Eco-Congregation group, Eco-Congregation Scotland (ECS), The Orchard Project, a commmuity orchard charity which had helped prepare for the planting, and the Bishop of Edinburgh. People then moved into the garden for the tree planting and blessing by the Bishop
Environmental concerns: a personal view from a member of St Ninian's Eco-Congregation Group, Nov 2019
Today we are gathered at St Ninian’s to witness the planting a mini orchard in the front garden. This is symbolic of our concern for the environment. As a member of St Ninian’s Eco-Congregation Group I am very aware that there is mounting evidence about the scale of the climate and wildlife crises facing the world. I would like to take this opportunity to say a bit about both of these and how we are trying to address environmental issues here.
In October 2018, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world body for assessing the science related to climate change, said the world must act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was addressing the question "How can humanity prevent the global temperature rise more than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial level". This figure of 1.5 °C had been identified at the UN climate conference in Paris 3 years earlier.
In the IPCC report, the world’s leading climate scientists said meeting the target of 1.5 °C was possible but would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in society. They noted this could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society. The report says that to meet the 1.5°C target, emissions need to be cut by about 45% by 2030.
Why is things so critical now ? It is because a global temperature rise greater than 1.5°C risks triggering climatic destabilisation with drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Some believe we are now getting very close to dangerous tipping points in the behaviour of the climate. The decisions that are made in the next few years are probably the most important in our history; they are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone.
In May 2019, an independent intergovernmental body issued a warning about the damage human beings are causing to nature. IBPES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) said that that nearly one million plant and animal species risk becoming extinct within decades. The global rate of species extinction is already â€śat least tens to hundreds of times higher, than it has averaged over the past 10 million yearsâ€ť. Biodiversity, the essential variety of life forms on Earth, continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to peoples well-being.
Here in the UK there has been a long-term loss of farmland birds. For example the turtle dove which is Europe’s only long distance migratory dove, is Britain’s most endangered bird, and is heading towards extinction. A recent survey estimates that there are barely 1,000 breeding pairs left in the UK, a 98% decline since 1970. This is due to loss of suitable habitat and weed seeds on which they feed as well as the impact of hunting as they cross the Mediterranean to their wintering grounds in Africa. Bird conservation charities are trying to reverse the decline but it is possible the turtle dove may one day only exist in a well-known Christmas carol.
Action by governments and people
During the course of 2019, the UK Parliament and the Welsh and Scottish Governments declared a climate emergency, along with dozens of towns and cities. The Scottish Government has adopted an ambitious new target to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030 the toughest statutory target of any country in the world. In September, global climate strikes were held across the world, involving an estimated six million people, with the young in particular demanding urgent and radical action to solve the climate emergency. In September 2019, the term "climate strike" was named by Collins Dictionary as the word of the year 2019.
So we are at a critical junction in our history. Faith traditions have a renewed relevance in asking people to reflect on their actions and re-define what is meant by the good life. Christian concern for the environment is becoming increasingly important, a realisation of the detrimental impact of human activity on the planet, in particular high consumption and quick disposal. We all have our own decisions to make, for example by flying only when absolutely necessary and reducing meat and dairy consumption,
Against this backcloth St Ninian's has made a start. In 2018 we signed up to Faith Action for Nature, a project encouraging churches in Scotland to engage with nature, and manage their grounds for wildlife. We have built log piles for insects, a bird box and planted 2 patches of native wild flowers. Two craft workshops for children were held with a nature theme - making bird feeders and seed bombs.
In 2019 we became an Eco-Congregation and a group of some 10 church members is making plans for practical action in 4 main areas: improving efforts to "reduce, reuse, recycle"; reducing power consumption by the church; encouraging greater biodiversity in the garden; and introducing environmental issues more frequently into worship. The autumn 2019 edition of the church magazine "Candida Casa" was the first Eco-Congregation edition; it elaborated on some of the progress made at St Ninian’s: a re-usable party pack is now available for people hiring the hall for parties- we hope it will lead to a reduction in the use of disposable items and waste; in the garden, recycling bins, themselves made of recycled products, have replaced the general litter bins; tea and coffee grounds from church refreshments are being composted; and, last but not least, the planting of the mini orchard marks our commitment to the church garden as a green place for nature and for people.