Opportunities to reflect on the Environment & Human Ecology.
Inspirational people, dates and times for action and occasions for reflection throughout the year. Some are fixed dates, others change each year. Dates that change are marked in Italics the date given being that in 2016.
1st Day of the Month – Operation Noah suggests the first day of each month is kept as a day of Prayer and Fasting for the Climate: www.prayandfastfortheclimate.org.uk/
3rd Weekend of the Month – An activity is offered for the third weekend of each month which roughly coincides with the winter and summer Solstice and spring and autumn Equinox. Some of these have been drawn from ‘Mystic Christ Publications’ (References at the end.)
5th – Lanzo Del Vasto Founder of the Community of the Arc (Website in French) Lanzo Del Vasto was named ‘Shantidas’ meaning ‘servant of peace’ by Ghandi. He lived in Ghandi’s Ashram and returned to Europe with the same ideals. “For the companions of the Ark, nonviolence was a way of acting that derived from a way of being. It meant refusing to exploit others, even as one refused to submit to exploitation. And so they struggled to make themselves as self sufficient as possible, living on the land, raising their own food, making their own clothes.”
6th – Epiphany The new revelation in the Good News of Jesus is that God’s blessings are for all races, cultures and nations, not just for Jews, or just for those at home in church culture, or those of one colour or race. A time for symbolic gifts and silent mystery at the ancient knowledge of following starlight.
8th – Galileo Galilei. Scientist, who sought to prove the theory posited by Copernicus that the earth revolved around the sun. Galileo was posthumously absolved of his heresy in the 1990’s by Pope John Paul II. There remains a tendency to claim that the church, as it was once said of the earth, cannot move. To this the legendary words ascribed to Galileo remain appropriate. In making his abjuration, he is said to have whispered under his breath, “Nevertheless, it moves.”
10th – Anglican Communion Sunday.
Anglican Communion Environmental Network
16th /17th – Activity: Jar of Soil. Half fill a jar with soil from your garden or a place near to where you live. Top it up with water and give it a good shake. After a few days it will have settled into layers. Heavy sand particles at the bottom, Silt in the middle and Clay at the top. This is the unique footprint of the earth where you live. Compare your sample with others to understand how each place is different. This also begins to explain differences in growth of plants in different regions.
18th – 25th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity “Salt of the Earth”
Bilingual resources (Welsh and English)
31st – Creation Sunday
(Sunday next before Lent. The official lectionary has no room for it in 2016 as Easter is early) A Large number of resources are available especially in: ‘A Heart for Creation’
1st – Bridget, San Ffraid. Bridget was the name of the ancient Celtic Sun Goddess. Bridget of Ireland lived in an era when Christianity was overlapping with traditional Irish religious observance and so there has been a certain unease about celebrating this saint. However this interweaving of the old stories and the celebration of Candlemas during the pre-christian spring season of Imbolc (often translated Ewe’s milk) gives us opportunity to make the most of this early spring festival. Bridget is remembered for her attention to creativity, to poetry, learning and the arts. Her monastery at Kildare is also remembered as a place of healing. There is a lovely story and play in the book: ‘Hay and Stardust’ Instructions on how to make a ‘Bridget Cross’ are in ‘Forest Church’
2nd – Candlemas: or more properly, the Presentation of Christ at the Temple. This festival is also known as the Purification of Mary, hence in welsh it is known as Gwŷl Fair y Canhwyllau. Clearly there is more than one strand here as the associated passages from Luke’s Gospel portrays. It is the proper time to mark the end of the Christmas/ Epiphany season and the coming of the new light as spring is upon us and the warmth is returning in the earth. The coldest part of the year occurs around four weeks following the winter solstice (Dec 21st) so by the beginning of February, the warmth should be returning to the earth (based on average temperatures!). Giving thanks for the promise of new light and life in Christ and in the world in the coming year is celebrated here.
10th – Ash Wednesday: Beginning of Lent. Although fasting is a traditional practice for some during lent, beginning something new or making a positive change can also be appropriate. A six week Lenten challenge reflecting on environmental action is included in the book ‘A Heart for Creation’
20th/ 21st – Activity: Wandering/ Wondering. Walk with no clear instructions. Use the ‘Misguide’ activities to exploring your place. Use the Sensio Divina exercise to focus your attention on where you are. Be aware of what is around you where you are. Tell your story, keep a journal of your explorations.
29th Feb – 13th March Fairtrade Fortnight 2016: ‘Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers’
19th/ 20th – Activity: Begin a ‘GrowZones’ group. Grow Zones is a community project bringing help and inspiration to your garden, wonderful food to your table and adding friendship and purpose to your life. We’re clubbing together to share our skills, tools and produce to eliminate food miles and turn our gardens over to natural growing at whatever level you want – from a redesign of your whole plot to simply helping and sharing with someone else’s once or twice a year.
Interested? Resources are available from Stuart Elliott.
21st – Spring Equinox: Marks the beginning of the lighter half of the year. Half way between mid-winter and mid-summer. Easter falls around this time. In the northern hemisphere we celebrate this as a time of new life, fertility and the promise of regeneration as we watch the world come back to life and remember the resurrection of Jesus.
16th/ 17th – Activity: Foraging. Invest in a good foraging handbook, or take an experienced forager with you. Always wash your harvest before eating. Always try a little of each plant if you are not used to eating wild grown leaves and plants. Try making a salad, risotto or omelette with the following: Sorrel, Deadnettle, Hedge bedstraw, Comfrey, Landcress, Garlic mustard, Wild garlic, Hawthorn leaves, Dandelion, Nettle (cooked), Chickweed, young Birch leaves, Small leaved Lime leaves, Dock, Vetch, Bristly oxtongue, Smooth sow-thistle, Self heal.
22nd – Earth Day
1st – Rogation Sunday
2nd, 3rd, 4th – Rogation Days
From the latin Rogare ‘to ask’ Rogation has often been an occasion to ‘beat the bounds’. However, another interesting way to mark this is to walk within the boundaries of the parish on seldom walked paths or visiting forgotten places. ‘The Misguide to Anywhere’ is a helpful resource.
21st/ 22nd – Activity: Awakening Super Senses. Connecting with nature uses our senses. Preparing our senses to be as keen as they can be is an important place to be begin. It is also possible to have some fun with sensing games. Owl and Hawk eyes, Dear ears, Racoon touch, Fox walking, Dog nose, Body radar and Silent stalker are all described in ‘Forest Church’
28th – Melangell
It is said that Melangell shared a close connection with the earth so deep that the veil has lifted slightly and the spiritual realm is allowed to penetrate the physical. St. Melangell’s church stands in the centre of a circle of Yew trees. A new silence is apparent here, a silence made by humans. It is the silence of a graveyard. Hundreds of stones litter this space, ancient and new. People have come here to be buried for centuries to be close to this place perhaps in the belief that this is a gateway to heaven similar to the dream of Jacob in Genesis.
Pennant Melangell is best experienced by visiting or making a pilgrimage.
‘Earthed, Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection’ Describes Pennant Melangell with regard to connections to nature.
1st – World Environment Day / World Refugee Day
4th – 12th – Cherishing Churchyards Week
(Caring for God’s Acre have produced extensive bilingual Welsh/ English resources – free to download)
8th – Gerard Manley Hopkins, Jesuit Priest and Poet. Hopkins had a profound appreciation for the sacramental character of the created world and its capacity to shine forth in witness to its creator. Created things, simply by being what they were meant to be, gave praise to God. This task for humans is far more complicated for it involves a change of heart. A good reading resource on this topic is ‘Blessed are the Consumers’ by Sallie McFague
9th – Columba. Linked with the island of Iona where he established a monastery. This is an appropriate occasion to reflect on ‘thin places’ to use a favourite and oft quoted phrase of George McLeod, founder of the Iona Community. A resource for reflection on our connection to such places can be found in ‘Earthed, Christian Perspectives on Nature Connection’
18th/ 19th – Activity: Make and walk a Labyrinth. At the high point of summer, it is always a good opportunity to reflect on the past half of the year and the half to come. A meeting point is a good place for this. One of the best is a beach where it is possible to see a wide horizon and sea, sky and earth all meet. A simple labyrinth is easy to draw out in the sand, or lay out with stones.
21st – Summer Solstice
24th – John the Baptist It is no coincidence that the feast day for St. John the Baptist falls exactly six months from Christmas. (John 3:30: He must increase, but I must decrease) It is appropriate to take the mid-summer festivals altogether and reflect on this point in the year. Standing in the centre of a Labyrinth is a good place to be. Following the journey in, reflecting on the first half of the year, the journey out now focuses on the way forward.
10th – Sea Sunday Though we often remember seafarers on this day, it is worth remembering that the oceans are an important resource that is often overlooked. As sea temperatures rise, sea levels continue to rise, environments change and livelihoods are challenged. A resource for reflecting on the oceans:
16th/ 17th Activity: Tea Ceremony. Gather with some friends and brew some seasonal leaves. A tea ceremony is a simple way to recognise the gifts of the earth at any particular time of the year. One way of doing this is described in the book ‘Forest Church’
25th – James, patron of pilgrims An ideal time to make a pilgrimage. Destinations such as Iron Age forts or Holy Wells can make places of interesting discovery.
1st – Lammas or ‘Loaf Mass’ The beginning of the wheat harvest was marked by baking and offering a loaf of bread with the first cut of wheat. Perhaps this celebration was a gathering of the workers before going out into the fields to cut. The celtic celebration of ‘First Fruits’ is also celebrated at this time. Bake bread together for Lammas, or prepare it together and take the dough home to bake. Better still create an outdoor clay oven and bake home made dough pizzas. Traditional liturgical resources are available in Times and Seasons of the Agricultural year.
20th/ 21st – Activity: ‘When I Consider your Heavens’ (Ps. 8) How often do we stop to consider the heavens? Organise a night walk, preferably somewhere where there is little light pollution and enjoy the night time. It takes about 20 minutes for our eyes to completely adjust to the darkness, so use red lights such as rear bike lights which won’t ruin your night vision as white light can. A murmuration of starlings might be something you are able to see at the beginning of a night walk as they gather at dusk in preparation to roost.
1st Sept – 4th October: Creation Time. An especially important time of year beginning on the first day of the Orthodox Church year and running till the feast of St. Francis. As harvest is often celebrated at the beginning of October, it is appropriate to keep Creation Time during the weeks preceding it. There is now a wealth of resources available through Churches together in Britain and Ireland and Eco-congregation Scotland. New resources are produced each year and generally follow the United Nations Environment Programme themes.
4th – E.F. Schumacher A prophet in the guise of an economist. He wrote: “In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man.” He wrote and spoke widely on decentralisation, appropriate technology, renewable resources, and ‘economics on a human scale’. He suggested our current logic indicated a “violent attitude to God’s handiwork instead of a reverent one.” Died 4th September 1977 “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if people mattered” “A Guide for the Perplexed.”
17th/ 18th – Activity: In the season of plenty, cook and share a meal with produce grown or harvested locally. If possible try to tell the whole story of each ingredient from seed to plate.
22nd – Autumn Equinox
4th – Francis. Francis had a vivid sense of the sacramentality of creation. All things, whether living or inanimate, reflected their creator’s love and were thus due reverence and wonder. In this spirit he composed his famous ‘Canticle of Creation’ singing the praises of Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and even Sister Death. Altogether his life and relationship with the world, including animals, the elements, etc. represented the breakthrough of a new model of human and cosmic community.
21st – Reflections on Natural Resources. On this day two notable events took place. The Aberfan coal mine disaster and the official opening of Llyn Celyn reservoir. This is a time to reflect on our need/ greed for resources and the human cost of taking such precious resources from the earth. Also to remember those involved in harvesting such resources and the cost to human life.
22nd/ 23rd – Activity: Hold an Apple day Traditionally held around the last weekend of October. It is an opportunity for a community event gathering and pressing apples and celebrating a great British fruit.
23rd – One World Week begins – Theme for 2016 yet to be set:
1st – Samhain, Celtic New Year
19th/ 20th – Activity: Fragility of life. Find if you can, a poplar leaf or any leaf that is translucent. The thin web of veins offer a particular beauty which may help to give us a sense of the great web that links all of life together. Without these leaves falling, dying and becoming earth once again, there is no new life.
17th/ 18th – Activity: ‘Up on the Mountain’ (Matt. 5.1 ) As the crowds press upon him, Even Jesus retreats to the mountains. During the business of this time of year, it is good to find time to retreat and find perspective. As you begin to walk you might like to share some Cacao beans as they can reflect the season. The smell suggests sweetness but the reality is bitterness. Climb together to the high place, look out and share sweet, spiced hot chocolate before descending.
21st – Winter Solstice: Shortest day, centre of the dark half of the year. A time for learning and preparation for growth.
28th – Day of Prayer for Refugees. Many refugees are fleeing from natural disasters and climate change related events.
Resources and Sources:
‘All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Time’ Robert Ellsberg Crossroad Publishing
‘Blessed Are the Consumers: Climate Change and the Practice of Restraint’ Sallie McFague Fortress Press
‘Hay and Stardust Resources from Christmas to Candlemas’ Ruth Burgess Iona Books
‘Stations Of The Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain’ Ronald Hutton OUP
‘Holy Ground: Liturgies and worship resources for an engaged spirituality’ Neil Paynter and Helen Boothroyd Iona Books
‘A heart for Creation’ Chris Polhill Iona Books
‘Forest Church: A field guide to nature connection for groups and individuals’ Bruce Stanley Published by www.mysticchrist.co.uk
‘Wheel of the Year’ Published by www.mysticchrist.co.uk
‘Earthed: Christian perspectives on nature connection’ Published by www.mysticchrist.co.uk
This site will launch a new Award Scheme initiative to take the place of Eco-congregation. Launches January 2016 http://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/