An Environmental Journey

Brian Kellock reflects

My love for the natural world goes back to my boyhood days spent wandering the lanes and woods around the Kent village where my grandparents lived. In those days I gave no thought to this being God’s world. That came later, in my teens when I became a Christian.

That this world was under threat from climate change or exploitation came to me much later still; September 2004 to be precise. This was at a sustainability conference at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells organised by Somerset Churches Together. One speaker had a big impact on me: Claire Foster, who was at that time a lay canon at St Paul’s Cathedral, and author of the report Sharing God’s Planet.

Commissioned by the Church of England ‘s Mission and Public Affairs Council, this has since proved a powerful tool for study, discussion and action. During the conference Claire quoted Hildegard of Bingen:

“God has arranged all things in the world in consideration of everything else.”

She used the spider’s web, each strand of which is essential to sustain the structure, as an illustration: break one strand and it begins to become unstable until in the end the web breaks down. It was an apt analogy for what is happening in our world, except that the spider seems to have the skill and patience to mend its web in good time.

In my diary for that day I wrote: “Came home feeling that for the first time my Christian faith and my interest in nature had come together in a way that made the whole greater than the sum of the parts.”

As a result of this conference I became a member of the newly formed Somerset Churches Together Sustainability Group. I recall the first meeting I attended where everyone was talking of scientific predictions that we had just ten years to fix the climate change challenge if it were not to become irreversible.
That meeting took place more than ten years ago.

As a result of belonging to this group I had the privilege subsequently of being invited to be part of a small working party being set up, under the chairmanship of Revd David Osborne, to draft an environmental policy for the diocese. The resultant policy was accepted by diocesan synod in March 2007 and today is accessible on the diocesan website.

For my journey this proved a major stage, not only in being part of an important project. It also brought me into contact with some major environmental projects in the diocese; the Carymoor Environmental Centre at Castle Cary and Chew Magna’s Go Zero project to name two. There was one other valuable discovery I made I’ll come to later.

I learnt the importance of having support from the top, in this case the Bishop’s Council. This came home to me again when I got to interesting my own church, Christ Church in Weston super Mare, in environmental issues. Only with the support of the vicar and the PCC at that time (2007) were we able to take the big steps needed to achieve eco-congregation status.

When I began my environmental journey, climate change was not the agenda of many Christians. In most church communities it was considered as a fringe interest. Few saw the connection between it and the future security of the human race. That at least has changed. Doubters have diminished, overwhelmed by the scientific evidence.
[If you still doubt go to the Nasa website ( where it states that 97 per cent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. It also gives a long list of reports from other organisations that agree with it.]

Over the past ten years there have been many international reports and events. A major one was the Stern Report in 2006 which pointed out that 40 per cent of the world’s species would face extinction of global temperatures rose by 2 degrees C; that it would cause four billion to suffer from water shortage; that 200 million people were at risk of being driven from their homes by flood or drought by 2050.

The report had a major but short lived impact on the political scene. Then came the disastrous 2009 UN Copenhagen Summit to which many environmentalists, including Christians, travelled – some at great inconvenience – and who came away thoroughly disillusioned.
Now all hope is pinned on the 2015 UN Summit in Paris next month (30 November – 11December).

We have also had a series of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, each with their ‘final warning’ notice. They have come thick and fast and gone with minimal impact on world leaders.

In all this, like many other Christians, I have grown weary of the doom and gloom. I suspect this general feeling could be one reason why in recent months there has been a significant change of emphasis. Encouragingly that has been away from doom and gloom towards Creation Care, and with it a greater emphasis among lay Christians on the theology of creation.

This brings me back to that other reason why being involved in drafting the diocesan environment policy was such an important part of my journey. It was then that I began to understand something of the theology of creation as laid out in the bible. Today I am finding that other lay people are making that discovery too. I say lay because theologians have been expounding it for a long time.
It is essentially to do with how God works out the future of his creation and it goes against the common view that we all go to heaven when we die. Instead heaven and earth will be integrated into a new physical reality. As I look at the world of nature around me I cannot but believe that God still delights in it, seeing it as essentially ‘good’ even in its present state. How would he want to destroy what he has so lovingly and cleverly made? And how could we?

Among all my reading I found the words of the Revd Dave Bookless founder of A Rocha UK in his book Planetwise very helpful in expressing this.

“I believed that this world would be completely destroyed when Jesus returned at the end of time to judge sin and evil. I was convinced that this was what the Bible taught. Today I think rather differently.”

He goes on in his book to explain that difference.

And in his much to be recommended Grove series booklet, New Heavens, New Earth, New Testament scholar and retired Anglican bishop Tom Wright argues that “the weight of biblical theology as a whole actually falls on the renewal of heaven and earth.” He also writes that the “new world will be more real, more physically solid, than the present one.”

So it seems that while creation’s immediate future may be uncertain, its long term is safe in God’s keeping.

Of course to be valid such arguments have to be grounded in biblical scripture; but there is no shortage of that in either Old or New Testaments. If we want one that takes us succinctly and swiftly to the heart of the matter it has to be Romans 8:18-28, and in that context particularly verse 21:

“… that creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

So Jesus came to redeem not just you and me, but the whole of creation.

As I took all this on board I found it mind-blowing and life changing. It just had to influence my behaviour towards the environment, taking me from anxiety and pessimism to a positive desire to care for creation in whatever way I could, knowing that God has the big plans. I actually found it re-invigorating my enthusiasm for the natural world around me.

Others of course have been able to express it more elegantly.
For example Chris Wright, speaking at Keswick in 2008 (as published in the Keswick Yearbook for that year) said:

“If God’s planet Earth is destined for redemption and recreation, then we should be caring for it in the present.”

I am still discovering others who say the same. Writing in the Summer 2015 issue of A Rocha UK’s Root and Branch magazine, the organisation’s conservation director Andy Lester put it this way:

“For Christians, hope is only possible because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and his promise to renew all creation [Revelation 21:1-5]. Inspired by that hope, we have a clear role in building on and maintaining the harmony in relationships on the planet as the Creator originally designed them to be.”
How big a challenge is that?

Brian Kellock015

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The Earth Will Teach You – Review (2)

The Earth Will Teach You, by Kevin Durrant, September 2014. Wide Margin Books, 186 pages, ISBN 978-190886-007-1. RRP £9.99

It is not often that the title of a book so accurately describes its contents, and in words of one syllable too. Kevin Durrant takes his theme from the book of Job: “..ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the air and they will tell you, or speak to the earth and it will teach you.” Using biblical passages to great effect Durrant unwraps the stories making theological connections between them and the harsh realities of our ecological crisis.

He begins with the bizarre story of Balaam’s donkey from the Book of Numbers and his interpretation is a gem, linking it with the threatened giant tortoises of the Galapagos. He goes on to use the “Protective Tree” from Daniel chapter 4, the reference to the soil from Genesis chapter 2, the snake from chapter 3, the exhausted land from Leviticus chapter 25. All these relatively obscure passages and many others are used to demonstrate how the natural world itself can speak to us and in a very real sense be the word of God for our generation.

There are problems however. Durrant acknowledges that the book began life as a series of sermons; it remains so and there are tiresome aspects to that. In several chapters there are two or three passages at the beginning as if the reader had heard them in the service before the sermon began. One passage – the key one – would have sufficed. Another annoying habit is to uses headings (inspiration, motivation, wisdom in one chapter, hospitality, honour, hope in another) which are often quite forced and may well be more appropriate to the spoken word.

Having said that, there is wonderful and exciting material in this book. In the chapter on the Sacred Oak there is a very useful section on the “Sacramental Approach to Nature”. Poetry is included to great effect; Wordsworth, Gerard Manley Hopkins, R.S. Thomas as well as several lesser known poets. Painters too; Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Caspar Friedrich and others. Not only does this enrich the book and point to the value of art in this context, but also indicates how personal the book is. Durrant is describing a journey of discovery which makes the book a pleasure to read and an opportunity to share in that exciting journey. Despite the sermonising there is a freshness here and much to be learnt.

Peter Dodd

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Travel in style to Paris for D12

There’s going to be a Mass action in Paris on the 12th December, at the end of the UN climate talks to ensure that the people have the last word.

1398_0Tickets for the Eurostar and coaches have just gone on sale – so you can travel in style and then have a choice of cheap and comfy or even cheaper and not so comfy accommodation.  Our friends at Campaign against Climate Change, FoE and others have done all the organising – all we need to do is fill in a form and pay up!  And do let us know if you are planning to go and would like to meet up with other GC members.

You can also cycle – there’s a 3 day and a 5 day option.

See our Climate Action page for other Paris and climate change events and activities.

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Don’t miss out on a piece of Baked Alaska!

12032635_10153778785411019_1168894753815770418_oRuth Jarman writes:

‘Baked Alaska came to my locality last night. I was bowled over! I’ve been climate campaigning for decades, and tend to go to environmental events expecting a touch of boredom, but this show was new, inciteful, powerful and, most importantly, funny! One of the hardest challenges with climate campaigning is how to be honest about the dire straights we are in, while keeping people from leaving the room. Riding Lights Theatre Company, rose to this challenge magnificantly – I spent half the show sitting with a big smile on my face – it was so wonderfully and cleverly entertaining – but it was also true to the science and spoke powerfully to the heart.

Baked Alaska is touring the UK until the end of November.  If it comes to a town near you, go! If not, get a car-full and get to the nearest you can find. And bring all your friends – churchy and non-churchy – it is appropriate for all faiths and none!’

tour  of the UK:

03/10/15 Romsey, Hampshire Romsey Abbey
05/10/15 Wimbledon, London Holy Trinity Church
06/10/15 London St John’s Waterloo
08/10/15 Portsmouth, Hants Cosham Baptist Church
09/10/15 Gillingham, Dorset Gillingham School
10/10/15 Exeter Belmont Chapel
12/10/15 Truro, Cornwall Truro Methodist Church
13/10/15 Frome, Somerset Cheese and Grain
14/10/15 Cheltenham, Gloucestershire St Matthew’s Church
15/10/15 Bristol, South Gloucs Zion United Church
16/10/15 Banbury, Oxfordshire The Warriner School Hall
17/10/15 Cardiff St Andrew and St Teilo’s Church
19/10/15 Alderley Edge, Cheshire Alderley Edge Methodist Church
20/10/15 Birmingham All Saints Kings Heath
21/10/15 Stoke-on-Trent St Paul’s Church
22/10/15 Wolverhampton, W. Midlands St. John’s in the Square
23/10/15 Lichfield, Staffordshire Lichfield Cathedral
24/10/15 Shrewsbury Church of the Holy Spirit
02/11/15 Wirral Hoylake Chapel
03/11/15 Church Stretton, Shropshire Church Stretton School Theatre
04/11/15 Rochdale St Chad’s, Rochdale Parish Church
05/11/15 Doncaster, South Yorkshire St Peter’s – The White Church
06/11/15 Leeds, West Yorkshire St Edmund’s Church
07/11/15 Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear St Luke’s Church
09/11/15 Preston St Cuthbert’s, Fulwood
10/11/15 Old Trafford, Manchester St John’s Centre
11/11/15 Lancaster, Lancs Lancaster University Chaplaincy Centre
12/11/15 York, North Yorkshire Central Methodist Hall
13/11/15 Manchester St Andrew’s Methodist Church Hall
14/11/15 Harrogate, N Yorks St Mark’s Church
17/11/15 Ardfern, Lochgilphead Craignish Village Hall
18/11/15 East Kilbride Claremont Parish Church
20/11/15 Edinburgh Colinton Parish Church
21/11/15 Aberdeen Cults Parish Church Sanctuary
24/11/15 Mansfield, Nottinghamshire St Lawrence’s Parish Church
26/11/15 Leicester Church of the Martyrs
28/11/15 Brighton Brightelm Centre

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The Paris Summit 2015 – what do we want?

9979792From the 30th November for 2 weeks, there is a mega-important United Nations climate meeting in Paris.


Governments have met since 1992 and achieved diddly-squat, but this year the impetus for a radical agreement has been unprecedented. Top people from all aspects of society – from science, banking, business and religion, have all called for action.


The Earth Statement, authored by 17 of the world’s leading scientists and economists such as Brian Hoskins, Lord Stern and Jeffrey Sachs, and supported by such names as Mary Robinson, Richard Branson, and the CEOs of IKEA, Unilever and H&M, calls for courageous action in Paris.  It says:


‘A new global citizens’ movement is heeding the scientific evidence, demanding immediate climate action. Societies across the world have given political leaders a mandate and a responsibility to act for a safe climate future now. Informed by scientific knowledge, inspired by economic assessments and guided by the moral imperative, we call on world leaders to work towards the following eight essential elements of a Paris Agreement and associated set of actions and plans that would represent a global turning point in December 2015.’

It then lists ‘Eight Essential Elements of Climate Action in Paris’, including,

  1. Governments must put into practice their commitment to limit global warming to below 2°C. We should aim to stay as far below it as possible, since even 2°C warming will cause significant damage and disruption. However, we are currently on a path to around 4°C warming by 2100, which would create unmanageable environmental challenges. If we do not act now, there is even a 1 in 10 risk of going beyond 6°C by 2100. We would surely not accept such a high risk of disaster in other realms of society. As a comparison, such a 1 in 10 probability is the equivalent of tolerating about 10,000 airplane crashes every day worldwide!
  2. The remaining global carbon budget – the limit of what we can still emit in the future –­ must be well below 1000 Gt CO2 to have a reasonable chance to hold the 2°C line. Respecting the global carbon budget means leaving at least three quarters of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
  3. We need to fundamentally transform the economy and adopt a global goal to phase out greenhouse gases completely by mid-­century. Deep decarbonization, starting immediately and leading to a zero-­carbon society by 2050 or shortly thereafter, is key to future prosperity. Fossil fuel subsidies should be removed urgently, and investment should be redirected to spark a global renewable energy revolution, warranting energy access for all and particularly for those most in need.
  4. Equity is critical for a successful global agreement in Paris. Every country must formulate an emissions pathway consistent with deep decarbonization. For the sake of fairness, rich countries and progressive industries can and should take the lead and decarbonize well before mid-­century.

We can all join this call!

  1. Sign the Earth Statement here:
  2. Write about it to our MP – for more help with this go to
  3. Join the rally in London on Sunday November 29th. . If you’d like to join a group coming from Fleet and Hartley Wintney, email



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Skilled Brits and adventurers sought for a unique social experiment in the wilderness

Message from KEO Films

We are working on a unique project  – a groundbreaking new social experiment – that aims to see if we can leave behind all the conveniences and technology of modern life and start again. We’re looking for people to start a new community, in a remote part of the UK, over a year long period in 2016. They’ll need to do everything from growing their own food to building their homes; working as a team as well as individuals.

We’re looking for all sorts of people 18 years or over- whose skills would be beneficial.  We need everything from builders to botanists, doctors to dentists, electricians to engineers or simply artists and adventure seekers.

It’s happening in a remote part of the UK and will be filmed over a year period so we are looking for people who will not only survive but thrive. As such we are looking for people with relevant skills or a passion for the success of the community.

For more information go to

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Reconciling a wounded planet – Coventry Cathedral

Judith Allinson gives her view of the Conference at Coventry 18-19 Sept 2015:
(This post may be expanded later)                                   Tweet hash-tag:  #woundedplanet



Green Christian stall at Coventry

Over 150 people converged on Coventry Cathedral for the two day conference, about care of the environment and Christianity. “Reconciling a wounded planet

Clare Redfern (GC magazine’s co-editor)  set up the Green Christian stand, and I helped. At least 15 GC members were there plus several people who receive our GC news e-mail… even more, now that many people  signed up for it.

Thus there are least 150 different views of the conference. May we all take inspiration to our homes and congregations, and use what we have learned

Reconciliation is the topic for several texts in the bible  ( dictionary meaning “The restoration of friendly relations”). It’s a term I don’t use in everyday speech with that meaning – so it was fascinating to see how the term was used and developed in various ways as a focus for our thoughts on Caring for God’s Creation. I’ll mention some of these later in this post.

Caring for God’s creation is a vital topic as humankind’s population increases and our individual impact on the environment increases so that we are making the world a poorer, more unstable place – not just for our neighbours of future generations.. but for our own generation.

(Plastic residues in the sea: acidification of the sea; halving of the vertebrate fish in the sea over the last 50 years; world soil loss; loss of biodiversity and mass extinctions; nitrogen oxides pollution; and melting of the ice and climate change. Just by travelling to this conference the majority of us would have exceeded our “fair share of daily sustainable energy use with respect to CO2 production“)

Three separate sessions of work in small groups gave excellent opportunity for networking. A big thank you too to the Cathedral volunteers who helped in the preparation and on the day.

There is a “Community of the Cross of Nails” at Coventry Cathedral about Reconciliantion and there are now 170 associated communities. 40 years ago one of these held a conference about care of the environment in Tennessee. One of the people at that conference , Kenyon Wright from Edinburgh attended our conference too.


First Morning – 18 September

The  key speakers would give inspiring talks during the conference: Bishop James Jones, Prof Richard Bauckham and Prof Ghillean Prance (former director of Kew Gardens and then the Eden Centre).
First,  Revd Margot Hodson gave a worshipful introduction (see 2 videos below)

Margot Hodson -“Christ died to reconcile all things”  (Colossians 1  v20)- a  1 min snippet from the  conference and see also

“We are the body of Christ so we feel the pain of all creation” – a  more detailed explanation -(3min 10 sec)


Sir Ghillean Prance gave us stories of hope.

He described the boat journey in the Amazon organised by The Patriarch of the Orthodox Church – with 50 scientists, 50 theologians, 50 journalists.. – Bishop James Jones was there too. (The Pope in Note 8 and 9 of his encyclical describes Patriarch Bartholomew) . Prance said that later  Brazil made laws relating to not cutting down rainforest for soya.


He described how the Aymara Indians had a traditional system involving letting some land lie fallow: The government forced them to cultivate all the land the total agricultural productivity went down.!! A consortium of Missionaries working there saw what was happening and persuaded the government to allow them to continue havin a period of allowing the land to be fallow.

He reminded us of Exodus chapter 23: v 10-11: 10 “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.

We then dispersed into 5 “Streams”. I attended the Enhancing Biodiversity one.and we walked outside up paths, under trees, past squirrels.

There were about 26 of us in an upstairs room of an adjacent building, with the sun streaming through the windows. and a pack of excited schoolchildren outside being given a guided tour. We were chaired by Peter Brotherton, (Head of Biodiversity, Natural England, and Diocesan Environment Officer for Peterborough).. He got us all to introduce ourselves – excellent – if only most meeting did that!! – and it revealed a great variety of back grounds – too many to include in this article.. including two year 8 students from President Kennedy School in Coventry.

Three people gave 10 min talks:

Mike Morecroft showed slides of evidence of climate change and response of species

Bush-Cricket expands it range

Bush-Cricket expands it range


Bob Sluka reminded us that 70% of our planet’s surface is covered by sea – yet we are causing big changes in the sea. In the last 45 years, half of all vertebrates in the sea have disappeared (due to over-fishing). Pollution, climate change and invasive species play their part too: out of the 17000 species in the Mediterranean Sea, 1000 are introduced, and many invasive.

Where is the hope?

Marine hope spots: Fishing sanctuaries.

The number of eggs laid by fish increase exponentially with size. So if areas are kept with no fishing, then fish get bigger and lay more eggs.  some of these fish swim out.. so the number of fish caught in the surrounding area increases. the area can be marked with buoys.

Role of the Christian researcher:  Don’t hide your light under a bushel: Show off your beautiful  nature – (and he showed us some pretty pictures, )

He explained how lucky we are in the British Isles to have big tides and hence big intertidal zones  – so that we can go exploring rock pools when we are young and see what is in them, what lives under the sea. In the Mediterranean people cannot do this.  Their tides are very small.

You can read his book Hope for the Ocean and buy it to download 

In Kenya there are ” beach boys” who make money by offering to show tourists round/(guard their cars etc says ed.). The Christian charity A Rocha Kenya trains them so that they can give more informative natural history guidance.

The Kenya Wildlife Marine spots are an example of reconciliation  –

He encouraged us to write to our MPs to say it is a good idea to make Lyme Bay and Lundi into Marine Reserves. They are trying to get a marine reserve offshore of the Christian Retreat Centre of Lee Abbey.

Brian Cuthbertson told us abut the survey of London churchyards now being undertaken.  He said how helpful Ishpi Blatchley had been in surveying lichens. They still need another £60,000 to complete the survey.

There can be reconciliation work to be done sorting peoples conflicting ideas of managing churchyards.

This takes us up to lunch: – so I’ve only covered the first quarter of the conference.!!.

********* I’m going off to watch the lunar eclipse now. (Mon 1.30 a.m. 28 Sep)  ********


Sorting into groups

Sorting into groups – Group leaders have flags like tourist guides


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GC member to cycle from Truro to Paris

Bike Ride Promo 003Green Christian member Euan McPhee is preparing to cycle form Truro to Paris for the COP21 talks on Climate Change.

He writes:

So far, three of us(!) are cycling to Paris. We expect many more to join us for various segments of the trip, as a show of solidarity. We start from Truro on Tuesday 17 November, arriving in Plymouth on Friday 19 November for Brittany Ferries crossing to St Malo, from where we cycle to Paris. We plan to arrive in Paris on Thursday 26 November to be greeted by the Green SW MEP, Molly Scot-Cato and other Euro Greens. At some point I will hand over the results of the Climate Vision Carbon Pledges to representatives at the UN Climate Summit. Then I cycle home!


Here is some information about the Climate Vision project


Luci Isaacson was the coordinator for the “Footsteps to Copenhagen” campaign in 2009, and managed to persuade   people in Cornwall to sign up so that over 4000 carbon-reducing pledges have been made by individuals and organisations.

She has been carrying out a study to track these people down and calculate how much CO2 had been saved by these pledges.  The results are remarkable, and show how much it is possible to achieve with a creative and engaging campaign.  She has calculated the cost per ton of CO2 saved and demonstrates how effective this approach is in comparison with alternatives such as carbon storage, etc.  But her project has been remarkable not just for the results, but for the manner in which she worked, using crowd-funding and engaging a wide range of people at every step of the way.  Please have a look at her website and at the report of her study.  This report will be wheeling its way to Paris for the UN Climate Change Conference in the saddle bags of Euan McPhee – see below.

For information about the project and regular blogs updating Luci’s activity:

Read the report:

In July she encouraged 10 high profile people in Cornwall to try out the 10 Carbon pledges in the five months run up to the Paris talks in December


The picture above shows Rev Steve Wild, President of Methodist Conference (2015-2016) buying local produce in Cornwall.  You can read his and other peoples responses to applying some of the pledges here


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