Saturday, 12 March 2011

Revcounter at CEL

Polonius’ advice to his son was, “Beware of entrance to a quarrel.” So, it is with reluctance that I take issue with the keynote speaker at last Saturday’s Christian Ecology Link conference.

Polonius also pointed out that “the apparel oft proclaims the man,” a modern rendering of which might be “What you see is what you get.” Certainly, Father Peter Owen Jones could hardly look less like the conventional C of E vicar, and his message, too, set him apart from the norm. You don’t hear too many Sunday sermons referencing what a Druid has to say, for instance – and not once, but twice.

Our venue was St John’s Church, Waterloo. “Where,” Father Peter asked, “here in this place, is the space for herons, the food for red admiral butterflies?” As it happened, I could answer this easily: before his talk, I had strolled in the church’s beautiful garden; and there are these days many species of fish in the River Thames, just adjacent.

Yes, there’s plenty of indifference to nature within our church communities. And we do need reminding of the reason for Christian Ecology link’s existence. I liked the image of CEL as the pill dropped into the establishment’s water, still – after thirty years – relatively undissolved.

Father Peter, however, complains that there is precious little in the New Testament that relates to our treatment of the natural world. Jesus’ use of sheep, goats, sparrows and lilies of the field within his parables presumably doesn’t suffice. My objection is more fundamental, however: does he not appreciate the New Testament’s linkage between the story of our redemption and the glory of God’s creation? “It is he,” in the words of Pope Benedict, “the Creator himself, who entered into history, and can still enter into history and act in it, because he is the God of the whole and not just of a part. If we recognise this, obviously what follows is that the Redemption, what it means to be Christian, and simply the Christian faith in itself, always signify responsibility with regard to Creation.”

This is why I shall be celebrating the Easter Vigil in church, rather than by a bonfire on Firle Beacon.

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