Saturday, 10 March 2012

"Il faut cultiver notre jardin"?

We spent the best part of today in the Old School Rooms, Stoke Gifford, hard by Bristol Parkway station, at the Christian Ecology Link annual conference. Wouldn't we have been better off "on our allotment"? Jonathon Porritt - our keynote speaker - postulated the possibility, only to reject it. After "a hundred years of suicidal growth", it is still possible to transform our (dire) situation, he said, but we need to strain each sinew to do so - and call in aid every spiritual resource: that's what justified congregating in a stuffy hall on a sunny Spring morning - and joining a peaceful protest at Hinckley Point ("No more Fukushimas!"): Jonathon was off there after his speech.

"But how can you work with a monolith like Unilever?" he's asked. "Well, I can imagine a sustainable world with no Magnum ice creams, but not one without Marmite."

Three decades or so ago, at one of the still nascent Ecology Party half-yearly conferences, a small group of Christians met to form a pool of holiness within the warring world of Green politics. And here some of us still were, seeking mutual encouragement within that same pool, Christian Ecology Link.

Today, we were marshalled, facilitated and inspired by Barbara Echlin, Ellen Teague and poet Clare Best. And - Jonathon apart - a further seven men (!) came forward to offer that encouragement.

Tim Gorringe proclaimed the whole of reality as God's, not "capital" for accrual, but gift for our nurture and for use for others' sake. Adopting an altogether lower tone, Chris Sunderland spoke of the need for inner transformation for our generation, which lived in the shallows and marketed the mind, having turned its soul into a desert - rather than a fertile land for spiritual growth.

Jeremy Williams invited us to share his quest for a simpler, more sustainable life, by detoxing from consumerism. The excellent presentation by Mark Letcher showed how we might reframe our specific concerns about climate change, so as to persuade a broader cross-section to take it seriously, while a more general political engagement was urged upon us by Jonathan Essex, a Green Party local councillor: he took me back to the early days when we were all paid up members of the Ecology Party.

The gentle, prophetic voice of Ed Echlin was heard advocating organic food production, and sparking a wide-ranging discussion amongst both young and old. Finally, CEL Chair Paul Bodenham steered us towards the darker form of hope - based not on bright, shiny technology, but upon God's sustaining power within us, drawing us into conversion: sharing that hope, we become evangelists.

"All of us find our communities where we can," Jonathon Porritt reflected: CEL brings people together from a diversity of local and national communities - a unique network, and repository of goodness.

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