As this is a double edition of the eMag, I am writing my letter early — and I happen to be writing it on what is technically the last of the 'dog days' of summer. I confess that I hadn't really thought very much about these until I came across an article in National Geographic telling me that, in antiquity, it was thought that the heat generated by Sirius (the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major), rising in the sky alongside the Sun, made for the hottest days of the year. Legend had it that this stellar conjunction could bring about fever, and catastrophe.
This past week the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued a report that suggests that catastrophe is just around the corner. 'A code red for humanity' declared UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The COP26 summit this November requires our urgent prayers — and, on the part of our political leaders, definitive and swift action to bring about change.
Like many of you, Megan and I try to do our best at home to be greener; and, as a church, we are trying too. Our Silver Eco-Church Award was extremely gratifying, but now we can strive for gold. We are determined to reduce our paper use (hence, for example, our continuing commitment to producing online orders of service where we can). And at the start of September, I shall be announcing an exciting new project in this area for which we have been awarded a prestigious grant.
This isn't about being woke. It's about being Christian. St Francis of Assisi was teaching his followers that the earth was their Mother over seven hundred years ago. He could do that because he recognized the divine hand in creation, as did so many of the doctors and scholars of the early church. And more recently too. In 1973 Fred Pratt Green wrote this hymn:
God in his love for us lent us this planet,
gave it a purpose in time and in space:
small as a spark form the fire of creation,
cradle of life and the home of our race.
Thanks be to God for its bounty and beauty,
life that sustains us in body and mind:
plenty for all, if we learn how to share it,
riches undreamed of to fathom and find.
Long have our human wars ruined its harvest;
long has earth bowed to the terror of force;
long have we wasted what others have need of,
poisoned the fountain of life at its source.
Earth is the Lord's: it is ours to enjoy it,
ours, as his stewards, to farm and defend.
From its pollution, misuse, and destruction,
good Lord, deliver us, world without end.
We may well have sung the words, but we seem not to have heard them. So change — and pray for change. Now that the dog days of summer are over, the heat is on.