Dr Rowan Williams speaks on Climate Change in Bristol
Two reports from the Global Aware Conference at Bristol on 24 Jan
1. By Deborah Tomkins
On Saturday 24th January 2015 around 200 people attended Global Aware’s annual day conference in Bristol, where Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke on Climate Change: A Matter of Faith. (See video on Youtube) This annual conference is supported by all the major Christian aid agencies (such as Tearfund, Christian Aid and CAFOD), as well as by many others.
Dr Williams’ talk was very well received. Our faith should help us consider who we think we are in terms of God’s Creation. God’s vision of Creation is good, and we live in and out of that affirmation. God loves the world because it’s there – He asks this of us. We don’t own and don’t control the world; we are joyful guests in a world which has been lent to us so that all may be nourished. However late in the day, however big the problem, we should not ask ‘Can I make all the difference?‘, but ‘What difference can I make?’ We act because it is right, and it is about justice, restoring right relationship not only with all Creation and all humanity but with our descendants yet to be born.
Later in the day we heard from representatives from many agencies, including distressing stories from Uganda and Bangladesh, and also Operation Noah, Grandparents for a Safe Earth, local MP Stephen Williams, and local food-growing initiatives. Lunch was provided by FareShare SouthWest (which rescues edible food that would otherwise go to landfill).
The day opened and closed with worship, and personal pledges were made.
2. by James Goodship
“Global awareness is living in a World we don’t own”
Dr Rowan Williams, Global Aware Conference Bristol 2015
On Saturday 24th January, 200 Christians with a concern for creation gathered at Elim E5 church in the heart of Bristol for the annual Global Aware Conference. This year was blessed by the attendance of former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and, in his new role as the Chairman of Christian Aid, he gave an enthralling key note address. Recognised by the Organisers of Bristol 2015 this was the first large scale event of the EU Green Capital year for the city.
Master of Ceremony, Major Ian Mountford of The Salvation Army and Chair of Bristol Churches together drew attention to the importance of the event with the well-known stewardship verses of Psalm 24 and worship to ‘I Lift my eyes up’ and ‘Be Thou my vision’ opened hearts to the important messages to be shared by the various speakers.
Dr Williams’ key note address was greatly anticipated and he poured out some valuable insight from his own experience whilst visiting Anglican Dioceses in Africa. An example he gave was of a small village which had been able to produce gas for cooking and heating from cow dung. Referring to Creation he pointed out that we have made ourselves not good to God’s sight and that part of this, as well as war and greed, is making the world not good as it was in Genesis 1:31. He went on further to say that we should not trivialise and deceive with the message of climate change, “We’re all doomed”, and communicated this through the metaphor of a closed fist; not closing our fist in defence against the world but opening our palms to receive from God, in fact, to pray.
He continued by unpicking the phrase Global Awareness from scripture. Awareness is the delighted awareness we should have for the earth not because it is our job as stewards but simply because it is there; If God has seen it to be good, so then should we. Global Awareness is therefore simply living in a world we don’t own. Referring to Leviticus 25v14 where land itself cannot be possessed but rather that it is for a number of harvests which may be acquired to sustain a family. This was used to show that we should step back from ownership and control and align ourselves with a right relationship with God. Can we make a difference? Faith comes in living our way into right relation and that is not all about success but whether it is right (just) and, after all, we can always change TODAY.
Linking to the work of Christian Aid, Dr Williams referred to environmental Justice saying “all human destinies are bound together; we either serve one another or kill each other” and, through a passionate connection with the community of faith, not only other Christians, we can change the assumptions of the context in which we live to provide a robust reason for the Church to model different behaviour before the world.
The conference continued with some passionate presentations from Christian Aid, Tearfund and smaller local organisations hoping for community change thorough this important year for Bristol. A wonderful lunch was provided by FareShare South West from food that, whilst of quality for sale, would have been sent to landfill due to the unsustainable way in which the food industry handles its supply chain. Needless to say the food was excellent and I was pleased to do my bit to reduce the environmental impact!
Groups represented as well as Christian Aid, Tearfund and CAFOD at the Global Aware Conference;
- Pray & fast for Climate on 1st day of each month
- Church Solar panels
- Jubilee Food Hubs
- Greenlight Campaign (Challenging your pension provider to divest in fossil fuels)
- Operation Noah (Church divestment)
- Grand Parents for a Safe Earth (Phil Kingston)
- Green Christian (Providing resources and canvasing interest for a Bristol group)
- Close the Door (petition shops to close their doors)
- Live Simply (Catholic alternative to ecocongregation)
- Shared Interest (Crowd funding)
The conference closed with attendees making a pledge to change something or reduce their environmental impact in 2015 before gathering on stage for a photo. I stand earnestly behind by pledge to start a successful Local Group of Green Christian so please get in touch if you live near Bristol and would like to be involved. email firstname.lastname@example.org