Eco-justice Growth and Hope – ECEN 2012 – British and Irish Contributions

European Christian Environment Network conference 29 Aug – 2 Sept 2012.

by Judith Allinson

Eight people from Britain and Ireland attended the 9th Assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network entitled “Eco-Justice Growth and Hope”.29 Aug- 2 Sept. There were 98 people from 22 different countries.

From  Palestine to Finland, from Belarus to Ireland we shared  experiences and prayers.

Useful links:-

The Five working groups at the Assembly made recommendations:-

We recommend that churches and Christians take action in different ways:

  1.  To participate in the work of the Transition Movement and to adopt Transition patterns for their own lifestyles, and share these and similar initiatives within the local community.
  2.  To continue to take action on climate change as an important issue on their agenda.
  3.  To support and take part in protection of biodiversity, to educate themselves and others, and to save endangered species and habitats.
  4.  To exchange and adopt new ideas regarding different schemes and measures in the field of eco-management.
  5. To explore the riches of Christian theology that includes and respects the whole of God’s Creation.


The four days had an action packed programme including –

Wild boar

Wild Boar photographed by Bernard Sorel of Belgium

  • Lectures on Economics and Theology,
  • Early morning services on a variety of topics;
  • Even earlier morning private walks in the sandy woodland around the centre; Two people saw wild boar (right)
  • A choice of three visits – 1) a church with solar panels, 2) a church with a wind turbine project and 3) an organic farm.
  • Working groups on five topics  .. and the production of the

The FIVE working groups met and most produced a paper for the ECEN website:-
Here are the working groups the individuals from the British Isles attended:

  • CLIMATE CHANGE – Adrian Shaw
  • NATURE PROTECTION/BIODIVERSITY – Judith Allinson and Dave Bookless
  • THEOLOGY – Sr Louise Poole and Sr Catherine Brennan
  • TRANSFORM OUR LIVING – Charles Jolly (Transition Towns)

To give you a flavour of the event, here are activities and comments from the British participants:


Judith Allinson
(from Christian Ecology Link), a Methodist and botanist from Yorkshire- “I attended the Biodiversity workshop and explained about the CEL 100 churches project – we are looking for 100 churches to raise £100 for “Save an acre” of Rainforest type projects. (That works out at 400 Euro a hectare).
I enjoyed collecting the names of common plants in different languages from the participants – to raise awareness- so now have “Dandelion” in 6 languages .. and am working to find languages I missed.”


Martyn Goss led a session of “Open Space” in whichwe set up conversations about future ideas for ECEN

Martyn Goss,
Church of England delegate, from the Exeter Diocese, and on ECEN Steering Group:- Martyn in a session the first evening introduced us to Open Space technology as a method of organising discussion meeting. It works – do read about it.

Martyn had a variety of other different jobs, “which is a delightful challenge!” He said:
“What I especially appreciated was the atmosphere and sense of care (for one another and for life) and mutual support across national boundaries, and our worshipping together.

I loved the Cosmic Walk and also the setting with the woodland biodiversity. ”


Dave Bookless,
from A Rocha International, was attending ECEN for the first time and says:
“I was invited to give a lecture on ‘A Theological Approach to Eco-Justice’ – the other theological input came from a leading Dutch Rabbi. The key points I covered were about how the ecological, economic and social crises are intrinsically linked to our
unsustainable over-consumption (greed), and that we need a theological and ideological paradigm shift from an anthropocentric (human-centred) worldview to a Theocentric (God-centred) worldview if we are to find justice for the world’s poor and other species. I suggested we need modern parables – stories and lived-out examples that exemplify a different way of being and provide inspiration.

In the workshop sessions I greatly enjoyed the Biodiversity workshop, both sharing about A Rocha’s work in 8 European countries, and also listening to the range of activities and expertise amongst others there.

For me the greatest highlight of the conference was meeting delegates from across Europe (and Palestine), from a huge variety of Christian traditions, united by a Christian vision of sustainability and committed to acting both in their churches and in society more widely.”


Sr Louisa Poole

represents the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales; she is a member of the enabling group for Elspeet, leads the Theology Working Group (which includes Hungarian, Roumanian, German, Estonian, Danish Irish members from six Churches); chaired three sessions including the keynote Lecture. (Seen right in the adjacent picture)

“Representing six different Churches poses some challenges and provides ample opportunity to extend one’s awareness of the wider Church and its riches. We also found out how all groups are moving towards a greater awareness of the importance of Creation Theology and its centrality in the pastoral sphere as well as the ecumenical. Our ‘Message’ came together surprisingly quickly and we have a proposal for future work together in place.”

“An abiding memory is the music played on the piano by one of the young helpers at the conference to accompany “The Cosmic Walk” : a wonderful improvisation of music of the spheres and the unimaginable ages of the universe. This and the flat farmlands of Holland, fragile in the face of rising sea levels on account of climate change.”


Plastic bag and soil compared.

Charles Jolly
from Derbyshire was the delegate from the United Reformed Church. His main interest is climate change (science, mitigation, adaptation and politics), has therefore been active in Transition Buxton for several years and so was keen to join a Working Group to promote church involvement with transition initiatives. He says:
“The whole conference was brilliant but I found Prof. Hans Opschoor’s lecture: ‘Is economy of enough an applicable model for western societies? – framework and criteria for a change of paradigm of sustainable development’ most helpful in moving thinking


Cosmic  Walk  Medititiaon

Sr Catherine Brennan

from Belfast is chairperson of Eco-Congregation Ireland. This organisation is holding it first big conference on 15 September 2012 to which over 140 people are coming.
On the Thursday evening she ran a meditaion/reflection experience: “Environmental spirituality as a Cosmic Walk:  a Practical experience of environmental spirituality”


Ethel White
of Belfast, of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland – is an agricultural scientist working for the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in N Ireland advising farmers about new varieties of cereals and potatoes.  She says:
“I was thrilled that there was a strong emphasis on the ‘Economy of enough’ both in presented papers and in discussions throughout the conference. Dave Bookless’s paper where we looked at where God has placed humankind in relation to the rest of creation was thought-provoking. The conference setting near Appledoorn in the middle of a forest with some heathland was really beautiful.”


Adrian Shaw
is the officer for Eco-Congregation Scotland. He said:
“My aspirations are that:

  • – the climate change group works by email to take forward the tasks identified in the paper
  • – that ECEN joins with CEC and others to assert to the leaders of Europe that churches are concerned about climate change and other environmental concerns
  • – to tell EU leaders that we would like to work with them to address these issues.

Organic Farm

Organic Farm

“The high point for me was the visit to Eemlandhoeve” See picture

On the Friday Evening a “Speed dating event” was organised – there were
8 Dutch green-Christian organisations and we were able to hear just 3 each for 15 minutes.

I chose:
1. Eco-Congregation Netherlands and learned about some of the practical work they do (e.g. Tree Planting) – and about how much more appreciation people have of nature after having taken part in such events
2, The Franciscan Community at Stoutenburg
3. Timetoturn – A lively organisation for young people (under 30) in the Netherlands to encourage young Christians and others in social and ecological ~issues – by stunts and jokes and campaigns, and by being provocative. They have some stickers for mobile phones about the Congo.

And what is the Netherlands, Amsterdam and the Centre where we stayed like? What of the geology and plants?

I travelled by bus Leeds – Amsterdam (£75) plus train journeys at either end.

I had a free day in Amsterdam before the conference, and a day and a half at the end. Being a tourist, walking round, was quite hard work, and a bit lonely,

But then I discovered a hostel –   ( 21 euro £18 per night incl breakfast) – moreover it was a Christian Hostel called “the Shelter in the Red Light District, where they  even had (optional)  evening prayers and bible studies for any backpackers interested, and use of the internet, and friendly people.

I visited Rijks Museum (Rembrant etc) , Botanic Gardens.  Ann Frank House, Jewish Museums, (shattering to see what happened to so many humans – the Jews and others – so relatively recently.)  I avoided being run over by bicycles – they come from all directions at great speed; I bought and was bemused, in a Mr Bean way, by an OV chipcart, – a bit like an oyster card. I visited some huge modern buildings just north of Central Station. Amsterdam really is built out of the sea and does have lot of canals. You can see how Amsterdam is built on sand where they are excavating both roads and canals.

The forest round the conference centre was also growing on sand and would  have heathland were it not for the trees.  Bernard Sorel’s pictures prove there are wild boar in the woods.




Author: | Date: 10 September, 2012 | Category: Archived News | Comments: 0

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