Navigating ecological tragedy: Report of Weekend at Gomde

Author: Paul Bodenham | Date: 29 March, 2020 | Category: Borrowed Time GC Events Reports | Comments: 0

Navigating ecological tragedy: a weekend of Christian-Buddhist dialogue

Doncaster, March 2020


On 6-8 March 2020, Green Christian collaborated with Gomde UK Buddhist Centre, near Doncaster in a collaborative inquiry entitled Navigating Ecological Tragedy.  It opened on the Friday with a public meeting at Doncaster College hosted by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, and moved for the rest of the weekend to the beautiful surroundings of Gomde at Lindholme Hall, in the peatlands of Hatfield Moor.


Doncaster Council have declared a climate emergency, and are seeking to engage the local faith communities.  We were joined by the Council’s elected Mayor Roz Jones, and by their Chief Executive Damian Allen.  On the Council’s behalf he posed two ‘focus questions’ which proved to be a valuable stimulus for the whole weekend.  We were mindful of our limitations as representing only two faith communities, but you can read our response to the Council’s questions below. 

We’d like to thank our friends at Gomde and the 30 participants, including several Green Christian members, together with Doncaster Council and Doncaster College for their support.  We look forward to following up the ground-breaking conversations, both locally and nationally.

Doncaster Council’s focus questions

  • How can civic and faith communities work together to navigate the climate crisis and mobilise to change our current trajectory?
  • What ethical challenge and support can faith communities provide civic leaders in this work?

The faith partners’ response

Faith communities can work with civic leaders in providing powerful practices for change, in particular through:

  • Offering spaces and techniques for deep listening, engagement and inclusion;
  • Training and support in emotional intelligence, using techniques such as meditation and mindfulness, conflict resolution, and healing through re-connecting with nature;
  • Developing resources, methods and spaces for processing grief and anxiety in response to tragedies such as flooding, e.g. via public rituals / ceremonies (both secular and religious);
  • Creating opportunities to take part in community-wide envisioning exercises (using both dialogue and visual means) for what is possible, now and in the near future, as a community.

Faith communities can provide alternative ethical narratives to those of civic leaders by:

  • Recovering and explaining the civic virtues and values from our traditions, local cultures and stories, which we feel are needed in this time of ecological crisis (e.g. courage, hope, compassionate action, solidarity and frugality, regret and remorse, patience and generosity);
  • Providing ethical review and critique of the communication – both in content and method – from civic leaders around the ecological and climate emergency;
  • Challenging the dominant public discourses from media, policy, and corporate messaging that are hindering social change (e.g. economic growth as a measure of wellbeing).

Faith communities can help empower members of the local community, and create environments in which they are heard, by:

  • Ensuring that it is local people most affected who define ‘the ecological crisis’;
  • Encouraging and initiating dialogues where marginalised people (including under-represented faith communities) can hold those in power to account;
  • Helping prepare and lead emotionally and psychologically difficult conversations on the ecological crisis, for instance within Citizen’s Assemblies, Climate Commissions and among public sector leaders and professionals, via training and experience in different methods of communication (including visual).

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