Read this post to find out what we did!
(Editor’s note: Note I am still preparing/updating this post)
- Main Report by John Payne
- Comments sent in by others
- Some photos
- The original weekend pre-retreat blurb, (as printed at the end of this post here
Main Report by John Payne
Green Christian Retreat at Launde Abbey, 22-24 November 2019
I think all of us at the Green Christian Retreat at Launde Abbey this year felt at times both amazement and gratitude for Brian Davis’ indefatigable energy and enthusiasm in leading the planning and management of this event for Green Christian, with the support of others. Over 40 people stayed for the weekend and an extra 15 people came for a Saturday-only day.
History of Launde
Launde Abbey, in quiet Leicestershire countryside, has a long history. (The word Luande means an open usually grassy area among trees; glade; e.g. “through this laund anon the deer will come— Shakespeare.) In 1119 a group of Augustinian Canons came and built their Priory. It was coveted by Thomas Cromwell while he was dissolving the monasteries, and he bought it from Henry VIII. Sadly, he didn’t have much time to enjoy it, but his son (who features in the Hilary Mantel novels) built the current house as a modest country property with its H shape. He died in 1551 and in fact lies buried, with an imposing monument, in the Launde Abbey Chapel. In 1957, CecilRawlins Coleman CBE and his wife Lilian returned Launde Abbey to the church to the Diocese of Leicester for use as a Retreat House and Conference Centre.
The Abbey proved an excellent location for the Retreat, the theme of which was ‘Signs of Hope’. There were several aspects to the Retreat:
- a series of talks from Kevin Durrant focusing on Bible readings, painting and poems which illustrated aspects of the theme of Hope in the current climate emergency, and people’s alienation from the natural world
- presentations by three activists and professionals on work done locally that offer signs of hope
- a clear and stark talk by Paul Bodenham with the title ‘Beyond hope and despair: fording the flood’
- a question time session on climate change and signs of hope, with the three activists/professionals and Deborah Tomkins for Green Christian, plus Prof John Twidell
- a walk/drive to the Allerton Trust on Sunday morning
- a reflection led by Deirdre Munro, also on Sunday morning
- opportunities for worship, including the use of the beautiful, and historic, chapel at Launde, the grounds of the Abbey, and attending the regular worship of the Abbey community
- substantial time for socialising and fellowship, plus (very good) meals
- a good-humoured Open Mic evening entertainment on the Saturday
- Brief talks on the work of Green Christian, and the Way of Life by Deborah Tomkins and George Dow
For me, Kevin’s talks were at the heart of the weekend.
He brought together readings from Isaiah, Jonah and Jeremiah, a painting by Stanley Spencer (‘The Scorpion’), a sculpture by Mark Wallinger (‘White Horse’), and poems by Edwin Muir, Margaret Atwood and Max Garland, among others, to reflect on extinction, wildlife, alienation, and the signs of hope there might be amidst the emerging dark picture of our times.
He pointed to the hope that might exist within Jeremiah 4 v 27, for instance – “This is what the Lord says: The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely”.
The story of Jonah in Nineveh has great relevance to climate activists!
Throughout, Kevin’s reflective approach, his use of poetry and art alongside Scripture, and the clarity of his language, made for extremely rewarding reflections which certainly led me to further thought and prayer.
I liked his reference to virtue as opposed to consequentialist ethics – doing what is right (in terms of you as an individual in response to the climate emergency) rather than thinking about how little you as one individual can do in response to a global problem.
Talks by Simon Bentley, Prof Chris Stoate & Martin Gage
The three talks by Simon Bentley, Prof Chris Stoate and Martin Gage all gave practical evidence of how principled research and action were mitigating some aspects of the impact of human activity on nature.
Simon spoke about the work, and some of the success stories, of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, one of a network of such Trusts throughout the UK, who collectively are making a difference to our wildlife and landscape. His story about the Rutland Water ospreys was very heartening.
Chris spoke about research on the effects of different farming methods on wildlife and the environment which the Allerton Trust has carried out over the last 25 years, near to Launde Abbey.
Martin’s talk focused on the work Christian Aid was doing with local partners to mitigate the impact of climate change and build resilience in local populations in developing countries, using methodologies which did not involve implications of Western superiority and relied instead on community engagement and indigenous thinking.
Paul Bodenham’s talk Borrowed Time: building pastoral care in the climate emergency emphasised that social and ecological collapse was inescapably our context for action, and that acknowledging this required sacrificial honesty and new spiritual and emotional capacities. Only from those capacities, he said, can we find the freedom and courage we need to choose our collective survival, and only then will our political leaders be able to make the tough policy decisions which are needed, and lead the public in implementing them in the time that remains.
We need to befriend mortality – confronting fear of death, and of the potentially terminal diagnosis of our civilisation.
We need to find wisdom for the future, opening up new pathways of knowing and acting, and holding open the door to hope, helping people grow resolute and imaginative in building a new society in the face of potential collapse.
“In the climate emergency, beyond hope and despair, lies a time between worlds: level ground to live and act with courage, love and equanimity”.
Paul went on to suggest ways in which churches could help people deal with the grief they were experiencing over climate change and extinction.
Open Mic Session
There were a range of other talks and activities as I mentioned earlier. The Open Mic session was particularly enjoyable, with poems, songs and story extracts from a range of participants including our joint Chairs. If there was a stand-out item, it was probably John Miller’s recital of a humorous poem about a Harland & Wolff shipyard prank which went viral and global.
Sadly, John fell ill on the Saturday evening and had to be taken to hospital – we gather since he has made a speedy full recovery, and we wish him and his wife Joan continuing good health.
I should also in passing pay tribute to Brian Davis’ talents as vocalist and guitar-player!
The weather throughout was never better than damp, grey and cold, with the occasional glimpse of lighter clouds amidst the general murk. But the facilities of Launde Abbey more than compensated for that, and the warm glow of the chapel in the closing Eucharist embodied some of the hope we had been talking about and experiencing over the two days we were together.
As Brian said in a note that he gave us towards the end of the weekend, this should not be a “facile false faith that says it’s all in God’s hands , so we don’t need to do anything” in response to the climate crisis, nor an optimism that ignores the reality of the crisis, but a “hope based on faith in God [which] should enable us to open our eyes and see what is actually happening to our planet today, and [should enable us to] believe there is much that we can do, individually and together, with God to guide and strengthen us”.
Some at the event felt this was more a conference than a retreat – for me, the event had to be complex to mirror the complexity of the subject matter, and the different perspectives on that complexity of those attending. The multitude of activities offered plenty of opportunities for opt-out and reflection, as did the whole ambience of the Abbey and its worshipping community. For me, it was a great weekend – in turns informative, engaging and inspiring! Again, thank you, Brian, for leading the organisation and planning and thanks also to all those other people engaged in planning for or contributing to the event. Thanks also to George Dow and others who did a lot to publicise the Retreat.
There were 58 people booked in for at least part of the whole weekend (Friday-Sunday), of whom 29 were GC members. c. 15 extra people came on the Saturday. (Still waiting for actual numbers to be confirmed)
Messages sent in.
If you came on the retreat and would like to send a paragraph saying what you found most interesting, do send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or add to the comments section at the end of this post.
Thanks to Deborah and George of GC and Brian Davies of Launde for this weekend. Excellent bible studies from Kevin Durrant, other speakers and a visit to the Allerton Trust in Loddington all gave much to think on and pray on. It sent me home with the determination to review my own lifestyle and actions and to renew my efforts. Signs of hope in hard times.
What an amazing weekend we had. Of course I’m referring to Launde Abbey. It was nice meeting everybody and the content was remarkable. I shouldn’t really pick out individuals but I will. Brian is an amazing musician and the other inputs were both educational and challenging.
The Allerton trust was very informative and standing in a field having the various different elements of the experimentation being pointed out was great. Things like beetle banks, wildlife strips etc.
I did however sense a certain amount of heightened feeling when it was pointed out to us that the green manure that was sown in the autumn to act as a cover crop would be ‘sprayed off ‘ in the spring, before sowing the next crop. (this is a no till system). But sprayed with glyphosate. I understand a little the advantages of a no till system to avoid ploughing and therefore disturbing the soil structure, but to then spray poison all over the ground, in my naivety I find myself asking what is glyphosate doing to soils and living organisms and of course us?
We also learnt about the work Christian Aid are doing and positive news about the local wildlife trust and the great efforts they are making. A lovely weekend in very pleasant surroundings.
I too am still glowing after the wonderful weekend at Launde Abbey. And it was great to come home to this news regarding the European Investment Bank’s commitment to stop funding fossil fuel infrastructure from 2021.
Christian Aid said: Another good news story is this big success for our Big Shift campaign. The European Investment bank (EIB) agreed last week to stop funding all fossil fuel infrastructure as of 2021.
Now to get all the other banks and governments to follow suit!
Signs of Hope – a Green Weekend.
at Launde Abbey, on the borders of Leicestershire and Rutland. Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th November 2019
Book now for Green Christian Retreat at Launde Abbey, Leics 22-24 Nov. 2019 https://greenchristian.org.uk/signs-of-hope-nov-2019-laundeabbey/ 22-24 November
As we now face possible environmental and ecological disaster we need to find reasons for hope, not only through our spiritual resources in worship, prayer and bible study, but also by seeing what is happening in the world around us, both politically and practically.
Green Christian retreats provide an annual opportunity to meet other Green Christian members in beautiful, reflective and friendly surroundings. They are also open to anyone who cares about the future of our planet.
This year’s retreat is organised on behalf of Green Christian by Canon Brian Davis, Chair of Eco Church Harborough, and Chair of the Friends of Launde Abbey, with Revd Kevin Durrant, a Baptist Minister who also leads quiet days and retreats.
Kevin Durrant will lead Bible Studies during the week-end, looking at some of the themes of his book, ‘The earth will teach you’ (copies from Kevin are only £8.50, including p & p. email: email@example.com ). In it he reveals the great richness of ecological themes found in the Bible, providing hope and inspiration as we wrestle with the most important theological issue of our time – the fate of our planet & all its inhabitants.
But we also need to find hope in the world around us. So there will also be guest speakers, including someone from the Allerton Trust, which runs a nearby farm and highly acclaimed conservation project (a site visit may be possible during the weekend), and the Director of the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust, whose good work in protecting and enhancing local wildlife includes the management of two woods belonging to Launde, and Rutland Water Nature Reserve. Brian also hopes to organise a ‘Question Time’ on Saturday involving, among others, a local MP. Furthermore there will be opportunities on Friday evening and Sunday morning to share in the work of Green Christian, and the Way of Life which is at the heart of our discipleship.
Launde is an ideal place for a ‘Green Week-end’, in the heart of the countryside, with its extensive gardens, surrounded by 150 acres of beautiful parkland on the borders of Leicestershire and Rutland.
Cost: £170 (£165 for early bird bookings) – all rooms en suite with excellent food & facilities, Friday supper till Sunday afternoon tea (The normal week-end rate at Launde is now £181)
STAND-ALONE SATURDAY : those who cannot commit to the whole week-end, may join us on Saturday from 9.30am to 4.30pm – COST:£30 which includes lunch, etc; £25 if you come as a group/carload.
TO BOOK A PLACE AT THE WEEK-END phone Launde Abbey 01572 717254 For more information about the week-end contact Brian Davis firstname.lastname@example.org 01858431843.