Sustainable Living : Workshop on Community
On Saturday 22nd November 2014, CEL (or, as it will be renamed in January 2015, Green Christian ) held our Annual Members Meeting, and after official business was over, we were treated to an address by Ian Christie of the Sustainable Living Research Group at the University of Surrey. on “Sustainable Living : Why we struggle and how we can change”.
There were three breakout group workshops after his address, one on Church, one on Community and one on Campaigning. I tried to act as a facilitator for the Community breakout group, and the conversation was really interesting and fast-paced, which was a good thing as we did not have all day to explore the multiple issues and opportunities. Here is the write up of my notes – which is open to corrections and additions :-
“Sustainable Living : Why we struggle and how we can change”
Workshop on Community
22 November 2014
What is your recommendation for our Green Christian actions ?
What is your recommendation for the Churches in theirs ?
Community : in faith-led outreach to householders and the church, and in new “rites of transition” ?
The workshop focussed on the following areas :-
1. Learning by doing and structured activities
The group preferred doing rather than just talking. Suggested activities were :-
– Visits to renewable energy facilities – such as biogas production plant, wind turbines, solar farms
– School groups being invited to visit churchyards
– Jumble sales as the ultimate in recycling
– “Swishing” events – to swap high quality unwanted clothes
– Bicycle repair workshops at church
– Church-organised draught-busting workshop
– Starting and managing a community garden
– Walking in the fells
– Guerilla gardening
– A church project, for example on energy, insulation or food
“Wouldn’t it be better that the church be setting an example ?”
2. Non-directed learning – emergent dialogue
The group thought that it would be good for churches to provide a welcome, a setting, for conversations to emerge, rather than introducing programmed instruction or dictating the outcomes.
It was thought that just starting a conversation, just talking with people, could bring a number of issues and their potential solutions to the surface : “talking about climate change can happen within that context”.
However, there were some models of engagement that were proposed :-
– EcoTeams (from the Global Action Plan)
– ecocell (from Green Christian)
– Transition Towns
– Skillsharing – a chain of teaching : in other words, one person teaches another how to fix a dripping tap, or draught-proof a window/door, or grow vegetables; that person then teaches another and so on.
However, it was thought that some specific topics were important enough to merit deliberate discussion initiatives and meetings – and that messaging about them were still important – such as the use of coal for energy – and how to keep it underground through lifestyle changes, different approaches.
There was also suggestions that organisations should formally work together on educational aspects of climate change – schools and churches for example.
3. Rites of transition
Funerals were thought to be the most appropriate and relevant place to bring up environmental questions – interments frequently being held outdoors. The type of messaging given at a funeral was very important – the question of different life courses, and futures. Also the question of “where there’s a funeral, there’s a legacy”.
4. Dispersed church
The group raised the thorny problem : how can the church function properly as a transitioning community when its members travel from so far to the meetings, and don’t live close to each other ? It was suggested that perhaps the churches should inspire people about street-based projects, local allotments, and that maybe the church should act like [a collection of localised] cell groups.