Find the September - October Parish Magazine online here
From the Associate Vicar Revd. Dr. Harriet Every
Perhaps by the time you read this, September will have brought with it monsoon-like rains and the parched earth will be turning to mud, the rivers and reservoirs will be filling, and the fields will be turning green once more. But, as I write the long hot summer continues – the temperatures are high, the skies are blue, clouds are few and far between, the fields are brown, the grass is like dry stubble, and the rivers are as low as I have known them. Good weather for holidays and trips to the beach, but not so good for farmers and gardeners!
People are drawing comparisons with the summer of 1976 - that was my first summer at university, and I relished the sunshine and the lazy summer days through a long vacation. Then too, drought was a major problem, and we were all urged to conserve water: By the end of August things were getting desperate, the standpipes came out, and the Bishops’ urged us all to pray for rain! Those prayers were answered so effectively that, by the beginning of October people were saying, "Thank you, but can you ask Him to stop now please?"
The Summer of 1976 was indeed exceptionally hot and dry in England, but not in the rest of Europe and certainly not across the rest of the world. It is that which makes this year's hot weather more worrying, we are not alone in breaking temperature records. France and our other continental neighbours are also sweltering, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting across the northern hemisphere. Here in Britain, we are fortunate to live in a temperate region and our climate is moderated by the Atlantic Ocean and the seas that lap at our shores, and for that reason it has been easy for us to put concerns about climate change to the back of our minds. Other parts of the world are not so lucky.
At the end of July, I attended the USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) annual conference. This was the first in person conference for three years and brought together people from all over the world. Discussions about climate change have a different tone and a much greater sense of urgency when you are talking to people who are already suffering the consequences. We hear about rising sea levels, but low-lying Bangladesh is already losing land and vital farmland is losing its fertility as it is contaminated with salt. We hear about increasing volatility in the weather and fiercer storms but cyclones that hit the shores of Mozambique are destroying communities and farms and displacing thousands of people. When you talk to people who come from these places and hear their stories then you truly feel something of the sense of urgency that they feel and become impatient with the greed of companies whose actions are exacerbating the problem and the inertia of governments that fail to act to protect our environment.
As we enter September; we will, once again, be marking the Season of Creation and celebrating our forests and rivers, our wildernesses and our wildlife. After this long hot summer, it is perhaps appropriate that the symbol chosen for this year's Season of Creation is the burning bush encountered by Moses in the wilderness, and, in a time of world heating, we are urged to listen to the voice of the Earth and learn to live in harmony with her:
As John O'Donohue wrote:
Let us ask forgiveness of the earth
For all our sins against her:
For our violence and poisonings
Of her beauty.
Let us remember within us
The ancient clay,
Holding the memory of seasons,
The passion of the wind,
The fluency of water,
The warmth of fire,
The quiver-touch of the sun
And the shadowed sureness of the moon.
That we might awaken
To live to the full
The dream of the earth.