USPG has found itself at the heart of concerns about the environment in the last couple of weeks, with climate and environment justice popular themes, both at USPG hosted events and in the streets of Westminster around our current office. The Archbishop Emeritus of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, the Right Reverend Winston Halapua, was with us as we travelled through thousands of climate protesting school children outside the Houses of Parliament, en route to a Eucharist service to celebrate Thomas Bray Day on Friday 15th February. He was so moved that he made them a focus of his sermon, lauding their actions, reminding us that Christ is the heart of creation and encouraging all of us to stand up and act.
One week later, on Friday 22nd February, prior to the General Synod later giving overwhelming support to the London/Truro Diocesan Synod Motion (DSM) on the Church’s Environment programme, the Bishop of Lincoln, opened USPG’s breakfast fringe event by talking about Climate Justice himself. Re-counting his personal experiences based on a visit to the same Archbishop Winston in Polynesia, he shared his thoughts on what ‘Rethinking Mission’ might look like and how the churches of the Anglican communion can work together. His discovery that Lincoln and Polynesia are very similar in certain ways (from being subject to rising sea levels to incidences of domestic abuse) has led to some wonderful shared expressions of mission, justice and creation, and churches in both places are currently developing climate change and theology initiatives.
Later that day, chanting could be heard, coming from further down the street, outside the Department of Education, where teachers had joined a protest calling for curriculum reforms to make the climate and ecological crises an educational priority.
Today, just around the corner, parked outside the Home Office is a 9 metre long sculpture created by Lulu Quinn from over 2,500 plastic bottles collected from beaches, rivers and streets around the UK. The message ‘Don’t Lose Your Bottle’ is meant for the Environment Secretary Michael Gove as he launches a much delayed consultation on introducing a Deposit Return Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but it might as well be for each and every one of us as we act out of faith and not fear to look after God’s creation.
As Archbishop Winston remarked, “When the storm comes and the sea levels rise let’s ensure the Christians will all be surfing along the top of the waves!”