Dear Editor, In the last year I have taken part in a green give-away, travelled across the city in a dustcart, visited our paper recycling plant, launched a campaign for more fuel-free journeys, held a service at household recycling centre and hosted an art exhibition looking at the story of Noah’s Ark from the perspective of climate change.
You know me well enough, now I have been in Birmingham more than three years, to understand I keep Jesus Christ at the centre of all we do and believe ecology is part of our work as people who follow Jesus.
Our narrative as Christians is one of creation and redemption – or to use slightly less churchy language, making things and restoring things. It is a pattern born out of the love of God and all people are called to be part of that work of God – making new things and helping to make things whole again.
So seeking climate justice, challenging consumption and greed and developing sustainable lifestyles are at the heart of this Gospel narrative – concern for the integrity of creation is one of the five marks of mission recognised by churches across the world.
As well as being part of our ordinary Christian life getting involved in environmental campaigning is one of the best contemporary actions a Bishop, a church or any Christian can take to build connections outside of our own religious context.
Many of the green activities we have initiated in Birmingham have revolved around generosity and hospitality, providing an open door for people to visit our cathedral or churches and to begin to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’
At last year’s Christmas give-away 450 people came into Birmingham Cathedral and received a gift. Christians from a few of our churches and our diocesan office were asked to look round their houses for gifts they had never wanted. We filled the cathedral with unopened perfumes, nearly-new books and CDs, bric-a-brac, clothes, toys and games.
People passing by were invited to choose a gift. Homeless people came in for scarves, gloves and jumpers. Grandparents found gifts for grandchildren, tourists chose a souvenir, students took books and children found a new toy.
As well as being given a gift each of those people were welcomed into a building into which they can return to pray, they had a conversation with someone who was able to listen to them for a few minutes and each one took away the impression of a loving and generous God whose greatest gift to them was not gift-wrapped but was born in humility at Christmas.
Equally, this year during inter-faith week (November 14-21) we have hosted an exhibition made by pupils at Bartley Green school looking at the story of Noah’s Ark. We invited the 30 children and their parents to the launch of the exhibition where they mingled with the city’s Faith Leaders, had some food and were given a certificate and a small gift. Within a few minutes the parents and the children felt at home, many said they would come back to the Cathedral again if they were in the city centre.
Throughout that week another 120 children came to the Cathedral, surrounded by imagery now rarely seen outside churches, they explored the story of Noah’s Ark and its relevance to 21st Century global issues. The positive feedback has been overwhelming.
We cannot put our Gospel in a neat box, marked spiritual, and only get it out when we are all sitting comfortably in church. Jesus’ parables and miracles engaged directly with contemporary issues and concerns. Green issues are Gospel issues. Poverty issues are Gospel issues. Immigration is a Gospel issue.
Bishop of Birmingham.