Daily Prayers Friday, 9 December 2022
I’m writing these thoughts and prayers as a member of the Eco-Church committee and with those priorities in mind.
It was St Nicolas Day on Tuesday – the day when my work colleagues from Belgium and Germany traditionally celebrate gift giving by putting little oranges and sweet treats in their children’s shoes, in memory of a 4th century saint who famously observed those in need and sold his belongings to give to the poor (putting coins in people’s shoes). So, it’s a day for celebrating generosity, sharing and the pleasure and surprise of receiving gifts.
I found myself wondering how I could think about this in environmental terms. I’ll start with the positive: I’m someone who likes walking, and I’ll take myself off to the local park at some point during the day most days. There is always an abundance of gifts to surprise me – a flash of a colour from a shy bird; the sun catching the Autumn leaves; spiders webs made manifest in the morning dew; mist playing tricks on the eyes. The Scottish poet Norman MacCaig captures the sense of wonder in walking in nature better than me – here’s an extract from ‘An Ordinary Day’:
[…] Various ducks
Shilly-shallied here and there
On the shilly-shallying water.
An occasional gull yelped. Small flowers
Were doing their level best
To bring to their kerbs bees like
Ariel charabancs. […]
[…] A cow
Started a moo but thought
Better of it … And my feet took me home
And my mind observed to me,
Or I to it, how ordinary
Extraordinary things are or
How extraordinary ordinary
Things are, like the nature of the mind
And the process of observing.
Alongside this, though, comes our responsibility to work out how best to conserve this abundance, in our own small ways. People who walk early in my local park will discover how its beauty is in part preserved by a man who (entirely voluntarily) comes daily to pick up the litter left behind from the day before, which is often, sadly, plentiful. I sometimes see him laden with 4 or 5 bags, which he takes home – an unassuming act of generosity to his local community, and one that I find inspiring.
On a bigger scale, it’s clear that everyone – governments included – can find it very hard to know how to do right by nature and the earth’s resources. We’ve seen this in the debates about the recent climate summit Cop 27. Green Christian quotes Alex Sobel, MP, who was there in his role as Inter-Parliamentary Parliament COP Rapporteur. “The outcomes at COP fill me with mixed emotions. The deal on loss and damage is indeed historic. I spoke to the most senior politicians from countries like Vanuatu, Micronesia, Tuvalu and other Pacific Islands under real and exponential threat […] The deal gives them some hope but it MUST be delivered on. The progress on emissions is far more disappointing. I deeply fear we will breach the 1.5C not by 2050 or 2100 but within a decade without much more severe action. […] This is a real and vital debate but until a better process is agreed with delivery at its centre, we shouldn’t abandon COP for nothing. We would be worse off without it.”
This reflection reminds me of our need for vigilance, in big things and in small, when it comes to making climate change happen. And it reminds me to live in faith and hope that we can make a difference.
Let us pray:
God of Creation and curiosity
Inspire in us the desire to think climate thoughts
To wonder how we, in our local spaces, can celebrate and preserve the earth
By small acts and ideas that we can share.
Help us to relish the gift of nature, and, like St Nicholas,
To be on the lookout for ways to play our part
And to delight in the constant surprises that your world has to offer us.
on Behalf of the Eco-Church Group