Thursday, November 19, 2015

Paris Climate Change Conference 2015

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11 will be held in Paris, from November 30 to December 11. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. 

Below are some reflections by Rev Dr Jason John (Deacon, Uniting Church in Australia), a 1989 resolution from the Synod of South Australia on the environment, and a prayer by the Uniting Church in Australia for the upcoming Climate Change Conference. 

I wonder what is happening in your church, denomination, association, and networks in relation to climate change, and responses to the Paris Climate Change Conference? It would be great to share together some of the work of diaconal ministry agents in regards to this important issue. 

Deacons are to work with the "marginalised, oppressed, suffering, the forgotten, the unlovely."  Deacons, "hold before the church the model of service among those who suffer, and call the members to engage in such service." Deacons are called to be, "along with the scattered members of the congregation, a sign of the presence of God in the everyday world."  Deacons are to release those gifts in church members "that will enable them to share in this ministry of caring, serving, healing, restoring, making peace and advocating justice as they go about their daily lives."(Statement from the renewal of the diaconate in the Uniting Church in Australia, 1985). 
That such people exist, and that there is hope for change, was the basis of the renewal of the diaconate.  It is not only people, however, who fall into those categories.  Nobody who reads a paper, or watches documentaries, could fail to acknowledge that the environment itself has been pushed to the margins of society's consciousness until recent decades.  Defenceless individuals and communities in the animal and plant kingdoms continue to be oppressed, and to suffer.  
Many environmentalists take for granted that the exploitation of the earth is significantly if not entirely due to the so called Judeo-Christian ethic of the West.  This is, however, a very simplistic understanding, and several recent works attest to the strong thread of environmental responsibility, and love for the environment, in both the Scriptures and Christian tradition.They argue that the creation stories present humanity as intimately connected to creation, being made from earth, and charged to be good stewards, rather than exploiters of creation.  The creation is very good, it was created by Christ himself, and nothing in it is unclean. John testified against the gnostics that created matter was good.  Francis of Assisi and many of the mystics give ample testimony to their special reverence for the whole of creation.  An increasing number of Christians believe that their treatment of the environment is a reflection on their relationship with God. (Rev Dr (Deacon) Jason John)

1989 Synod resolution (Synod of South Australia, Uniting Church in Australia)
8.1 recognising that the critical state of the world's environment demands a serious and urgent response from the Christian community,
     a. draw the attention of the whole church to the church's participation in destroying the environment and the need for us to affirm in word and life:
          i. the sacredness of all creation and God's passionate concern for its care and well being;
          ii. the redemptive work of Jesus Christ which is for all the created order;
          iii. God's call for us to participate with Him in healing the earth and proclaiming the recreation and reconciliation of all life through Jesus Christ;
          iv. the consequent need for a re-orientation of our theology and its practice, in ways which express our respect for creation and all people and which do not plac development and our respect for creation in conflict.

For the Sake of the Planet
Creator God,
breath and source of life,
in love you called the world into being
and in grace you made us and call us your children.
We stand in awe of the wonder of your creation:
           its beauty and wildness;
           complexity and power;
           resilience and fragility.
God of life,
you call us to be participants in the web and wellspring of life:
          to be nurtured by the planet;
          to be nurturing of the planet;
          to cherish the world and all that lives.
But we have failed and creation groans under our weight.
God of grace,
forgive us in our brokenness:
           when we have taken too much from the earth;
           when we have not spoken out against greed and destruction;
           when we have allowed our most vulnerable neighbours to be harmed.
We seek courage and forgiveness to be made whole.
God of love,
we pray for those people, communities and nations
already suffering the devastating effects of climate change;
and we pray for the diversity of life on earth,
so much of it already threatened by our actions.
God of hope,
we pray for the world’s leaders gathering in Paris.
Bless them with wisdom and creativity,
and a shared vision of hope for all creation.
May they find the determination
to take strong action against climate change,
and the political will to act together for the common good.
Creator God,
we pray for us all,
that we might restore our relationships with each other
and work together to heal the earth.
Renew us in your grace
for the sake of your creation. Amen.
© 2015 Uniting Church in Australia Assembly

Reflections on responding to sorrows and fears

Every now and then
we leave off our pious yearnings,
and even our righteous ire,
and sit down to the hard work
of being sad for the world.

It takes guts, God knows—
not anger but sorrow;
it tires prophets and psalmists alike.
The wolf that cries in the long valley,
the sea that chants its lament
over and over with sighs and tears,
the hermit on sore knees,
the angels at their posts
taking turns offering up their
aching hearts,
even Christ weeping,
they can't do it alone.

In the end it is
the broken hearted
in whom we find
the deepest companionship.
We come away wet with grief
yet oddly strengthened
with the fibers of hope.
In grief for the world we touch its worth.
In sorrow we find each other,
and there, the substance of joy.

Weird, isn't it, how that alone
is the healing balm we ask?

(a reflection by Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday 13th Nov, Paris, Beirut

Banksy's art - Peace for Paris

whose love has no borders
in the face of tragedy
the loss of innocence
we have few words

only deep sorrow

the silence of lament

at the hate in our world
at the fear in our hearts
at the loss of life
the crushing of hope
the breaking of peace

We rage at all who 
recklessly or coldly
take others lives
No matter which side
No matter what cause
We grieve for
those caught in the middle
We can but imagine
how you weep for your world

We pray for the Muslim people of Paris and Beirut
those who simply wish to live in peace
We pray for the people of Syria and Iraq and Lebanon
those who simply wish to live in peace
We pray for leaders on all sides of these conflicts
may they simply wish to live in peace

Yet you call us to pray for all people
even those we would think of as enemies
all who seek power instead of peace
We pray for
for a change of mind, a change of heart
As so we pray now in silence

whose love has no borders
We seek understanding
We crave compassion
We yearn for hope
We long for peace

Lord have mercy 
on all your children
Hear our sadness
Heal our world

(Craig Mitchell)

World Council of Churches and Middle East Council of Churches on bombings in a crowded civilian shopping area in Beirut, Lebanon. 
The twin bombings on the evening of Thursday 12 November took 41 lives—the largest number of casualties since the Lebanese civil war 25 years ago—and injured more than 200 persons. Responsibility for the bombings was claimed by the so-called ‘Islamic State´.
The statement from MECC (Middle East Council of Churches), which is based in Beirut, condemned the bombings as terrorist violence and expressed sympathy for the victims. “We ask the Lord to heal the grief and pains of their families, and to bless a rapid recovery for the wounded,” it said.
“The Middle East Council of Churches also calls on all those in charge in Lebanon to overcome internal conflicts among themselves and to be united in front of terrorism, which threatens all the Lebanese regardless of their sectarian and political affiliation.”
WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, also expressed consternation over the violence. “The people of Lebanon have struggled for a generation to build a stable and open democracy. Extremist violence such as this destroys not only precious lives and families but also threatens the social solidarity the Lebanese people have worked so hard to build. It is despicable that such violence is perpetrated in the name of religion. I extend our prayers and our heartfelt sympathy to the victims and their families. And I urge all parties to exercise restraint and to renounce violence and terror in favour of a just and peaceful future for the Lebanese people and all peoples in the region.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

DIAKONIA World Federation Executive Committee

DIAKONIA World Federation Executive Committee is meeting in Chicago from 10th Nov - 2 days with the Regional Presidents and Officers, and then 5 days with the full Executive. Guests joining us during the week include E Louise Williams and Diane Marten, and there will be a site visit to Loyola on Friday where the next World Assembly will happen mid 2017. We'll have lots more information to share at the end of the meeting. Please remember us in your prayers as we work through the reports, enter into lively conversations, and plan for the Assembly.

busy day planning the 2017 Assembly in Chicago

The DIAKONIA World Executive Committee