We are facing a climate and ecological crisis. In many parts of the world, people are beginning to recognise that this is the case. Certainly, in the British Isles, both the secular and church worlds seem to have woken up to the problems we are facing. But this means that organisations like JRI and A Rocha UK are under unprecedented pressure as suddenly everyone seems to want resources and speakers. Margot and I not infrequently get asked to help out our friends from A Rocha UK with speaking engagements. This is a crisis and if A Rocha wants help we give it if we possibly can.
An old friend of ours, Simon Brown, coordinates the speakers for A Rocha UK, and he has sent me some unusual assignments over the last few years. “Preaching in Guernsey?” Looks in the diary- “possibly!” Simon put me in touch with Revd Jon Honour, the Vicar of Holy Trinity in St Peter Port, the capital of Guernsey. There followed around six months of emails back and forth. Our first attempt at a date did not work, and Jon decided he would like to involve the other churches of the island and to make it bigger, and over a whole weekend. It became clear to me that this was going to need more than one person, and I asked Simon. He decided to come himself. More emails back and forth, and we had the plan.
On 28th February 2020, Simon and I flew out to Guernsey. There really isn’t another sensible route at that time of year, and I offset my flight with Climate Stewards. But we had a packed weekend with two big events and five services to cover. Definitely making the most of the carbon! On Friday evening Jon, Simon and I had a meal together, checked out Holy Trinity, and went through the weekend ahead.
On Saturday, after months of planning, we were off! At Holy Trinity, we put on a morning for all of the churches on the island looking at Eco Church (thus far no island churches had registered). I started with an introduction to our environmental problems and a little Biblical basis of creation care. Simon then introduced A Rocha. After a break, I went through how Eco Church works and we then had a more interactive session looking at where the churches were on their journey to sustainability. We had over fifty people there, including a good number of church leaders. Let us hope that some now sign up to the Eco Church scheme. We had a little time off on Saturday afternoon, and I met up with one of my former students from Oxford Brookes, Lucy Jouault. Then back for the evening event at Holy Trinity. The church put on a “Food Waste Banquet”, using food from a local supermarket that would have been thrown away. It was a great meal with about 40 people present. Some photos from the church Facebook page are HERE. A wonderful idea! At the end of the evening, I did a short after-dinner talk “Why is 2020 such an important year for the environment?”
Sunday was a packed day of sermons. I covered three and Simon two. My sermon was based on Colossians 1 and John 1, and I gave it in three different churches. I began back at Trinity for the 9.00 am Book of Common Prayer communion service. Then I was whisked off to Vale Church in the north of the island. The vicar of this church, Revd Stuart Tanswell, was on one of the rural ministry training weeks that I co-led for Ripon College Cuddesdon many years ago, and we have kept in touch. The service was a sung Eucharist with a robed choir. After coffee there, Stuart drove me back to St Peter Port in his electric car. He is quite a devotee, and of course, it is ideal for a small island. After lunch, I actually fell asleep for a while- not too surprising perhaps! Then Jon took me and Simon to the west of the island and the historic church of St Peters. The church is unusual in that it is built on quite a steep slope, so you literally walk up to the altar. St Peters had been revived a couple of years previously when some families from Holy Trinity moved there to support it under the leadership of Revd Adrian Datta. The service was informal with a worship band. It was notable for the very large number of children, and the amazing high tea afterwards, where I was introduced to Guernsey Gache, the special bread of the island. And finally back to Holy Trinity for their evening service, where fortunately Simon was preaching. Again the style of the service was informal with a worship band, and it was attended by a good-sized congregation, mostly young people. By the end of the day, I certainly felt I had experienced the full range of Church of England service styles!!
And on Monday I returned to the mainland. It was a great weekend, and I hope that it really kick starts environmental activity in churches of the island. Many thanks to Jon Honour and Holy Trinity for hosting us so well, and to everyone else that was involved. And thanks too to Simon Brown and A Rocha UK for asking me!
Dr Martin Hodson
JRI Operations Director
Photos: Martin Hodson and Lucy Jouault