Shelly Dennison Reviews “Living Faithfully in the Time of Creation” Edited by Kathy Galloway & Katharine M. Preston

Shelly Dennison

‘Living Faithfully in the Time of Creation’ is the Iona Community’s response to the COP26 Climate Change Conference, which will be held later this year in Glasgow – where the Community is based. The material comes from the Wild Goose Resource Group, members of the Iona Community and its Common Concern Network – Environment (CCN-Enviro). The CCN seeks “to give agency to the Iona Community Rule to act in solidarity with victims of environmental injustice, to support structural change in our own countries to reduce resource consumption, and to rekindle community with the Whole Creation. In all of this, network members are committed to showing mercy, seeking justice and walking humbly.” This ethos permeates the whole book and resonates with other contemporary Christian movements and projects; for example I was struck by the parallels with the Methodist Church’s Walking with Micah social justice project. It also sits well with the 2021 Season of Creation theme, A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God, which takes two definitions of oikos – ‘house’ and ‘family’ – as ways of exploring the idea of the Earth as a common home for all who inhabit it, the whole community of Creation.

The first section of the book includes 12 short reflections based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year B readings for the last 12 weeks of the church year (i.e. beginning with the 15th Sunday after Pentecost). This covers the period of the Season of Creation (1st September – 4th October) and the run up to COP26. Although several of the reflections reference COP26, much of the material will be helpful beyond 2021 and could be used in subsequent years. Each takes the form of a reflection followed by a prayer and most also include a question and an action point. Some reflections use one of the given readings but others take two or three. This part of the book might be useful for preachers or worship leaders looking for food for thought or it could be used for individual reflection and prayer, deepening appreciation of the readings heard in church or as stand-alone reflections. Themes explored include food, deforestation, humility and attentiveness. There is a strong sense of place in some of the reflections where the authors have chosen to draw on their experiences in locations such as Scotland, Jerusalem, Snowdonia and Brazil in order to ground their messages in real places.

The second section contains 12 short essays from Iona Community members from different parts of the world. Katharine M. Preston, writing in the introduction to this part of the book, reminds us that being attuned to our geography and context helps us to reflect on how climate change affects us all. The authors consider the impact of climate change where they are, their work and motivation. We range from Australian bush fires to an outdoor activity centre on Mull and from the impact of changing weather patterns in Kenya to the Pilgrimage2Paris for the Climate Change Summit of November 2015. Themes include food justice, water, biodiversity and climate anxiety.

The remainder of the book contains a Service of Worship in Preparation for COP26 and liturgical resources including prayers, meditations and litanies. If your church enjoys using the Iona Abbey Worship Books then these will be useful additions to the Creation Liturgies and materials in those. Alternatively, churches and worship leaders may prefer to use the material offered selectively to add into their usual liturgies or intercessions. There are also 12 hymns and songs from the Wild Goose Resource Group which can be used in worship or for reflection.

The key strength of this book as a resource for this year and beyond, is the way that the threads of prayer and action are woven through it. Writing in the foreword, Ruth Harvey, Leader of the Iona Community talks of a ‘synthesis of prayer and action’ and of young volunteers at the Abbey Centre on Iona who are drawn by ‘the inextricable link they find between prayerful expressions of the Christian faith and action for social justice, world peace and the integrity of creation.’ This helpful volume would suit anyone looking to explore that link.

Shelly Dennison

Shelly is Digital Engagement Officer for CPRE Bedfordshire. She attends St Mary the Virgin, Goldington and Putnoe Heights Methodist Church (which has just received its bronze Eco Church award). Shelly has just graduated from the CRES course.

‘Living Faithfully in the Time of Creation’ costs £14.99. The publishers kindly provided a copy in exchange for a free and fair review.