This autumn, the Revd Dr Mark Siddall, Priest-in-Charge of St James’ Church Kingsway and Quedgeley, is leading a series of seminars to help clergy, ministers and readers understand the scriptural, theological and missional imperative to care for God’s Creation.
Mark says, “I see part of my role in ministry as helping people develop a love for God’s creation and to understand that it’s literally every breath we take, every glass of water we drink – that caring for creation is part of everything we do.”
Before being ordained in 2018, Mark had an international career in climate research and completed extensive scientific study of the climate, focusing on the impact on our world’s oceans.
“The science on climate change is the basis for how we understand this global challenge. The underlying assumption in science is that we carefully explain the problem that we’ve got so that people will respond and take the most rational course of action. However, there’s been a misunderstanding and mistrust of science. I think it’s important for us as a society to distinguish the difference between a ‘climate activist’ and a ‘climate scientist’ – a scientist will study the science and then recognise the problem; we don’t look for a problem and then seek out the science.
“A lot of the reluctance to change is around individualism – changing our personal habits such as how we use cars, tourism and how we obtain the things we need. We have some very embedded and difficult-to-challenge habits as a society. Our everyday actions are extreme when you think about it, moving a ton of metal along a road to collect a pint of milk from the supermarket, for example. Imagine if you had to push that ton of metal, how much energy it takes when you could just walk!
“People are beginning to realise that folk from all backgrounds and nations – including our own – are becoming ‘climate refugees’, having to move areas and change their lives due to the effects of coastal erosion due to storms and sea level rise, fire, flood and weather, and increasing insurance costs.”
Mark and his family have never driven a car and make decisions based on what is available locally, but he emphasises that it is important to focus on what we feel is genuinely achievable for each of us. Becoming vegetarian is doable for some, but not for all of us.
“Our children are very fit because we cycle everywhere. We also have strong networks of friends because we rely on each other. For our family, it is a win-win and not drudgery and that is what keeps us going.”
Since ordination, Mark has continued his research and teaching interests in climate change, presenting at workshops, leading courses to train clergy and writing papers and study notes.
“For me, my calling is about teaching and leading in a parish context, moving together as a community. When I talk in schools, I talk about this being a ‘together problem’. If each individual responded with small action we can make a big impact on global emissions, so that really emphasises how together we can make a big change. The evangelical Christian and Climate Scientist Katherine Hayhoe estimates that emissions can be reduced by 40% based on the total sum of the individual action alone and that does not allow for the political and consumer pressure for change that such actions create.
“These Creation Care seminars are for those who want to learn more about the scriptural background to caring for Creation and the why, to help them if they want to start to lead on this topic and share it with PCCs and worshipping communities. The talks have a strong scriptural underpinning. The word ‘environment’ is human-centred and an important word in our political context, but it does not appear in scripture. In contrast, the word ‘creation’ is God centred and is the right framing for us to understand it in relation to being Christians.”
The seminar dates are as follows, you can attend all or some of these sessions by booking here.
Mark is also speaking at the monthly online GCEJN meeting on 26 September, which you can book onto here.
26th October 1 and 2 Methodology 9th November 6 and 7 Scripture 23rd November 9 and 10 Eschatology and Good News 7th December 11 and 14 Human vocation in Creation