Increasingly in my ministry, not least in my ministry with prisons and criminal justice, I reflect on the reality that all the brokenness in our world is rooted in broken relationship: Relationship with God, with neighbour and with self, and of course with the earth and the whole of creation.
This is echoed in our failure to keep those commandments, underlined by Jesus Christ, to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’ and to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.
As we live this season designated by the Church as ‘Creationtide’, I have been reflecting on that canticle written by St Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century (read it here). In it, St Francis not only speaks of mother earth but also of creatures such as brother sun and sister water, recognising that the earth is also our neighbour, as is each aspect of creation.
One of our spotlight commitments in our diocesan vision of LIFE Together is that of ‘Being advocates for flourishing through initiatives which combat injustice, environmental destruction, exclusion and isolation’. This is all about kingdom-of-God-shaped relationship lived out across our different contexts and communities with far-reaching impact. It is about children, young people, adults, place and all of creation.
As September progresses, it is not uncommon for people to talk about noticing the changes in light and creation as we move into autumn, although at present we are all noticing the rather concerning high temperatures for this time of year.
That concept of ‘noticing change’ is one of the things we are increasingly talking about as a diocesan staff team. It is not about the changes and conclusions about the Church as presented in some of our newspapers, but rather about how our quantitative and qualitative ‘noticing’ at the very local level (as well as beyond), can both encourage and challenge us in the shaping of our mission and ministry. For me, it is about asking how faithfully and effectively we are inhabiting that post-communion prayer which also echoes some of St Paul’s words as he speaks of creation (Romans 8:21):
‘May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name; through Christ our Lord.’
In this season of Creationtide and in this very full month of September, I am endeavouring to notice more intently. That includes the sights and sounds and smells of creation around me; and it also includes noticing what is to be celebrated and what is causing concern in the life of worshipping communities within their different, wider contexts.
May this season of Creationtide be one of noticing, thanksgiving and lament, as we live out our lives in that sphere of relationship with God, neighbour and the whole of creation.
With my thanks and prayers as ever,