We asked writer and broadcaster Andrew Graystone to give us a sneak peak at what’s in store for our festival communion gathering for this year…
Every day I watch the TV news. There are stories of doom and destruction; wars and rumours of wars; poverty, child abuse, corruption….and then a jaunty bloke in a sports jacket tells me what the weather will be tomorrow. The truth is, tomorrow’s weather forecast is by far the scariest part of the news. In fact, much of the chaos and catastrophe in the news bulletin is directly caused by our reckless attitude to the climate. We’re just not making the connection. “Listen, hypocrites!” Jesus says in a stinging rebuke to his followers, “You’re so smart at predicting the weather. How come you can’t read the signs of the times?” (Luke 12:56)
He has a point. So much Christian worship I see seems to be just Christians singing themselves to sleep. Greenbelt should be different. It must be different…and especially when we meet for our Sunday morning communion.
As we’ve started to plan the Sunday morning communion we have been helped by Maximus the Confessor (c580-662). He was an activist monk and theologian from present-day Georgia. An early Christian environmentalist, he described humans as “the priests of creation.” Max believed that human beings stand alongside the rest of creation as brothers and sisters, but with a unique job to do. Whilst all of creation praises God with ‘silent voices,’ humans have been given the ability to give expression to creation’s voice. It’s our job to lead the singing of creation’s praise, and it’s our job to express its pain too.
Part of our priestly calling is to imagine the future. Today, the forecast is bleak. Creation is burning up. We are awake to a future of rising sea levels and extreme climates, mass migration and food shortages. We’ll meet to express the planet’s fear and distress; to give words to creation’s grief, and to plead for God’s mercy. But maybe we can still find the spiritual imagination to envisage a different world where fear and anger have been transformed into courage and hope; where poverty is ended and all of God’s children have safe spaces to live in and clean air to breath. Adults find this difficult to imagine. As usual, we’re going to need children to help us.
In our Sunday morning festival communion this year we are going to play out two different scenarios. First, we will throw ourselves forward into the climate emergency of the next three decades. With the help of our neighbours from the world next door we will forecast tomorrow’s weather. On behalf of creation, we will grieve for the damage we are doing to the planet and its people. It may not be pretty.
Then, in a Greenbelt first, we will stop everything mid-service. We will re-run the whole scenario. We will ask our God to replace our despair with a wild and counter-cultural vision of the world made whole, and consider what it might take to achieve it. And right here, right now, we will commit ourselves to reshaping our lives to fulfil that vision. There’s always a chance that we can change the weather.