There was no shortage of hard work, by a bewildering number of people getting this service to happen, as well as to honour more than just their own perspectives. The service was like one of those lovingly-crafted matchstick models of a cathedral, except it was woven of thousands of emails, zooms, and even phone-calls(!). Woven in the quiet building of community. In Glasgow on 5 September 2021, it had no choice but to be a labour of love, relying on grace.
No one was obviously dominating proceedings. That’s fine practice for the road ahead. We have to rely on each other. Support each other. Churches, aid agencies, civic society....and Earthself.
Too many cooks often do spoil the broth, but something nourishing and encouraging was served up. A fine starter for a purposeful ecumenism in our lifetime of spiralling climate crisis.
If we’ve been too comfortable until now to heed Jesus’ call ‘to be one’ in John 17: 21, then freak weather, and stories from global partners of drought and floods and more demand a hearing. And the churches, as represented, are taking it seriously.
Many up-front participants were civic or religious office-holders, content with small parts to play. Chairpersons, moderators, bearers of golden chains of office.
There’s of course, no guarantee of a response by government, even if aware of the significance of the Climate Sunday campaign which has touched hundreds of thousands of lives, encouraging their cherished “behaviour change.”
Is this a lesson, that when churches unexpectedly do sit up and take notice, we have to be prepared for a lukewarm reaction from the power to which we’re trying to speak truth?
Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK held up a fat printout of the commitments and speakings-out of the many congregations who had already registered their Climate Sunday services.
“We’re here! It’s happening!” I said to a colleague from Glasgow Churches Together. “We’ll see in two hours’ time!” was his reaction.
And it has happened. Despite staff illness, failure of systems, and close to two years without face-to-face meetings. Every conceivable loss of momentum when COP 2020 was pushed forwards.
In September 2021, with the real and urgent pressures of climate crisis, and of COP, finally on the horizon, something cautious, yet full of humble urgency, was offered, to the glory of God in Glasgow’s ancient cathedral.
Masked participants delighted in recognising each other from Zoom meetings. (“But I thought you were taller!”) Such surprise, that by the grace of God, it happened at all. Has the race to COP really begun?
COVID precautions taken in the building were still extreme. No congregational singing (unless we did so, sneakily, under our masks).
Following half an hour of inspirational video from the four nations: (Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England), came a motley procession of coats, cloaks, chains and cassocks, punctuated by the ringing of a bell recalling those of the Celtic saints: clanky and irritating; a noise to call out injustice and drive away evil.
A call to worship via video - then we were live. It fell to me to say, for Scotland “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
So, in Glasgow, we heard from a Zambian Seventh-day Adventist woman (Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid) in the pulpit of a dark and gloomy gothic cathedral, a reflection on the prospects for the broken relationship of God’s people with God and with fellow creatures. A reminder of what all our Christian gatherings really are for—to speak truth and stir action. And that the whole Bible speaks God’s green word of justice. Not just the bits at the start and beginning.
Then the procession departed to the tomb of St Mungo, saintly founder of the ‘Dear Green Place’ of Glasgow, who loved people and birds and prayer and justice; who loved forgiveness, and kindness, and the wisdom of the Earth.