Norwich Christian couple’s climate concern
Norwich church members, Jim and Sue Green, are motivated by their Christian faith to actively engage in the current climate breakdown protest movement. Helen Baldry reports.
Sue and Jim’s concern started in the 1980s when they started supporting Tear Fund. More recently volunteering at the Tear Fund cafe at New Wine sharpened their awareness of the impact of climate change on the poor. Sue’s view was: “How can I not do something about this?”
The couple, who live in Thorpe St Andrew, have also been supporters of Green Christian and also the growing group Christian Climate Action (CCA). Over the last year the number of people on the mailing list has risen from about 50 to 350. With this group they have taken part in small scale action, for example holding a vigil at fracking sites and performing a sketch outside the Church of England’s HQ in Westminster to highlight its continued investment in fossil fuels. CCA start all action in prayer, explained Jim: “It’s most definitely about Jesus and is grounded in prayer, honesty and reality.”
They have undertaken training with Extinction Rebellion (XR), an international activist group that uses non-violent methods to persuade those in power to take action on environment issues. The foundation of the movement is on telling the truth about climate change – a message that seems to be getting through. Christian Aid commissioned a poll which found that 71% of people thought that climate change was more important than Brexit issues, rising to 77% among church-going Christians.
Jim said: “People venture into something like this because they care. Often at actions you get talking and you discover it’s the first time those around you have done anything like it.”
People from all walks of life take part in the protests and Jim and Sue have had opportunities to share their faith because they are frequently asked why they do it. The experience of a rally can be fun and participants use creative ways of expressing their concerns. Recalling a critical mass cycle ride, Sue said: “I felt empowered, realising that I have a voice.”
She sometimes admits that she feels grief, when another negative report is publicised. However, in June parliament decided to set up a Citizens Assembly on climate breakdown. Increasingly the situation is referred to in the media as a ‘climate emergency’.
For Jim and Sue, their involvement is an act of obedience; they are not just doing it for the outcome, because that is not guaranteed, but also for the process. They believe it is the right thing to do and is a responsibility as a disciple of Jesus.
The couple have made lifestyle changes. Sue said: “We are all complicit in the situation and are responsible for adding to the problem. However, there is plenty we can do to tread more lightly on the earth, including considering the transport we use, eating a more plant-based diet and ensuring our homes are more energy efficient. None of us does enough, but what we do individually is important. It’s about who we are.”
Although XR protests are always peaceful and respectful, it is part of the strategy to take action which leaves people open to arrest. Each time, Jim carefully considers his role and how far he is prepared to go. He said: “There is no pressure on you. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, and anyway supporting, non-arrestable roles are vital. You have to be able to justify what you’re doing.”
Jim took part in recent arrestable action organised by XR at Westminster called ‘The Blood of Our Children’ where each of 40 participants poured a bucket of fake blood on the road at Whitehall, symbolic of the risk to future generations, and of the people who suffer in the world right now due to climate change.
Jim said: “I found it really emotional, God was challenging me. Was it the right thing to do? I’ve always known doing nothing is the wrong thing to do.”
Recently Sue and Jim hosted an event at St Francis Church, at which there was an Extinction Rebellion (XR) presentation. Sue said: “This was because we are passionate about Christians engaging with what we feel is the most pressing issue of our time. We are delighted that, partly as a result of this, there is a growing connection between XR and St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich.”
On September 18, from 7 – 9pm, XR will be presenting 'Heading For Extinction - and what to do about it' at St Peter Mancroft Church. Also, at the XR Car Free Sunday action in Norwich city centre on September 22, Rev Fiona Howarth of St Peter Mancroft will be leading a Christian presence and witness, along with Rev Heather Cracknell. For more details see: www.networknorwich.co.uk
Pictured: Climate activists Jim and Sue Green