The ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis
Following the appointment of the Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, to lead the Church of England’s Environment Programme, and in particular the areas of climate change and biodiversity loss, Philip Young explains why these matters should concern us.
I have long believed that, at heart, the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis.
Therefore, I am delighted that Bishop Graham has been selected by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to lead the Church of England's Environment and Sustainability programme. He is well qualified to do so. His ecological science degree from Edinburgh University and his passion for the environment is good news.
I hope that he is well supported in his efforts to promote the environmental agenda in the Church of England, but also in the wider community of all interconnected beings on planet Earth.
My last job before retirement was as Environmental Officer in the Diocese of Norwich and so I have thought long and hard about the relationship between spirituality and the environment. I concluded that there was a disconnection between human beings and their place in the world around them. Perhaps the worst disconnect was between people living in cities and their physical and psychological separation from the natural world. The modern way of life has insulated us from our vital connection with nature and our reliance upon and interdependence with it.
The best way out of this is for us to experience the natural world first-hand by getting outside and being alongside our brothers and sisters in the animal and plant world. The overwhelming need is for us to fall in love with God’s wonderful creation. I sincerely believe we will not be able to save and look after our planet unless we are motivated by a deep passion and a strong love for the natural world.
Thank God we are beginning to wake up to the enormity of the climate crisis. For those of us who have been banging on about this for years and years we now live in a time when the full seriousness of the scale of our problem is becoming common shared knowledge. It is of the utmost importance that we now listen to the scientists and the experts who are led by the truth.
It is impressive that the fight against COVID-19 has followed the advice of scientists and huge amounts of energy and resources have been put towards overcoming this disease. We all pray that this disease may recede into the background.
As we begin to unlock our societies, it is now time to put an equal or even greater amount of energy and resources into tackling how we continue to live on earth without destroying nature. We have to live sustainably, or we will face our own extinction along with the rest of life on Earth.
A spiritual response to the environmental crisis is totally relevant and more and more pressing. We need to wake up to the fact of our interconnectedness with all beings. This is a wonderful liberating spiritual opportunity to wake up to being, at essence, one with all other human beings, and one with the natural world. We are all brothers and sisters in a beautifully interwoven web of life.
In the end it is love which binds us together. God is love and spiritually we are bound up in God's creation. We are caught up in His love.
When Bishop Graham gives a hazel sapling to all those he confirms, he is pointing to the mystic Julian of Norwich. As she holds a hazelnut in the palm of her hand three truths are revealed to her about all that God has made,
“The first is that God made it; The second is that God loves it; The third is that God looks after it.” Julian of Norwich
May we do likewise, motivated by God’s love.
The image above is from pixabay.com
Click here to read the article on Network Norfolk about Bishop Graham’s appointment.
Philip is an Anglican, Quaker, and a member of the Third Order of Franciscans, and now lives in Felixstowe. Until July 2014 he was the Diocesan Environmental Officer for the Norwich Diocese. In June 2017 he stood as an Independent Candidate for the General Election in the Suffolk Coastal Constituency. He is now Associate Priest at St. John and St. Edmund in Felixstowe and a freelance writer on spiritual and political matters. He is available to run Quiet Days, give talks, presentations or to preach and can be contacted at email@example.com. Philip is developing a new website www.revolutionoflovenow.com.
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