Norwich church science-faith outreach funding
St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich has been awarded £20,000 to explore the relationship between science and faith through the church engagement programme Scientists in Congregations, which is run by Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS).
St Peter Mancroft Church is one of 22 churches and organisations in England and Wales to receive grants totalling £400,000, to be used over the next 18 months on a creative, public-facing project.
St Peter Mancroft, Norwich will be hosting a model of Planet Earth in October 2021. This model, an enormous globe 6 metres in diameter, will dominate the church interior and be clearly visible from the city centre. The intention is to focus attention on the global climate emergency.
Designed by Luke Jerram, Gaia allows us to see our planet, floating in three dimensions. We can share the experience of astronauts in a feeling of awe for our planet home. This viewpoint provides a new appreciation of the inter-dependence of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the natural environment.
The Gaia model has already been displayed in UK and around the world, including Liverpool Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral, the Natural History Museum, Hong Kong and Taipei. In the lead-up to COP 26, the hosting of Gaia will enable the church and the city to explore the wide-ranging implications of the climate crisis.
Throughout the month of October, school visits will engage young people in a wide range of educational activities and competitions addressing the climate crisis and its impact on the environment. Evening lectures, artistic, musical and cultural events will explore the similar themes from a range of scientific and societal perspectives.
The wide-ranging programme will involve working in partnership with the Norwich Science Festival and with many other local organisations. It will provide opportunities for people of all faiths and none to learn about the science of climate change and to examine its implications within a theological and social framework.
The award of a grant from Scientists in Congregations will help people to reflect on the wonder and beauty of our planet home, and to emphasise the urgency with which we must address the serious consequences of climate change.
Speaking about the grant, Canon Edward Carter, the vicar at St Peter Mancroft, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been given such generous support, to make Gaia’s visit in October possible. It’ll mean hundreds of people are given a stronger awareness of the rich overlap between science and the Christian faith, and in particular the moral and practical importance of caring better for our planet.”
As a follow-up to the Gaia Exhibition, St Peter Mancroft will develop a long-term programme on the theme of “Eco Church”. This will involve a three-stage process. The exhibition itself will represent the phase of “Preparation” by raising awareness for the church congregation and the wider community of Norwich. The second phase will be a local “Declaration” that the global climate emergency is the responsibility of everyone, worldwide. Finally, the Church will seek to make an “Impact” by partnering with the local community to improve our care for the environment and to address the challenge of climate change in many different ways.
The Gaia Exhibition Programme is led by Revd Dr Fiona Haworth, associate priest at St Peter Mancroft. Dr Nick Brewin, co-director, said, “Fifty years ago, the Apollo Space Mission provided a distant view of our planet, and everything changed. We now see ourselves as just one small global village. The human race and all living organisms collectively form a self-regulating “biosphere” that sustains the conditions for life. The Gaia Exhibition will explore how the impact of humankind affects the stability of global temperatures, food security, biodiversity, and much more. Arguably, this is the most important challenge that the human race has ever faced, and we need to take it very seriously indeed.”
Scientists in Congregations is a programme run by the research project Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS). The ECLAS project is led from St John’s College, Durham University in partnership with the University of York and the Church of England. Its directors include the Revd Prof David Wilkinson and physicist Prof Tom McLeish. ECLAS and the Scientists in Congregations grants are funded by the Templeton Religion Trust. ECLAS has distributed £665,000 to over 70 churches through its Scientists in Congregations programme since 2014.
The Revd Prof David Wilkinson, Project Director of ECLAS and Principal of St John’s College, said: “We are delighted to be working with churches on such promising projects, and look forward to seeing how congregations and the communities they serve engage with science and faith in fresh and exciting ways. We are proud to offer additional funding for follow-on projects for the first time this year, which will help churches reach even more people with the message that science is a gift from God.”
another church in Norfolk, Great Yarmouth Minster, has also been awarded a grant through this programme.
The picture illustrates a model of Gaia on display at the Natural History Museum.