Our CSF Sisters have gathered at Swanwick Christian Conference Centre for their Annual Meeting. It is their first in-person gathering since before the pandemic, enabling a wonderful opportunity to catch up after so long. They are at Swanwick until Sunday, please keep them in your prayers.
Tobias spent Wednesday 17th November participating in the London Borough of Newham Interfaith Bus Tour. The event started at St Mary’s, Little Ilford, where Tobias regularly assists and where he was Professed in August. Then the group were warmly welcomed at the Sri Murugan Hindu Temple in Manor Park, followed by the Dashmesh Darbar Sikh Gurdwara (where a wonderful lunch was served). In the afternoon the group visited the Minhaj-ul-Quran Mosque in Forest Gate, and Stratford Seven-Day Adventist Church. Friendly discussions and prayers were held at each venue, and it was heartening to see how each organisation serves their communities.
Pictured with some of their kind hosts are the tour group, including Tobias, Canon Ann Easter, Shah Muhmud (Community Engagement Coordinator for the London Borough of Newham) and PC Rakesh Samplay (Faith & Communities Officer).
Scriptural Reasoning for COP26 – an insight from Br Joseph Emmanuel SSF
Although many people – including some of our own Sisters and Brothers – have headed off to Glasgow to register their commitment to Environmental Justice some of us have been able to do ‘our bit’ by praying for COP26 (and for the future of the world), by partaking in organised events (online and ‘in person’) and by learning a bit more about the issues we face as a planet. It seems to me that there is an ‘unprecedented’ interest in our world, in our environment and in the basic insight – taught by many Spiritual teachers and among them St Francis – that we are intimately connected with each other. Along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge we may say ““he prayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small; for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all….”
I took part in an online scriptural reasoning session organised by New College (the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh) along with Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of no faith. We studied passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (Deuteronomy 20.19&20), from the Christian Scriptures (Matthew 6.25-33) and from the second Surah of the Qu’ran al Baqarah aya 164. If one looks at the passage from the Hebrew Scriptures one might, at first, be puzzled (for it refers to the way in which one should besiege a City) but Rabbi Mark Solomon (who introduced the text) referred us to commentaries from Maimonides and from the Sefer Ha-Chinnukh (a 13th Century Spanish text). In the Sefer Ha-Chinnukh we receive a stark warning and I finish with it:
“….The purpose of this mitzvah is to teach us to love that which is good and beneficial and to cling to it, so that good becomes a part of us and we will avoid all that is evil and destructive. This is the way of the righteous and those who improve society, who love peace and rejoice in the good…: that nothing, not even a grain of mustard, should be lost to the world… Not so are the wicked, who are like demons, who rejoice in destruction of the world, and they are destroying themselves…” (Sefer Ha-Chinnukh.529)
Hilfield featured on BBC Songs of Praise this Sunday, with interviews and clips of the friary’s environmental witness. If you missed it, it’s available to watch in the UK on BBC iPlayer. The Franciscan section begins around 16 minutes in.
2021 is the centenary of Hilfield Friary. What better way to mark such a significant event in the life of an organisation than doing something that will have a positive impact for the next 100 years and beyond? That’s why we are planting ‘100 Oaks for 100 Years’. The trees will be planted as part of our new wood pasture. This is a very valuable habitat, home to many special species. In 100 years it will begin to mature, our gift to 2121!
We have invited 100 groups and individuals who represent something of the past 100 hundred or next 100 years at Hilfield to come and plant one of our centenary oaks.
Come and help us to celebrate on 18th December. The day will start at 11am with a Centenary Service. There will be food, entertainment and an opportunity for everyone to share their stories of the Friary whilst planting and blessing the trees.
Hilfield friary will feature in the “God’s Planet” edition of Songs of Praise, this Sunday (7th Nov) at 13.15 on BBC1.
“With the United Nations COP26 negotiations taking place in Glasgow, Claire McCollum joins Christians raising awareness of climate change and urging us all to take action to prevent it. In Gateshead and Newcastle, Yolanda Brown joins pilgrims from the Young Christians Climate Network during their five-month walking relay from Cornwall to Glasgow.”
“Environmental campaigner Laura Young shows Claire a zero-waste shop and explains how the way we buy everyday goods can make a big difference. Glasgow-based artist ID Campbell tells Claire how his Christian faith, and COP26, inspired him to paint three new portraits that he has since partially destroyed as a symbol of the destruction brought about by climate change. The Franciscan community of Hilfield Friary in Dorset show how their sustainable practices and carbon-reducing measures have won a gold award from renowned Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK.”
Tuesday began with a frantic effort to find a new charger for my phone. Mine died yesterday. The first place I tried Argos wasn’t able to help me, eventually the FI team and I found an EE store where I got a new cable and charger. Without a functioning phone you have clipped wings!
Budi and Thomas returned to Geneva, leaving Br Angel ofm and me. We attended a meeting of Catholic religious. I smiled benignly, and explained repeatedly I am Anglican and a Franciscan.
In the afternoon I walked through the exhibition hall and activity hall. I met the Bishop of Norwich, and later flung myself down on a stool to rest my feet and discovered my seat mate is a Lutheran from USA but living and working in Geneva. He is familiar with FI.
In the evening Angel and I attended a ceremony for the presentation of hundreds of thousands of signatures of people of faith calling on world leaders to take radical action on climate change.
The day began with a nearly two hours wait outside the Blue Zone venue as world leaders assembled. The cold didn’t diminish the sense of eagerness I sensed around me. To my joy I met the Solomon Island negotiators Henry Tufah, Melissa Horokou and Leah Aota. Henry had been a teacher at Selwyn College next door to Hautambu Friary, and Melissa had been a student at the school. Both knew the SSF brothers well and were well acquainted with a young boy named after me, Clark Kaekae who lived with his parents at the college. Apart from catching up on life in the Solomons we talked about their role as negotiators on behalf of the Solomons and all Island nations, their agenda for the talks.
Once inside the venue, we met with colleagues from different religious NGOs. These NGOs, like Franciscans International have a great opportunity to interact with negotiators and country leaders, many of whom have a religious practice. From our religious and spiritual perspective, we can remind them of their obligation to the poorest countries who contribute very little to the cause of the climate crisis yet bear the brunt of many of the consequences.
Then we traveled across the city to the Gorbals district, where the OFM Franciscans have their friary and where we had a webinar. Over 120 people participated in the webinar, 10 present in the room and 110 online. We were happy with the number of people involved and with the questions and response we got.
Here I am in George Square at the Sunday afternoon vigil of faith group for COP 26. Representatives from many religions spoke movingly about our interrelatedness and shared care for the earth and all her creatures.
Sunday evening I attended a Talanoa Dialogue in the Jewish Synagogue. It was a brilliant event keynoted by the Chief Rabbi of Britain. The Anglican Primus of Scotland also spoke, sharing a beautiful story about brambles. They served as an indicator of a difference in the environment during lockdown. Less traffic, sweeter, more abundant berries near his home. The message was we need to live differently so all life can thrive.
The dialogue featured Jews, Muslims, Sikhs Buddhists, Christians, Druids and many others speaking to our shared conviction that the earth is a precious place that needs our care. Radical decisions required by all world’s governments especially the biggest greenhouse gas emitters.
Great to be working with colleagues from Franciscans International. I’m pictured with Br. Angel Cortez OFM.
COP26 is almost here, and there will be a strong Franciscan presence in Glasgow throughout the conference.
Our brothers Clark Berge and Christopher John will be speaking at this briefing in Glasgow on Monday, along with our friends from OFM (Order of Friars Minor). You are very welcome to register to attend in person or online.