We publish a Parish Magazine 4 times a year and in each Magazine there is a letter from the vicar or a member of the Ministry team.
Letter from the Vicarage
The Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew 1, is the primary spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian world, and although not particularly well known in the West, has been a pioneer in engaging in dialogue with the modern world. He has focused on the role of science and technology in contemporary society, the theological imperative of tackling climate change, the plight and prospects of children today, the importance of countering human trafficking and modern slavery, and the need for all Christians to engage those issues in practical ways.
In 1989, his predecessor Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios wrote an encyclical letter on the issue of climate change, establishing the first day of September as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment. Many participating members of the World Council of Churches (WCC) have followed the patriarchate's example, not only by implementing this annual day of prayer, but also in taking seriously the commitment of the Churches in resolving the environmental crisis. Patriarch Bartholomew is clear: 'a sin against creation is a sin against God. As for any sin, we must likewise repent for the sin committed against creation…. the approach to the ecological problem on the basis of the principles of the Christian tradition demands not only repentance for the sin of the exploitation of the natural resources of the planet, namely, a radical change in mentality and behaviour, but also asceticism as an antidote to consumerism, the deification of needs and the acquisitive attitude'. True repentance implies a conversion, which means a radical change in our attitude. The environmental crisis calls for concrete actions from each one of us.
In line with Orthodox theology, the patriarch is clear that the Church cannot be solely interested in the salvation of the soul, but must also be deeply concerned with the transformation of God's entire creation. Therefore, 'Churches and believers need to understand clearly the relationship between today's ecological crisis and our human passions of greed, materialism, self-centeredness and rapacity, which result in and lead to the current crisis that we face.' As the creation is intimately interconnected, 'a threat to nature is also a threat to humankind.'
Among several environmental issues he raises, the Patriarch has important things to say about the resource of water. He states that water is a common good. It does not belong to any individual or any industry, but is the inviolable and non-negotiable right of every human being. He considers the economic exploitation of water by industries selling water to people who have money to buy it an ethical issue. The patriarch goes on to argue that the water industry is actually polluting the environment because of the plastic bottles it sells. Ecologists today are saying that by 2050, the oceans will contain, by weight, more plastic than fish. Plastic pollution is an environmental and social justice issue. Therefore, he argues, we should be avoiding plastic by using alternatives in our everyday life. In the light of the patriarch's call perhaps we too should shun bottled water as a small but significant step toward water justice, and encourage others to join with us.
In the mind of the Patriarch, plastic pollution of water, air pollution and climate change are parallel global emergencies. They are the consequence of forgetting about the sacredness of creation. They are the disastrous results of industrialisation and our human greed. It is obvious that the environmental crisis cannot be solved without a genuine conversion of human actions. In this sense, ecology is linked with the economy. A society that does not care about the well-being of all human beings is a society that maltreats God's creation, which is blasphemy. For this reason, 'the ecological challenge of our Churches is to awake the world to the irreversible destruction of God's creation because of human sinful actions. The necessity of ecological education is not only a problem for our states, but should also be the problem of our Churches.'
Here in England, Patriarch Bartholomew does not receive as much media coverage as the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope, who at least receive some media coverage. Yet his is a prophetic voice, whose ministry has been devoted to raising significant issues that pertain to the common good. It is not too surprising that this was reiterated in a recent visit to the WCC's offices in Geneva, when once again he invited member churches of the WCC 'to work together in a common quest, renewing the true vocation of the church through collaborative engagement with the most important issues of justice and peace, healing a world filled with conflict, injustice and pain.' The issues he speaks of with such lucidity and passion also deserve a hearing in the public square; who knows, that may lead to the real possibility of change within governmental policies that affect all our lives.
With best wishes to you all,
Nicholas P Anderson
Nicholas P Anderson