Let there be a bit less light, urges C of E

By staff writers
26 Aug 2008

The famous biblical story of creation, echoed in the prologue to John's Gospel, famously contains the divine injunction, "Let there be light." But the Church of England says that in an age of eco-responsibility, a little less light might be appropriate.

A new guide from the Church offers its leaders a template for a year-long programme of practical action to reduce their congregations’ carbon footprints, as energy prices head upwards. The book, Don’t Stop at the Lights, has won the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London among others.

Launched by Church House Publishing, the guide includes sermon ideas and extensive Bible study notes drawing on ancient theological themes which aim to reconnect the contemporary church to the natural world and the roots of its faith. It inspires priests to make churches beacons in their community, offering case studies linked to the Church’s year including:

* setting up a decorations swap shop during Advent for people to exchange unwanted decorations;
* using Lent as an opportunity to carry out a complete internal environmental audit and to set targets, beginning on Ash Wednesday;
* re-establishing the tradition of 'beating the bounds' at Rogationtide to help refocus congregations on God’s gifts and the role of the Church in preserving justice and extending charity;
* limiting the number of nights that the church is floodlit and then inviting members of the congregation and wider community to ‘sponsor’ an evening’s illumination in memory of a loved one or to mark an anniversary.

Former Church of England environment adviser Claire Foster and David Shreeve, a current adviser to the Church and director of The Conservation Foundation, have written the book to help enable churches to take climate change seriously as a core Christian concern. It follows last year’s pocket guide by the same authors, called How Many Lightbulbs does it take to Change a Christian? which will also be published in the United States this Autumn.

Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, comments: “All Christians have an important role to play in developing their own environmental awareness and encouraging it in others. I am delighted that the Church of England now has this helpful guide, which will prove invaluable for those wanting to plan their own services and for all those looking to find a deeper theological understanding of our Christian concern for Creation.”

The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London, says: “This book offers us not just tips on energy saving but a reorientation. The intention is not to urge Christians to get measured for a hair shirt but to rediscover ‘how good and joyful a thing it is to dwell together in unity’ with all that lives.”

The 148-page guide includes a range of appendices including lists of contacts and websites, a model environmental policy for dioceses, and a ‘Shrinking the Footprint’ audit for local churches.

The book’s publications coincides with the launch of 'Time for God’s Creation’, an initiative encouraging churches to use the period between 1 September until 4 October as an opportunity to put the environment at the heart of their worship. The designation of this special period follows a resolution made at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in 2007, attended by representatives of Europe’s Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches, that these weeks “be dedicated to prayer for the protection of Creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change.”

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