By: Ellen Teague
The latest diocese to work on developing an environmental policy is Southwark. Around 40 people gathered at St Mary's in Croydon on Saturday at a day 'Laudato Si' - Responding to the call of Pope Francis'. It was organised by the Southwark Commission for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC).
The day opened with Mass in the church celebrated by Bishop Pat Lynch, auxiliary in Southwark, and concelebrated with Fr Michael Scanlon of the parish, Fr Habte, Chair of the J&P Commission, and Fr Mark Odion of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. This was followed by fairtrade tea and coffee in the parish hall, drunk from compostable cups which people were urged to hold on to for the day. A talk followed by Ellen Teague of the Columban JPIC team, who is a Livesimply parish assessor and attended the recent launch in York of Middlesbrough Dioceses' environmental policy. She talked of the call for 'ecological conversion' and the imperative for action based on the signs of the times, theological underpinnings, and the church's social teaching.
Table discussion in groups led to diocesan Ideas including: working towards ethical investment, becoming a fairtrade diocese and working towards being a living wage employer; celebrating the Day of Prayer for Creation on 1 September and Creation Time; supporting the Church's outreach to refugees and migrants and CAFOD's work with marginalised communities overseas. Promoting the Livesimply parish award was a priority, and linking sacraments with social justice/creation care. Formation for clergy and laity on Church's Social Teaching, including creation care and studying Laudato Si themes, was recommended. It was thought that the diocese is already on a renewable energy tariff.
At parish level, there was concern to incorporate environmental themes into liturgy and celebration, enhance biodiversity in parish grounds and work for justice, peace, and creation care as part of the mission of the parishes. Existing Livesimply parishes in Southwark were commended - Lee, Petts Wood and Tunbridge Wells. Special study campaigns could be undertaken during Advent and Lent, especially the CAFOD and Columban study programmes on laudato Si'. Outreach to Catholic schools on the encyclical and environmental challenges such as climate change would be a propriety.
Individual parishioners are to be encouraged to work towards sustainable lifestyles - to reduce, reuse, recycle and lessen their carbon footprints. Appeciating water and the natural world, plus looking into individual food consumption, energy use, and transport were all mentioned.
The day rounded off with questions put to a panel from the National Justice and Peace Network Environment Working Group - Ellen Teague, Paul Kelly of Leeds Diocese and Ashley Ralston of Arundel and Brighton Diocese and Green Christian. They provided the national picture that three dioceses - Hexham & Newcastle, Salford and Middlesbrough now have environmental policies, and Southwark is likely to be the fourth. A working group of the Southwark JPIC Commission is now taking the ideas forward to formulate the policy. Fr Habte concluded the day by leading participants in saying the Prayer of St Francis.