Added on 20/09/2012
Over 140 delegates from across Ireland and the UK attended the first ever inter–church conference on the environment to take place on this island.
Rev Elaine Murray, Church of Ireland representative on Eco–Congregation Ireland, Catherine Brennan SSL, chairperson and Roman Catholic representative, Sr Benedicta Pathinatxer from Sri Lanka and Sr Louisa Poole, representing the European Christian Environmental Network, Operation Noah and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
The theme of Eco–Congregation Ireland’s inaugural conference, which took place in Dromantine Retreat and Conference Centre, near Newry, Co Down, on September 14 and 15, was “God’s Creation – Our Responsibility?”
Representatives attended from the European Christian Environmental Network, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s Environmental Issues Network, A Rocha, Christian Ecology Link, Operation Noah and Eco–Congregation Scotland.
In his opening address, “Is the Bible Green? Reading Scripture Ecologically”, Prof David Horrell, Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Exeter, suggested that, while the Bible did not offer a blueprint for creation or environmental ethics, passages like Psalms 19 and 104 and Job 38 helped generate a positive vision of the value, beauty and ultimate worth of the whole earth.
Prof Stephen Williams, Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological College, Belfast, spoke about “The Theology of Creation”, including the difficult interpretation of the word ‘dominion’. He argued that if Creation was good and fit for purpose, then the command to have dominion was not to do with subjugation, but rather a responsibility to nurture.
In her lecture, “Listening to the Future: Listening to the Present”, Dr Anne Primavesi, Fellow of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Study of Religion, Birkbeck College, University of London, focussed on the need to cultivate unity. Describing militarism, fuelled by a climate of fear and insecurity, as the greatest threat to planetary resources today, she said there must be a political and military dimension for sustainability to be achieved.
Dr Alastair McIntosh, Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, Glasgow, in his talk, “Money, Consumerism and the Spirituality of Our Times”, highlighted how consumerism fed off our insecurities, creating a sense of inadequacy and shame, which only increased our desire for more. The economy was no longer about satisfying needs; it was about generating wants.
Addressing the topic “A New Humanity: The Quest for Well–being in the 21st Century”, Rev Peter–Owen Jones said he believed there would be a revolution against capitalism in the next 20 years and that it would need to be one that recognised that “all life is connected”.
The Sussex–based vicar and author, who is well–known for his BBC series, Around the World in 80 Faiths and How to Live a Simple Life, said that a system that set each individual human being against each other was never going to engender a sense of communal, or individual, well–being. We could never have peace on earth until we made peace with the natural world. “Christianity needs urgently to embrace a bigger vision of peace on earth,” he said.
Six trees were planted in the grounds of Dromantine by representatives of the different denominations and communities attending the conference. Rev Andrew Orr, Rector of Tullow, planted one of the trees and a blessing was read by Rev Elaine Murray, Rector of Carrigaline and the Church of Ireland representative on Eco–Congregation Ireland.
For further info see www.ecocongregationireland.com.
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