I wasn’t too excited at the prospect this time round. With wonderful vicar still in India, I felt uncomfortable deserting my post on a Sunday, and with the boys returning to school from half term tomorrow, it didn’t seem the best weekend to desert the family either.
As a result, I pretended that I wouldn’t actually be going until it was far too late to arrange a lift share, which meant that the weekend started with the piercing irony of my driving 155 miles on my own to learn more about “Sustaining the planet for God and humanity”.
Actually, the drive wasn’t the only thing to fill me with feelings of guilt as the weekend wore on.
Woolacombe Bay is the sort of hotel that one reads about, rather than actually experiencing…Fabulous food, presented as a work of art, rooms so well-appointed I was constantly feeling I ought to tidy up after myself, to avoid spoiling the picture, fellow guests in evening dress at dinner….I felt as if I’d stumbled onto the set for a period drama…or maybe we were all playing Cluedo, and someone would discover a corpse in the ballroom at any minute.
However, churlish though it sounds, there did seem to be something a tad incongruous about such conspicuous luxury being lavished on a crowd of clergy….
I don’t know. It just didn’t quite work, somehow.
Our speaker, Tim Gorringe, was excellent…though his resume of the dire fate that awaits us if we don’t begin to take the implications of our abuse of the common treasury of creation inspired yet more guilt trips. I think I knew most of what he was saying,- after all, I’ve heard him speak at Greenbelt, and am already committed to the Generous Project, but hearing all those statistics presented really did make the blood run cold.
Did you realise, for ezample, that every day an area of forest equivalent in size to New York City is stripped bare? With all our thoughts fixed on the victims of the mudslide in the Philippines, that was a painful thought.
There were more, equally sobering figures, and then some striking observations.
- That though this is a much celebrated “consumer age”, the definition of “consume” is “ to destroy utterly”
- That water wars are a real future possibility....already in parts of Mexico the water is so polluted that it is considered safer to give babies Coca cola to drink.
- That we have completely lost track of the principle of natural cessation, in our obsession with growth. We live in a society that has no concept of limits at all, though history should teach us that each society that over-reaches itself, and seeks to extend itself beyond the natural limits falls and dies.
- That the resources of the earth are a common treasury (stating the obvious, perhaps) in which there are no superior borrowing/drawing rights….God’s intention is that the resources of the planet should be equally available for all…there is no privileged access to the common treasury, but as long as each takes according to NEED then there will be enough.
For me, hearing this in such a beautiful place only increased the urgency of the message. A part of me has always felt that the environment was almost an optional extra....it was always more important to respond to the immediate needs of starving humanity than to move towards addressing its causes. Tonight, though, I see things differently. And I've never been so ashamed to be driving home alone.