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Synod keynote: Despair not an option in caring for this fragile earth

The barbecue Eco Station ensured after 550 people were served, only one small garbage bag of waste was collected. — Photo by Jason Dance, Have Heart Photography

by Rev. Canon Linda Nixon and Nancy Harvey

(adapted from a presentation by Rev. Canon Ken Gray
to his home parish)

Throughout Synod, guest speaker Rev. Canon Ken Gray described how God has often led him in an unforeseen ways, no less so in relation to creation care and climate justice.

Nothing in his training as a musician or in other pursuits prepared him for a conversion experience in 2001 when he discovered in a vital and challenging way the need for renewal of our stewardship of the earth, a reshaping of its economies and sustainable environmental practices.

At the invitation of Bishop Bob Bennett, Ken provided context and challenge around Synod’s creation theme with special reference to his work as secretary of the global Anglican Communion Environmental Network and General Synod’s Creation Matters Working Group, which he co-chairs with Huron’s own Nancy Harvey.

In three addresses he challenged Synod delegates to be parish and community leaders. He demonstrated how engagements with Scripture, community, and vocation and story will prepare us to do something immediately to care for creation.

In Session 1, a Bible study, he encouraged delegates to re-­examine familiar texts such as Psalm 24 and Genesis 1-2. Drawing on prophetic texts from Isaiah and Ezekiel and using PowerPoint and video clips, members considered the climate crisis and our urgent need to respond in a hopeful and faithful way. Despair is not an option! Consider our choices. Repent where necessary. Choose life — for each other and the planet.

In Session 2, he invited social worker and photographer Irene Borrins Ash to present a sample of her project One Planet: Harnessing Hope, a photo essay capturing the work of ecological visionaries from diverse faith communities. The exhibition challenges us on our use, and abuse, of creation. Ken added some personal experiences and through a lively interactive presentation suggested how everyone could
“put themselves in the picture” of climate justice advocacy.

In Session 3, Ken shared his faith story and talked about how we tell and hear stories about “the way things are” and about “what the future holds.” He told the story of his ministry with a family who experienced a double murder. Two children, six and eight, witnessed the murder of their mother and grandmother tried to mend the fatal wounds by placing Band-Aids on the bullet holes. He appealed to all gathered to stop putting Band-Aids on the fatal wounds of “this fragile earth our island home.” The room was absolutely silent at this holy moment.

If we can move beyond the symptoms of creation abuse to the structural motivations for it, transformative social and ecological change will occur. Justice will be done for all, including indigenous communities and women who suffer disproportionately worldwide. It is possible to move from accidental response to preventative care. It takes our leadership — as Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Summing up his brief time in Huron, Ken said:

“I was so pleased to find that what I had to offer took root in the rich soil of Huron diocese. Obviously not every person in the room will have been converted to a new calling in such a short time, but I was greatly encouraged as person after person came up to me telling stories of what they planned to do, in many cases, immediately. I was so grateful to be there and to build on the fine work of the EnviroAction Group and to support the bishops’ passion for creation care.

In his closing remarks, Bishop Terry Dance described his grandchildren as an “endangered species.” Both bishops are wholeheartedly committed to leading the diocese in a full, just and effective response to the global climate crisis.

Canon Linda Nixon and Nancy Harvey are co-chairs of the EnviroAction Committee.