14th February is now International Book Giving Day as well as Valentine’s Day. Unsurprisingly, I love this idea and celebrated by making a donation to Give a Book, a charity which gives books to schools with high levels of deprivation, prisons and community organisations. I was also the grateful recipient of Red Sixty Seven – a book about the 67 red-listed birds published by the British Trust for Ornithology and I bought Mr P The Planets by Brian Cox.
Since seeing Venus and Saturn shining brightly in the sky on holiday in Suffolk, there has been a growing interest in astronomy in our house. Mr P and I went to a Valentine’s Day star-gazing evening run by the National Trust at Dunstable Downs but sadly due to Storm Dennis we couldn’t go outside! Instead we lay, listening to the wind and the rain, in a mobile inflatable planetarium and enjoyed learning about some of the stars and planets. I was surprised at how much I had picked up from reading children’s books about the solar system!
“He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name.” Amos 5:8
Last year, we saw our first butterfly on 23 February. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see our first of 2020. In the meantime, I am re-reading The Butterfly Isles by Patrick Barkham. Winter is almost over. There are splashes of colour in our garden and it won’t be long before we start planting in the allotment.
I’m pleased I tried the FairPhone (I had the FairPhone 2) but the microphone kept breaking and I was unable to make or receive calls except via WhatsApp. Maybe the FairPhone 3 is better but right now I need a phone I can rely on.
I find having some written-down goals helps me achieve at least some of them!
Borrow rather than buy books – I have already reserved from the library Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, the final book in the Wolf Hall trilogy, which is published in March. It’s a good exercise in patience to wait my turn and, at 864 pages long, I will be glad of my superhero speed-reading skills!
Home-baking – I am aware that my kitchen bin is still frequently full of single-use plastic and so I want to think again about alternatives to packaging. I’m going to start with making flapjack!
Last year, I started using Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Not every day but often. I’ve returned my borrowed copy and purchased a slimline version for myself. I received a new Bible for Christmas – a Lectio Divina Bible – which I am enjoying using in conjunction with the Common Prayer book. These books are now in a ‘book bag’ by the side of my bed so that I always know where they are and can be easily transported. I’m going to see if a similar system will help with the children’s bedtime books. (It may just be me but I keep misplacing my books!)
Do a 5K run – a friend and I go for a walk/run once a week and we’d like to do a Cancer Research Race for Life in the summer.
Finish re-reading the Swallows and Amazons series of books that I loved as a girl. I now own all of the books – thanks to some birthday presents and a serendipitous find in an Oxfam bookshop in Oxford. Reading about boats and birds is very relaxing.
Explore some local wildlife – maybe swifts, bats or dragonflies.
Advent – a time of waiting, a time of keeping watch, a time for wresting with the now and not yet of our faith. We look forward to that time when all will, finally, be well. We anticipate the day when there will be:
and no death.
We long for God’s Kingdom to come and in the midst of our waiting, watching and wrestling, we – with God, with the God of Justice – can bring hope, freedom, peace, healing and love.
I have found three more Advent activities to help me have a richer and deeper experience of the God of Justice.
Red Letter Christians and the Diocese of St Albans are producing a daily Advent Challenge on the theme of Jesus and Justice. You can sign up here.
Tiny Advent poems – one for each day in Advent (there’s one at the end of this post). They are available from Engage Worship.
Write for Rights – each December, Amnesty International organise a writing campaign so people can send messages of hope and solidarity to human rights defenders across the world. It’s much easier to participate in the era of emails and the internet! I have already sent a few messages and hope to send a few more during Advent.
We’ve had Halloween and Bonfire Night and so thoughts now turn to Christmas. But…before Christmas, there is Advent.
Advent – a season of expectation and preparation. I think it’s one of my favourite times of year. Maybe because I am a person who loves to prepare and who loves the joy of anticipation. Advent is rich in symbolism and grounds us in God at a time when the voices of commercialism are at their loudest.
Here are my ideas for celebrating Advent this year:
Reverse Advent Calendar – the Mini-Ps are going to make a ‘reverse Advent calendar’ for our local foodbank. Together we will choose items to buy and then take them up to church each week and place them in the foodbank collection box. We will also read It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner – a beautiful, tender, heart-warming and gentle book that explains what foodbanks do.
Last year, we coloured pictures from a Jesse Tree book which worked better than expected! The children really enjoyed the colouring and this year, I plan to have an actual branch to stick the pictures onto!
I have also bought an Advent candleto light each day. Hopefully, this will be more suitable than my solar-powered fairy lights which were a feeble addition to our street’s Christmas decorations! There just wasn’t enough sun to charge them so they were very dim. However, they worked very well in the summer months when we were camping!
I’ve been wanting to write about justice and worship for a while now but haven’t been able to arrange my thoughts. I’m still not ready really. I have questions but it’s time to share and maybe have some conversations.
I’ve realised earlier this year that I feel a particular closeness to God where I am singing worship songs in a social justice context, such as at The Justice Conference. I’ve noticed how I feel at home in an Anglican service where issues of justice and poverty are mentioned each week through the liturgy and prayers. Recently, we sang Tell Out My Soul which is based on the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
(There’s a great article on the Washington Post about the significance of Mary’s prayer.)
Sunday morning worship doesn’t make sense to me anymore unless justice is incorporated.
I’ve been thinking for a while now about the intersection of sung worship and social justice and what that could mean. I’m not a singer or a musician or a worship leader.
So far I’ve found three ways:
1) Sung worship as prophecy – when we sing we are proclaiming God’s will to be done and his kingdom to come. We are proclaiming freedom, peace and justice.
One of my favourite songs is Andy Flanagan’s We are Blessed – a song for which he gets no royalties as he doesn’t want to profit from a song about justice. Have a listen!
2) Lament – there are plenty of laments in the Bible – laments that eventually turn to praise. I want to learn more about lament and read Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah – a Korean American pastor who planted a church in a deprived area. He writes into the American context but so much of it can be applied to a UK context (and goes really well with We Need to Talk about Race by Ben Lindsey). I was moved by the death of a young homeless woman in the town where I work and wrote a short lament for her.
3) Worship as protest – I would like to go to the Faith Bridge which is currently being organised as part of the October Rebellion. But the pressures of day-to-day life mean that it wouldn’t be a wise decision. Christians are gathering there to prayer and to worship.
There’s a long history of worship as protest but protest should also inform our worship. I’ve been listening to Andy Flannagan and Thandi Gamedze’s talk from 2018’s Justice Conference called Justice and Worship, and Thandi talks about finding the protests and using that cry for justice to inform our worship songs.
I know that I am just dipping my toes into an ocean here and this is just the beginning of a journey.
I love Dave Goulson’s writing, having read A Sting in the Tale earlier this year. We made the hard choice not to go and hear him speak at a Wildlife Trust event last week; we are trying to keep September as free as possible to help with the back-to-school adjustment.
The Garden Jungle is full of ideas (some simple, some needing space) for gardening for wildlife. I have a dream of completely changing our front garden so that we have grass, plants and a pond.
Reading children’s books set in the 1930s is very relaxing! I enjoyed reading Coot Club on our holiday in East Anglia (Mr Pilgrim is now half-way through it!) and I’m now reading The Big Six which is also set on the Norfolk Broads. There’s a simplicity and a joy in reading about children sailing, fishing and bird-watching.
Ben Lindsay is a church leader in London and writes about the black religious experience in the UK. As a white woman, it has opened my eyes and I hope that I am changed because of reading this book. Each chapter ends with questions to consider and I know I need to keep going back to this book. If you are part of a church, I would recommend reading this.
I spotted this at a friend’s house. She had borrowed it from our local library so I didn’t want to request it from there! I haven’t reached the sections on allotments yet but I’m enjoying looking at history through the eyes of gardeners.
This beautiful book about the names of butterflies and moths was a birthday present from my gorgeous daughter. (I think she had some help from Mr Pilgrim.) I love words and names and history and butterflies and this is a book to treasure.
We’ve just returned from another week’s holiday in our caravan, this time in East Anglia staying on the Suffolk coast.
Jupiter and Saturn were visible to the naked eye, delighting Small Boy who loves learning about the planets.
A kingfisher was spotted on one of our boat trips on the Norfolk Broads – my first ever! We also saw common blue butterflies (another first), grey seals, a marsh harrier and reed buntings.
The kingfisher prompted me to find the sonnet As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerald Manley Hopkins and to re-read the kingfisher acrostic poem in the beautiful Lost Words books with poems by Robert Macfarlane and illustrations by Jackie Morris.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; As tumbled over rim in roundy wells.
We particularly enjoyed Ross’s Wildlife Boat at Horsey Mere which had a little fore cabin so the children had a secret place to hide, play with toy birds and look out of circular windows at passing boats and birds.
Another highlight was RSPB Minsmere – we visited three times, there was so much to explore! We loved the pond-dipping activity, the woodland dens and the Wild Library. (The cafe provided a variety of vegan dishes and was making a concerted effort to reduce plastic.)
There are so many beautiful parts of the UK with many still to discover!
It’s now the end of (meteorological) summer and the start of the new school year. I’ve been feeling down as life returns to routine and rotas, to desks and tables, homework and uniforms.
I remembered that I love autumn (the children want to make conker caterpillars!) and that life outside doesn’t have to stop. The allotment is calling!
1 September is not only the start of autumn, it is also the start of the liturgical season of Creationtide.
Creator of Life, The Earth is full of Your creatures, and by Your wisdom you made them all. During this Season of Creation, open our eyes to see the precious diversity that is all around us. Enlighten our minds to appreciate the delicate balance maintained by each creature. Inspire us to conserve the precious habitats that nurture this web of life.
This morning, Small Boy, Little Miss and I were litter-picking as part of a church ‘Helping Hands’ event. I found myself getting annoyed as, once again, I was picking up other people’s rubbish: drink cans, cigarette butts, sweet wrappers and bits of plastic.
And then I thought about my rubbish: my short-tempered-ness, my judgementalism, my selfishness, my envy…….
Who takes my rubbish away?
Our church is now part of an ecclesiastical mash-up – a joining together of a Pentecostal congregation and an Anglican congregation. Even though Sunday mornings haven’t changed much, I have found myself feeling increasingly at home within Anglicanism: the importance of words, the heritage, the architectural and material symbolism, and the theological space for uncertainty and mystery.
Who takes my rubbish away again and again and again?
This is Just Reflections first ever interview! I’ve tracked down someone who took part in the Extinction Rebellion protests and asked him a few questions as I wanted to find out more (it wasn’t that hard as he sits next to me at work).
Dido: Thank you for agreeing to this! Can you explain why you took part in the Extinction Rebellion protests?
I’ve known that climate change is a big issue for a long time. When I was at school I used to make what I thought was a really clever joke telling people that they needed to switch off lights when they left a room if they didn’t want to drown. A joke is never really funny when you have to explain the punchline, which I always had to do – the electricity for the lights was generated from burning fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels increases C02 in the atmosphere, which increases the greenhouse effect, which will warm the planet enough to eventually melt the ice caps, causing sea levels to rise, resulting in massive flooding! 40 years later the joke still isn’t funny, but this time it’s because everyone knows about climate change but we still leave the lights on!
Last year I went with a few friends (from a group we have at my Church called Just Living) to a Green Party meeting where someone read out a statement about Extinction Rebellion. It was the first time I had heard about them. The statement pointed out that all the talk we make about climate change doesn’t seem to make a difference to how people and the government act. Everyone knows about the problem but no-one seems to do anything about it. Now is the time for action – non-violent direct action. They drew parallels with the civil rights movement and talked about how we need to undertake acts of civil disobedience to force people and governments to act. There is a moral imperative to act in disobedience as the issue is so important to the survival not just of humanity, but to a lot of life on the planet. It was a powerful message, but I had reservations; were we really going to change people’s hearts and minds by blocking roads and annoying them? I cycled home pondering these things in my heart, but I didn’t actually do anything about it for quite a while.
Dido: Can you
describe the demonstrations? What did you do?
I missed the bridge protests last year as I was visiting my son at university, but I went to the Blood of our Children demonstration in March this year. I was deeply touched by this protest which involved pouring litres and litres of fake blood on to the streets outside Downing Street to symbolise the catastrophe that awaits our children if we don’t act now on climate change. It was incredibly moving – the visceral sight of so much ‘blood’ flooding into the gutters, the poignancy of the funeral atmosphere, the powerful and profound speeches. Afterwards I walked down to the Tate to see the documentary photographs of Don McCullin. It was a really upsetting exhibition – image after image showing the terrible things that humans can do to each other. I couldn’t stop crying. And I kept thinking how important it was to stop climate change becoming the cause of more suffering. As the speeches at the demonstration pointed out, it will be the poor who will suffer first, millions of people. We can’t let that happen just to preserve our own comfortable lifestyles.
I also attended the recent protests in London around Easter. Once again I was more of a supporter than an active participant. I brought along my reservations and unease along with my support, thinking, “Well, I have to do something!” I went down to Waterloo Bridge with my daughter (taking photos for an A-level project) and as a small act of disobedience we added a couple of plants from our garden to the growing garden on the bridge. Fired up from the first day of protest I bought some spray chalk and was prepared to re-appropriate the congestion charge road markings at Marble Arch, transforming the two Capital Cs into a message about Climate Change or Cutting Carbon. But when I got there someone had beaten me to it! I got my money back on the spray paint. The next day with a pack of chalk sticks and the help of my son I did help to transform a BUS LANE marking on Waterloo Bridge into the message BUST PLANET. I was amazed that everyone who passed stopped to take a picture! We were only re-chalking someone else’s faded work, so couldn’t really take credit either as wits or true activists!
The atmosphere at the
protests was amazing, it was like a week-long street party. Everyone seemed to
be in a good mood. Rebels had all been asked to commit to a ‘no drugs or
alcohol’ rule and I’m sure that helped. The few interactions with blocked
drivers that I witnessed were firm but very polite.
On Easter Monday my
wife and I were took part in a citizens’ assembly at Marble Arch, a kind of
open democracy where small groups discuss their ideas and feed them into the
decision-making process. Extinction Rebellion are advocating this as a way to
involve everyone in coming up with ideas on how to tackle the climate
emergency. Our Easter Monday discussion was just to decide on the direction of
the protest after the first week.
Dido: Do you think
the protests have had an effect?
To be honest I didn’t expect too much from the recent protests. I still had my reservations on whether inconveniencing people helps to change their minds, especially stopping public transport. Also I wasn’t expecting a few thousand rebels to make much of an impact. I’d recently been on the anti-Brexit march where the streets of London were blocked by literally millions of people, in a procession stretching all the way from Marble Arch to Parliament Square, and that march was completely ignored by politicians. I suppose that’s the Extinction Rebellion’s point – direct action can make more impact than big marches. I think the protests resonated through strong imagery like the garden bridge, the pink boat in the middle of Oxford Circus and through the commitment of the thousand plus arrestees. The timing was perfect too, with David Attenborough’s TV programme, The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) report, and Greta Thunberg’s visit all happening at the same time. So the issue of climate change really did come into the public’s attention – and Parliament’s attention. Parliament acknowledged the climate emergency, reacted positively to the idea of citizen’s assemblies, and even admitted in the last week that the Heathrow expansion needs to be looked at again in the light of climate change.
I don’t know if this will result in real political action, but I’m much more hopeful now.
Dido: You’ve already inspired me to swap to vegan pizza and vegan ice cream! (The Ben and Jerry’s cardboard-packaged, vegan, fair trade ice cream was very popular at dinner with Family Pilgrim!) What else can we do as individuals in the fight against global warming?
Eat all the food that you buy (food waste is one
of the major contributors to global warming – methane does more damage to the
atmosphere than CO2,).
Eat less meat (none if you can) From farm to fork, meat production emits way more damaging greenhouse gases – methane, CO2, and nitrous oxide – than a plant-based diet!
Eat less dairy (none if you can).
Don’t fly (greenhouse gases emitted higher up in atmosphere cause even more damage than if emitted on the ground). Reduce your consumption (of everything!)
And of course switch
the lights off when you leave a room… it’s no joke!