Diocese of Portsmouth

    Environment concerns at top of agenda in West Wight

    24 Sept. 2021

    WORSHIPPERS in West Wight are putting environmental issues at the top of their agenda – with a series of events designed to highlight our care of God’s planet.

    The activities laid on by the West Wight Mission Community - which covers Freshwater, Yarmouth, Totland Bay, Shalfleet, Calbourne, Brighstone, Brook and Mottistone – tied onto the start of autumn as ‘Creation Season’ in the Church’s calendar.

    The West Wight Forest Church visited Compton Beach on a sunny Saturday afternoon, examining the dinosaur footprints and the cliffs, which reveal layers of time locked into their rocky strata. Worshippers talked about their limited capacity to grasp time in relation to the earth’s history, and wondered kind of layer our generations would leave in the rock – and who might be there to read it.

    The next day, worshippers were in Shalfleet meadow and heritage orchard, drawing a labyrinth using everyday baking flour. Having designed it, they also used it, experiencing the tranquility that can be found at its centre. Children were encouraged to identify insects, plants and trees and enjoy a few of the sweet plums that were still waiting to be picked.

    The meadow and orchard have been identified as a potential wildlife reserve, and the wildlife audit is being undertaken by the West Wight Mission Community. This will help them to gain a better understanding of what is growing and living there, so that any species that are unique to the island can be protected and the local community can learn more about some of the plants and creatures that live on the island.

    And on the Monday, pupils from Brighstone C of E Primary School were taken on a mini-pilgrimage by team rector the Rev Jackie Maw and a visitor, the Rev Hilary Bond from Wareham in Dorset, who had arrived straight from a pilgrimage for climate justice. The pilgrimage went to the famous Brighstone dragon tree, and included the chance for children to notice the plants and creatures around them.

    Jackie said: “From beetles to blackberries, horse tails to discarded facemasks, the children were alert and interested in the world around them. Hilary’s story telling skills had not just the children spellbound, and there was much reflecting on how we find a way to live in peace with one another and with God’s creation.”

    The Rev Hilary Bond with children from Brighstone C of E Primary School

    That evening, worshippers from across the West Wight Mission Community and the Isle of Wight met to talk more about creating sustainable communities, including applying to become Eco-churches. The Rev Hilary Bond was able to reassure parishes that a bronze Eco-church award was probably within their grasp if they started with the simple things they could do.

    Hilary told her own story of being captivated by woodlice as a child and learning about the natural world from a young age. Her response is activism, but we were all invited to think about the different ways we might respond individually and collectively. She stressed the need for prayer and the importance of our actions coming from a place of contemplation and peace.

    The Rev Jackie Maw reminded the meeting of the human cost of the climate emergency and the importance of heeding the voices of the prophets who spoke out against the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable. She encouraged all present to think about three things to take away and to decide what their next steps should be. For some it would be to register to be Eco-churches, whereas for others there were ideas about caring for churchyards, creating local refill stations and finding ways of marking and praying for the COP26 UN Climate Summit.

    There was a desire to work ecumenically and with other local community stakeholders, and a working party was formed to ensure the conversations would turn into actions.

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