Global call, local response

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When the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, last month called on the world’s rich nations to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change, he stood with a range of other faith leaders.

Pope Francis' encyclical, calling for care for our common home
Pope Francis’ encyclical, calling for care for our common home

Only two days before, the leader of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, called on faith communities to “recognise the pressing need to make the transition to a low carbon economy.”

Leaders of Judaism, Islam and Buddhism added their support. But what of our local religious centre, St Stephens Church, Tamahere?

St Stephen’s Vicar, Rev. Ellen Bernstein, told Tamahere Forum that Waikato clergy had “been talking about the encyclical [the Pope’s message] quite a bit”, including its endorsement by the former Archbishop David Moxon, the immediate past Bishop of Waikato, who is now the Anglican representative to the Vatican.

“Pope Francisʼs words will certainly become, for many years, a defining and golden mean for those who seek a sound theological, philosophical and ethical base for a good stewardship of the earth and its destiny,” wrote the Most Reverend Sir David Moxon on his blog where he told of joining a climate march through Rome.

Environmental awareness is not a new concept for St Stephen’s, Rev Bernstein said.

“In Tamahere, the need for us to take responsibility in our own neighbourhood and leave clean earth for future generations to till is something of a theme that runs through our worship at St Stephen’s,” she said.

“We repair, reuse and recycle scrupulously (although there is more we could do). Our congregation has volunteers at Mt Maungatautari, for example, and it’s one reason I promote the community nursery planting days to the congregation by email.

“I also advocate attending church locally, rather than driving to worship elsewhere.”

Rev Bernstein said the diocesan synod voted to divest from investing in fossil fuels two years ago, and she believed the clergy pension scheme and its Kiwisaver scheme, the Koinonia Fund, may have already divested of such holdings.

“The Koinonia Fund was promoted as being one of very few ethical investment options in Kiwisaver when the scheme launched.”

The St Stephen’s vicar said she would “love to be part of a conversation about how we as a community act as better kaitiaki of our local land and air and water.”

Tamahere’s most obvious environmental initiatives are the Tamahere Community Nursery, on Devine Rd, the Tamahere Reserve on Tauwhare Rd, the new walkway alongside the Mangaharakeke Stream, near the Allan Turner Bridge on Woodcock Rd, and Tamahere Eventide’s restored gully.

There are many keen environmentalists and gardeners in Tamahere creating or restoring natural environments. What else is going on? What other initiatives could be taken? Your thoughts and ideas are welcome in the comments section below.

Click here to read the Pope’s encyclical.

The Guardian: Pope’s climate change encyclical tells rich nations: pay your debt to the poor

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