Earlier this year the clergy of the Archdeaconry of South Canterbury requested that the theme of our annual retreat be 'the environment/care of creation' and we agreed that we would shift from a one day retreat to an overnight retreat. For a venue it was suggested that we go to the Eco Lodge at Peel Forest.
That was many months ago. Finally, Tuesday - Wednesday this week we actually had the retreat, at the lodge pictured above, with Paul Heard, a clerical colleague in the Diocese of Christchurch as our retreat leader.
The Eco Lodge is pretty cool - off the grid with solar powered batteries to provide lighting, gas burners and a wood-fired oven. Unless you have a four wheel drive vehicle you have a five minute bush walk in from the carpark.
Anyway, you are not reading here for a travelogue!
All retreats in my experience - no doubt in yours too - offer something, but some offer more than others. This retreat, through Paul's five talks, challenged my thinking about eco-theology, the importance of the environment, and care of creation as one of the five vital marks of mission.
I found myself reflecting on how little I offer about these matters in my own teaching and preaching.
Part of the challenge - arising out of a scriptural focus on God as Creator as well as Redeemer - I found was recognising that disrespect for this world, misusing the gift of creation is a grave sin. We are as much out of sorts with God, I found myself thinking, when we pollute (say) a stream as when we pollute ourselves through (say) sexual immorality.
In Canterbury currently, for instance, we are booming ahead through an agriculturally driven economy, but that economy, which we ALL benefit from, has created terrible pollution in some places. Yes, I am talking about Lake Forsyth and the valleys behind it from which toxic waste pours, and then Lake Ellesmere and the flatlands surrounding it. Colleagues at the retreat mentioned rivers in South Canterbury which once were swimmable but now you daren't let your dog lick the water.
This is WRONG!
However my main point is not to get into the details of dairy farming (and, yes, I know many if not most dairy farmers are trying their hardest to plant trees by waterways, fence their cows off from the same, and generally avoid polluting water tables with nitrates).
Rather, reflecting on what the Bible teaches, on who God is and what God has given us really got my mind thinking new and deeper thoughts about our (my) responsibility as Christians to treat God's gift well. To say nothing of reflecting also on the justice of situations in which our poor treatment of the land often means the poor are being treated unjustly, to say nothing of the heritage we are taking away (i.e. thieving) from our grandchildren.
I shall try to be both a better and a different person, and a provocative and challenging preacher and teacher in new ways.