Friday, November 4, 2016

Transformative teaching

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.

3 comments:

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter.

While it's not primarily about environmentalism, this is a great little book for starting to think about God and creation. Having read it, I can definitely recommend it.

God of Nature - Rich Beal

https://www.amazon.com/God-Nature-Rich-Beal/dp/153708531X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478251883&sr=1-1&keywords=God+of+Nature

And on the issue of industrial/unsustainable farming, a good book on Christian Agrarianism

https://www.amazon.com/Writings-Deliberate-Agrarian-Herrick-Kimball/dp/0972656472/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478251992&sr=1-1&keywords=Christian+agrarianism

Glen Young said...


Hi Peter and Shawn,

It is commendable Peter, for you to acknowledge the effect, which the retreat had on your thinking.Perhaps,with the consent of the retreat leader and the other participants,you may be willing to share some of that info.For the last 20 years I have been a participant in a Christian Stewardship group; which accepts the Authority of the Scriptures,but is also influenced by the thinking of Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis on the correct relationship of fallen man towards "CREATED THINGS". Lewis wrote that ,"we must never offer them either worship nor contempt."Perhaps you may wish to offer your thoughts on the Lewis theme, regarding fallen man's receptivity of "the shafts of glory" which God sends him- 'enjoy them but be prepared to renounce them'.

Shawn,also as a small time shepherd of the four legged flock,I will certainly read your suggested books. Thank you.

Andrei said...

This post made me think of this movie - not the ecological aspect but the retreat aspect

It was shown on Russian TV a decade ago and had the biggest audience of any program for that year. Can't imagine anything like this on our TV

It is called Ostrov - means Island and it is very spiritual.