Science and Theology: Walking Through Nature

Those of you at the 10am Green Communion service on Sunday (12th February) that celebrated the first anniversary of Eco-Church would have heard Steve mention about the Scientists in Congregations project.

Scientists in Congregations is a grant scheme open to all mainstream Christian churches. The projects are aimed at helping churchgoers engage confidently with science, raising the profile of Christians whose vocation is science-related and changing the debate about science and faith in churches and communities.

Scientists in Congregations is part of Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, a three-year Durham University project run in partnership with the Church of England.

ecopanel-300x167At TRINITY we are one of only ten churches nationally that have been offered a grant for our project, Science and Theology: Walking Through Nature.
I was invited recently to Lambeth Palace to accept the award on behalf of TRINITY and the Walking Through Nature team. This blog is taken from the presentation I was asked to give.

The Project aims are to take groups from the congregations of TRINITY on a ‘walking church’ series of Ecosystem Service walks, consisting of Science, Theology and Prayer.

These walks will be led by an Ecologist and a minister. At selected stopping points an explanation from the Ecologist as to what benefits are received from this natural or semi-natural place, will be combined with Christian teaching, theological reflection, and prayer by the minister. The congregation will be challenged at each point to reflect on these places theologically and biblically, in dialogue with the Ecologist’s scientific explanations.

There will be Three Walking Church Ecosystem Service Walks, one starting and finishing at each of TRINITY’s three locations in Lewes.  They will be offered at different times to allow a good cross-section of TRINITY’s congregations to experience them.

IMG_4656Resources will be produced to enable similar walks to be carried out across the Chichester Diocese and beyond.

The Walking Through Nature team’s conviction is that there is a current scarcity of reflective dialogue between science and the Christian faith within local congregations, this has serious consequences in relation to ecology – an area that should be of potential shared aims and fertile collaboration if we are to address some of the issues surrounding climate change and environmental degradation.

Poor understanding of ecological systems and their relationships to human activity and wellbeing both globally and locally, is seriously weakening the churches endeavours to observe the biblical mandate of humankind that is “to keep” God’s Creation which is “very good” and which “belongs to the Lord” as well as the commandment “to love your neighbour as yourself”.

Part of the inspiration for this project came from the words of Gus Speth, Dean of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

“I used to think the top environmental problems facing the world were global warming, environmental degradation and ecosystem collapse, and that we scientists could fix those problems with enough science.  But I was wrong. The real problem is not those three items, but greed, selfishness, and apathy. And for that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation – and we scientists don’t know how to do that. We need your help.”

However, many congregations are poorly equipped to link Christian understandings of the value of nature, landscape, and the environment with the rapidly rising recognition in the mainstream science and policy sphere of the huge value of the benefits that nature does and can provide.

IMG_4601An understanding of these issues could translate into practical actions which might contribute to reversing the degradation that human societies are bringing to God’s creation, which is our only life support system – and essential for the livelihoods of many, especially those of the poorest.

Christians can benefit from scientists’ help to understand the implications of such environmental degradation for their faith.  Scientists, and local communities, can benefit from the Christian message and example of living in communion, not as consumers.

The walks will be designed to rapidly deepen and broaden multi-faceted understandings of the wonder of nature and what it does for us all as individuals, congregations, communities, parishes and local (as well as national and global) economies.  This will aim to build the foundations for mission, to be a starting point to inspire congregations to work within their communities to change how we value God’s creation and reflect this in practical action. It will open a dialogue about the ecosystem, give an understanding of the environment and how this may be compatible and helpful to theological approaches to creation care – linking Science with Theology and Scientists with Congregations.

The walks will take place during the Spring and Summer of this year and if anybody thinks they would like to take part, please do get in touch.

More information about our project and some of the other projects awarded grants can be found on the following websites

https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2017/02/second-wave-of-scientists-in-congregations-grants-unveiled.aspx

http://community.dur.ac.uk/christianleadership.science/second-wave-of-scientists-in-congregations-grants-unveiled/

Praying For Healing

shutterstock_136339277Last month we held a wonderful healing service at TRINITY St. John’s, at the instigation of Rev Dick Field. I have been involved in praying for healing for some years now, but I wasn’t always so keen and that’s why I wanted to write about it now, in case there are others wondering about it too.

When I first became a Christian, I have to be honest, I was skeptical – could God really perform healing miracles here and now? I went to several healing services to see those well known for healing ministry and I was a definite doubting Thomas, until I saw it for myself.

Since then I have prayed for healing many times, and sometimes with some success! Perhaps the most interesting was when I had booked a man to come and clean our carpets, who turned up limping across the driveway whilst trying to carry his heavy equipment. He had twisted his ankle that morning at a previous job and it seemed unlikely he would be able to continue. So I took a risk and explained shutterstock_290072948that I was a Christian and had prayed for people for healing and would he like me to pray for him. He said yes and after a very simple prayer his ankle was healed. Not only did my carpets get cleaned that day but we also chatted about church and Alpha, so perhaps God led him from there to know him deeper.

The thing about praying for healing is that it can be a bit controversial, we can get caught up in questions like: does it happen today? What happens if someone isn’t healed? Or why has God not intervened? And I have been in that situation, I’ve seen people die who I believed would live, and in fact in my own case, I still had to undergo back surgery when I had received huge amounts of prayer for my injury. shutterstock_207300925It’s hard to continue to believe that God can heal when you experience situations like that. But the thing is, God is God, there will always be an element of mystery about Him and so whilst it can be hard, I choose to focus on what I know of God, what I believe and have experienced, rather than dwelling on what I don’t understand.

So I will go on praying for healing no matter what! In fact a great example here, is of the well known evangelist John Wimber who had a real gift for healing, someone who God had clearly called to this kind of ministry (perhaps read 1 Cor 12:8-10 on spiritual gifts given to people). He saw hundreds of people healed in the 1980’s and 1990’s and he taught many others to pray for healing in Jesus. But did you know that he prayed for more than 1,000 sick people before he saw his first healing? How could anyone possibly stick with something through such constant failure? He just refused to go by what he was experiencing, and stood on the testimony of scripture.

In the bible we see that Jesus healed all who came to him seeking healing, and more than that at the great commission (Matthew 28) Jesus says this:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Let’s clarify that – he told them to make disciples and to teach those new disciples to obey everything he commanded them – so, freelyif we follow that on, that means us!  We should obey what Jesus taught the disciples. And a few chapters earlier in Matthew 10 we can read him telling them:

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

This is for us too! This is just as much a command or commission to us as it was 2000 years ago.

 

Jules Middleton
pickingapplesofgold.com

Being Family

Silhouettes of family

‘Friends are the family you choose for yourselves’ is a saying often seen written on plaques sold at homeware shops and designed to be displayed on people’s walls. And while the sentiment is a fair one, from a Christian point of view it seems to rather miss the point.

Last Sunday our Children, Families and Schools minister was taking the all-age service on the subject of family. The traditional idea of family as a group of people to whom one is related, was discussed but then extended to include our church family and the adjectives the congregation had chosen to describe families were then applied to our church family. And this is where the difference between friends and family is so apposite. Families teach us things precisely because we cannot choose the members for ourselves. When we choose our friends we, by and large, choose people like us; in age, occupation, hobbies, temperament, and then we have lots in common and fewer differences to divide us. Our family, however, might have our genes to connect us but often very little else. If you substitute genes for faith then this is like church! Church relationships can be strained and uncomfortable, or even difficult but we are a family and that means that we have to behave like one.

Family PrayersAs Neil pointed out, the whole Bible is about God building a family with whom to share his love and it culminates in our adoption into his family through our faith in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5 says “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure”. Every child in the world is born into the universal family of humankind but each child also requires a specific family to love, teach, nurture, care for and support them. When we were born again into God’s family, the same was true; we are all the universal family of Christians but we each need a specific family, provided by the church we belong to. God loves relationship. The Trinity itself (after which our church is named) is a relationship and we are called to emulate its harmony. Which, it has to be said, is hard work!

As we were reminded on Sunday, family members offer one another tolerance, respect, encouragement, teaching, quality time, challenge, and support. So how can we offer that to over four hundred other members of our church? And how can we do that when we are all flawed and selfish? God wants us to learn to love everyone, that is why Jesus identified this as the foundation of every commandment, but he is especially keen on us loving others in his family so that we can develop the skill of loving, and by seen by others as treating one another with love. Jesus points this out in John’s gospel when he says “Love One anotherAs I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We can’t witness to the world without showing love to others, and we can’t learn to love when in isolation. Family is the perfect way to hone the skill of loving. In families we learn to love those we find irritating, imperfect or frustrating.

Church is our eternal family and so, in heaven, we will enjoy fellowship with them forever but we need preparation. And that means learning to love our family members now. What do we all need to change to be more tolerant, respectful, encouraging, to teach others, to give time to others, to challenge others and to be supportive?

To read more about our church family try Matthew 12:46-50, Matthew 25:40, Ephesians 2:19, 1 Timothy 3:15 and Hebrews 2:10-13.

 

 

Kirsty Stannard

TRINITY Mission Update – February

We’re excited to have a mission field that’s not limited to Lewes and the surrounding areas but one that extends nationally and internationally through the excellent work of our many mission partners. We’re going to be adding regular updates here to keep everyone updated on the work we’re supporting.

Fritha & John Washington, Bethel & Simeon are settling in well into Eastbourne. Great to see them at the 11.15 service. We look forward to welcoming Fritha to the meeting on Monday, when she will update us with news of the Transition Home in Vinnitsa, Ukraine.

Lisa Meadows has posted some lovely photos of friends in different Ministries of River of Life Church, Masaka, Uganda.

Rebekka Maughan reports that Januz is a really good Manager of the Open Hands project in Romania & his wife Iulia has great compassion, coming alongside deprived families. The local Orthodox priest is very helpful & keen to support where possible. Januz also manages Ramona & Olga who run the Rainbow House which offers great love & shows parents the value of play with the children.

Please pray for Mim Daughtery, in the first few weeks of staffing the 3-month ‘Lecture-phase’ of her first Discipleship Training School at the YWAM Base, Harpenden. The plan is for the ‘Outreach Phase’, also lasting 3 months, to take place in Albania.

Praise God with Christine Angell that, after numerous visits to the “Mogamma” in Tahrir Square, Cairo, she was granted her final One-Year visa only this week, Monday 30th. Please pray for Egyptians, many more of whom are now living below the poverty line.

Jonathan Lamb farewelled a successful team-visit from Blakeney Church at the weekend & will welcome another team, this time from Yaxley, Cambs, next Saturday. He is supposed to be having a ‘breather’! The TRINITY Southover Team themselves are preparing for their own trip to Rwanda. Please continue to pray for Jonathan as he regathers strength to lead these Teams. Longer-term, pray how he should respond to God’s prompting about His ongoing Missional plans for him.

Rob & Jan Hoy‘s Water-Projects: Gifts of water-filters for the Primary schools in the Nyamagabe District, Kigeme, have been distributed for different Team-members to take out to Rwanda in their luggage. Rob will also be inspecting current & potential new Rainwater-Harvesting projects.

Peter Wellby is processing the month’s teaching he conducted in Kamembe, Rwanda at Jill Barham School, preparing Finalists for their National Exams in December. Please also continue to pray for Helen who is recovering from long-awaited back surgery on Jan 12.

TRINITY Mission Committee

The day our world changed forever.

“By six o’clock on the Friday evening that Jesus died, something had changed, and changed radically. Heaven and earth were brought together, creating the cosmic New Temple. God was reconciling the world to Himself in the Messiah (2 Cor 5:19)” Tom Wright

crossWhat Christ did for us on the cross is much wider and deeper than any individual can imagine. As western Christians, we have a very personal view of the cross and rightly so: if we were the only sinner in God’s creation Jesus would still love us so much that he would have come and died for us!

However so much more happened when Jesus died and rose again, a new creation was inaugurated. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old has gone, the new is here! 2Cor 5:17

The physical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ushered in not just new life for us as individuals but new life for His whole creation, a New Heaven and a physical New Earth joined together in completion when Jesus comes again.

So how does the future reality effect our present-day reality, when we are surrounded by a beautiful but awfully wounded world where greed, pride, war and poverty, among many evils, abound? In many ways, we are people who straddle two worlds.  As Paul says in Romans 8: “you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.  8 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

lionAs Christians, our bodies ache and age. We are called to the same sufferings as Christ, but we have the Holy Spirit living inside us, a powerful source that is released as we pray to see healings and miracles breaking in, as foretastes of our new heavenly bodies, and our heavenly home.

Likewise, we live on an earth that is ravaged by the greed and all the pollution we humans create. Many starve, and lives are made miserable by war and displacement, living as refugees. As Christ’s representatives, living and shining in the midst of this, we can work, through our prayers, actions and giving, to help create little glimpses of a New Heaven and earth here in our present world.

When Christ died and rose again, His kingdom was established in all power and authority.  All the powers of death and hell were defeated. We can pray with confidence, “thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as in heaven.”, because it is the actual situation with Jesus sitting on the throne of power and majesty, and all things, all principalities and powers, subject to Him under His feet.

shoutSo why does Christ delay His return?  Christ gives us the privilege of helping to bring in His kingdom, doing His will in showing the Love of Jesus to those around and telling them about Him; of caring and nurturing His creation, all the time hastening the day when Christ will come again in His glory to bring us to our new home, where we will live in perfect union with Christ and all His New Creation.

 

Ian Hempshall
thykingdomcome.blogspot.co.uk