16th-19th October 2020
Boarbank hall hosted a beautiful virtual retreat back in the autumn on the theme of “Living Laudato Si’: Your Planet and Your Parish”. The retreat brought together 50 participants to discuss practical ways that we can respond to our ecological crisis through parish action. The retreat was a resounding success, and we will be repeating the event on 22nd-25th January 2021 for anyone who missed it! (More details here).
Friday Night Welcome
The first evening opened with Bishop Richard Moth introducing the event, inviting the attendees to reflect upon using time and prayer in discernment, the act of listening and also asking ourselves whether we see creation as a gift. Solid grounding necessary for decisive action. The participants were invited to identify where they hoped the range of panellists and fellow retreatants could help with their parish and technical conundrums, such as…
- Learning about how to ensure your impact is sustainable – that initiatives are resilient to changes in the community.
- Addressing stepping on toes in parishes.
- Worrying people think you are making a mess with the church garden.
- How to get more people involved, or even how to get involved in contribution to parish life in the first place.
- How to link with other Christian groups.
Participants also reflected on some of the key successes they had seen in their parishes so far. These included:
- Creation Rosaries and prayer groups (incorporating care of creation into traditional parish activities).
- Joining wider networks
- Intergenerational working – invites creative thinking and problem solving!
- Highly over-productive allotments and what to do with the glut of onions.
A programme of talks
The programme of talks began on the Saturday, where 3 speakers (Trish Sandbach, assessor for the LiveSimply award, John Paul de Quay from the ECG, and Sr Margaret Atkins of Boarbank Hall) presented on some key themes.
The first session, led by Trish, discussed her experience of creating a LiveSimply Parish, reflecting on some of the key experiences that made it a success. She noted the successes of running a parish allotment, encouraging the group to make use of the resources that are available, whether that’s from donations or equipment lurking in a dark parish cupboard somewhere! She then wrapped up, reflecting on the idea of ecological conversion as an “internal to external” change of heart – moving from a culture of “things” to a culture of care.
John Paul then acting agony aunt, talked through some of the key barriers that people often cite as the reason to environmental inaction in their parish, as well as giving a sneak peak of The Journey to 2030 project in Arundel and Brighton.
To round off the day, Sr Margaret then presented, with remarkable clarity, on the power of technology in our lives and how it links with integral ecology. She spoke about how technology shapes our vision and behaviour, giving us the illusion that more and more things are under our own personal control…
The next day then had space for questions to several panellists from a variety of different backgrounds . A number of key topics were discussed including: Energy and transport, Allotments, Reducing waste, Communication and networks, Organic gardening, Wellbeing from nature, Tree planting, Education, investments and more.
Some of the tools/initiatives mentioned during the discussion were:
- Living Witness Carbon Calculator– for individuals wanting to measure their carbon footprint
- Centre for Alternative Technology – for resources/training on sustainable solutions
- Buglife – support in planting wildflowers for pollinators
- Pax Chrisi Bank Investment Report – assessing bank and pension providers on their ethics
- The Story of Stuff – a set of online resources/films about consumerism
- Gardens of Sanctuary – growing spaces for refugees
- WWF – they have a library of resources for activities
- Traidcraft – produce many resources for Traidcraft sellers
- CAFOD resources – education resources at all levels for all sort of topics
- Recycling for Good Causes – uses recycling as a form of fundraising
Monday Evening Reflection
The final evening led by a reflection from Bishop John Arnold, invited participants to reflect on what they had learnt and gave a chance for discussion on next steps. Some actions were identified:
- To create a discussion group to keep in touch and provide support.
- To share the resources mentioned during the retreat (see above!) – further resources will be made available on the Journey to 2030 Website in due course.
- To set up a national film screening night – watch this space.
The weekend was an energising and refreshing way to virtually connect us during the long isolation caused by COVID-19. We felt refreshed by the wonderful conversation and energy in the group; hearing the great ideas and experiences of such a wide group of people left us wanting more!
We are very excited to be working with Boarbank Hall on a repeat of this event 22nd-25th January 2021 – if you are interested in joining us, you can find more information here. The weekend is aimed at anyone who wants to see their parish being a hub of community action in living simply and praising God for his great creation.
We look forward to seeing you there!