Sage Words February 2001
Sage web site launched
Some years ago we put together a very basic web site for Sage. Times have moved on and the site is now out of date, so I felt we needed a new one for the new millennium. Fortunately, now you do not have to be a computer boffin to create a simple site. I used the design program Trellix Web
, and had the basics done in two hours. You can find the results at:
What are the aims of the site? Firstly we want to help people find us. I have had the feeling for some time that a new person in Oxford may take several years to contact Sage simply because they do not know we exist. We also want to provide Sage members with another source of information. Sage Words will remain our main means of getting information out, but we can update the web site far more often than we can do mail shots! So why not have a look? You will find our aims, ways of contacting us, a calendar of events, and, soon, Sage Words on-line. Any suggestions for future development of the site are very welcome - please send them to email@example.com
. Also, if you have your own site and it is relevant, please include a link to the Sage site - the more there are, the more people are likely to find out about us.
Stewardship explored at Windsor
One Friday in September I found myself walking up to Windsor Castle, clutching an overnight bag and a letter inviting me to spend the weekend there. Despite various jokes about tea with the Queen and walking the corgis, I was in fact heading for St. George's House, a small study centre, tucked away behind St. George's Chapel. This was the venue for a conference on environmental stewardship, jointly organised by St. George's House and The John Ray Initiative
. The JRI was formed a couple of years ago to promote `responsible environmental stewardship in accordance with Christian principles and the wise use of science and technology'. This weekend was intended as an opportunity to consider the concept of `stewardship' and whether it provides a useful model of our relationship to the natural world.
In a group like Sage, the idea that we have a responsibility for creation and are accountable to God is easily accepted, but it has come in for serious criticism from a number of quarters. A wide range of people had been brought together, including scientists, theologians, philosophers and people involved in Christian green organisations such as A Rocha
and Christian Ecology Link
. Several papers were presented by their authors and generated much discussion. Robin Attfield, a philosopher, defended the concept and presented the possibility that even those who do not believe in God could find stewardship a useful concept, if our responsibility is to the wider human race or future generations. Calvin de Witt, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin and director of the Au Sable Institute
, emphasised the importance of actually making stewardship work in the world. He supported his case with practical examples from his local community, as well as biblical and scientific insights.
Although the participants were predominantly Christian, James Lovelock, an agnostic, had been invited to be (in his words) the `loyal opposition'. This was on account of his having once described the idea of people as `stewards of the earth' as akin to `making a goat the gardener'. In many circles (Christians, scientists and greens among them!), Lovelock and particularly his Gaia theory - which presents the earth as a super-organism with mechanisms of self-regulation - arouses great controversy. Rather to my surprise, he actually made a very positive contribution to the weekend, both by reminding us of the limits of human influence on the earth (we may wipe ourselves out but are unlikely to destroy all life) and in contributing to discussions over the whole weekend. He did also concede that the understanding of stewardship that was emerging over the weekend was reasonable!
The consensus that emerged was that stewardship was probably the best model we had of the relationship between people, God and creation. Other metaphors (e.g. trustee, tenant) could, however, prove useful and it is important to remember that to be a steward is to be a servant.
New local green Christian group
On Saturday 13 January 2001 four Sage members attended a meeting of "A Christian Response to the Environment" (AChRE) at St. Nicholas, Old Marston, Oxford. This is a new group that has been set up by Rev Adrian Hopwood and Rev Glyn Evans to encourage environmental concern in local churches. A good number of people attended the meeting from various organisations including, Sage, A Rocha, and Christian Ecology Link. Other people represented various related professions.
It was explained that the Bishop of Oxford had signed an agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and was looking for a means of achieving this goal. He has appointed a Diocesan Environmental Officer, Ian James, who is a meteorologist at Reading University (www.met.rdg.ac.uk) and is also training for ordination. AChRE are looking for resources to use in churches and Sage was able to offer help in this area. We have also offered to run a seminar at a day focussing on the environment on 17 November 2001, organised by Churches Together in Oxfordshire
Overall this seems like a very helpful group to act as a forum where the existing Christian environmental organisations can meet and share ideas and resources. It is great to have more people `on board' with the environmental approach to our faith and we hope that this will signal a new phase of interest and involvement in the region.
Autumn leaves at Nuneham Courtenay
A group of 12 people from Archway, a charity supporting those hurt by loneliness, found it a tremendous privilege to be taken for a guided walk in Nuneham Courteney Arboretum in October last year. For some it was quite a novelty and they enjoyed being led by Caroline Steel, as she enabled them to appreciate the beauties of nature in autumn.
At one point on the walk it was suggested that each person should collect one fallen leaf they particularly liked and then think of one word that described their leaf. The words were recorded as they shared them with the rest of the group, and were later put together to form a poem (below). Some have said that the words bring back happy and vivid memories of the afternoon, and were delighted to hear the poem read out at one of their regular meetings and also to receive their own copy.
Colours blowing amidst tints of russet and golden, green and crimson,
shades of autumn when rich, variegated leaves are falling.
Splendid maples, fiery hues, beetroot red, chariots of fire,
fluorescent yellows glowing under giant monkey trees.
Fairy queens and stars in coloured patterns looking up,
a kaleidoscope of autumn angles asking to be held.
Fingers letting go, surrendering dying leaves
like burdens too heavy to hold.