Sage Words May 2001
Sage visits A Rocha UK
A 40-minute drive along the M40 took a small Sage party to the newly established A Rocha UK
HQ at Southall in early May. Project Director Dave Bookless showed us a fascinating 75 acres of green lung in an extremely built-up area. The space supports 20 pairs of skylarks, as well as reed bunting, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat, blackcap, garden warbler, green woodpecker and lots more. A recent provisional record of nightingale has taken the bird list up to 90 species.
Habitats varied from rough grassland to marsh, scrub, hedgerow and canal. A cluster of temporary ponds has already yielded a record of a nationally rare water beetle. Cuckoo flowers, supporting colonies of orange tip butterflies, were interspersed with burnt-out cars, polluted land and piles of tyres. Quite a mixture.
The vision is broad and includes:
To restore a green oasis to its full ecological potential. A Rocha hopes to manage part of the site as a nature reserve and to advise the borough council on the management of the rest.
To engage the local community in all aspects of the project. Already assemblies have been held at the local school - predominantly Sikh in culture - enthusing the children about the site.
A floating classroom to offer nature study to schoolchildren.
To show local people that the church can make a positive difference as stewards of the natural world.
To offer volunteer wardens the opportunity for short term placements to develop their conservation skills.
The A Rocha UK HQ currently comprises a wooden office behind the Bookless' home, a neighbouring terraced property. These, and the “greenest vehicle on the market”, have been given to the project at low cost. It certainly seems to have support from on high.
This exciting project, redeeming land that has been spoilt and involving a multicultural community, was well worth the visit. Sacrificial living goes hand-in-hand with out of the blue gifts, which suggests to me that a positive outcome is guaranteed.
Farming crisis: how can we help?
We first asked Rev Glyn Evans, Oxford's Diocesan Rural and Regional Officer, to tell Sage about the farming crisis in January, well before the foot and mouth outbreak began. So in mid-May a dozen of us gathered in the hospitable surroundings of the Gunraj home to hear what Glyn had to say. After an excellent bring and share meal we watched a short training video that illustrated, all too graphically, the sort of stress UK farmers have been under. The British liking for cheap imported food has forced prices down, and made much farming uneconomic. A series of problems, including the BSE crisis, increased administration, new EU legislation, the feeling of powerlessness, and children leaving farming, have all added to farmers' stress. In 1999 many farmers were on anti-depressants, and it is estimated that there were four suicides a week in the farming community. Last winter's incredibly wet weather did not help either, and it is thought that there will be shortages of wheat grain later in the year as a result.
And then came foot and mouth. Glyn informed us of all the various hypotheses for how the outbreak this year started, and then analysed the effects so far, and what the future holds. He left us in no doubt that foot and mouth will change the face of the British countryside forever. Many farmers will go out of business, farms will become larger, and scrub will invade many of our uplands due to the removal of sheep. We all felt that we had gained an important insight into the problems, but we can see no easy solutions.
Our meeting was just before Rogation Sunday, and as we left Glyn gave us all green ribbons to wear showing support for those dependent on agriculture. One way the Church is helping British farmers who are affected by the foot and mouth crisis, is through the ARC-Addington Fund, which provides emergency relief for farmers in financial difficulty. If you wish to make a donation, send a cheque (payable to “ARC-Addington Fund”) to The Arthur Rank Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LZ. Tax payers should ask if their donation can be Gift Aided.
Wood Farm welcomes Sage on Conservation Sunday
Conservation Sunday is an annual opportunity for churches to focus on the biblical teaching about caring for God's world. Each year A Rocha produces a resource pack, and this year this has been done in partnership with Redcliffe College, Gloucester. The theme is Let all creation praise the Lord!
It is natural for Christians to praise God - but what about other species? Are we unique in this ability? Psalm 148 and many other biblical passages suggest that we are fellow worshippers with the rest of creation. Activities around the country on Conservation Sunday 2001
, 3 June, will explore this idea and ask important questions about the consequences for our relationship with the rest of God's world.
Sage's contribution to Conservation Sunday this year will be to take the service at Wood Farm Pentecostal Church at 10.30am on 3 June. The service will take place at Wood Farm First School, Titup Hall Drive, Wood Farm, Oxford. Sage would like to invite everyone, particularly those Sage Words
readers who are dispersed away from Oxford! There will also be a bring & share lunch afterwards, but please check the details of this beforehand with Caroline.
Sage workshop for Churches Together in Oxfordshire
Sage has been asked to run a workshop at the next assembly of Churches Together in Oxfordshire
on Saturday 17 November. The overall theme of the day is God's World? Christian Choices for the Future of the Earth
, and Sage's workshop on “practical choices” will complement others on Local Agenda 21, climate change, the theology of creation, the future of farming, investment, and the two-thirds world. Well-known writer and broadcaster Elaine Storkey will be the keynote speaker.
The event will be held at the Oxford Brookes University Westminster Institute Campus, Harcourt Hill, Oxford between 10am and 4pm.
Clare Newgass has suggested a Sage weekend away on 31 August - 2 September, staying in a B&B owned by farmers as a small way of supporting the farming community. If you are interested contact Clare