on being green and feeling blue

I knew something was up when I started to nervously avoid the weather forecast. This was in the summer of 2018.

Before that (confession time) I cared IN THEORY about global warming but suffered from the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mindset that meant because I didn’t see the problem on my doorstep, I didn’t often lose sleep over it.

I was too busy driving a car up and down country lanes doing rural ministry, worrying about church rooves and occasionally blessing sheep.

My low level climate anxiety grew through the summer of 2018 as we sweltered in temperatures of 37 degrees in a hotel in Munster with nothing on at night but wet towels.

2018 was also the year of Greta Thunberg.

But developments were afoot. Within 12 months, I had became the vicar of an Eco congregation and, what’s more, morphed into a keen gardener during the 2020 Covid lockdown.

In order to make the aforementioned job change and consequent house move, we’d shed 14 car loads of unwanted possessions to the local recycling centre (which included four sofas) as we relocated to a smaller, largely cupboard-less (beautiful old) house in a big town.

It was, in many ways, freeing.

(Although I had once been in love with the chocolate-brown 4 seater John Lewis sofa all our family grew up on, in the end, even the British Heart Foundation rejected it, on the grounds of it’s being too wobbly, proving that all once-young and desirable things, like sofas and humans, are subject to the laws of entropy).

In the new (old) house I was obliged to adopt a ‘one in/one out’ policy on buying new clothes due to space issues (it’s like a diet; mostly I stick to it…)

Other lifestyle changes: we now drink local beer, plant seeds and eat wonky veg.

In many ways, it’s easier to be green in a town. No need to drive when you can reach most places on foot or bike, or when you can hop on a bus that runs on cow poo.

Emerging from lockdown in 2021, we even experimented as a church with outdoor worship – something that is such a refreshing experience (when it’s not gusty, rainy or baking hot) I’m puzzled I never thought of it before.

So those are some of the main landmarks on my journey to become greener.

Now it’s 2022 – four years into Greta – and as I’ve become greener, I’ve also been feeling blue.

When you do the climate maths, it’s hard to avoid feeling blue. How can I possibly avoid overwhelm?

Will the grass ever recover? Will I be able to use the hosepipe again?

And what about present climate disasters for many fellow humans across the world that make the last two thoughts pale into insignificance?

Will I ever be able to sing All things bright and beautiful again without feeling like it no longer sums up anything remotely resembling reality for many human beings in this third decade of the 21st century?

Will the Anthropocene be the thing that finishes us off, once and for all?

And this throws up ministerial questions, chief of which might be: How to be a hopeful minister who’s finding and sharing joy?

And from a sermon point of view, how to avoid each talk being another version of “50 ways to leave your polluting life and TRY AND DO BETTER”?

‘Gaia’: installation at Boughton Park, home to the Greenbelt festival.

Serendipitously, as I was beginning to feel bluer and bluer about my tiny green steps being wholly inadequate, I went to Greenbelt & had a mystical experience.

It wasn’t rocket science – I simply felt that the more time I spent in the beautiful country park where the campsite was situated, the more in tune with nature I was, and the more I became aware of the need to listen to nature (trees, water, breeze) – as they were all ‘speaking’, as it were. I really wanted to do that. I felt it was possible in a way I hadn’t felt before. In short, I came over all St Francis of Assissi.

Because I felt connected, and held. I was being held. It’s hard to describe without sounding like a hippy, but it was an awareness of not being ‘top dog’ in the grand scheme of things. And of that being utterly appropriate. Of being very small but taken care of nonetheless.

It’s not a feeling I get in front of my computer screen.

As a species hopelessly addicted to words, maybe the ‘wordless’ embrace of nature – as we get outside and notice (and for a moment stop the talking/thinking/writing/planning & stressing) – is something that will show us, instinctively, what to do. Together.

And we’ll begin to feel less blue about our small attempts at being green.

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