Voice of the Church October

OUR LADY’S RC CHURCH, Marnhull – Deacon Michael Turnbull

I don’t know how many of you had a similar experience to me at the end of March, as we went into lockdown.  My church and many others across the country were in the throes of Lenten discussion groups, and along with many other groups the study centred on Ruth Valerio’s book, “Say Yes to Life,” chosen by the Archbishop of Canterbury as his recommendation for Lent.  If you used it, did you make it to the end?  It was based around the first chapter of the book of Genesis, looked at the Creation in light of our modern lifestyle, and asked us to reflect on doing better.

If you made it to the end, I suspect any thoughts you had about humankind and their interactions with creation must have been seriously challenged by the events of the past months.  As a Christian, I often get a sly comment to the effect, “Did God really create the Covid-19 virus?”  It is a challenge to explain the nature of God’s Creation and the message that we have all been given the task to guard and protect our planet for future generations.  As the words of the Harvest hymn remind us, “All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above.

Pope Francis published an encyclical 5 years ago entitled “Laudato Si – On Care for Our Com- mon Home.”  At the 5th Anniversary, the Church has revisited the teaching, and we are left to reflect in the light of the pandemic, how we are doing in our caring.  LaudatoS iincluded several key themes which are referred to regularly:

  • Everything is connected to everything else. What we do, and how we interact with nature affects many more things than we imagine.
  • The environmental crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. In other words, our interaction with nature is an interaction with God.
  • Technological solutions are not enough; we need new and different lifestyles. We need to love the earth as a sister or as we love our own homes.  This challenges us all to care for our planet in a personal way.

The time I have spent outside, walking the footpaths and lanes of North Dorset, as I have experienced the seasons change, through Spring and into the warm and fruitful Summer months and now into Autumn – ”Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” – I have seen the rich earth of our Blackmore Vale yield its harvest, and quite rightly we are at a point to give thanks to God for the harvest.

At the start of the month of September, we had a “Day for Creation” – the start of a month-long celebration of our Creation, which comes to fruition on 4th October, the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, a saint dedicated as a guide for animal and nature lovers, environmentalists and ecologists.  Francis shows us how to live in a way that respects and honours nature as God’s creation.  And October sees the feast of St Francis, patron of the Pope, and on that day, in Assisi, he will sign his third encyclical (formal letter) Fratelli Tutti (Brothers all), on fraternity and social friendship, and a post-pandemic world.

May our current pandemic-based lifestyle show us that we can work to address the challenges set by Pope Francis to care for our Sister Earth.