The annual Inter-Faith Week took place from 13th to 20th November and overlapped with SuStAinable StAlbans Week, an award-winning community initiative about environmental sustainability.
Many faith groups across the district have been organising events to inspire their communities to reflect and act to protect the environment, with talks and practical actions on environmental sustainability.
Helen Hutchison, the Environment Officer for the Anglican Diocese of St Albans was invited to speak about the Inter-Faith week on Radio Verulam’s Faith Alive programme. She decided to focus on the environment with representatives of three different faiths joining presenter Eslpeth Jackman for a lively discussion on the issues. Taking part with Helen were Nick Grant, one of the founder members and former chairman, of the St Albans Masorti Synagogue, and Michael Wood, a young member of the St Albans Quaker Meeting, and former pupil at Verulam School who has a strong interest in sustainability and the environment.
The many events organised by faith groups as part of SuStAinable StAlbans Week during 19 – 26 November were imaginative and varied, with inspiring talks; a story-telling event and exhibitions.
Helen Hutchison said ‘We are hopeful that this might be the catalyst for a more coordinated response to climate change and sustainability by all faith groups in the city and district in the years to come.’
The Rt Revd Rowan Williams has addressed this issue saying “We need more urgently than ever a space for discussion where political, ecological and spiritual issues can be discussed together.’ [i]
St Peter’s hosted a talk on Food and Urbanism led by Dr Susan Parham, head of Urbanism at the University of Herts. The talk highlighted that only 4 per cent of people in Britain are now “engaged in food production.” The evening was organized by Look! St Albans.
People were also invited to St Peters to join Clare Harvey, a professional storyteller, weaving ancient myths and stories with an environmental theme. The event, which took place in the churchyard, invited participants to make personal pledges towards sustainable living.
Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK, came to speak at Christ Church, St Albans. He focused on the environmental crisis and the role that men can play to do something about it. Atkins, who was previously the CEO of Friends of the Earth, spoke about the importance of campaigning rather than passivity.
Christ Church is one of 5 Eco Churches in St Albans, a scheme run by A Rocha UK to improve churches’ sustainability.
St Albans Quakers held a home produce sale with recycled goods and books, attracting around 20 people, including the leader of St Albans District Council, Cllr Julian Daly. Goods on sale included locally sourced preserves and honey.
The life of St Barbe Baker, a forester and life-long environmentalist was celebrated by The Baha’I Faith group in St Albans with an exhibition and presentation on trees at St Albans library, and the Jubilee Centre.
The Parish of St. Stephen’s with St. Julian’s were encouraged local people to recycle more, and limit food waste all week, together with plans for a compost area in St. Stephen’s churchyard. Sermons all week had an environmental content.
Tania Dalton, from CAFOD was invited to speak at SS Alban & Stephen Catholic Church, with a vegetarian supper served alongside. The talk was on “From Latin America to St Albans: protecting our common home”. Tania described her travels in Peru, and highlighted how local people are finding their water supply and traditional way of life threatened by heavy industry.
In Cunningham St Luke’s held their Christmas Fair with local crafts for over 70 people, together with a Sustainable Café serving a range of delicious vegetarian meals at low cost.
A Rocha UK were also represented at St Paul’s Church with a talk by Steve Hughes on ‘Food for thought’ challenging people to think about the question ‘Does it matter what we eat?’ Afterwards a hearty vegetarian lunch was served to 104 people. In the evening, Graham Madgwick spoke about the importance of sustainability as part of Christian life.
Trinity United Reformed Church also took part with events focused on helping the environment with meat-free meals. St Albans Masorti Synagogue also ran an event for their members.
Helen Hutchison commented, ‘ It’s excellent to see so many faith groups making a commitment to the environment’.
[i] Rowan Williams speaking before his talk at The Resurgence Trust Festival ‘One Earth, One Humanity, One Future August 2016 http://www.resurgence.org/education/media-resources/festival-calls-for-planetary-wellbeing.pdf