In this Church House Blog, Jonny Masters, Youth, Children and Families Missioner in the Diocese of Chester, shares his thoughts on the role young people can and are playing in keeping the environment high up the agenda and helping the Church and wider society to turn words and promises into action.
23 November 2021
By Jonny Masters, Youth, Children and Families Missioner
Words and action
COP 26 was hailed as a "last chance saloon" for the climate, for the temperature increase since the industrial revolution not to go above 1.5 degrees. If that happens, scientists say the world is likely to become a very harsh place to live for billions of people.
Government delegates gathered together from all over the world to agree a way forwards. Thousands of young people marched in the UK and around the globe to remind politicians of their duty of care to future generations. They cried out for help, despairing for the future of the planet, and went unheard. That’s how they feel, anyway. The "phasedown" rather than "phaseout" of coal is "frightening and upsetting" for students. Greta Thunberg called the agreement a watered-down “blah blah blah”. For the young people who marched, words mean nothing without action.
As Christians, we have a duty to look after the planet. God allowed us to be stewards of the good world He made. Genesis 1:26 in the Message version says that God asked humans to be responsible for the fish, birds, animals and the Earth itself. Part of our purpose is to care for our planet. For Christians too, then, words should mean nothing without action.
We have an opportunity to join in with the Church of England’s pledge to be "net zero carbon" by 2030. Eleven-year-old Neive Hughes, of Holy Trinity, Blacon, was instrumental in her church receiving the Bronze Eco Church Award by A Rocha. Neive says: “For as long as I can remember I’ve been worried about our planet, the oceans, and land. We have been given a beautiful place to live and we don’t look after it. People are hurting God’s earth and everything in it. We can change that and save our world before it is too late. For the last year, I have been investigating and trying new ways in how I make a difference, I have been nominated as the church Eco-Champion and encourage you where possible to do your bit to save the planet while we still can.”
Another way you might like to join in is to use the new video resource created to help start a conversation about the small things we can do in our everyday lives to help protect the planet from environmental damage. The video is voiced by the Revd Peter Froggatt, Director of Outreach in the Diocese of Chester, and features a number of people who each share some of the little things they are doing to protect Planet Earth. Whilst the video is aimed at school children, churches may find it to be a helpful resource to use as part of a Sunday service on the theme of the environment and creation.
We can make choices in our own lives which make small but significant differences in the world around us. We can recycle effectively, use less plastic, eat less meat, walk more often.
Alongside these very practical steps that we can take as churches and individuals, we can pray. This is something else many young people engage with. Fifty-one percent of young people aged 18-34 pray at least once a month. Many are praying because of Covid-19 and climate change. Our church communities and church buildings can offer welcoming spaces for those who wish to pray. We can pray that the COP 26 agreement will be delivered by those who signed it. If it is clear we as the Church are also being active (as we have been in supporting families during Covid-19) in tackling climate change, young people who care deeply about climate change will be more likely to value our presence and choose to become part of our communities.
At Church House we are also very passionate about climate change, and about young people. As part of our Growing Faith adventure, we have started Youth Speak, a forum for young people to share their views and make a difference in decision-making in the diocese. At the first meeting in September, the young people highlighted inclusion and climate change as their top two issues we need to address as a Church.
In December, Bishop Julie and the Revd Dr Joe Kennedy will be joining the group to chat about these two issues, and the group will be thinking about what more we can do as a diocese to ensure climate change is an issue we do not forget about. If you know any young people who might be interested in being part of Youth Speak, or would like to find out more you can direct them to the website where young people can apply to join.
It isn’t just young people who can make a difference, we all can. Words, though, mean nothing without action.