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Radical Christian Conversion to Sustainability? The Launch of our new Spirituality and Sustainability Group

News St Martin – Talking Points

Tuesday 20 May 2014

St Martin-in-the-Fields recently launched a new Spirituality and Sustainability Group. Matias Wibowo reflects on the group’s beginnings and what a ‘radical Christian Conversion’ to sustainability might mean.

It was great to have so many people gathered at St. Martins on 19 May for our programme ‘As the Waters Cover the Sea.’  It was great to open our hearts and our minds, to listen to what God is saying about the challenge of living more sustainably. As someone who has been working on the issue of climate change, I always get very excited around times like Earth Day or Creation Tide here at St. Martin’s because we get to talk about sustainability and the environment from a specifically Christian faith perspective. I am guessing some of you feel the same way.

Some of us have been gathering informally to develop and deepen a Christian spirituality for sustainable action. We feel that in order to move things forward, we need to think, share, and pray, more often than just twice a year. This informal group has been meeting once every month since November of 2013. At this point, we feel strong enough in our vision to open the group to the broader St. Martin’s community.  We are calling it the Spirituality and Sustainability Group, and we are motivated by the basic idea that tackling ecological problems requires a radical Christian conversion.

 We are still figuring out what ‘Radical Christian Conversion’ means.  But we have noticed how it is a theme that has lately begun to spring up in our parish.  Radical Christian Conversion was the theme of our retreat this past January, when Open Circle went to the Hilfield Franciscan Friary in Dorset. Radical Christian Conversion was also the theme of our Earth Day lecture last year, which both challenged and disturbed many of our parishioners.  It has been a recurring theme in our Spirituality and Sustainability group; and it was part of our discussion today.

I think God has provided us here at St. Martin’s with a very tangible clue about what Radical Christian Conversion might look like, and that is the way St Martins has responded to homelessness.

  • Within the St Martins community, there is sustaining energy and abundant grassroots capacity for the different homelessness ministries we perform. While the issues are so complex and huge, people continue feeling encouraged. Theologians would label all this as ‘HOPE.’
  • Also, in the homelessness ministries here, there’s humility in the congregation to continuously learn about the subject, to improvise, to learn from mistakes, and to change our minds. Theologians might call this ‘REPENTANCE’ or ‘SELF FORGIVENESS.’
  • Moreover, the issues and the ministries around homelessness actually speak back to us! The congregation receives ‘SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT’ as it deepens its Christian faith – not only from the hands-on experience of our homelessness ministries but also from the numerous theological reflections and sermons that come out of our ministry work.

‘HOPE,’ ‘SELF FORGIVENESS,’ and SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT.’ That’s probably what ‘Radical Christian Conversion’ would look like. And in the case of homelessness issues at St Martins, ‘Radical Christian Conversion’ results in something huge, a movement that literally makes a difference.

What if we tackle the issues around sustainability in a spirit of ‘Radical Christian Conversion’? What would it look like at St Martins? What would it look like in our lives? Understanding and realizing this kind of ‘Radical Christian Conversion’ is the goal of our Spirituality and Sustainability group.

We are inviting all of us to work together on this.

Come to our monthly meetings.

We spend the first half of each meeting exploring a different approach to the theology of sustainability.  We have talked about a theology of stewardship, but we have begun to think that the concept stewardship has some deep problems; in any case, stewardship does not seem to be enough.  That’s why we are exploring new concepts and visions. The second half of each meeting is devoted to planning specific programmes.  Four projects are already in the pipeline: a prophetic art action; changes in the procurement policy of the business and the church; a prayer experience reflecting on radical conversion; and multi-parish witness during this coming Creationtide.  We are looking for your input on these projects, and we hope to support new ideas and projects as well!

May God, who has filled our world with so many generous and wonderful gifts, fill us and our entire society with nourishment, self-forgiveness, and hope.  Amen.

Matias Wibowo