Reflection Sunday 11th July

Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Mark 6:14-29

The wonderful image of a plumb line: a standard of the upright, a measure of vertical rectitude, a gauge of righteousness! I have long admired this sculpture “The Plumb Line and the City” by Clark Fitzgerald, which is to be found in Coventry Cathedral. 

A plumb line is a length of string weighed at one end with a plumb bob. The latter could simply be anything that is heavy enough to pull the string taught, but can be a beautifully created shape such as in this sculpture with a sharp point that allows the viewer to see with greater accuracy how true the plumb line is hanging. Plumb lines were first used as a practical tool to ensure that walls were vertically straight. Walls that are not vertically straight are likely to collapse and/or fall over. Amos is shown a plumb line in a vision by God with the warning that God has held the plumb line up against the people of Israel and found them well short of true. Much of the Book of Amos is taken up with records of how different peoples and nations have sinned – abused the poor, greedily taken more than their due, killed and murdered, despised the righteous – and have carried on sinning, continuing to live immoral lives, even though they have suffered the consequences of their wrong doing. The people, to whom Amos must prophesy, seem ‘hell-bent’ on ignoring their plight, complacently living as if their actions will never be judged. But they have been judged by God and have been found to be astray of what is true. They are like a badly built wall that is listing and is about to come crashing down. It is a message that even the priest at Bethel doesn’t want to hear. 

This second half of Psalm 85 tells us of all the benefits that come from aligning our lives with God: peace, salvation, righteousness and faithfulness, mercy, and a plentiful harvest of good things. The focus of this Psalm that these benefits pertain to a people, to a community, rather than just an individual. Often we think of wrong doing and judgement in terms of the individual rather than the community. Maybe it is a western focus or a modern focus; it is certainly one that is made manifest in the question ‘Have you been saved?’ and in the ideal of the ‘self-made man’. But as we know, ‘no man is an island’ and (as Covid has so clearly taught us) no one is free from the repercussions of the actions of their fellow compatriots. 

The passage from the letter to the Ephesians is also about ‘we and us’, rather than ‘I and me’. The letter goes on to talk about Christ being the head of the church which is his body. If in the Old Testament to be an Israelite is to be part of the House of Israel, then so it is in the New Testament that to be a Christian is to be part of the body of Christ. 

The plumb line is not measuring the trueness or uprightness of an individual, but the trueness of a whole community, be that a local community, a city or a nation. It is certainly possible that one can have an individual who is entirely true and honest but whose goodness is overwhelmed by the falseness, the criminality, the carelessness  and/ or deceitfulness of the social structures within which they live. That one person’s goodness does not stop the overall character of the community, city or nation being less than true. I think that is where we find ourselves today. We cannot hold up a plumb line against our nation and say that what is measured is true and right. We have only to look at the number of people reliant on food banks, the quality of treatment being dished out to the homeless, prisoners, and migrants, the growing differential between the incomes of those at the top and the bottom of the jobs market, the difference between the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies and that spent on government support for green infrastructure – to see how far short we fall. 

We have therefore a responsibility to be prophetic like Amos and to call out when we see that our government, our institutions, our businesses, our society, our churches, are not in line, are not true to God’s ways.

The Green Tau Issue 6, 4th July 2021 Plastic: the pollutant we live with daily.

Organic September, Movember, Veganuary, No-Mow May and now, Plastic-free July. Most months  have a focus on changing habits to create a better future. Plastic-free July advocates remove all plastic from our daily lives – from the tooth brush in the bathroom, the plastic fruit packet from the supermarket to the once ubiquitous plastic carrier bag. The use of the latter has fallen by 85% since the introduction of the plastic bag tax! Why is it desirable to get rid of plastic?

Plastic is made from oil, one of the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions causing global warming. Producing one tonne of plastic generates up to 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (Material Economics, 2018). As the world’s use of plastic rises, so does its consumption of oil. In 2014 we the world produced 311 million tonnes of plastic. This figure is expected to triple by 2050. (World Economic Forum)

One way of reducing the carbon footprint of plastic is to reuse existing plastics. Some items such as PET bottles, widely used for soft drink, can be recycled repeatedly. This is closed loop recycling meaning that the plastic is recycled to create an identical replacement item. (Open loop recycling recycles plastics but produces a lower grade plastic for which an alternative use must be found). To be effective closed loop recycling depends upon consumers ensuring that they do put their plastics – washed and clean – in the correct recycling bin and upon manufactures using exclusively that recycled plastic. In the UK only  30% of plastics are recycled!

Plastic rubbish pollutes our streets, rivers, woodlands, and oceans. It doesn’t naturally decay and instead remains intact for 100s of years. Plastic that does tear and break down into smaller and smaller pieces still doesn’t decay. Micro plastic particle have been found polluting glaciers and icecaps, and polluting oceans where it is being ingested by sea birds and fish. Micro plastics are also found in the air we breathe and in the water we drink!


Current estimates suggest that 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year adding to the 150 million tonnes already there. Projects are now being set up to remove plastic waste from the oceans. In 2020 a 48 day expedition by the Ocean Voyage Institute removed 103 tons from the Great Pacific Garage Patch. Other projects are being developed to process such waste into reusable plastic based materials: Patagonia uses recycled marine polyester in its clothes, Parley Ocean Plastics supplies material for Adidas shoes and Waterhaul in Cornwall uses marine plastic to produce sunglasses.

This is till only ‘a drop in the ocean’! The better solution is not to use the plastic in the first place.  Hence Plastic Free July! Why not start now?

Plastic Free July’s own web site is a good starting point as is that of Friends of the Earth and City to Sea. You will also find plenty of web sites looking to sell you plastic-free products – and possible more than you need! Our own personal experience of shifting to a – largely – plastic free lifestyle began by collecting all the plastic that came into the house over a two week period. Then for each item we looked to see if there was a plastic free alternative for the product itself or of buying the same product without the plastic packaging, or whether we actually could manage without the item altogether. Over the next few months we looked for tried different ways of shopping – going to farmers’ markets, refill stores, buying in bulk, taking our own washable box to the butchers or coffee jar to the roasters – until we found the best fit for our lifestyle. Even today we are still making adjustments as new options become available. We have also written to suppliers asking them to use plastic free packaging. Whilst I don’t often have anything positive to say about Amazon, they have developed a simple straightforward cardboard packet for their deliveries!

Our own shift towards plastic-free and zero waste living has reduced both the amount that goes into our recycling bins as well as what goes into our dustbin. The latter is currently needs emptying twice a year.

Sunday Reflections for Proper 9, 4th July 2021

Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 6:1-13


Today’s readings describe different ways in which people encounter God. Ezekiel is filled with God’s spirit with a view to his becoming God’s prophet. The track record of prophets in the Old Testament suggests that this will not be an easy role, especially when God tells him that he is to prophesy to those who are rebellious. That introduces another type of relationship between people and God: those who ignore or are ignorant of God and/ or who chose to rebel, ie to live not according to the ways of God. 

The Psalmist likens the relationship between God and his faithful people as being like that of a servant, of one who is alert and dedicated to the desires of the one they serve. These are contrasted with others who deride God and pour contempt on God’s people. These sound familiar, similar to the characters in the Wisdom of Solomon (one of last week’s readings) who only focused on themselves and saw nothing at the end of life other than death. 

In the reading from Corinthians we hear of someone who is caught up in the spirit, someone who has an ecstatic experience of God. Although he is diffident, it is likely that Paul is talking about himself. His is a deeply emotional and spiritual relationship in which Paul lives at the extreme opposites of life: absolutely against Christ then absolutely for Christ; energetically travelling from town to town then staying put for several years; toughing it out in the front line, winning converts and enemies in equal numbers. It is likely that his spiritual highs were counterbalanced by lows, perhaps associated with Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’.

So to Mark’s Gospel where the home crowd in Nazareth have a very clear idea of what someone who is anointed by God – ie a messiah – should look like and it doesn’t look like Jesus. They cannot believe how someone like them – artisans from a small hill town – could be a conduit for the healing power and wisdom that comes from God. Jesus was too ordinary to be such a person! Yet they are the ones who loose out. Their view of Jesus prevents them from relating to God, they are not able to be open and receptive to the power of God,  and their hurts and sufferings go unhealed.

Jesus, disappointed with the response of the people in Nazareth, commissions his disciples – another  group of everyday people: small scale fishermen, tax officials, fellow artisans – and sends them out to be conduits of healing power and preachers of God’s message. Again the ability of those they encounter to recognise God’s presence determines whether they receive God’s blessing.

What then is it to be a child of God, a believer, a seeker of God?

It is to be open minded, to curious, to be alert, to be trusting, to be ready to risk ridicule. It is to set aside both self reliance  and self doubt. It is to be ordinary and it is to be faithful. You don’t need special clothes, or special training or even special equipment – not even  bread, bag, or money! But there is no guarantee that it will be an easy or effortless existence – but God will be with you all the way!

How Long O Lord?

How many heat waves?

How many droughts?

How many floods?

How many lost coast lines?

How many before we admit our error?

Before we recognise the crisis?

How many lost penguins?

How many missing polar bears?

How many extinct butterflies?

How many disappearing swifts?

How many before we admit our error?

Before we recognise the crisis?

How many car journeys?

How many air miles? 

How many beef steaks?

How many tonnes of cement?

How many before we admit our error?

Before we recognise the crisis.

Creator God, we admit our error

and recognise the crises we have caused. 

Grant us the wisdom and determination to make amends:

To change the way we live,

To change the way we see things,

To have care for the future.


The Green Tau Issue 5

27th June 2021,

Tipping Points

In Alan Stoppard’s play Jumpers, George Moore, a philosophy professor, muses that at some point in history, the balance of believers versus non believers tipped from the former being the majority to the latter. He suspected it was the decline in woollen socks in preference for nylon ones that precipitated this tipping point: woollen socks kept the wearer in mind of the link between nature and daily life and thus a link between a divine creator and daily life. 

We have seen a number of social issues reach a tipping point: the acceptability or not of smoking, the acceptability or not of drink-driving, the use of plastic bags versus reusable versions, and most recently the wearing of face masks. At some point social pressure, social acceptance and/ or social understanding shifted in favour of a new status quo. Social norms are not fixed and what interests me is what initiates and sustains the sequence of changes that lead us to change our patterns of behaviour and belief. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is increasingly concerned that the current rate of global warming could reach a number of tipping points. One such scenario centres on the Arctic. As temperatures increase so the frozen soil have melted – not just the surface levels which is ‘normal’ but also the deeper levels of the permafrost. As they melt they release methane locked away for thousands of years ago. This flammable gas has led to outbreaks of wild fires across the Arctic destroying large areas of the tundra’s flora and fauna. Methane is one of the greenhouse gases and has a warming effect on the climate 80 times that of carbon dioxide. The melting of the permafrost in the Arctic disproportionately adds to the heating of the global environment and to the consequential further melting of frozen soils as well as sea ice. In other words the rise in temperatures that allows the Artic to thaw triggers a sequence of events that leads to a further upward spiralling of temperatures. 

Other tipping points have also been observed: in Greenland where the more the ice-sheet melts the faster is the rate of melting in subsequent years, leading both to rising sea levels and a likely reversal of the Gulf Stream; in the Amazon the loss of rainforest (due to commercial felling) is expanding the area of land covered by Savannah grass lands causing rising air temperatures and depleting levels of rainfall which both threatened the natural regeneration of the rainforest; in the tropics rising sea temperatures bleach coral reefs as plant and animal life grows more slowly or dies off completely. As these living forms die so they absorb less carbon dioxide which in turn compounds rising air and sea temperatures. 

Worryingly the danger presented by such scenarios doesn’t become apparent until the tipping point has been reached! This means preventative action needs to be taken before the affects of the danger are felt. We have in recent months learnt the lesson that the way to limit rocketing covid infections is to follow lockdown procedures before the number of cases becomes unmanageable. Can we do the same to prevent the extreme effects of climate change? Can we as individuals rapidly decarbonise our lifestyles now to safeguard the future for ourselves and our grandchildren? Can we create the social groundswell needed to make a carbon neutral lifestyle the norm? Can we create the popular groundswell to change the direction of our political leaders?

Now is the Sky Blue

Now is the sky blue!

Now is the verge blowsy 

with lady’s lace and buttercups,

and tousle headed  grasses.

The dog rose in the hedge 

the sheep beyond.

The burbling refrain of the curlew, 

the acrobatic swerve of the swift.

All is now, and now, and now!

But tomorrow, next week, next year? 

Merciful God will they still be there?

Will our apathy, 

our slowness to act, 

our aversion to change 

allowed all this 

to be threatened, 

diminished, and 

evicted from life?

Have mercy.

But not just mercy –

rather prod us, prompt us, 

push us into action.

Renew our hearts and minds,

reverse our expectations

so that we change the future 

and once more 

be restorers of creation.


Canal towpath, Gargr

Choose Life

We stand at a tipping point, O God,

teetering between life and death:

Shall we fall or rise?

“Chose life!” 

Shall we retreat into our shells, bury our heads in the sand:

Or shall we step forth into a new age of sustainability?

“Chose life!”

Shall we ignore the science, hide ourselves in the trappings of consumerism:

Or shall we openly embrace renewable lifestyles?

“Chose life!”

Shall we pointlessly mourn the loss of polar bears and elephants, bees and butterflies:

Or shall we live our lives so that all may live?

“Chose life!”

Shall we fly to the ends of the earth while ice sheets melt:

Or value the future by enjoying what is local?

“Chose life!”

Shall we disregard floods and droughts, storms and heat waves, as seasonal blips:

Or acknowledge them as already-present signs of climate change?

“Chose life!”

Shall we close our ears to cries of help from farmers and islanders as their lands disappear:

Or shall we join voices in calling for justice?

“Chose life!”

Holy God,

Prompt us and urge us, encourage and propel us,

to now change our life styles so that all may have life and live!


The Green Tau: issue 4 & a half

Me and /or future generations?

How we solve a problem depends upon aims for the future: are we seeking a short term or a long term fix? The nature of democracies is that governments’ timescales limited to the time remaining until the next election. In the UK that time scale is now 3 1/2 years. In France the next presidential election is less than 12 months away. Governments want to be re-elected so opt for policies that will win the favour of their most important voters. It is not surprising that at the G7 Summit President Macron has shied away from banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles in the near future. The UK’s Department of the Environment released a press statement that “…all [G7] countries committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050…” but gave few details or commitments as to how that target is to be achieved. 

2050 is that beautiful place in the future when all things will be both green and rosey. But if we are to live in that future (or rather if our grandchildren are to live in that future) we need to tackle action now. Like the Covid virus, global temperatures increases and climate change will not hold back until we’re ready to tackle the problems. We need to be radically changing the way we generate energy now, the way we farm – now, the way we use energy to transport our selves and goods – now, the way we heat and/or cool our buildings – now, the way we consume – now! Otherwise our carbon emissions will continue to accelerate global warming and we will have no chance of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5C. 

There is a real conflict of interests between politicians with a five year view of the future and the rest of us  who see the future as somewhere to enjoy our old age and where our grandchildren will thrive. This is why it is important that we a) make all the changes we can in our own lifestyles, and b) campaign, sign petitions, write to our MPs and do we all we can to make climate change and carbon emission reductions the most important political issue of this Parliament. 

Hands Up! We’re all guilty protest: London October 2019

The Green Tau: issue 4

The G7 2021 summit has come and gone. What did it achieve?
Where does it lead us in relation to the COP climate talks in November? Below are some of the outcomes of the talks that relate to the global tackling of the climate crisis.

The G7 committed to accelerating efforts to cut green house gases so as to keep the temperature increases below 1.5 C – ie  a commitment to try harder to stick to their previously agreed target. The G7 agreed to end by 2021 all new government funding for unabated coal fired power stations whilst at the same time Australia plans to continue to support its coal mining industries. 
The G7 committed to the phasing out of petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles, although no date was agreed – the UK government has proposed ending the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, but similar plans in France are proving unpopular at a time when President Macron faces an election in 2022 and the current earliest date for ending the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles is 2040. The G7 agreed a 2030 Nature Compact with commitments to lead the transition to sustainable use of natural resources; investing in a nature positive economy; protecting, restoring and conserving nature with a target of 30% of the globe’s lands and oceans by 2030; and prioritising accountability for their commitments to nature. The how and where and finances have yet to be species.
The G7 pledge to provide $100,000 a year to support climate change action is the continuation of an existing pledge. And at the same time India is reluctant to do more to avert climate change without receiving further financial support. It was the first summit to be net carbon neutral but that example was marred by Boris Johnson’s decision to fly to Cornwall rather than to travel by train.

The G7 Summit may have confirmed the various government’s intentions to tackle the climate crisis but failed to produce any concrete plans as to how these might be achieved. The parable of the two brothers comes to mind. There once was a father who had two sons.  He asked  both to help him in the vineyard. The first said, Yes I’ll help! but then did nothing more. The second said, No, not me! but later changed his mind and helped in the vineyard.  If governments, organisations or individuals say Yes, I’ll help tackled climate change, then can we rest comfortably knowing that the crisis is going to be averted? If governments, organisations or individuals say No, I shan’t do anything – is climate change even real? do we feel that’s our own individual efforts are pointless? Clear leadership is needed! And if such leadership is lacking then we need to encourage one another, being clear about what we can and what we are doing to tackle the crisis. If you cycle rather than using the car, say so. If you take the train rather than the plane, then say so. If you are eating plant based meals, then say so. If you have solar panels, a heat-pump, an energy monitor, then say so. Let’s be outspoken about what we can and are doing!

NB Many organisations such as WWF, Friends of the Earth, the BBC,  all offer advise on how we as individuals can take action to tackle climate change. 

Woodlands are natural carbon stores as well as places for refreshment

The Green Tau: issue 3

Solidarity and knowing our place in the ecosystem

What is a green ‘tau’? Tau  τ is the Greek letter similar to the English T. Tau itself  developed from the Phoenician letter  Tāw X  (from which the  Hebrew letter  Tav ת is also derived).  In ancient times, tau was used as a symbol meaning eternal life or resurrection. In Hebrew tav means mark and this was the sign marked on the foreheads of those who lamented their sins (Ezekiel 9:4). For early Christians tau became an apt symbol of the cross on which Jesus  was crucified. 

Francis of Assisi used the tau as his mark when signing his letters and other writings. The tau cross, often made of wood, is worn by many Franciscans across the world. Francis is widely known as the saint who spoke with the birds, and to the hungry wolf in Gubio – he worked out a deal between the wolf and the people of Gubio such that they could live together in harmony. Francis was the author of the canticle ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon’ – probably the first piece of literature written in Italian.  Francis understood that everything in creation had been made by God and was deserving of equal love and respect and should be treated as brother or sister.  In 1979 Pope John Paul II declared St Francis as the patron saint of ecologists,   reflecting not only Francis’s love for all creatures, but also his intuitive understanding of the interconnectedness of the whole of creation.  I therefore chose a green tau to represent my desire to live sustainably, protecting the earth.  

Brother Bee Sister Wasp

It is easy to love Brother Bee if only because bees produce honey.  We think of them as round, fluffy happy-go-lucky creatures and hold them up as paragons of productivity. Yet over the last 70 years their numbers have declined rapidly because we have not seen them as brother. Instead we have allowed them to be decimated by the use of insecticides and pesticides both on fields and in our gardens. We have ignored their loss of habitat through mono culture farming and the destruction of hedgerows. And we have shown little concern that climate change is happening so rapidly that bees cannot  adapt to these shifting seasons. But the story doesn’t end with the end of the bees. Worldwide three out of four food crops rely on successful pollination by bees and other insects. We humans may be facing a dire future.

Sister Wasp is less loved! Towards the end of the summer, we and she compete for sweet sugary fruits to satisfy our appetites. Would we be better off without Sister Wasp?  We forget – or perhaps never knew – that for the rest of the growing season wasps need a high

protein diet and are hugely important as predators who keep ‘pests’ such as caterpillars, aphids and greenfly,  in check. 

If you have a garden, you can be a generous host to our brother and sister pollinators – planting bee friendly flowers and ensuring an availability of flowering plants all year round including from late autumn through to spring: Or find out more about wasps: