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Image: Become an eco-congregation – and change your life.

07/12/2018

Could you encourage your parish to become an Eco-Congregation?  Fintan Hurley did exactly that in Edinburgh and he writes about it in this week's blog.


About three years ago our parish, Our Lady of Loretto and St. Michael’s in Musselburgh, registered as an eco-congregation. That’s nothing remarkable: Eco-Congregation Scotland (ECS) (http://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/) has about 440 registered congregations. But it’s still unusual among Catholic parishes – even after Laudato Si, only about 6% are registered, compared with more than 20% each from Church of Scotland or Scottish Episcopal Church.   

Yet registration is straightforward – it’s simply a sign of intent to take environmental care seriously, as part of the life of the congregation. And it’s free, though ECS encourages membership, for a small annual fee to help support their work.

We registered through our parish priest, Fr. Basil Clark, and Miriam McHardy – you may know them from Justice and Peace work over the years. So from the beginning our environment work was under the J&P umbrella.

This isn’t a new idea: Laudato Si encourages it, as do the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But it’s a very good idea. It helps so many things fall into place about environment, justice and peace.

Now we call ourselves the J&P&E group – justice and peace and environment - a stool with three strong legs, supporting one another. 

From the beginning we saw this as ecumenical work – at this time of environmental crisis and injustice it seemed obvious to co-operate on ‘the integrity of God’s creation’. And so our local ecumenical network, Musselburgh Churches Together (MCT), invited David Bethune of ECS to lead one of our Lenten services this year.

David explains things very well, and he or another ECS representative could visit your parish or ecumenical group. 

Applying for an ECS Bronze Award was good for us as we were assessed, and it seems we got it right because we received the award. The application highlighted the wide range of things a parish can do, from planting a wildflower garden to making a bike rack from recycled metals, to installing an efficient heating system and developing ECS materials. Several young people from the parish got involved – our links with the local Catholic schools are an important part – and we are now in touch with environmental agencies. 

ECS liked what we’re doing and invited me to be a trustee. I found John Seenan there already – many of you will know John from J&P work over the years, especially in Paisley diocese. And you may know the new ECS manager, Stephen Curran. All three of us are very happy to help other Catholic parishes on the ECS journey, as best we can. 

Our parish Eco Group is still small and our next big step is working out how to involve the whole parish more fully in the care of the environment and climate justice. I think this mainstreaming is an issue for many eco-congregations, and maybe for J&P(&E) activities more generally. We hope that being part of the ECS movement will help us do it, working side-by-side with other like-minded congregations. Including maybe yours. 

Facebook: http://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/facebook

Twitter: http://www.ecocongregationscotland.org/twitter
 



Image: Why Ethical Investing Matters

30/11/2018

This time in our blog, Quintin Rayer, head of research with an ethical finance company, reflects on the importance of engaging our values and using our consumer power for the greater good, even if it is a lonely field to burrow at times.


Ethical investment may seem ‘nice-to-have’ but non-essential, although actually, it is crucial. It permits people and organisations with savings to contribute to the betterment of society or to help with environmental issues including global warming.

Unsustainable human activities have generated threats including climate change (associated with rising sea levels, extreme weather and flooding, for example) with damage, loss of life, and disruption to food and fresh water supplies. A growing world population will demand improved living standards as less developed countries modernise. Many believe that behaving unsustainably will cease to be an option. 

Values Matter
In the charity and faith-based sectors, dedicated individuals work to address many such challenges directly. Trustees and others may be pleased to hear that even while not being expended to achieve objectives, investments can be supporting worthwhile goals pending future use.

Personally, much of my motivation originates from a Doctorate in the Department of Atmospheric Physics at Oxford, giving an understanding of climate change, and its consequences.

As a practising wealth manager committed to ethical investing, I was delighted by the refreshing perspective of the October Edinburgh Ethical Finance conference.  Even as an experienced financial practitioner I found it reassuring to meet many, who, like me, believe values really matter.  At times, when dealing with city fund managers (including managers of some ‘ethical’ funds), I can feel like an outsider, as I work to get topics like carbon-neutrality (not just reduction), zero-hours contracts or plastics pollution considered more seriously.

At P1 Investment Management, we are determined to make a difference by doing ethical investing as well as possible given real-world constraints.  Our three-pronged approach involves actively selecting funds with superior ethical processes (avoiding ‘green-washers’), an external ethical oversight committee and shaping the debate with fund providers.  Our oversight committee includes a climate scientist, an authority on social issues and a professor with expertise in corporate governance. We also engage with fund managers and publish articles both to educate and raise broader issues.   
 

Why this is Important
Individuals appreciate the importance of moral issues and extend their values into ever-increasing aspects of their lives. Beyond retail consumer decisions, more people are using ethical considerations to guide their investments as well. In August 2018, according to the Investment Association, £17.0 billion was invested in the UK ethical funds sector, an annual increase of £2.5 billion.

Ethical investors select companies that help tackle the challenges of environmental, social and other problems while avoiding companies that engage in unsustainable or harmful behaviours. They use the influence of financial markets to reward positively-behaving companies while reducing capital available to those participating in unacceptable activities.

Many individuals, trustees and others, want to support their aims better by making the monies they have invested work in support of their beliefs. This can be in addition to on-going daily commitments, making ethical investing a meaningful way to influence society for the better. 
 
 
Dr Quintin Rayer
DPhil, Chartered FCSI, Chartered Wealth Manager, SIPC
Head of Research, P1 Investment Management Ltd


Image:  ALTERnativity

23/11/2018

This week in our blog, Val Brown of Christian Aid, reflects on the 'frenzy' of Christmas and how ALTERnativity offer a different approach.


I’m sure that, like me, you’ve realised that we are now facing the pre Christmas frenzy.

But of course, there should be much more to Christmas than ‘frenzy’, and I’ve been thinking very seriously about something that was said at the Christian Aid AGM this year by a bishop from Uganda. He suggested that instead of focusing on making poverty history, we should instead concern ourselves with making greed history. It is greed, he argued, that supports the status quo, ensuring that it is enormously difficult to attempt to challenge and change structures which keep people poor.

I think Christmas is a great time to raise the topic of greed, as it is a time when even the best intentioned of us indulge, over-buy, cave into the pressure of finding the perfect gift, and generate as much waste in a week as we normally do in a couple of months.

This year the Christmas build up begins as climate scientists around the world have hit the panic button – indicating that unless there is a fundamental shift in our behaviours, politics and economics, then we are on course for even more erratic and extreme weather. Weather that is already depriving people of their homes and livelihoods and driving displacement.

So what can we do about it?  ALTERnativity exists to support individuals and Churches to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of Advent and Christmas and reflect on the Christmas story, and specifically Mary’s concern for the poor.

Over the years, our conversations have let us hear people share frustrations that Christmas is incredibly busy, very stressful, gifts are given and received without much thought and the pressure to overspend and take on debt is enormous.

Christmas, for all the perfect marketing, can be a very lonely and stressful time for people. ALTERnativity asks people to recognise the poverty of that first Christmas and encourages people to think critically about how we celebrate the coming of the Christ child in a world where more than half of our sisters and brothers are starving. In responding to this, our new resource is aimed at getting people talking - sharing the joys and stresses of Christmas; reflecting on what gifts are most appreciated; and challenging ourselves to cut back on the waste that is generated in our celebrations.

This complements our advent family box that enables families to take a little time each day of advent to reflect on one aspect of the Christmas story. With a reflection for children and another for adults, this is a wonderful gift for Sunday schools, Messy Church and youth organisations.

Thanks to the support of ACTS, we are delighted to be able to offer our new resource for free, and we are now giving away the family box for free as well – only charging postage if people are unable to collect from either the Church of Scotland Office in Edinburgh or the Christian Aid office in Glasgow.  If you would like to receive our resources, please e-mail info@alternativity.org.uk or find us on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/JustGodSimplyChristmas/ )
 




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