So, what is this about?
The Diocese of Lichfield in creating this role have probably produced a ‘first’ in linking evangelism and environmentalism. Because of that it is not initially obvious what this role is about. What it isn’t is a job designed to run diocesan environmental policy or do the work of the Diocesan Environmental Officer or Assistant Officer, though it does support that work and you can find out more about that here. Neither is it about ‘piggy-backing’ evangelism on concern for the environment. Rather it is about recognising that Evangelism needs to be part of God’s wider mission as expressed for instance by the Five Marks of Mission, which you can read more about here. It is also about recognising that our gospel message is not just about ‘good news’ for humans but ‘good news’ for all creation, it is part of a holistic vision of evangelism. There is a longer paper exploring the theology of the gospel and creation here based on a talk given in March 2021 to the Community of St Chad. There are also notes to accompany each month’s lectionary here.
A wider role with a specific focus
First and foremost, the role is about enabling evangelism within the diocese of Lichfield and supporting its churches in doing that in a holistic way. However, there is a specific focus on building a community who will be active both in evangelism and environmentalism. One that both lives out and communicates a call to follow Christ as a people who live as a blessing to the world we share with, in the language of St Francis, our living and non-living ‘brothers and sisters’ in the ecology of God.
I see this focused area of work based on a new monastic community with the dual charisms of evangelism and environmentalism and possibly called the community Chad, Winefride and Wulfrun, marking female saints along with Chad, but also the three areas of the diocese. This will relate to the existing Community of St Chad, perhaps as a group within that representing a particular charism. It will also relate to the diocesan Community of Evangelists, and those involved in environmental action.
The vision for this new community is that it will be based in hubs around the diocese that will have a worshiping community in the style of a Forest Church with worship in nature and reconnecting with the seasons of the year. You can find out more about Forest Church and see examples of that you can join in with via videos to use in your own garden or green space here. At the core of these hubs will be those who are part of this new monastic expression but that they will interact with those in the local Christian community who feel called to either evangelism or creation care. They will also build relationships with those outside the Christian community who are involved in either environmentalism or nature spirituality by getting involved with environmental groups that are not church based and through presence at events like mind body spirt fairs or nature spirituality events that are not church based. This is in the hope that relationships can be built with people who may themselves become part of the spiritual life of the hub and themselves disciples of Christ, whilst also sharing in environmental care with those of all faiths and none. If this is a vision you are interested in exploring further, please do get in touch.