In the Christian Church we are currently in Creationtide, the season of creation, the period in the church calendar specially dedicated to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life on earth. It was originally the initiative of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 1989 the Patriarch designated the first day of the Orthodox Church’s year as a day “of protection of the natural environment”. Ten years later the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) adopted this initiative, so we now celebrate Creationtide from 1stSeptember to the 4th October, the Feast of St Francis. The aim is to bring Christians together to work and pray, not only for the protection of the environment, but also to promote sustainable living.
As one of my Christian mentors used to say: “if you want to make Christian witness real, make it local”. We are blessed with a local and very special piece of God’s creation – our churchyard. It is a wonderful churchyard with a dedicated team who care for it. Each year there is a magnificent display of wildflowers, grasses, and from late Spring, deep purple heather. Summer colour is provided by a rainbow display of roses that you see as you walk up the path from Waterloo Road, and on the path to the churchyard cross.
The churchyard team spend hours strimming, mowing and then raking up the hay before the trees have shed their leaves, which involves yet more raking. The resulting compost heap in the corner of churchyard, together with twigs piled up around the trees, provide suitable habitats for bees and bugs. The churchyard is also home for toads and frogs, mice, slow worms, and urban foxes. And as evidenced by a recent survey, the churchyard has a healthy population of butterflies.
Churchyards are an important part of the diverse natural habitat of England. The article, Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth on the Church of England website, reminds us that our churchyards are a precious resource which can make a huge difference to the biodiversity of our country. Of the 16,000 churches in the UK,10,000 have churchyards, which together have a combined acreage equivalent in area to a small national park.
Some years ago, I produced a leaflet for a churchyard prayer walk. There are copies of the leaflet in a box on the wall adjacent to the main entrance door of the church. As the seasons change from summer to autumn it might be a good time to pick up a leaflet and prayer walk around our churchyard.
Let us pray, thanking God for all creation and for the life we share with other living creatures in our neighbourhood:
you made the goodness of the land, the riches of the sea and the rhythm of the seasons; as we bless you for all you have created, may we cherish and respect this planet and its peoples, future generations and all your creatures.
Hazel Berry LLM