“Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5: 24).
As part of our reflections during this Season of Creation (1 September-4 October), we asked the Holy Family parish in Bournemouth to share their environmental work and how it has impacted on the life of the parish. Jennifer Gunstone kindly agreed to share the parish journey so far. The beautiful image above is from their parish harvest festival.
The parish environmental journey formally began in 2012, when the Priest and a group of parishioners participated in an interfaith event called ‘the Big Green Believers Agreement’. This initiative encouraged the parish to set up meetings and agree environmental actions. The group realised, however, that what they were planning followed CAFOD’s Live Simply model to “live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the poor”. They signed up to become a Live Simply Parish and in 2016 achieved the Award. Holy Family were the first parish to do this.
The parish has undertaken a wide range of activities to listen to the Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor and put their faith at the centre of all their actions. The following are just a few of the many initiatives they have carried out over the last decade:
- Using the parish grounds for liturgical celebrations and holding harvest celebrations
- Blessing the grotto of Our Lady in the parish grounds in May
- Organising a prayer walk around the parish grounds.
- Planting wildflowers and an apple tree
- Organising a ‘Promise Leaves’ event – people are invited to take away a leaf which contains a commitment of their choice e.g., meat-free Fridays, saying Grace at every meal, using re-usable shopping bags instead of plastic, bringing in donations for the foodbank.
- Continuing to live in solidarity with the poorest communities around the world through supporting CAFOD e.g. holding cream teas in the wildflower garden to raise money for CAFOD or Catholic Children’s Society Plymouth.
- Organising a birdbox event where everyone can make a birdbox and take it home.
- Installing water butts in the garden
Jennifer shared some of their top tips for embedding environmental considerations into parish life:
- Creating a small group (Live Simply or eco group) to plan and move things forward was really helpful.
- Involving others in specific activities e.g., inviting the liturgy group to plan activities or involving the parish school, where there is one. People may not want to commit to a Live Simply group but are happy to support one-off activities.
- Organising events which are welcoming to all – such as parish picnics, walks, a Warm Space during winter. A sponsored parish walk was very popular and raised £1000 for CAFOD.
- Showing faith in action through the purchase of fair-trade goods, not using disposable cups and plates, emailing instead of printing where possible.
- Integrating care for our common home into parish life – it is not an add-on or as an additional burden but an integral part of living out our faith. Holy Family Parish is now in the habit of taking action to care for the poor and for the environment, so much so that many people will not appreciate that this is part of the Live Simply journey. It has ‘become a part of parish life’.
- Flexibility and listening to people’s interests. Some activities will start and stop, and new actions will take place. Parish congregations change with some people no longer wishing to engage as much but new people joining the parish. Initiatives like Live Simply need to be relaunched from time to time to engage everyone.
Live Simply is part of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which was recently launched and supports communities to journey towards full sustainability in the holistic spirit of integral ecology.