Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Rocha

I've been reading a book that brings together two of my passions, the story of the founding of A Rocha in Portugal. Peter and Miranda Harris were working in an English pastorate (curacy, if you prefer) when God called them to begin a bird-watching conservancy, specifically as a Christian outreach in Portugal. Under Bright Wings is the story of how they began the venture now known as the A Rocha Christian Field Study Centre and Bird Observatory.

A Rocha means Rock -- on this rock I will build my church. We have built often enough on dubious foundations, some thought that we might gain some credit for growing the church. And we have seen efforts struggle and fail even when they seemed to be succeeding. The story Peter Harris tells does not include great numbers of people in the Algarve (where they lived) becoming Christian. It does, however, show that genuine Christian faith came to be possible for people who thought that the church was quite irrelevant to the challenges of living in Europe today.

I think of other ventures, such as the retreat centre at Taize in France. I am in more sympathy with the theology of A Rocha, which is (to my mind) evangelical; while the theology of Taize is less clear. But both incorporate Scripture and prayer at the centre of everything they do. A deep abiding desire to know God and be in close communion with God endures in the human spirit, even when our culture, indeed so much of the world, tries so hard to get rid of God completely.

When I think of my two passions: knowing God and treating God's creation with respect and care (what some call "environmentalism"): it is clear to me that treating the earth rightly (conservation) is a form of worship. Secularists who want to save the earth mean well (as they might say of me also!), but why should I bother if we can't succeed and if there's nothing after this life anyway. But caring for creation, expressing my love and obedience for the Creator who has given us this incredible gift we call "earth"; that's another matter altogether.

I don't need to pursue environmental causes with a deep need to succeed, and thus to despair of doing anything when human greed destroys another part of nature (or, more accurately, Creation). Instead, I can do what is right (from using less fossil fuel to recycling to keeping the yard neat and enjoying Lois' garden because in all of this I am celebrating the goodness of the Creator who gave us this wonderful gift we call "earth".


KGMom said...

I find it sad and somewhat ironic that someone such as you finds it necessary to set yourself apart from environmentalists. That's not exactly what you said--but it is implied. When did it get to be that to be an environmentalist is somehow NOT a mark of religious obligation? Just asking.

Climenheise said...

Interesting that you heard me setting myself apart from environmentalists. I will have to keep working out how to say what I mean.

I stand with environmentalists. I vote for the Green Party in Canada, and support that which I can. I stand apart from the motivations of secular environmentalists, which comes close to worshipping what they want to save. They may find me uncomfortable, insisting on the Creator a part of the equation.

This is a variant of Ron Sider's observation that those who struggle for social justice only out of a concern for social justice tend to burn out. Those who pursue social justice a an act of devotion to God, who desires justice and peace for all, do not need "success" to keep on going. The act of devotion renews itself.

The point is what stands at the centre: God, or the thing we do for God's sake. I have known missionaries who appear to committed to God, but in fact their own particular version of missions has taken God's place. I simply applied that truth to environmentalism.

Further thoughts?