23rd September, 2018


Last Saturday, as a party of parishioners spring cleaned our Church and grounds, an ecstasy of tui – yes, that’s their collective noun – feasted on the yellow flowers of the kowhai tree in the Vicarage front garden.

They hung in the tree every which way gorging on the flowers. They chortled, clicked, creaked, piped, groaned, whistled and wheezed in delight at the nectar. With two voice boxes per bird, they emit an astonishing range of sound, some beyond our ears’ ability to hear.

They’re very intelligent, and useful too. They are the main pollinators of kowhai, flax, kaka beak and some other plants – notably, all with flowers shaped just like a tui beak – a beautiful example of mutualistic co-evolution.

They have also have evolved short, broad wings so they can fly fast and aerobatically through dense bush. Short wings, tho, mean they have to flap very fast…so they are very noisy fliers.

And, oh, the male tui’s aerobatic courtship involve vertical ascents, and perpendicular dives…which leaves the poor males too tired for nest-building. So the females have to do all the work.

I only know all of this thanks to finding online just yesterday an excellent piece on tui by Steve Attwood, which accompanied this photo he’d taken in the Rimutakas.

Whereas last Saturday, I for one barely paused to marvel at the tui’s show…which is just one example of the infinite array of beauty and purpose in God’s Creation.

Instead, I hunched for over my borrowed water-blaster — a crude man-tool — fixated on purging, with Lynn’s help, all the moss and lichen from the footpath up our church driveway.

Such signs of nature tell us we’re well into Spring. Indeed, we’re already three months past Matariki, the turning point in our planetary year, which Maori are teaching us to celebrate. That precious moment when the reappearance of the Matariki constellation low on our northeast horizon signals the days are beginning to lengthen again, and the sun is beginning to warm us again.

But when it comes to rejoicing in the return of Spring and the burgeoning again of God’s creation our liturgical calendar is no help. Rooted for two millennia in the northern hemisphere, we celebrate the joys of new life at Easter — with leaves falling off our deciduous trees, and the birth of Jesus by singing “in the deep mid-winter” — with sweat running down our faces.

Liturgical change comes very slowly. Back in 2009, our worldwide communion’s Anglican Consultative Council recommended we celebrate each year a Season of Creation from September 1 to October 4, the feast day of St. Francis.

You’d have thought we’d welcome such an uplifting season to enliven our long tramp through Ordinary Time – today is only the 25th Sunday with 9 more to go before Advent. We at St Andrew’s are early adopters, having celebrated the Season of Creation for the past few years. But it is still rare more widely.

There have been plenty of follow up calls. Most recently this June, the Archbishop of Canterbury joined the leaders of eight other Christian denominations with yet another letter encouraging us to mark this season with prayer.

They wrote1in part: “As the environmental crisis deepens, we Christians are urgently called to witness to our faith by taking bold action to preserve the gift we share. As the psalmist sings, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein’ (Psalm 24:1-2).

“During the Season of Creation, we ask ourselves: Do our actions honour the Lord as Creator? Are there ways to deepen our faith by protecting ‘the least of these,’ who are most vulnerable to the consequences of environmental degradation?”

We’ve just put ourselves to those tests, a little while earlier in our service, in making our very arresting Season of Creation Confession2. We confronted the death and destruction we wreak on God’s Creation.

We and our forebears have been waging war on nature for millennia.

As Rachel Carson, a prophetic voice, a witness for nature, and the mother of the modern
environmental movement, wrote in 1962 in her seminal book Silent Spring:

“The ‘control of nature’ is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man.

“The question is whether any civilisation can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilised.”

Our exploitation and destruction of nature have caused a great rupture in our relationship with God.

There are many ways we can seek to heal that relationship, ranging from the practical to the spiritual.

The spiritual, ‘tho, need not be a matter of faith, or of belief in God. As Charles Eisenstein, an American ethicist and philosopher, writes in his book Fear of a Living Planet:

“”I don’t know about you, but I didn’t become an environmentalist because someone made a rational argument that convinced me that the planet was in danger.

I became an environmentalist out of love and pain: love for the world and its beauty and the grief of seeing it destroyed

It was only because I was in touch with these feelings that I had the ears to listen to evidence and reason and the eyes to see what is happening to our world.

I believe that this love and this grief are latent in every human being. When they awaken, that person becomes an environmentalist.”

Speaking personally, I believe this love and grief for nature can do much more. They can reawaken our love of God’s creation.

They can enrich our Affirmation of Faith by expressing the familiar tenets of our faith in new ways through our relationships with all of God’s creations on Earth.

They can help us heal our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

And they can help us help others find Jesus …
…particularly young people who fear greatly for the world, who passionately want to do more to save it, and who are yearning for a spiritual connection with the abundant ‘tho threatened life of the planet.


– Rod Oram

  2. Written by Normal Habel,