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Some members of our congregation spent last week in the beautiful setting of Parceval Hall near Grassington in the Dales. They were there as members or guests of Christians Aware (an international Christian organisation made up of individuals and groups from a wide variety of Christian faiths dedicated to working for Justice and Peace) and were taking part in a summer school which aimed to ‘raise awareness of the interconnectedness of all life on earth, and to increase their commitment to its flourishing.’
The programme for their week was incredibly varied and included prayer and bible study plus guest presentations, visits out, discussions and free time in the gardens of the hall, all with comfortable accommodation and good food. The speakers were as varied as the programme and included topics such as ‘community engagement – Wild Ingleborough’ and ‘farming in upper Nidderdale’ to worldwide projects with missionary groups and a consultant river engineer. I was sorry not to be able to join the visits out to a nearby farm, Greenhow Burial Ground and Malham Tarn, but was privileged to join them for two presentations and time walking in the gardens which are open to the public.
I was introduced to the work of Green Christian and the Columban Mission, both of which could be said to ‘get their hands dirty’ i.e. they are out there in the world doing practical work to improve the lives of others, often through their environmental endeavours. I came home with several journals and information sheets which you will no doubt benefit from in the coming months, but it was the work of the evening speaker that really gave food for thought. Jeremy Purseglove describes his working life as ‘looking for practical ways to protect (landscapes, gardens and wild habitats), first as an ecologist in the water industry and then as an environmentalist worldwide.’ What he does for a living is like ‘gardening on a global scale. Working with engineers and developers … creating a creative way of managing landscapes which can bring us their practical benefits without destroying their beauty and biodiversity.’ His talk with slides was fascinating! To the extent that I bought a copy of his book ‘Working with Nature, saving and using the world’s wild places’.
Whilst listening to the tales of some of his projects, I was reminded of my walk round the Chatsworth estate of last week and my walk through the gardens of Parceval Hall of that afternoon. So much of what we see has been created by God, but sometimes rearranged by man; sometimes for the greater good of all due to environmental concerns, or sometimes due to just wanting to make somewhere pleasant to be and to look out on. Possibly we’re all gardeners at heart?
And finally, a piece of good news in our current inclement weather. An article in the Guardian this week tells that the Red Admiral butterfly population has soared 400% in the UK as winters warm. The Great Butterfly count has recorded 170,000 sightings of this red and black insect so far this year.
The Great Butterfly count ends this Sunday, so you’ve still got time to add a few more to your tally!
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