eco-logoEco-congregation is an ecumenical scheme (that means lots of different types of churches have signed up to it) to help churches who want to play an active part in caring for the environment and encouraging others to do so too. You can find out more in general about the eco-congregation scheme here.

Here in Liberton Kirk, your eco-congregation representatives are ;

Rink van Dijke, Christine Johnson, Edith Barrowcliffe

Do send us your ideas – or news on what you are doing, being an eco-congregation is not something that can be driven by a committee, it’s a communal effort, an evolution of how we do things as individuals and as a whole.

This page will report on what is happening in Liberton Kirk, as well as publishing reflections and information on what we as individuals can do.

July 2013 –  Yesterday I found myself stuck in Balerno for 3 hours with nothing to do.

Some readers may be immediately rebelling at my use of the word “stuck”, but I use it because that was how I felt.  It had been a busy day so far, it wouldn’t end until late, but between 4:15pm and 7:15pm I was left to my own devices.  Not enough time to go home, nothing with me that I could work on.  Stuck.

So I went for a walk along the water of Leith, because it’s a pleasant walk and it would be a way to pass the time.

As soon as I was out of earshot of the traffic I considered using my phone – seeing whether any friends or family were free for a chat.  No doubt if my phone was high tech enough to let me check my emails I would have considered that too.  But my battery was getting low, so my phone stayed in my pocket.  I should surely, I thought, just be able to walk for a while and enjoy the surroundings.

I then realised that I was storming along as if I was late for an appointment.  So I made myself slow down.  It took an effort of will at first: walk slowly, notice the cow parsley, notice how each flower head is made up of many tiny flowers, listen to the water, wonder what another plant is, listen to the birds.

But within about ten minutes it was as though my whole brain had changed gear.  Taking in my surroundings was no longer an effort, it was coming naturally. I was ambling along, drinking in the leafy green light, the musical chuckling of the river, the bird cries and the occasional rustling and darting of startled wildlife hidden in the undergrowth.

I realised I was feeling better than I had in ages.

Which got me thinking about an article I’d read about the Greek Island of Ikaria.

Ikaria is one of the places in the world notable for its inhabitant’s longevity – and not just their longevity, but their quality of life into old age.  Researchers looking at such places have come up with two common factors:

  1. they are “slightly austere environments where life has traditionally required hard work”. (In Ikaria most people grow their own food, and when asking various nonagenarians and centenarians if they took regular exercise the interviewer became used to hearing the answer “yes, digging the earth”)
  2. there is a strong sense of community and family. Neighbours and families help each other out, do repairs for each other and socialise together.

I suppose the connection between these factors and my solitary and non-physically-taxing walk may be eluding you, but it was to do with the concept of where we look for happiness.

George Osborne, a few months ago, was outlining his vision for an “Aspiration Nation” but it strikes me (leaving the details of the budget and government policy aside) that there is a major problem with this particular aspiration of his.

To aspire to something is to want to achieve or gain or become something that you currently don’t have or are not.  Now there are plenty of good objectives to aspire to, and plenty of good reasons for aspiring – the foremost of which being that if we didn’t aspire to anything, nothing would ever change for the better.

 … can you hear the “but” coming?…

BUT if we are an “Aspiration Nation” we are a nation who always wants more, a nation that is never content and therefore never happy.  That makes perfect sense from the Chancellor’s perspective because our economy as it currently operates depends on people always wanting more.  Perpetual economic growth can only be achieved by constantly producing and selling more, which means either we need an ever-increasing customer base or customers with ever-increasing appetites and desires (and of course they have to get the money to pay for what they want from somewhere).  Perpetual growth in a finite world is of course, when one thinks about it, impossible.  Nonetheless this is the mirage we as a society are currently frantically chasing.

Now I’m not suggesting we can or should overturn our economy overnight.  But perhaps we as individuals need to think about what we really need in life to be happy.

Several years ago people were surveyed about their actual incomes, and what income they felt they would need to be comfortable in life and have all the things they wanted.  The uniformity of the responses across the range of incomes was striking: no matter what their income, people felt that if they had about 30% more, they would be comfortable and content.

The evidence from Ikaria would seem to suggest that what we need is simply time with our family, our friends, our neighbours, regular physical exercise and contact with the natural world – even if it’s just “digging the earth”.


2nd April 2013, 6pm (90 minutes)

Venue: Dining Room, Teviot Row Student’s Union, Bristo Square, Edinburgh

Eco-Congregation Scotland in association with Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) invite you to a joint event at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

We cannot combat the effects of climate change without altering how we behave. With 2000 years of experience in guiding our faith and behaviour, what role could the church have to play in the future of our environment? Lesley Riddoch chairs a fascinating panel discussion with Professor Michael Northcott from the University of Edinburgh, Professor Stephen Reicher from The University of St Andrews, Dr Rebekah Widdowfield from the Scottish Government and Morag Wilson from WWF Scotland.

Tickets • £8/£6 • can be purchased online from the Science Festival web site, by phone through the Science Festival Box Office on 0844 557 2686 or in person at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival shop, 180 High Street, Edinburgh (open 10.30am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 11.00am to 5.30pm Saturday).

January 2013 – The (Green) Church and Society

One of the most noticeable recent events of course was the series of sermons on why we should care for the environment. (Which you can still find in the sermons archive here (link: ) accompanied by our exploration of the green themes within the Bible.

A lot of people within the Church these days seem to be very worried that we don’t stand out as “different” from the rest of society, and perhaps they’re right, but I don’t think we always go about trying to be “different” in the right way. Sometimes positive social changes arise in secular society that we can thoroughly embrace, and the rising (and long overdue) recognition that we need to change our way of interacting with the natural world is something we should whole-heartedly welcome.  It stands against the market-driven culture of endless acquisition and disposal that oppresses the producers (forcing them to work in poor conditions for low pay) and all too often also pressures the receivers – driving people into debt to keep up with what adverts and society tells them they need to buy.

A survey by the Halifax in April 2012 found that 14% of people in Britain were still paying off their Christmas 2011 debts. When narrowed down to 18-44 year olds this figure became 1 in 5 people (20%) – suggesting this is a problem we may be growing into rather than out of. More worryingly 9% of the total of those surveyed expected they would still not have managed to clear their 2011 Christmas debt by the time Christmas 2013 rolled around.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of hope and joy. When did we allow it to become such a burden?

The Bible introduces a God who values people more than profit, who takes delight in the whole of his creation: rocks, trees, plants, animals, birds, seas, rivers and all their inhabitants – and people, who wants his creations to live in harmony, to live sustainably, taking what we need and sharing rather than hoarding or discarding the surplus.  If we can reflect that in our own lives, if we can take joy in the world and the people around us rather than trying to buy our happiness, if we can show other people that they can do the same then we will stand out as something beautifully different in today’s world, and if some of our brothers and sisters outside the Church are standing up for this truth too, then that’s a cause for thanks giving.  God speaks loudly and clearly and widely enough to be heard beyond the walls of the Church, and we can hear him and delight in what he says even before we know who it is who speaks.