Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

I have finally recovered from a computer crash. What a hassle!

Getting back to Little Portion after being away since July 18 was a relief. I left Copenhagen and went to Yorkshire, schlepping across Denmark in a snowstorm and missing the connecting boat at Esberg. Through a series of phone calls we got connected with a Lutheran pastor there who put us up over night. The next morning we decided to fly back to UK. In Yorkshire I preached at a combined Christmas Carol and parish memorial service (For once the liturgy expressed the ambivalence so many people talk about at Christmastime!)

Christmas has been lovely. It was the first snowy Christmas I can remember in a long time. We started off Christmas Eve with a really nice Eucharist in the middle of the night. The best part of Christmas Day was giving some young friends presents. Br. Tom's Yorkshire pudding crowned the evening with glory.

So now it is New Year's Eve, and I am thinking about the year past. In light of the recent Northwest Airlines bombing attempt I feel extremely grateful to have traveled safely. I don't like to think too hard about what might go wrong when I strap myself into yet another airline seat. It is a classic case of denial: "We'll be fine!" I tell myself. As a traveler I have trusted the airline security people to keep me safe, and I have complied cheerfully with every check they have invented. But now I need to add my voice to the pubic forum demanding that government departments and agencies share information. It is a shame that a near disaster is required to highlight the ineptitude at the highest levels. But the ships, railways and PMV's in Africa and the South Pacific have been more terrifying than any plane ride: skidding around hairpin turns in an overloaded bus; plunging through waves in a tiny boat, water sluicing the deck where I was trying to sleep; standing in stalled, darkened trains watching moisture seep through the concrete tunnel walls; walking narrow paths and pausing to let the snakes slither away.

But the travel has only been a means to an end: to share the real life experiences of my brothers, the way they must get around, the foods they eat, the houses they live in, meeting the friends who help them and make our Franciscan life possible, finding out about the ministries they have around the world. Perhaps because I am so aware of the fragility of life, I find all that goes on to be amazing. There is a Franciscan genius in finding ways to be with people. Brothers serve hot drinks to day laborers standing on cold street corners, we visit the sick in hospitals, sometimes at 4:00 a.m. in order to be sure the patients are seen before medical procedures. We lead Quiet Days, speak in school chapels, march in demonstrations for peace and justice. Many of us engage in subsistence farming; all of us have to make small financial resources stretch. The hardest thing of all, since it is the least glamorous, we welcome people into our homes, sit with guests, cook endless meals, change bed linens. In some places these linens must then be washed in a river and dried on a clothes line. Others take the sheets to the laundry! I think many brothers would willingly risk a plane crash over cleaning a guest house. And yet we do the daily work; different kinds of adventures lurk in unlikely intersections of life. God is definitely with us, helping us to grow more and more into the image and likeness of Christ, and to find ways of connecting with people.

As I unpacked some old journals this week, I read a few entries. One was a description of an accident in March 1996 in the Solomon Islands. we could have all been killed, and one brother was permanently brain damaged. But moments before it happened we were singing in the back of the truck. It seems to me that this is the only option we really have. To take calculated risks, sing God's praises, and do our best when and if disaster strikes. As we remember at Christmas, the only guarantee we have in life is that God is with us in it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Farewell to Copenhagen

I leave Copenhagen today.

The talks are ”on a knife edge” according to the BBC. We watched the footage showing protesters clashing with the police. Everywhere people are feeling highly agitated. Some leaders are saying a deal is still possible, but the NGO’s question if a deal struck behind closed doors, excluding the world’s citizens, conforms to UN ideals of transparency and participation. Mr. Brown, the prime minister of Britain, was sounding cautiously optimistic on the T.V. No telling how he feels now.

Being here in Copenhagen has been like pitching a tent in a rumor mill. Everybody seems to be ”in the know,” but few predictions have come to pass. We will have to wait and see.

I feel as if we have done all that we could from our place at the periphery of the talks. We spoke with dozens of people, appeared on television, participated in huge liturgies. Most importantly we kept praying; and we will keep on praying!

I have many other wonderful memories of Copenhagen. Our delicious candle lit breakfasts and suppers (the Danes love candles, and they really make a difference in the permanent gloom!) with our hosts at the Swedish Church, the walks through the streets and my frequent runs through the park. St. Alban’s Anglican Church has been a beautiful place to pray and meet people, and to pull back from the hurley-burley of the Klimaforum. We got snow last night, and the city is transformed by the beautiful white blanket.

Now it is back to the train to the bus to the boat, then another series of trains before I rest at Doncaster for the weekend.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Praying for the summit

Yesterday Joyce and I had a chance to meet with a couple of hunger strikers, Anna and Mathieu. She is from Australia and he is from France. They are fasting in order to influence the Summit talks. They have been on a fast for several months, originally it was a fruit juice fast, now it is water only. While they do not claim religious affiliations, they speak forcefully about creating positive energy and moral power through their fast. I quite like that.

Fasting is one of the classic means of prayer, and has been used to terrific effect to bring about siginificant social changes. Gandhi fasted, so did MLK. Among my own circle of friends, the members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers fasted in their fight against Taco Bell: and they won!

Anna and Mathieu invite us to join them Thursday on a 24 hour fast.

But we had a very interesting discussion with a man who is a UK based ”climate steward” with A Rocha. Brendan Bolles spoke about how best to get the message about our need to change across to the world. Part of his responsibilities include posting ”Prayer points” on the internet. One of the things he pointed out is that fierce rhetoric alienates more people than it attracts. He reminded me that it is better to get many people interested in doing something rather than making people feel guilty and disempowered because they are ”only making token gestures.” That attitude can be very damaging. All efforts to engage in the effort to live more sustainably are heartily welcomed. Few of us are able to engage in hunger strikes or are able to cut out all air travel, or live without automobiles. But we can change a few light bulbs, we can walk more, we can cut back on meat consumption a bit. We can find ways to pick up litter.

Fast if you can, cut back where it is possible, and in all things, pray. Pray for the world, pray for all that live on the earth. Remember the poorest and most vulnerable. Your prayer will make a world of difference here at Copenhagen.

Certainly the summit is coming to a ”crunch” time. All of the NGO representatives have had to get re-credentialed and the allotment of passes has been reduced to 10 per delegation. There are some frustrated reps hanging about.

Last night the Østerport traqin station was closed because of a bomb scare. Fortunately there was no explosion, the things was defused. But it meant we had to walk three times the distance to our dinner (after having just met the hunger strikers…).

TV Spot

I was featured in a brief TV spot this week. Check it out!
Look for Faith at the Summit.

The producer, Mark Dowd had read my blog entry about my conversation with the young athiest.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Do Not Be Afraid

Yesterday was a big day.

We began with Mass at St. Alban´s Church celebrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He preached a brief, pointed homily about the prophets and our need to look at the world differently. We need to begin seeing the world as God’s. We are called to consider the whole of creation as we ”prepare the way of the Lord.” Even in the face of the great challenges facing us we are called to be people of joy. (If he didn’t say those things in exactly that way, those were the messages I got! Preaching, I’ve discovered, is more about what one hears than what is said).

Then we bundled ourselves off to a local restaurant for pickled herring and berry flavored yoghurt drink (among many other Danish delicacies).

It was a ”pinch me hard, am I really eating lunch with the Archbishop of Canterbury” moment.

And then to the Cathedral in the center of town. At two o’clock the Queen of Denmark marched in, followed in due course by a tremendous procession of world representatives. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu came in, still glowing I imagine, from his tremendous outdoor appearance where he was greeted as a superstar. (His message was direct: ’Hello rich countries—wake up! It’s cheap to finance climate debt. 150 billion dollars a year would do it,’ he cried. Amen!! I say). But it wasn’t a triumphal procession. Thirty choristers came in bearing the central symbols of COP15: withered corn from Malawi, symbolizing crop failures in Africa and through out the world: untold misery and death; large dead corals reminding us of the destruction of the South Pacific islands and threats to global marine life; and ten people from Greenland, each bearing a stone exposed by melting glaciers: proof of global warming, disappearing water sources, spoiled habitats and suffering for many species and peoples. These corn cobs, dead corals and black stones were heaped up at the ramparts to the choir. We must never forget what is happening. We were gathered to dedicate ourselves as people of faith to doing all that we can to help the earth and to remind the world that the people most directly affected by climate change are the world’s poorest. The Archbishop of Canterbury again preached, this time calling the world to resist fear, yet to respond with loving alacrity to plea of the earth and all that live upon it.

The four of us Franciscans helped light candles. Everybody in the cathedral has a candle and they were lit and we carried them out into the world.

Signs of hope.

Welcome to Hopenhagen we said.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Walking the Talk

Yesterday Br. Hugh and I participated in an interfaith walkabout. I managed to get to two places, a Jewish synagogue and a Tibetan Buddist temple. The theme at the synagogue was "Sabbath" and the rabbi spoke movingly about the meaning of the Jewish Sabbath; it underscores the core conviction that human beings don't control the world. By taking a regular Sabbath, no matter what is going on, the believer is forced to acknowledge they are not in control. This is God's world.

The rabbi's talk was follwed by an virtuoso performance by a young woman who gently struck a series of gongs and made bird calls. The effect was profoundly moving as the resonant sound of the gongs was embroidered in a way by the different bird calls. I was reminded of a conversation I had with a Solomon Island brother about music. Deeply impressed by the very foriegn sound of the singing in Melanesia I asked him about the source or inspiration of the tunes. "The birds," he answered. So we listened to nature's hymns sung in a Danish synagogue with amazing precision by a young woman: the enormous gilt room was alive with bird calls. How often do I pay such close attention to birds outside? As we left the synagogue I was determined to pay closer attention to God's music in nature.

Our next stop was the Tibetan Buddhist temple. There a nun spoke about karma. If I understood what she was saying correctly, karma means our past actions caused current conditions, and our present behavior will determine the future. This is true both personally and socially (or maybe that is just a connection I made in my mind?) She invited us to think about our ignorant, greedy or agressive behaviors and led us through a meditation, releasing these things with the intention of amendment of life. So much of our climate chaos has been caused by human ignorance, greed and aggression! If we can come to terms with these behaviors in ourselves and our world...


Obviously there are enormous areas of convergence among the world religions and the faith perspective on the climate turmoil in the world.

What was clear to me on the walkabout is that we are all here in Copenhagen to bring moral pressure to bear on the discussions, to help coalesce a consensus about what is wrong and the need to address the situation urgently. I do not know how isolated the delegates are in the Bela Center who are actually working on the documents of the conference, but certainly the rest of us can go back from here with fresh insights, renewed commitment and a deeper understanding of our interconnectedness on the planet.

Today an enormous crowd of people joined in a march. It was freezing cold. There were reports of violence, but I saw nothing of it. The crowd was huge. I was surrounded by a group very happy and friendly Christian Aid youth from Great Britain. But presumably the people "inside" heard about our march, they heard the estimates of the crowd size. They are not working in a vacuum. The world cares. We want them to come up with a binding agreement.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Christians preach against the environment"

I had a provoking conversation with a young woman who calls herself an atheist at the Klimaforum. I was taking my turn at the Green Church booth, handing out leaflets and engaging our visitors in conversation. Most were curious about the churches'
response to global warming, and made encouraging comments. One young woman however, demanded to know if I was a Christian (fully habited friar; I suppose it is a fair question). "Why are you here?" she wanted to know. "Christians preach against the environment and are responsible for the destruction of the climate."

I was reminded of a comment printed at the bottom of one of my seminary Church History exams: "This is a jumble of things true, untrue, half true and almost true." (Yeah it stung a bit.)

I decided to be non-polemical. "Well we're here, doing our best to create moral pressure to reexamine some of those old Scriptural assumptions about the environment and human participation in it that have cause some problems."

She wasn't taking the bait. "I hate Christians."

"Bless your heart," I replied. Giving into my irritation, I said: "Have a nice day."

It really is an extraordinary convergence of people here in Copenhagen. People who may have never thought of working together or recognized the claims we have on each other as members of the human race and creatures on the planet, are being forced
into dialogue. Some of it is bruising. Some is very encouraging and heart warming. But you can't have it only one way. Every where there are stories of different encounters, rumors of things that might happen. My heart sinks at the prospect of
violence, but I still plan to be fully present and participate in everything. These are of course the kind of encounters I used to fantasize about when I resented the hum drum daily routine of cleaning house and making beds.

We must find ways to work together. If we permit our divisions to sour the effort, the goal of creating a global consensus on climate change and the imperatives to save the earth from our own destructiveness will be fatally flawed.

There are other rumors of course. We hear of incredible courage and powerful demonstrations of commitment from the developing nations' representatives in the COP 15 talks. We fan the flames of hope whenever we can. We are bringing out our greatest advocates for social justice and a renewed understanding of what it means to be a Christian and a part of the human family.

I am so proud to belong to the Church of Desmond Tutu and Rowan Williams.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting at Copenhagen

Last night the evening program at St. Alban's was an Advent study group talking about the theme "The Meaning is in the waiting." Apparently it is the title of a book, but I didn't get a good look at that. Our conversation quickly brought the theme of waiting to bear on our experience at Copenhagen.

Some residents are waiting with a sense of dread, placing sandbags in front of doors to minimize damage in case of riots.

Some are waiting with a tremendous sense of hope and anticipation.

We spend time each day waiting in silence, holding up the fearful, the outspoken, the leaders and those who are getting swept up in the events happening around us. Yesterday we visited the Klimaforum, the non-governmental organizations' parallel event to the official COP15 talks. The Klimaforum filled my heart with joy as we walked among the exhibitors. Obviously there is technology for living more harmoniously on the earth: we learned how to make biogas, learned the benefits of different agricultural techniques, looked at different ways people deal with waste, energy, and housing challenges. It is possible to live differently and have a beautiful life.

We also met an array of people from different religious traditions: Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian. There are many more. They are spiritual activists. Citing the different traditions, they create a moral voice, integrating the spiritual paths of the world's people with the survival of the world. Spirituality is concerned with living day to day, inculcating daily spiritual practices to keep our conscious contact with God strong. Finding the connection between what we believe and how we behave moment by moment is the call to integrated living. It is the blessing of shalom.

So we are waiting so see what will happen. Will the talks be successful? More immediately, will the voices of youth, minorities, the poor get heard?

Will there be violence? We can wait with anxiety or we can wait with acceptance. I find it
is important to recognize their are many aspects of this experience I have no control over. But I can make myself and the people around me miserable in the way I live moment by moment. So I keep on jogging, keep on praying, trying to stay fit for
all that is happening in the present moment.

This is my prayer: Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Copenhagen Summit: Arrival

I arrived in Copenhagen Sunday about 6:00 p.m. after nearly 18 hours travel. The experts keep saying that living more sensitively to the earth will mean accepting some will be slower, that's for sure. What a relief to get to bed.

We are located during the day in St. Alban's Anglican Church, part of the Anglican Church in Europe, and at night our group is billeted with the Swedish Lutheran Church. The pastor is a member of our Third Order. Sister Joyce has a luxurious bedroom of her own, the three brothers are piled into a "flat" that has cots and air mattresses.

The Anglican Chaplain Jonathan Lloyd had the bright idea of getting the Franciscans to come to Copenhagen to be a "presence." The first day was a bit fraying, but we survived. There was a general sense that we did not know what we were doing, and we had the expectation that we should be doing something, given the incredible importance of the conference! The lack of television, internet or eeven English language radio meant we had no sense of what was happening, at the Conference. But we learned later our sense of frustration was nothing compared to the delegates who had come to Copenhagen. Nearly double the number of expected delegates arrived and spent hours standing on line in the cold December weather. We heard that most people experience that same liminal feeling of "What's Going On?!"

As I write this, on Wednesday, the internet is being connect at St. Alban's so we expect to be able to follow developments of the conference.

Not only are we providing a presence at the Conference by praying at St. Alban's, we are beginning to get the sense of where the NGO's are meeting and how to get to visit them. Journalists have begun to show up to meet us (asking the all important question, "What will you be doing here in Copenhagen?") As we tell our story we begin to fumble toward greater clarity for ourselves. Father Jonathan has organized a nightly series of presentations for his congregation, providing an opportunity for "regular" people to meet and interact with some of the people who have traveled to Copenhagen.

Last night was the first such discussion, by Martyn Goss from the Diocese of Exeter in England, on "Water." Listening to him, I realized I have had my own experience of climate change and water, which makes for fruitful material for prayer and meditation. Working backwards, I recently had an ear infection, which the doctor says was from swimming in polluted water (Which I did inadvertently in the Solomons). The waters were polluted because of the logging activities upstream and recent flooding. Once deep rivers have become shallow murky ones. The brothers had a bore hole well drilled, but the price of diesel made it difficult for them to keep the tanks near the friary filled. Rising fuel prices, forest clear cutting, heavy rains bring disease and diminished quality of life. Not for me, particularly, because I was a short term visitor, and had quick access to good medical care in Australia. However, the notion we are all separated by just six degrees makes the issues of the developing world my issues. For many of the rural people in the Solomons and other developing countries, medical care is not universal, many people suffer terribly from easily cured problems. Climate change, human greed and lack of adequate resources make the issues being iscussed here at Copenhagen incredibly urgent.

Water is one way into the climate debate. There are many interrelated issues. Every one of which has a host of advocates here at Copenhagen. Add to this the celebrity factor of many of the participants. For us, it is the arrival of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Sadly he he and others are the focus of many people who wish to disrupt the conference. So we are not just dealing with climate change, but with all the issues of such a big conference. KEEP PRAYING!

Martyn Goss not only talked about water, he left us with a hymn he composed. It is not copyrighted, and he hopes many people will sing it (with proper attribution, of course!):

A Hymn for COP15 (Sung to the tune in the English Hymnal "Thy Hand O God has Guided")

The whole earthly Creation
reflects God's heavenly Grace,
since life has now developed
upon this globe in space;
and now our human industry
is threatening all its worth,
with unchecked global warming;
one hope, one chance, one earth.

Our scientists and leaders
now recognize this trend.
Unless we change our habits,
our lives themselves might end.
So now they make decisions
to implement our voice,
to shrink our carbon footprint;
one God, one world, once choice.

The task at Copenhagen's
to cut back greenhouse gas,
that humankind in future
will not face death and loss;
the targets of our rulers
must demonstrate resolve,
to save our children's children;
one globe, one God, one Love.

We call out to our God now
that we united be,
and our destructive lifestyles
be lost to history.
We move ahead together
agreeing a new accord
to limit our emissions;
in faith, in Christ, our Lord.

Objects for meditation at the Chaplaincy: dead coral, dried corn and a stone left behind from a melted glacier

Friday, December 4, 2009

Getting Ready To Go To Copenhagen

Advent is here. Happy New Year for Christians. In the southern hemisphere, it is spring turning to summer, flowers bursting, people shaking off the last of the chilly weather to revel in glorious heat and long summer days, anticipating the Christmas barbecue or trip to the beach: nothing like taking your shirt off, getting out into the garden, to feel you are getting a new lease on life! In the northern hemisphere, it is the darkest and coldest time of the year, we light candles to remind ourselves that the darkness will not overcome the light, we bundle up, marvel at the first frosts, take time to be a bit introspective, huddled around the fire!

Or maybe not; it is my fantasy at any rate.

Climatic considerations color our experience of the Church year. With a growing global awareness of climatic chaos, the words of the Biblical prophets sound particularly apt. They call us to repent, and prepare the way of the Lord, to live in peace and with justice and equal consideration for the whole of creation which awaits with eager longing the coming of the Lord. But we must DO something about it. For too long we have simply relished the poetry and redoubled our consuming frenzy preparing for the commercial Christmas. "Seasons Greetings!" the cash register receipts read under "Amount Paid."

Tomorrow, Saturday December 5, hundreds of thousands of people are expected in London. We are all going there to participate in "The Wave." Wearing blue or sporting blue scarves and banners, we will circle around the British parliament in Westminster. At three o'clock when Big Ben tolls, we will wave our blue. Blue is the color of the earth seen from outer space. Blue is the color of the clear skies, of the clean waters, a fitting symbol for a whole and rejuvenated ecology and bioshpere. We will be waving at the British members of parliament, reminding them we are there, offering support and encouragement, asking for accountability.

Blue is also the color of Advent in some liturgical circles (always my preference--it is called "Sarum usage" or the Sarum rite...) I am very happy to be able to share the prophetic work, to be a voice among many calling for changed attitudes, different ways of living on the earth:

"Someone is shouting in the desert [and London Embankment]; 'Get the road ready for the Lord; make a straight path for him to travel!"

The message came through loud and clear in the Chapel this week:

"Wolves and sheep will live together in peace, and leopards will lie down with young goats. Calves and lion cubs will feed together, and little children will take care of them. Cows and bears will eat together and their calves and cubs will lie down in peace. Lions will eat straw as cattle do. Even a baby will not be harmed if it plays near a poisonous snake. On Zion, God's sacred hill, there will be nothing harmful or evil. The land will be as full of knowledge of the Lord as the seas are full of water. (TEV Isaiah 11:6-9)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Are You Doing In Copenhagen?

I've had lots of questions about the chaplaincy work I'll be involved with in Copenhagen next week. I checked out the website of the Anglican church in Copenhagen ( where we will be based, and here is the program:

St Alban’s Church Welcomes the World to COP15!

The church will be open every day during COP15 as a place of welcome, hospitality, prayer, stillness and engagement with the issues… all in a friendly English-language setting.

A team of Franciscan brothers, sister and Anglican clergy will be based at St Alban’s during COP15, and we look forward to meeting you. We will be joined by members of the local St Alban’s Church community.

We are:

* Brother Clark Berge SSF (San Francisco, Minister General SSF)
* Brother Colin Wilfred SSF (Canterbury)
* Sister Joyce CSF (London, Minister General CSF)
* Brother Hugh SSF (Hilfield, Dorset)
* The Revd Tony Rutherford (Kent)
* The Revd Jonathan LLoyd (Archdeacon-designate of Germany & Northern Europe)

We will also have Leslie-Ann Calliste and Janet Rutherford (both experienced counsellors) available as confidential listeners, if you need some quiet space to share and talk.
Opening Times and Facilities

The church will be open every day between 0815 and 1930 (and later on the weekend of 11/12/13 Dec).

We offer coffee, wireless broadband connection, toilets, stillness and prayer, conversation and a warm welcome. We also have maps and advice, and a place to warm up and dry off! Please call in.
Weekday Programme

Our daily weekday programme at St Alban’s Church (using the Franciscan prayer tradition), to which all are invited to call in for a short or a longer time, will be:

* 0830 Morning Prayer
* 1200 Holy Eucharist
* 1700 Music
* 1730 Evening Prayer
* 1800 “A Time for Climate Justice” – an open seminar about an aspect of COP15, followed by discussion
* 1900 Coffee
* 2100 Compline at The Swedish Church (next to Osterport Station – only 10 minute walk from St Alban’s)

Whether you are a COP15 delegate, a campaigner, a journalist, a tourist or just a fellow traveller, you are most welcome here at St Alban’s Church!
A Meeting Place

We will be a meeting place for campaigners from ECEN, WCC, Christian Aid, TearFund, Operation Noah, Arocha, CAFOD and other faith organisations and churches from across the world. St Alban’s will be a hub for networking and sharing our stories, and making new friends.

On Saturday 12 December at 1800 there will be a quiet Evening Service/Vespers at Trinity Church (the church with the large round tower near Norreport Station) with The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, giving a reflection (the capacity of the church is 500).

Dr Rowan Williams will also preside and preach at the Parish Eucharist at St Alban’s Church on Sunday 13 December at 1000 (the capacity of the church is 235).
Where We Are and How to Contact Us

The St Alban’s COP15 Chaplaincy Team can be contacted on [00 45] 29 79 40 36.

St Alban’s Church
Churchill Parken 6
DK 1263 Copenhagen

Not sure where we are? Read about how to get to us.
Related Links

* Society of Saint Francis
* Archbishop of Canterbury
* Christian Aid
* TearFund
* Operation Noah
* ECEN European Christian Environment Network
* WCC World Council of Churches
* Stop Climate Chaos
* Green Church / Grønkirke

COP15 Logo

COP15 Logo
Brother Clark Berge

Brother Clark Berge

* Opening Times & Facilities
* Weekday Programme
* A Meeting Place
* Services
* Location & Contact Info
* Related Links