It's not often that I am lost for words, but it does happen. I remember being dumbfounded in a Bible study a few years ago when a member of the group boldly declared that it would not matter if the world were concreted over and mass extinction took place because God would make a new heaven and a new earth. As far as he was concerned, the planet we live on today could be torn up and thrown away as if it were all one giant cosmic mistake, while God whisked his people away to their new heavenly home.
At my church, St Peter's Harrow in North West London, we've been thinking a lot recently about God's purpose for the world and for the church. We've returned to a verse that defined our church when it was restarted nearly 30 years ago. At the end of the book of Revelation, John sees the new heavens and new earth. In his vision the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven to settle on a renewed earth and God declares from his throne: "Behold, I am making everything new." (Rev 21:4) This is the culmination of God's great plan of salvation. The Apostle Paul says much the same thing in his letter to the church at Colossae. He paints an extraordinary picture of the reconciliation of all things through the blood of Christ. He makes it clear that nothing is left out in this vision of the supremacy of Jesus.
These verses shape our vision. We don't want to be a church of converts waiting for heaven, wondering what we're still here for. We want to be a church of disciple makers, culture shapers and society transformers precisely because God is calling us to join with him in the renewal of all things. Everything means everyone.
As a result, two society transformers at St Peter's recently encouraged me to take more of a lead on creation care. As a nation we need an 80 per cent reduction in our carbon emissions by 2050, becoming a zero carbon economy by the end of the century, if we are to have any chance at all of stopping climate change. This, they argued, was a chance for the church to show some leadership. I could sense the urgency in their voices. Now I have to be honest, I cannot say that creation care has been the hallmark of my ministry. Increasingly, however, I have come to recognise that creation care must be an integral part of our ecclesiology if we are to genuinely allow the verses outlined above to inform our soteriology. If 'all things' really does mean 'all things', and of course it does, then we needed to take the environment more seriously as a church. I wanted to respond to the challenge of these two society transformers, but I wasn't sure of the best way to take things forward.
The Big Church Switch has enabled us to do just that. Though my family has been using green energy for both gas and electricity for years, it never occurred to me to encourage the church to do the same thing. Vicarage and church had remained separate in my mind. The Big Church Switch challenged that way of thinking. It was a light bulb moment.
The Big Church Switch is a partnership between Christian Aid, Tearfund, 2buy2 and Parish Buying. The idea is that by pooling our collective buying power, churches and individual Christians can switch our energy supply from fossil fuels to renewable energy while securing some market-beating renewable tariffs.
This does two things. First, as more churches join the scheme and demand increases, it puts pressure on government and business to invest in renewables.
Second, reducing investment in fossil fuels will lower carbon emissions and help limit climate change, which is already impacting the poorest communities around the world. To make it as easy as possible the Big Church Switch guides you through the entire process, removing all the challenges and complexities along the way. It is such a simple idea, something any one of us can do, yet it has cosmic ramifications. I realised immediately it was a no brainer for us as a church. I urge you to consider if it might be for yours too.
For more information about the Big Church Switch visit www.bigchurchswitch.org.uk.