Local Anglicans stand up for the environment

A black shirt and a priest collar made Rev. Marian Lucas-Jefferies stand out at a fracking consultation in Windsor a few years ago.

“At first people wanted to know, ‘Are you lost?’” Lucas-Jefferies says. “It gave me a chance to say to them: ‘The church cares about this. Do you know that?’”

The Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island launched the Environment Network Diocese of NS & PEI in the spring of 2012. Bishop Sue Moxely asked Lucas-Jefferies, an Anglican minister, to form a task-group on the environment. As Lucas-Jefferies drove along Hwy. 103 after her meeting, she wondered how to manage “a committee on top of my workload.”

By the time she arrived at her parish in Blandford, Lucas-Jefferies decided to establish a network, rather than a committee. “A committee restricts the number of people involved,” she explains. There are now about 275 people connected through the network’s email list and Facebook group.

Lucas-Jefferies says to reduce carbon emissions, the network takes advantage of technology for communication and other church gatherings to have informal meetings. For instance, those interested might meet for lunch at synods, the annual meetings where the church makes governmental decisions.

“It’s easy to feel hope when so many people are engaged,” she says. “We have the best problem in the world, and it’s that so many things are coming at us, that it’s hard to keep up. Which is great.”

As the network coordinator, she speaks at churches, prays at events, and liaises with other environmental organizations. “At a time when it’s hard to feel hope, we can provide that as the church,” Lucas-Jefferies says, “as well as a spiritual experience for those who are interested.”

Lucas-Jefferies now reports to Archbishop Ron Cutler, who oversees a range of ministries in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He says Lucas-Jefferies keeps environmental matters such as fracking in the forefront and offers advice on topics for him to address both in the church and the larger community. “We think that environmental stewardship is a fundamental part of literally being a follower of Jesus Christ, being a member of the church,” Cutler says.

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are not alone in their efforts. The Anglican Communion, comprised of Anglican churches in over 165 countries, officially recognized the Anglican Communion Environmental Network at a meeting in Hong Kong in 2002. In 2013, The Anglican Church of Canada added a new promise made by parents, sponsors, and everyone present at a baptism. The baptisimal covenant question, “Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth?” is answered with, “I will, with God’s help.”

Culter says both the church and culture are shifting: “Big parts of this culture are waking up generally to issues related to our environment, and that’s caused us, I suppose, perhaps to go back to some of the roots of our faith tradition which recognizes creation as being divinely inspired.”

The Environmental Network NS & PEI falls under the diocese umbrella of mission outreach and social justice (along with other issues such as affordable housing and refugee sponsorship). The annual budget for the network is $300. That doesn’t sound like much, but a wide-reaching volunteer network stretches it. “It’s not about sitting down having endless meetings,” Cutler says. “It’s about ‘here’s information: you may want to act on this, you may want to participate in this, you may want to take advantage of this particular education event, and so on.”

Culter maintains that “a change in attitude” is more important than money for much of the work to be done. “Going to worship is only one part, actually very small part time wise,” he says. “We live out that faith every day in families, in our homes, at our places of work, in how we chose what to buy, or not to buy.”

However, some of the work does require funds. Many of the diocese’s 234 churches are heritage properties and not energy efficient. “It’s a huge task at a point in time when the church has fewer resources,” Cutler says, adding that Lucas-Jefferies is researching funding and creative ways to meet this need.

Information on funding is one of the main requests Lucas-Jefferies receives. “How do they get support to, you know, in their efforts to reduce their energy consumption and make the buildings more efficient,” she says.

While not a heritage building, Lucas-Jefferies says the Church of Saint Andrew in Cole Harbour is finding ways to reduce waste and green the building. The rector, Rev. Katherine Bourbonniere, says there are many members of the environment network among her 180–200 parishioners that gather each week.

The building had an environmental audit that lead to the church installing new heat pumps to reduce energy use by 40%. “Our footprint was quite large because of the amount of consumption of electricity,” Bourbonniere says.

Other environmentally friendly measures include new lighting, alternate cleaning products, reducing waste, and carpooling to outings. “It changes how we look at everything that we do,” Bourbonniere says. “This is part of our decision making in the activities that we are actually going to do.”

Members are encouraged to care for God’s creation through the sharing of ideas, says Bourbonniere. “It’s nice to know others have other capacities that we can support and walk with, and that’s the joy of the network.”

Suzanne McConnell produces the monthly newsletter for the Environment Network Diocese of NS & PEI. She first connected with Lucas-Jefferies in the fall of 2017 for a practicum placement during her master’s degree in lifelong learning from Mount Saint Vincent University.

“God gave us this earth, but to care for it,” McConnell says. “We can’t keep going on the path that we’re going on and expect that we won’t do damage that can’t be undone.”

McConnell says volunteering with the network has changed her thinking and lifestyle. “Do I really need that?” is a question she asks before making purchases. She feels an obligation to continue volunteering even though her practicum ended a year ago.

One of those partnerships is with Extinction Rebellion, an international organization with regional chapters. Lucas-Jefferies put out a call within the diocese for churches to provide free meeting space. Lisa Strickland-Clark of Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia says the Anglican network has been “extremely helpful.”

“We’d like to build connections with all the different sort of religious groups if we can.

“We’re going to come to some solution for this crisis that we’re in, or we’re going to hurtle down the road towards extinction.”

Extinction Rebellion Nova Scotia participated in worldwide action on April 15 and gathered at St. James Anglican Church on Joseph Howe Drive. As the group marched to media outlets and Nova Scotia Power, Halifax Police made four arrests and two people were charged for property damage. Lucas-Jefferies was not present, but when asked about the arrests, she says her understanding of Extinction Rebellion is that they focus on nonviolent action.

She believes approach and intent are important as people make judgments about how to participate. “You don’t want somebody to end up with a criminal record or something for being passionate about the planet,” Lucas-Jefferies says. “I would like to do what I can to support them in achieving their goals in a way that is really productive and leads to a positive outcome.”

It’s from the creation story in “Genesis” that Lucas-Jefferies says Christians are “called to be good stewards of creation.” She enjoys her role of supporting and empowering others. “Standing with people and walking with people who care about the planet is very important,” she says. “We have a responsibility to care for people who care.”

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