The Livesimply Group at St. John Fisher parish in Rochester have been sharing with us some of the wonderful things they have been doing to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the poor. Julie Cox, who started the group writes:
I remember, as a youngster, lying in the back-garden, absorbed in watching the changing shapes of cumulus clouds as they gently moved across the big blue sky; I was inspired by the artistic detail of Gordon Beningfield’s bird illustrations on note-book covers; I enjoyed school geography lessons that described the adaptations of animals in the different bioregions of the world. With my research background in physical geography and landscape-ecology, I gained a particular appreciation of the amazing diversity and interconnectedness in nature.
Fr. Sean McDonagh SSC speak passionately about the integrity of Creation and the impacts of climate change. A seed was sown and I continued to attend subsequent livesimply meetings, focusing more specifically on the connection between our Christian faith and human-ecology, attending several workshops and retreats on a Creation theme.
During one of these meetings I had the good fortune to meet a Franciscan Sister, Sr. Annette Tangwa TSSF from Cameroon. We became close friends and together we felt inspired to start a linked project which would combine empowering disadvantaged children at St Francis College secondary school, Shisong, Kumbo, Bamenda with our passion to restore Creation.
I set about inviting parishioners to form a livesimply core-group. We began with seven and have since expanded to twelve. I introduced the group to CAFOD’s livesimply parish award , sharing the pack’s resources, in particular the 100 Live Simply ideas sheet and the ‘Taking Livesimply Home’ module. In April 2014 our livesimply project was launched at parish level. The project has now generated a life of its own, bringing a greater sense of togetherness within the parish community. The core-group continues to meet on a regular basis and produces meeting minutes, advertises forthcoming events on the parish notice board and in the newsletter. Photographs and communications from Sr. Annette are displayed in the church-porch.
The elements of our Livesimply parish project are as follows:
Charity at Home (Living in Solidarity): We support the Medway Food Bank; we take care of the church grounds including gardening and keeping it clear of litter. Loose curb stones were installed in the car park area and shrubs planted along the front wall. We also take care of our meditation garden.
Charity overseas (Living in Solidarity): We support the most disadvantaged school-children at Sr. Annette’s St Francis College secondary school, Shisong, Cameroon through our Sunday coffee and tea sales, through direct donations to our livesimply treasurer’s bank account and through parish events, described below:
Parish Events (Living in Solidarity): Fund-raising ‘Bring and Share’ parish lunches and competitions for Cameroon. These lunches normally include a raffle, plant and craft-stalls including home-made pottery pieces and one of our artist’s religious cards, home-baked cakes and preserves, a free-cycle table and a craft corner for kids. Competitions, with prizes awarded at these parish lunches have so far included a ‘Merry Berry bake-off’ using berries foraged locally and a potato-growing competition.
We hold regular parish walks in the local countryside and within the green-space areas of the Medway towns. More recently we have started up a Traidcraft stall. The core group are now looking to parishioners for assistance with such events to enable them to be held on a more frequent basis.
Environmental (Living Sustainably): We have group litter-picks in our local greenspace, Watts Meadow liaising with the Medway Urban Parks and Green Spaces (MUPGS) ranger. We collect general and recycleable waste, reporting the number of sacks and volunteer hours to MUPGS team. We enjoy coffee and cake afterwards at our Chairman’s home.
We’ve also linked up with St William of Perth primary school, in our parish and invite their gardening club children (18 children aged 8-11 years) for seasonal nature visits to Watts Meadow. Activities have included making bird-cake, building a bug-hotel (article in Spring 2015 issue of Kent Wildlife Trust’s ‘Wild Kent’ magazine), a summer nature-trail quiz, autumn fruits and berries, spotting early signs of spring and general observation walks including an introduction to nature-journaling and foraging for food.
Simpler Lifestyles (Taking Live Simply Home): livesimply tips are posted in our newsletter which focus on practical ways of minimising our carbon footprint and encouraging a Franciscan perspective so as to live in greater harmony with God’s Creation.
We have all found that the livesimply project has brought new meaning and focus to parish-life. Events and initiatives are continuing to develop and expand in ways that we could not have imagined when we first started out on our ‘livesimply adventure’.