Reflections: Learn Wisdom from the Elders and Grow in your sense of Place

After the wonderful presentations at our FEN Ten Ways to Care workshop 2 in June at the Western Sydney Women’s IntHERfaith Initiative Blacktown (with participants joining in at our satellite hubs around Australia!) there was time for us all to get outside to get a sense of place.

Participants were invited to spend time in nature, use their senses to become aware of Country, and report back to the group any reflections that emerged. With their permission we here are some of the heartfelt responses from the Wisdom of the Elders and Grow in Your Sense of Place Workshop: 

"When footfalls trudge on land so ancient,
And immensity of sky descends
in spontaneous puddles,
Green and bronze Earth shares
Her sweet secrets,
And a Song of Silence springs in my heart
Of ancient wisdom forgotten..."
-Sushma Nadkarni (member of the Hindu community)

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Environmental Integrity

Sandra Nicholls is an active member of the Brahma Kumaris and an environmental educator. She has been involved in bush regeneration at their retreat centre at Leura in the Blue Mountains of Sydney and is now engaging in the community near Ballarat, Victoria.

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Kimberley-Broom Group Saving Lids and Bread Tags

Lids for Kids, Aussie Bread Tags for Wheelchairs

Dr Anne Jennings from Yawaru Country and Editor of the Australian Journal of Community World shares these two community projects from her Kimberley-Broome Group.

It is called the Living Laudato Si' project in response the call by Pope Francis for all people of all faiths and none and all walks of life to act directly to care for our common home.

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God's attentive presence found in the diversity of wildlife

Major Melanie-Anne Holland, a pastor with the Salvation Army, reflects for World Wildlife Day on God's presence in the diversity of wildlife.

I’m a birdwatcher, from a family of avid birdwatchers. For as long as I can remember, my family has travelled with a copy of The Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. Our eyes have been trained to observe the distant flutters of birds, noting their colour and form, in the perpetual hunt for new species. Parents, siblings, children, cousins, aunts and uncles have all been co-opted into our enthusiastic (perhaps competitive) quest. I love birds, and their diversity is a source of joy for me.

The World Wildlife Fund describes biodiversity as “all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area – the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even micro-organisms like bacteria, that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms works together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life.”

Intentional diversity

The diversity of life all around us is spectacular and awe-inspiring, not just in terms of the variety of plants and animals but also the variety within each species. And from a faith perspective, this biodiversity is intentional and purposeful. Not only is God the source, or Creator, of all the diversity we observe, he is constantly engaged with the world around us.

Psalm 104 in the Bible is a song about God’s ongoing relationship with the world. It tells of God as the one who forms ecosystems and provides the different species of animals with all they need. God lovingly and attentively gives rhythms of life, rest, boundaries, homes, water, food and breath to the creatures around us. Each animal, with its unique needs and contribution, is valuable to God.
The black-throated finch is an endangered species that needs our protection.

Can we do without a species? Is any species ‘disposable’ or less valuable? Can we live in a world without wild koalas or platypuses or black-throated finches? How about the species we find less endearing, like mice or mosquitoes? Apart from the profound loss of species, each extinction is like pulling at a thread in a jumper and waiting for the whole garment to unravel. Each loss can cascade into another.

In our Australian context, we are challenged by how much of our unique wildlife is under threat of extinction from habitat destruction, introduced species, pollution and climate change. Two hundred and seventy-seven species of birds, mammals, fish, frogs, reptiles and other animals have been identified as endangered or critically endangered. Any species lost would be a tragedy.

Yesterday was in fact 2023 World Wildlife Day, and this year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’. We are encouraged to work together in a concerted effort to create and sustain healthy ecosystems, wildlife populations and biodiversity. We each have a part to play.

Wherever you are as you read this reflection today, take a moment to see what animals you share the space with. From the tropics to the snowfields, from the mangroves and beaches to vast arid places, the diversity of wildlife around you is a precious testament to the caring, attentive presence of God. And the God who delights in them also cares for you.

What you can do • Buy only sustainably sourced products (seafood, timber products and the like). • Stop using pesticides in the garden. • Plant locally endemic plants that belong in the area, to increase habitat for birds, insects, frogs, reptiles and small mammals in your neighbourhood. • Join a bush regeneration group or host a tree-planting event in your community. • Keep plastic waste and other rubbish out of waterways and the ocean through local clean-up events.


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A mangrove planted by volunteers on World Environment Day. Photo: Lilian Kenequa


Reprinted from The Grail "GJOP Pacific Outlook Bulletin December 2022". 

The women of the remote community of Poukama village in Hallsound Bay of the Kairuku Hiri District in Central Province are restoring the country’s most diverse mangrove forest.

The community used to cut down mangroves, not realising they were not sustaining a valuable resource. But in 2014 a group of 25 local women met and agreed to start the local mangrove replanting program. For half a day once a fortnight they do a general clean up and plant mangrove seedlings from their nursery, and by 2020 they had planted over 3,000 mangroves.

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Cherishing the Web of the Universe by Gillian Coote, Sydney Zen Centre

The Sydney Zen Centre community caring for place in the Upper Macdonald Valley

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News from Uniting Eco Group

From Uniting Eco Group, a coalition of Uniting Church members in NSW and the ACT who encourage one another, and others in the Uniting Church, to ecological action and reflection.
As the Season of Creation for 2022 draws to a close we all have the opportunity to actively respond to this time.
How have we engaged with this year’s theme which has been a strong call to “Listen to the Voice of Creation?”
Watch this video, Forest Advocacy Ministry

One way is to support the Uniting Church Forest Advocacy Ministry.
Read the full enewsletter

Earth Day April 22nd 2022 by Divine Life Society, Australia (Hindu)

This year the Divine Life Society in Australia celebrated Mother Earth Day, at the DLSA Online Satsang.

They explored Earth in Hindu tradition, Earth and the tantras, the Universality of Earth worship, Aboriginal people's connection to Mother Earth, and EcoSpirituality.

You can download the pdf of the presentation here, or read the full blog and it will appear below in a short while.

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Self-Mastery and the Natural World

Sandra Nichols, from the Brahma Kumaris, talks about how creatures exhibit self-mastery in their particular ecological niches and how we can mimic their behaviour to achieve our own self-mastery.

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Australia’s Life Support Systems are on Life Support

A Faith Response to Professor Lesley Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University. By Anne Lanyon.

On World Environment Day 2021, Professor Lesley Hughes gave us a huge wake-up call about biodiversity collapse in Australia. The scientific information she shared with us challenges people of all faith traditions, especially leaders, to listen, learn and respond for the good of all life on Earth, our common home. I urge you to take a short time to look at Lesley’s presentation.

I asked myself, Why isn’t the response from governments, the dominant media, the public, churches, mosques, temples as urgent as the response to the COVID pandemic? Why is there “greenwashing” to prioritise destructive land use legislation in the face of the truths of what Lesley, her colleagues and the others have said?”

Is it because, as the “Johnny-Come-Latelies” in Earth’s evolutionary history, we still have much to learn about how dependant we are on biodiversity?”

At my age and stage – an elder if you like – I have seen the disappearance of species with my own eyes.

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