Diocese of Niagara Joins the Communion Forest

 on December 5, 2023

When Bishop Susan Bell returned home from the Lambeth conference last year, she was energized to act on many fronts. On the climate justice front, the Communion Forest initiative was central.

The Communion Forest is described as a “global initiative comprising local activities of forest protection, tree growing, and eco-system restoration undertaken by provinces, dioceses, and individual churches across the Anglican Communion to safeguard creation.”

The Lambeth Call to Environment and Sustainable Development identifies the Communion Forest as a response to “the triple environmental crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution as an existential threat to millions of people and species of plants and animals across the globe.”

“It is a way we can globally work together to combat climate change,” said Bishop Susan, as she charged Climate Justice Niagara (CJN) with leading the way on the Communion Forest (CF) for the diocese. Two members of CJN made a brief presentation at the Spring Clergy Conference, seeking a show of interest in the idea. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

The key components of the Communion Forest are:
• Protection – advocating and taking action to stop deforestation or prevent the destruction of other habitats.
• Restoration – restoring a piece of waste land or another degraded environment.
• Creation – starting a forest initiative on church land or support a project in the wider community
• Growing – protection and restoration should be considered ahead of setting up something new. Where something new is set up, the emphasis should be on growing, not just planting. It is about growing the right kind of tree in the right place
• Multiplying – helping others get involved. Churches or dioceses can be a ‘multiplier’ by setting up a tree or plant nursery to enable wider participation in afforestation

As King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for planting and a time to pluck up what is planted.”

Extending the scripture parallel, CJN would add, “There is a time for preparing to plant and that preparation time is now.”

Preparation such as training on the execution of tree inventories must happen in advance of Spring 2024, just four months away. The CF initiative recently picked up momentum when approval for a Niagara College student from the Environmental Management and Assessment program was received. The internship will run part-time for 13 weeks starting in January.

The student came out of a conversation between CJN and Green Venture in Hamilton, about conducting tree inventories on parish properties to assess for “planting and plucking.” (“Plucking” would be part of the restoration aspect.)

Through that relationship, there has also been an application put forward to the Anglican Foundation with the hopes of sourcing funds to spread the inventory process, providing tree kits for planting, and supporting restoration efforts in as many locations as possible.

There are many ways for parishes to contribute their planting and plucking efforts to the diocesan-wide effort of the Communion Forest. Your parish might have space available for planting or there might be an area in need of restoration, or maybe you have volunteers that would like to assist in the inventory process.

As Bishop Susan directed in her charge, “Where can we make a truly significant contribution for our children and our grandchildren and fulfil our baptismal vows? It is in acting together— corporately—in speaking our values and beliefs in the work we have been entrusted with to safeguard creation.”

If you have any interest or many questions about this global and local initiative, please contact one of the CJN Communion Forest members: Bruce Mackenzie, brucemackenzie2@ gmail.com (St. George’s, Guelph) Fran Wallace, rector@saintaidans. ca; (St. Aidan’s Oakville) or Deirdre Pike, deirdre.pike@ niagaraanglican.ca.

  • Deirdre Pike

    Deirdre Pike is the diocese’s Justice and Outreach Program Consultant. She also serves on the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, and is a regular contributor to the Hamilton Spectator.

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