Welcome to this set of studies to investigate how we might care for the Earth more fully. These studies have been written as support material for our book “Cherishing the Earth”. In writing Cherishing the Earth, we aimed at a book that was both readable and comprehensive. Martin was able to write about the scientific realities of our current global environmental situation, and I (Margot) gave biblical reflection on the situations he revealed.
We both felt that it would be helpful to provide some study material to enable groups to discuss the issues raised in the book and to think through how they might respond. Having been homegroup leaders ourselves, we know the value of exploring scripture in a small group of Christians to discern a biblical response to the challenges we face in our world today.
I (Margot) have written these six studies out of our experience of leading groups. I hope they will be easy to follow and will help to guide you through some of the issues raised in Cherishing the Earth. If you do not belong to a group and have picked them up as an individual, I hope that they will still be of help in learning more about creation care. Who knows – you may be able to find some friends at church to study with you!
Setting for each week
You might like to think how you will organise your sessions. You may have an established homegroup and these studies will fit into a pattern that you have used for previous groups, or you may be bringing together a new group. If you are starting afresh think about the location: do you wish to meet in the same place each week or do you wish to rotate around the homes of members? Moving around helps to affirm different members of the group but makes it less stable and more likely that people will not remember where to go. Likewise having one overall leader gives stability but if you have a group where a different person is able to lead each time, this can add to the collective nature of a homegroup. If you do rotate leaders then rotating venues can be a way of including those who would not feel able to lead but could host.
Some groups share a meal before they have the weeks study. This is a good way of bringing a group together and can be organised on a “bring and share” basis. Others have more simple refreshments but might have a social evening or event midway. Choosing a suitable start time to suit working people and families is important and it is vital to have a clear end time that you stick to each week. With evening groups there can be a tendency to have discussions late into the night. These are great for some but a real stress for others with families and early starts the next day. Setting a definite end makes everyone feel confident that they can manage the sessions.
Lastly organising the room is essential. Make sure the chairs are placed so that each person can see the others and feels included. Have a mixture of easy chairs and firmer ones for those with back problems. Do have Bibles available if people are not used to bringing their own.
Reading for each study
Each study is based on one or two chapters of Cherishing the Earth. If you are using the Bible studies in a home group or for a Lent course, the leader of the study will need to read these chapters before taking each session. The other members of each group will also find it helpful to read the chapters to be able to take part more fully. However, the leader may like to give a short summary of the chapter(s) at the start of each session to help those who were not able to read ahead.
Prayer and worship
Think how you would like to organise prayer and worship for each session. You may like to open with a short prayer and have a longer time for prayer at the end of the evening. If the latter is to include personal requests, make sure there is an agreement of confidentiality within the group and there is an understanding of the level of personal sharing. For these studies, you may wish to focus the prayer times on the theme of the study when you normally pray more personally. One way to facilitate this is to pass round post-it notes at the start of the session for people to write a prayer request on. These can then be passed clockwise round the group and either prayed for briefly during the evening and/or taken away to be prayed for during the week.
If you choose to have singing, make sure you use songs that everyone knows and have someone who can lead singing well in small groups. Quite often songs need to be transposed down a couple of keys to work in a home setting. If your group is less used to singing, you might like to find a Christian CD and play a track of this to allow people time to focus their thoughts on God. A third approach could be to use simple liturgies, either at the start or the end to provide space for a more spiritual focus. Both Iona and Lindisfarne websites have suitable music and liturgies for environmental themes.
The intrinsic value of the natural world
Exploring the idea of Stewardship
The fall and its impact on the natural world.
The biblical teaching on justice with a focus on Isaiah
Ways in which individuals and nations can respond
The biblical teaching of the future of the Earth and the importance of communities for our practical response today.