DEFAN at the Sea
Nourishment of the imagination and inspiration for action – two ways of describing the multi-faith event at Westward Ho!, north Devon on 22nd October. Nearly 30 of us from different faith and belief traditions met at the Devon Earth and Faith Network (DEFAN) conference to look at Water – and our human relationship with it today.
In opening, church environment officer Martyn Goss referred to the challenges we face of Climate Change and the hydrological cycle, sea and water pollution, poor management of water supplies and the commercialisation of a natural resource – considered as a human right, as well as having benefit for the whole Earth.
Bideford Quaker Jacqui Poole spoke about the wisdom and motivation for the Society of Friends’ actions on sustainability, including living more lightly on the planet and looking for more equitable means of securing water justice for all.
Local muslim Hamzah Saied movingly encouraged us to listen to the sounds of breaking waves and to discover some of the deeper meanings evoked for us. He also encouraged us to recognise the importance of gratitude and humility for the intrinsic value that water has and which should never be taken for granted.
Participants were encouraged to bring a small bottle of water from their home areas – from taps, water butts, streams, etc. and to pour these into a pot as an act of hope and solidarity with one another, before the collected water was later returned to the sea in an act of sensitive integrity.
Jenni Braund is a local poet brought up in the area and she read some of her engaging poetry about water and the sea, following an ‘awareness walk’ when we gently and reflectively explored the nearby beach, rocks, sand, pools and waves.
The Editor of Resurgence and Ecologist magazine, Greg Neale, also lives locally and he took us through the significance of whales and our relation with these ultimate water creatures. From early awe and wonder in many religious stories, humans later evolved to see these massive mammals rather as sources of provision – meat, oil, skin, etc. Yet we have hunted them almost to extinction only to discover that they are perhaps the closest to human life in intelligence and communications.
So is our past wanton destruction of them a parable about how we really treat ourselves – as mere consumerism fodder and not the advanced part of nature that we really are, and with all the responsibility which that carries.?
From a quiet Hindu perspective, Sandhya Dave helped us to conclude our sharing by holding the pebbles we had collected on our ‘pilgrimage’, and to see these as reminders of the day and to recollect the significance water has for the whole planet and all life.
This poem by Pablo Neruda was read by Richard Dealler to sum up the event:
Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colours,
takes limpid lessons
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam.
The day was one of a series of ‘Earth Matters, Faith Matters’ activities organised by Devon Churches Green Action http://www.dcga.org.uk/ and the Devon Faith and Belief Forum http://devonfaiths.org.uk/