We called it "Save our Seas", last Sunday's Harvest service at St. Matthew's. As well as the traditional array of Harvest produce, we'd asked people to do a bit of beach-combing, and then bring whatever they'd found up to the front at the start of the service, to be stuck on to a seascape collage which our Churchwarden Margaret had prepared. So we ended up with a few bits of seaweed, some rather nice shells, and a couple of pieces of coal (courtesy of Natalie Sharpe) from the days when ships plying the Bristol Channel were coal-powered. And the rest was plastic. We knew it would be - but it is still, rightly, shocking to be faced with a small selection of the millions of pieces of evidence that we are in danger of destroying the life of our oceans. This was the wrong kind of harvest.
Two thoughts came into my mind. First, that we are reaping the devastating consequences of the view that the natural world is there for our convenience, to be exploited in whatever ways we see fit. I found myself apologising, because the Church bears some responsibility for this dysfunctional relationship between humanity and creation, which goes right back to Genesis, and the command to "have dominion over" the world and its creatures. Only quite recently have we realised how destructive our domination is, and how vital it is to recover, in all humility, a sense of inter-dependence with the creation of which we are part. Replace "have dominion over" with "have responsibility for", and we might be starting to face up to what we need to do to save our seas - and our world.
And, being reminded by the title "Save our Seas" of the original S.O.S. - Save our Souls - I found myself thinking that, in a way, saving our seas and saving our souls are one and the same thing. The Church is good at talking about individual salvation, but what if our eternal welfare can't be divorced from the way we care for our planet and all its creatures?