The United Reformed Church Chesham

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June/July 2019 Newsletter

Dear friends,

I trust this newsletter finds you all in good health and spirits. I am preparing to set off on my annual ‘pilgrimage’. No, not like the one you may have watched on television recently. This is my annual holiday to an activity centre; road cycling in the morning, sailing in the afternoon and tennis before dinner. Unfortunately, my son Matthew had a fairly serious shoulder injury on the hockey pitch last month and so we won’t be racing each other. I usually win the cycling and he usually wins the sailing.

Earlier this week I took part in our Mission Council meeting (you may remember Keith was a Thames North rep at one stage). We had a number of interesting papers dealing with climate change. The Mission Committee put forward a fantastic and far-reaching paper entitled ‘Carbon emissions target’. The main resolution was: ‘that as a Church we shall strive to act urgently to reduce carbon emissions across the whole of Church life to achieve net zero [greenhouse gas] emissions by well before 2050’. This was approved with full consensus. The paper did not address how we will do it, it just made a compelling case that we must do it. It seems to me that every congregation now needs to start thinking about this target and how we might achieve it; because it is likely to take a long time to get the desired result. The first step is to understand where, when and how we produce greenhouse gasses in our life as a church. I’m guessing most of our carbon footprint comes from heating the building and travel associated with church … and both of these issues will take time and/or money to ‘fix’. I will welcome your ideas as to how we might help the URC achieve this important goal.

The second major piece of climate change business was a proposition for the URC to disinvest from Oil and Gas companies. The URC Trust uses a charity sector fund manager called CCLA. CCLA stands for Churches, Charities and Local Authorities. We had a major input into the development of their ethical fund; which is where we invest all our money. About 4% of this fund is invested in two European Oil companies; Shell and Total. After much debate Mission Council agreed to ask the URC Trust to divest completely from these two oil companies. This won’t happen immediately for two reasons. Firstly, the Trust is legally independent, and Mission Council can only request, not instruct, the trustees to disinvest. Secondly, we are simply investing in a fund, we do not directly control the companies in the fund. Nevertheless, sooner or later we will no longer have any funds invested in Shell or Total. This, to me, is both good news and bad news. It is good news because it says we, as a church, are impatient to see the Oil companies sign up to the Paris Agreement (to prevent a temperature rise of more than 2o centigrade. It is bad news, because through CCLA we had access to the boards of Shell and Total and were able to encourage them to change... and some small changes have been achieved. I fear now that these boards will not have anyone bringing forth the moral case for change … even if it was only partially heard. We need to pray that other voices of reason will be heard by them... and acted upon.

I pray that God’s grace will be with you wherever you go.

Alan Yates,
Interim Moderator