by David Clough
Hope seems to be in short supply at the beginning of this new year. I mostly tried to avoid the end of year reviews of 2016 over Christmas, all too aware of the violence and political turmoil they would contain. Siege and starvation were used as a weapon of war in Syria, refugees continued to drown trying to reach Europe, hunger threatened sub-saharan Africa once again, and votes in the UK and in the US seemed to show that manipulation of hatred and fear of those seen as different had become the dominant and most effective way of doing politics.
In such a context, it is easy to succumb to despondency, but also easy to see that giving up will make things worse, personally, locally, and globally. What I need in times like this are spaces for love and hope: areas of activity where I know that devoting my time, energy, and resources will make a positive difference to others, whether they are nearby or far away. For Christians, this is ultimately a vocational question: discerning where the gifts we have been given by God should be used.
At the beginning of each New Year, Methodists in the UK hold a service with the Covenant Prayer at its heart. The prayer is never easy to say: it acknowledges the radical demand of God on our lives, and reminds us that nothing should stand in the way of responding to that call. But I also find it a moment of reassurance and hope: by God's grace, I have the opportunity to play a real part in God's ways with the world. The service is an annual opportunity to experience a moment of clarity and resolution as I, in solidarity with the whole congregation, recommit myself to pursuing what it means to put my resources in the service of love of God and my neighbours.
At the beginning of 2017, I'm looking forward to playing a part in the transition my church in Chester will make into a newly reordered space for worship. We'll spend six months worshipping in a hall while the changes are made before moving back into our new space. The year has the potential to be a time of renewal for the congregation in many ways, and I'm very clear that spending my time to help make the transition as fruitful as possible will be time well spent. So that's one space for hope and love for me to look forward to in 2017. Your support in prayer will be gratefully received!
And another space for love and hope is my work with the other members of the team for CreatureKind. We had a very exciting first year in 2016, culminating in the University of Winchester signing up to become the first CreatureKind institution, which means they will reduce their consumption of animal products and continue to transition to higher welfare sourcing, saving many thousands of animals from intensive farming systems. We're in discussion with two more universities we hope will sign up in the coming months, and are optimistic that many more will quickly see the benefits in our programme. The impact for animals of this kind of policy change from big institutions are immense, and it's very exciting that CreatureKind is the catalyst for this kind of change.
We're also excited about about the new educational initiatives we'll be engaged with in 2017. We'll shortly be releasing an online course for church groups to follow, with videos, bible studies, and leader guides. We've piloted the course with a number of churches and have had great feedback from participants about what they learned and how it changed their attitudes. Sign up now for our monthly newsletter to be among the first to be notified when the course is available. And at the beginning of June, CreatureKind will be offering a seminar series at the Duke Divinity School Summer Institute for Reconciliation: registration now open!
Alongside these initiatives, we'll be continuing our work reaching out to churches, other organizations, and individuals interested in helping to get Christians thinking about the implications of their faith for fellow animal creatures.
So the CreatureKind project seems to me one of for love and hope we need so much at the beginning of 2017. I'm convinced that the initiatives we are taking have the potential to bring real change in the way Christians think about animals, with a big impact on the lives of real farmed animals. It's not a substitute for being concerned about the many other bad things that are happening in the world, but it's important, will make a real difference, and just might help lead to more love and hope beyond the realm of farmed animals. If CreatureKind seems like a space of love and hope to you as well, we'd be very grateful for your involvement and support. Please pray for the project and the project team. Sign up now for monthly newsletter to keep in touch with what we're doing. Plan to run the CreatureKind course at your church. Be in touch with us if you can help us approach a university or college about becoming a CreatureKind institution, or if you have other ideas for how you could help us. And if you can support us financially, that will help us reach even more church members and institutions in 2017. Thanks!