Looking out for God’s creation

Derek Johnson 3 July 2012 Marist priest Peter Healy of St Mary’s parish Otaki is planning a series of workshops offering a way through the turmoil and change currently affecting…

Derek Johnson

3 July 2012

Looking out for God's creation Archdiocese of WellingtonMarist priest Peter Healy of St Mary’s parish Otaki is planning a series of workshops offering a way through the turmoil and change currently affecting global society.

Fr Peter is a supporter of the Transition Town movement which looks at ways groups of people can live more sustainably on the earth. He has given the workshops the umbrella title, ‘The Great Turning’.

This is also the title of a book by American economist and critic of globalisation David Korten (The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community).

The workshops are the brain-child of environmental activist Joanna Macy. Fr Peter says the Great Turning shares with Transition Towns the idea of huge global change.

‘We’re in a period of history that Joanna Macy calls “the third revolution”. We’ve had the agricultural and industrial revolutions and we’re now having this third revolution. It is a great turning towards a life-sustaining society.

‘The workshops offer people a chance to reflect on the big picture and the local picture of how this revolution is taking shape.’

The change that comes with revolution is unsettling and people feel helpless. ‘A certain amount of collapse is going to be a characteristic of this transition. Part of the workshop is acknowledging that people feel a fair bit of despair at the moment. We give people space to air that, feel it and explore it. The positive side of this is that they feel despair for good reasons: it is in people because they love and care about life.’

Dealing with despair is a positive thing and can lead to clearing a space for action.

Dealing with despair

The workshop also explores the universe story – the epic of evolution. ‘This is an immense and hopeful story that science has given us over the 200 years. It is now available to the whole human community as a great epic that allows us to see our role in the larger scheme of things in a new way.’

Central to this segment is a short film, Neil Rogin’s The Awakening Universe. ‘This film is essentially about ecological conversion, a shift in awareness that enables people to see how they fit into the larger scheme of things.’

The workshop ends with ‘Going Forth’, an exercise about putting the insights gained into the practice of daily life.  ‘The changes can be personal, but it’s also a collective shift we are engaging with, a change in the way we see the world and participate in it.’

Informed by faith

While Fr Peter stresses that the workshops are open to anyone, his approach to The Great Turning is informed by his faith. ‘My own approach is in terms of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation movement. The integrity of Creation is currently at great risk, and in some places Creation is now irreparably damaged. God’s gift of Creation, and our guardianship of it, is what’s at stake now.’

As apocalyptic as the concepts might sound, the Transition Town movement and The Great Turning – are about people regaining control of their lives and their communities, in the face of great global forces.

For example, developing local resilience in food production is a concrete act that can empower individuals and communities in the face of economic collapse, climate change and peak oil.

Fr Peter’s one-day workshops are a work in progress with Transition Towns Otaki. The first sessions for small groups will take place in August. For more information contact Fr Peter (06) 364-8543.

Image: Fr Peter (Zaccheus) Healy preparing for his ‘The Great Turning’ workshops.