In the Book of Job we read;
But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being.
In his devotion to God Job declares an important truth. The hand of God holds every living thing. Our life, and our wellbeing is closely connected to the wellbeing of the animals, the birds of the air, the plants of the earth, and the fish of the sea. We do not exist in and unto ourselves. We are a part of a larger created order.
I love this declaration from Job. I love that Job implores us to ask the animals, as the birds, ask the plants, ask the fish. Even more impressive is the fact that the animals, birds, plants and fish respond. They teach, they tell, they declare! Job seems to be saying with great emphasis – look the rest of creation gets it – why don’t you? The life of every living thing is precious in the eyes of God. God holds every living thing in tenderness and love.
With that in mind it is incumbent upon us to respond with to the world around us with a sense of sacredness. Truth be told, if we pay proper attention to the world around, we are indeed taught about creation and its importance. When we mistreat God’s creation we are taught, sometimes quickly and sometimes over time, that there are often really negative consequences.
One such example is the depopulation of bees around the planet. As a kid I was terrified of bees. Who am I kidding, I was terrified of bees even a few years ago. But I have come to realize that the bees are my friends. Why are they my friends? Because I love to eat… and according to the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the worth of global crops with honeybee’s pollination was estimated to be close to $200 billion in 2005. In a March article in the New York Times last year Michael Wines reported that the shortages of bees in the US have increased the cost to farmers renting them for pollination services by up to 20%. We can rest assured that those higher costs will be passed on to us as consumers. While the reasons for the collapse in bee populations in the past couple of years are not firmly established growing evidence suggests that a new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor. Ask the bees – they might teach us that something is wrong. Ask the plants/crops about pollination – they will declare that there is a problem.
So what might we do? Well we can all make clear to decision makers that we want to decrease the use of dangerous pesticides and increase opportunities for farmers who avoid their use. But what about the bees you ask? Can we help in some way? YES! Let me tell you about a great project that is making a difference.
Gardens4Bees is a project sponsored by the Julia Hunter Fund, an endowed fund at the London Community Foundation. This project supports public gardens based on the criteria of design, education and community development. Ten pollination gardens in Southwestern Ontario are planted in 2014 with flowers that feed the bees. Three of these will receive an award of excellence based on design, education and community development at Bee Fest, October 4, Feast of St. Francis, at Banting House in London. St. Aidan’s is one of the ten communities taking part. We have installed a new garden at the front of our property directly to the east of our new sign. If you come by the church we can provide you with a tour sheet and you can see the plants that attract the bees, and in our case, detract the deer! You will see lavender, garden sage, bee balm, pussy toes,…etc [You can see a full list and visit some photos here] The garden is looking good because of the hard work of Murray Hunter (A parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in London, ON whose brainchild this project is), along with St. Aidan’s own Bill Swanson, and Pat Ferguson.
It is our hope that out Pollination Garden will provide a living witness that might inspire people in our church and in the wider community to consider building their own pollination garden. Our garden is not just a rectangle of pretty plants. It is a faithful act. It is the community asking the bees of the air and the plants of the field and listening to be told, to be taught, and to be inspired to honour God by honouring and protecting God’s creation.
Recently the Anglican Church of Canada added a new promise as a part of the baptismal covenant. In the new covenant we promise, with God’s help, to strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain and renew the life of the Earth. I am pleased that St. Aidan’s could take part in the Gardens4Bees (Facebook and Twitter) project. It is one small way to respect, sustain, and renew the face of the earth – it is one way to declare that we are seeking the counsel of nature around us to seek to grasp how we might better safeguard the integrity of God’s creation.
Listen to the bees! Listen to the plants! Listen to creation!
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