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- "Every time we do something to protect the planet, we bless our Creator" ~ Introducing the Diocesan Green Ambassador
Jan Nobel is the new ‘Green Ambassador’ for the Diocese of York. He believes there
the Climate Crisis provides many opportunities for our mission and worship.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Johannes Nobel, but
most people call me Jan. I grew up in The Netherlands, and I joined the Church
of England in 2000, when I studied Theology in Leuven, Belgium. In 2006 my wife
and I moved to the UK, to Durham, where I trained for ordination at Cranmer
Hall. After a curacy in Stockton-on-Tees, we moved to York Diocese in 2012, where
I became Vicar of Heslington. Six months ago, we moved again, just two miles
down the road, to the parish of Osbaldwick with Murton. My new appointment
involves being Green Ambassador for the Diocese of York. This role suits me well,
because I have a life-long passion for nature and a heart for creation. I am a
keen naturalist and birdwatcher, and I usually feel happier outdoors than
indoors. I am excited and energised by my work as Green Ambassador.
What does a Green
My role is that of a Diocesan
Environment Officer. I help the diocese become ‘greener’ – more environmentally
friendly. This is particularly urgent in this time of climate crisis and
biodiversity loss. Last year, General Synod committed the Church of England to
become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030, so there is a lot of work to be done!
But I like to think that my role
is not just about urging people to reduce carbon emissions. It is about celebrating
the Good News of a loving Creator. When we rediscover creation as a precious
gift – one to be treasured and protected – our eyes are opened to the wonders
of God’s loving purpose for all life on earth. When you are struck by the
beauty of nature, and become aware of its Maker, you cannot help but want to
live more sustainably, in greater harmony with the world around us. Caring for
creation in our churches is a privilege and joy, not another chore. Did I
mention it is good for your mental health too? And what is more, it is a great
Why is caring for creation
a mission opportunity?
The Five Marks of Mission tell us
that ‘the mission of the church is the mission of Christ’. This is mission in
word and deed. The fifth mark of mission is ‘to strive to safeguard the
integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth’. We cannot
preach the Good News, without simultaneously showing through our actions that
we care for the world. In February, Archbishop Justin Welby said: ‘Jesus
teaches us that there are no greater commandments than to love God and love our
neighbour. To abide by those commandments as a Christian today is to step up to
the challenge of climate change and connected environmental crises.’ (Archbishop
Justin Welby, Address to international faith leaders in preparation for the
COP26 climate change conference, 4th Feb 2021)
What is more, as missionary
disciples, we seek to reach those we currently don’t, including the younger
generations. Climate Change is high up on the list of young people’s concerns. Young
people are looking for opportunities to take practical action to protect the
planet. This is precisely what we should invite them to do together with us! Let’s
build an insect hotel in the churchyard. Let’s organise a community beach
clean. Let’s plant trees and wildflowers. And while we do so, let’s make clear why
we do it: The Good News of our loving Creator and Redeemer. He gives us hope for
the future, for in him ‘all things hold together’, and ‘through him God was
pleased to reconcile to himself all things’ (Col 1:15-20). As Julian of Norwich
said it: ‘He that made all things for love, by the same love keepeth them, and
shall keep them without end.’
What is happening to make
the Diocese of York greener?
We now have an Environment
Steering Committee, meeting quarterly. Together, we have written a draft Diocesan
Environment Policy and a 10-year Pathway to a Greener Diocese of York, which will
be presented to Diocesan Synod later this year. Central to our proposals is
that by 2030 every church in the Diocese will engage with A Rocha’s Eco
Church programme. The diocese has committed to the Eco Diocese
scheme, and this gives us a great incentive to ‘grow greener’ together. This is
a time for courageous action.
What can individual
churches do at this point?
Three things to start with: Firstly,
please complete the Energy Footprint Tool when invited to do so later this
year. This will give us a much better understanding of our ‘baseline’ carbon
Secondly, as a PCC, please appoint
a person or committee, and register your church with Eco Church (https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/).
Then, work through the suggested actions towards your first Eco Church award. This
goes beyond carbon emissions.
But thirdly, don’t forget to pay
attention to the theme of creation in your prayer and worship, in your mission,
and in your work with the local community. There are great opportunities. Every
time we do something – however big or small – to protect the planet, we bless
Follow Jan on Twitter: @YorkDioceseDEO.
Contact Jan by e-mail: