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Norwich church wins funding award for science-faith outreach

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St Peter Mancroft Church has been awarded £20,000 to explore the relationship between science and faith through the church engagement programme, Scientists in Congregations, which is run by Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science (ECLAS).

St Peter Mancroft will be hosting ‘Gaia’, a 3D model of Planet Earth in October 2021. This model, an enormous globe 6 metres in diameter, will dominate the church interior and be clearly visible from the city centre.

In the lead-up to COP 26, the hosting of Gaia will enable the church and the city to explore the wide-ranging implications of the climate crisis.

Throughout the month, school visits will engage young people in a wide range of educational activities and competitions addressing the climate crisis and its impact on the environment. Evening lectures, artistic, musical and cultural events will explore similar themes from a range of scientific and societal perspectives.

The wide-ranging programme will involve working in partnership with the Norwich Science Festival and with many other local organisations. It will provide opportunities for people of all faiths and none to learn about the science of climate change and to examine its implications within a theological and social framework.

The award of a grant from Scientists in Congregations will help people to reflect on the wonder and beauty of our planet home, and to emphasise the urgency with which we must address the serious consequences of climate change.

As a follow-up to the Gaia Exhibition, St Peter Mancroft will develop a long-term programme on the theme of “Eco Church”. This will involve a three-stage process. The Exhibition itself will represent the phase of “Preparation” by raising awareness for the Church congregation and the wider community of Norwich. The second phase will be a local “Declaration” that the global climate emergency is the responsibility of everyone, worldwide. Finally, the Church will seek to make an “Impact” by partnering with the local community to improve our care for the environment and to address the challenge of climate change in many different ways.

Dr Nick Brewin, co-director of The Gaia Exhibition Programme, commented: “Fifty years ago, the Apollo Space Mission provided a distant view of our planet, and everything changed. We now see ourselves as just one small global village. The human race and all living organisms collectively form a self-regulating “biosphere” that sustains the conditions for life. The Gaia Exhibition will explore how the impact of humankind affects the stability of global temperatures, food security, biodiversity, and much more. Arguably, this is the most important challenge that the human race has ever faced, and we need to take it very seriously indeed.”

The Revd Prof David Wilkinson, Project Director of ECLAS said: “We are delighted to be working with churches on such promising projects, and look forward to seeing how congregations and the communities they serve engage with science and faith in fresh and exciting ways. We are proud to offer additional funding for follow-on projects for the first time this year, which will help churches reach even more people with the message that science is a gift from God.”

Speaking about the grant, Canon Edward Carter, the Vicar at St Peter Mancroft, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been given such generous support, to make Gaia’s visit in October possible. It’ll mean hundreds of people are given a stronger awareness of the rich overlap between science and the Christian faith, and in particular the moral and practical importance of caring better for our planet.”