Together for the Planet @ St Benedict’s Garforth

By Trish Sandbach, Commission Member
A couple of months ago the Faith and Justice Action Group from St. Benedict’s in Garforth were discussing how to start bringing people together after the separation and isolation of lockdown and restrictions while continuing to observe Covid safety – as the pandemic is far from over. We needed a celebration. The idea that developed was of an event that would bring many of the local green groups together, as well raise the profile of both COP26 and what is happening at a local level.
It took place on October 30th. A local Councillor welcomed everyone and said he was glad to see so many green organisations getting together and sharing information, experience and more importantly their vision. He went on to say that he recognised the huge challenge facing COP26 but if politics was the art of the possible then COP seemed to be impossible but he hoped there would be real change. He found hope in the change in the wider population who are concerned about the reality of climate change: not just the activists. He pointed out that Leeds City Council were doing a great deal on many fronts with regard to the Climate Emergency especially improving houses by installing insulation and solar panels under the Better Homes Scheme. Over the years he has been in the Council he noted the growth in Garforth of formal green groups, ranging over more issues and the increased support from local schools. He encouraged us to lobby our local councillors and MP to make the necessary changes that we want to achieve a more sustainable world.
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The stalls covered different aspects of sustainability. Incredible Edible is a national organization whose vision is to create a kind, confident and connected community through the power of food. In Garforth, they have volunteers who grow vegetables, herbs, and fruit in boxes in public places for the community to use. People are just encouraged to take anything they fancy from the raised beds that are scattered throughout the commity. Garforth Hedgehogs fosters and rescues hedgehogs which are in dramatic decline in recent years.
Eco- Friendly Garforth is a lottery-funded project under the umbrella of Climate Action Leeds (which is,itself a multi-partnership organization that includes Leeds City Council). It is in the process of developing a climate action plan for Garforth. It is one of 4 ‘climate action hubs’ that have been provided funding to employ workers on a part-time basis to help develop and implement these plans.

Labelled comment boxes were available and it was great to see children confidently writing on issues such as transport, waste, energy, placing them in the boxes. They will be taken to COP26 by bicycle, ridden by Walt, a member of Eco-Friendly Garforth. Some of the displays made earlier by a locals school were carried to Glasgow by another member. Adults’ comments were also welcome! It was great to have a CAFOD stall with information about woman on stallthe effect of climate change on communities in the global South as well as examples of alternatives to plastic in everyday life. It witnessed to the Catholic Church’s concern about and action on climate change.

Sustrans and Active Leeds both had stalls. These are two organisations looking at ways to increase walking and cycling opportunities across the area. Free maps of traffic paths and cycle tracks were gratefully received by people. A local cycle shop offered health checks to any bicycles that people had brought to the event ,offering advice on how to maintain and repair them.

Children were particularly intrigued by the Barrowby Hall farm stall which had 8 feet sunflowers (dead ones) tied to the sides of their gazebo, Joe, the farmer, explained that the sunflower seeds and the equally tall maize plants with corncobs attached were actually food for birds and other wildlife. It was very heartening talking to him about the efforts farmers in the area are making to be more sustainable such as clover and grass lays which capture carbon and the clover – which is a nitrogen fixer which increases the fertility of the soil. He too had challenging quizzes about modern sustainable agricultural practice which were very enlightening.

One of the highlights was David from St. Benedict’s allotment carrying around, actually cuddling, one of the hens they keep. It certainly broke the ice and promoted conversation with a number of people.
We did not attract crowds (the weather was poor to start with) but the people who came were interested and enjoyed it., There was a great atmosphere of hospitality, sharing concerns close to our hearts and learning from each other. Our thanks go particularly to all the stall holders and especially to the small team who planned it so meticulously. Thanks to everyone who made this event possible. We look forward to the next one!

Other COP26 parish actions

St Benedict’s also held a prayer vigil on the eve of the start of the conference. Other parish communities have also joined in praying for the success of the conference. A Holy Hour was held in Holy Name Church, part of Our Lady of Kirkstall parish. St John Vianney parish in Leeds also held a vigil. In addition, they promoted to their parish event posterjoining with the local Churches Together group (who have all signed a Climate Pledge) for the demonstration held in Leeds on 06 November.

The parish of St Mary & ST Michael in Settle had special bidding Prayers during COP26 and also had an open -air Mass for Creation and a blessing of animals in October. St John Fisher & St Thomas More (Burley in Wharfedale)have a dedicated ‘Tree of Life’ group fostering action based on Laudato Si. They garnered 10Top Tips from parishioners and are forming 3 groups to see how to put them into practice at individual, family and parish levelsOther church communities included the CAFOD COP26 prayer in their bulletins.

Attendees at COP26

Some people from the Diocese actually went to COP26. David & Mollie Somerville from St Cuthbert & First Martyrs parish, and Bradord’s Global Justice now group, attended. CAFOD sponsored Chuks Nwachukwu , from Mary Mother of God parish in Bradford to attend and did the same for Matty Maslen.

Tim Devereux, from St Joseph’s parish in Pudsey, was able to attend in his role as Chair of the Movement for the Abolition of War.