Author: Sarah Parkinson, Tearfund Advocacy volunteer
There is a community of Christians across Australia taking steps towards a more sustainable and just future, stirred to play a part in God’s calling to Renew Our World.
Each of us are at different points in this journey, with some in the beginnings of prayerful exploration into the links between faith and environmental stewardship, others making daily lifestyle changes to live more gently, and still others using their influence to advocate for environmentally sensitive, systems-level changes.
It’s important to recognise that sustainability is a journey, not a destination, and once we start, we are continually learning new ways our actions are interconnected with God’s broader planetary systems and His people. We see evidence of this in individual stories of transformation towards just living, stories that encourage us wherever we may be in our own personal change process.
Meet Gill and Peter Caunce, a couple from Gawler, South Australia, who, together with their Tearfund Group, is responding to God’s call to care for creation.
Gill and Peter’s long journey with Tearfund began back in the 1990s when their church, Gawler Baptist, started a partnership with Tearfund. Driven by a God-given desire to make a difference in the lives of communities in poverty, Gill and Peter organised church fundraisers and advocated for increases in Australian aid funding.
Tearfund Australia were encouraging us to pay attention to climate change and caring for the planet as so many of Tearfund’s partners overseas were affected by the changing seasons and being plunged into more poverty.
Through the Gawler Tearfund Group, Gill and Peter began to explore the interconnections between poverty, environmental stewardship, and justice.
“Tearfund Australia were encouraging us to pay attention to climate change and caring for the planet as so many of Tearfund’s partners overseas were affected by the changing seasons and being plunged into more poverty,” they said.
This revelation lead to a sense of personal moral obligation and demanded a response.
“We had a responsibility as the world’s highest carbon emitters per capita to help those who had done least to cause the problem, yet were affected by it. This meant we had responsibilities.”
For over 10 years now, Gill and Peter have faithfully committed to prayer and further learning about the changing climate and its impacts, to give to Tearfund, and to daily live in a way that demonstrates a love for both their planet and their global neighbours. Their sense of personal responsibility to care for creation has lead the couple to reduce their carbon footprint through a slew of lifestyle changes: purchasing less meat and plastic, embracing composting and recycling, minimising their car use, and investing in solar panels. Many hours have also been dedicated to advocating for change, both in the local community and to Federal Government, signing petitions, writing letters, attending activist gatherings and marches, and meeting with politicians.
For Gill, the journey until this point has recently culminated in organising a Climate Change Awareness town meeting after Gawler became the first Council in South Australia to declare a Climate Emergency. “Currently we are co-hosting a community screening of Accelerate Climate Action, so that people can learn, network and perhaps act together on climate change.”
Sustaining and underpinning all of their actions are strong theological convictions.
“Scripture teaches the whole earth is the Lord’s, and His image-bearers are its stewards. Christ’s resurrection brought about the new creation with Jesus as King, and the “norm” in God’s kingdom come on earth looks like Jubilee – resting the land, healing, restoration, and release from bondage,” they explain.
“A restorative, sustainable economy is part of this, and it would mean ensuring we live within our environmental limits.”
It is this conviction, together with a deep hope for the renewal of God’s creation, that continue to fuel their tenacious action towards right relationship with our environment.
Gill and Peter’s sustainability journey demonstrates an informed commitment to take personal responsibility for the impact their choices make on global systems, and a courageous refusal to shy away from such uncomfortable realities.
This engagement in sustainability does not happen all at once, but with an open heart and mind can slowly evolve to become an all-of-life expression.