LIVING LIGHT
Living Light
Welcome! You have found the site of the CreationKeepers team (Christ Church's Eco Church Committee), which shares ideas and experiences about how we can all lighten our environmental footprint. We do this because we see our planet and its resources at a breaking point and believe in the power of personal examples. Most weeks, we will reflect on some aspect of living, working, shopping, consuming, reading, learning, etc. These are all local experiences and can easily be adopted by others in our community. Our authors (Rosie and Monika) look forward to any comments or ideas that you may also have and want to share. Send us your ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blog #97: Advent - a Time to Repent!

December 1, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
Advent is now gaining speed: It's December 1st, Advent Calendars are opening their doors, and this coming Sunday and the two subsequent ones, as well as the days between, are awaiting us, designed to help us prepare for Christmas. Last year, the Living Light Blog took the opportunity of Advent to bring you ideas and tips for environmentally friendly approaches to spend the most joyous season of all. This year, we will take inspiration from liturgy instead, offering suggestions on ways to honor the respective liturgical dimension of each of the Advent Sundays through actions that celebrate, reflect on or put us more in touch with God’s creation. One of the overarching themes of Advent is time - it is a special time, a time that is there for us to get ready. And so, true to this theme, each of the blogs will all offer ideas and tips on how we might want to spend some of this very special time in light of the Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission, "safeguarding the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth".
The big themes that appear - to me - to shape the second Sunday in Advent are repentance, justice, and faith. These three seem an odd combination perhaps, but reading the Gospel for the day, they are coming together. Mathews in 3:1-12 tells the story of John preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”, calling in particular the Pharisees to” bear fruit worthy of repentance”. John goes on, announcing full of faith that “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me”. Repentance, it seems, comes with or maybe even requires, faith in justice, faith that whomever I am asking for forgiveness will appreciate my actions. Repentance also, so it seems, requires action - beyond mere declaration. “Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”.
 
Foto: Plastic bottles polluting the shores in Cambodia - and not just there. Global plastic pollution is something we are all part of. Advent is also a time to repent - for what we do to God's creation - and an invitation to change our ways. Foto from UNDP/Ministry of Environment Cambodia.
So let me invite you to celebrate this second week of Advent by spending some time reflecting on repentance - environmentally inspired! Last year, His Eminence, Archbishop Serafim of Zimbabwe, of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, explained in a sermon well worth reading what this means: He speaks of “ecological repentance from our ecological sins”, suggesting that this may lead to a “new way of life, to live without polluting our planet”. What is this about? Those of you who have followed the recent Climate Conference in Egypt will have read about something called Loss and Damage: The idea is that the countries whose industrial development - and use of fossil fuels - has historically contributed most to climate change should take responsibility for helping countries that did not cause it (as much) but instead feel the negative impacts. The help, mostly financial, should pave ways towards adapting to the new environments we will live in going forward. The underlying concept here is Climate Justice, and indeed many Anglican Bishops have spoken up for Climate Justice recently. Ecological repentance is mentioned here but goes beyond such political agreements. It is about personal repentance - personally acknowledging the damages that our ways of life cause and it is about our personal commitment to change what we can.
It’s a difficult topic,I find. So many of the things that shape our lifestyles - even if they are environmentally damaging - seem beyond our control. How should we think about this? Right now, here in Vienna, there is a fabulous exhibition that might help reflect on the theme of repentance. It is called Apologies and you can find it in the Jewish Museum on Dorotheengasse. It’s not a regular exhibition - but rather a 90 minute video arrangement, put together by James T. Hong, a Taiwanese-American artist. The video is a compilation of statements that acknowledge wrong-doing, in the context of atrocities, killings, mistreatment and oppression, accidental or intentional. You will see presidents and prime ministers, church leaders and military leaders, sometimes spokespeople. And as you watch them one after the other, each describing a wrongdoing - sometimes in meager and sometimes in sincere words - you can’t help but wonder: What do these apologies change?
One thing seems clear: Acknowledging wrongdoing is important. The Apologies video starts with Willy Brandt, then the chancellor of West Germany, kneeling at the Warsaw Ghetto memorial, in December 1970. He seemed to signal repentance sincerely and indeed this act of repentance changed the relationship between West Germany and Poland. Not everyone throughout the video seems as sincere, but just as often one can feel the authenticity of the statements through time and place. One thing struck me when watching: With some exceptions, most of the men (and a few women) who apologized throughout the video had no control themselves over the act for which they were asking for forgiveness for. They apologized for something that happened in the past or was committed by someone else. They took responsibility - because by organization, nationality or otherwise they were associated with those who had committed the wrongdoing. And their repentance was part of healing. Which makes me wonder: When we consider ecological repentance - are there similarities insofar in that we must take responsibility for something we are part of even if things are outside of our own control?
Either way: Let’s take time for - environmentally inspired - reflections on repentance. Let’s reflect on the wrongdoings that happen to God’s creation. Let’s pause and reflect on where we are part of these wrongdoings, directly or indirectly, and what if anything we ourselves can change. Let’s use this precious time during Advent as a way to get ready - for Christmas, yes, but also for the changes that will need to come if we want to - as the Fifth Mark of Mission says - safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #96: Advent - a Time to Fast

November 24, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
Advent is beginning this coming Sunday: Four Sundays and the days between are ahead for us, ready-made to help us prepare for Christmas. Last year, the Living Light Blog took the opportunity of Advent to bring you ideas and tips for environmentally friendly approaches to enjoying the most joyous season of all. This year, we will take inspiration from liturgy instead, offering suggestions on ways to honor the respective liturgical dimension of each of the Advent Sundays through actions that celebrate or put us more in touch with God’s creation. One of the overarching themes of Advent is time - a special time, a time that is there for us to get ready. And so, true to this theme, each of the blogs will all offer ideas and tips on how we might want to spend some of this very special time in light of the Anglican Fifth Mark of Mission that calls us to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of earth.
The big theme of the first Sunday in Advent is preparing and fasting. Yes, fasting - not eating cookies or baking Lebkuchen! “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming”, Mathew says in 24.36-44. And In Romans 13.12, Paul asks for a change in behaviors: “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy!”.
So let me invite you to celebrate this first week of Advent by spending some time fasting - environmentally inspired! I don’t mean fasting as in not-eating, or at least not just - but rather mindful fasting, fasting as a way to remind ourselves of the preciousness of food, of the labor it takes to plant and to harvest and to turn produce into meals. Most fasting - when done in moderation - has reinvigorating effects on one’s health also, and also that may be a good way to make sure we are ready for whatever God has in store for us. Personally, I can recommend three fasting practices. All have emerged from the health-side of things and I use them often in order to find focus and mark moments of change. And all of them could be good to adopt for a week or so in setting a sign for yourself that you are putting on the armor of light.

Foto: Fasting - in various forms - can be a great way to put on the armor of light as the First Sunday of Advent liturgy suggests, leveraging fasting as a way to change habits and ways of life, including some of the ways we live that threaten our environment.

The first practice -  intermittent fasting or 16/8 fasting - is something that many of you may know; it involves limiting the times during which one eats to an eight hour window per day. It is a practice that is easy to integrate in one’s regular life - even or in particular during the first week of Advent. Also, it is a practice that creates time that one can take to appreciate the gift of food and reflect on the preciousness of nature as a source of our food.
The second practice that I can recommend is called Buchinger Fasting. This is a format that is widely offered in Austria as well as in other german-speaking countries - perhaps because it was developed early in the 20th century by a German physician, Dr. Otto Buchinger - and in my 25plus years in the US, I have not encountered anyone over there who seemed to know about it. Essentially, Buchinger Fasting is a form of detoxing: You combine a very meager food intake - essentially not more than a cup of vegetable broth and a glass of thin juice each day - with taking time for walks, meditation, and resting. There is a lot more to this, of course, and if you are curious you would want to read up on it or simply join one of the many guided Fasting Sessions offered in monasteries or health centers across the country (mostly in German, but you can ask and often they have bilingual fasting coaches).  I have myself practiced it many times over the years and find it a fabulous way to re-connect with God and with nature - it frees your mind and opens your frame of thinking.  And indeed, this year, Advent first will find me in a monastery about an hour from Vienna, doing just that. Ask me how it went next week ;-).
 
The third and last practice that I would recommend as a way to put on the armor of light, would be to shift to a completely plant-based diet for a week.  Most of us who are neither vegetarian or vegan may think of vegetarianism as something difficult, but simply giving it a try for a week can be a great way to get to know a way of life that is fundamentally better for the environment - and for your own health (if done right). Plant-based eating is recognized in the medical community as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses. At the same time, plant-based diets put much less pressure on the earth’s resources - such as water, land, or CO2 and other climate-inducing gases -  than diets that involve meat or animal products; they indeed may be the diets of the future.
Curious? Want to give it a try? Let’s take time for - environmentally inspired - fasting this year, during the first week of Advent! Let’s use this precious time as a way to get ready - for Christmas, yes, but also for the changes that are there to come if we want to keep and sustain and renew life on earth sustainably.
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #95: The Life of Oceans - here in Vienna!

November 17, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
Oceans in Vienna? Well, yes, indeed, that’s today’s topic, here in the LivingLight Blog! If you are surprised, so was I: Simply because I am not a regular visitor of the Weltmuseum Wien (shame on me!), I had no clue that the Museum had put on an extraordinary exhibition that takes you on a unique journey to the vast places or spaces we call Oceans. Oceans.Collections.Reflections. is the title of a very very unusual set of perspectives, curated and actually built not by an ethnographer or scientist but by an Artist, George Nuku, a New Zealand born Maori of Scottish and German descent. And I am here to tell you: It's worthwhile checking out!
Right when entering the exhibition - it’s rooms are easily accessible, on the ground floor of the otherwise large museum - one feels like actually entering an Ocean. Te Moananui - the Great Blue - is the theme here, and indeed, the colors that meet the eye are blue, no surprise, while a giant whale is greeting the visitor.  I am reminded of The Whale Ride, a beautiful 2002 film telling the story of a Maori girl struggling to be able to take part in the traditions that link her people with the ocean and its inhabitants.  And indeed, the room illustrates, with artefacts, art and stories, the relationship between man and the world of oceans, including wakas, the Maroi’s canoes used for traveling and engaging with the Ocean. I encounter, right here, one of the strongest, saddest, and wisest statements of this exhibition: In seeing two of the wakas, as well as other exhibits, made entirely or partially from plastic and not the traditional wood, I learn that - in George Nuku’s view - plastic is part of our (Ocean) world, it’s here to stay, so we may as well use it, respect it, cherish it where its right to do so.

Foto: Canoes - wakas - are part of the Oceans exhibition, illustrating what allowed the Maori to develop a unique relationship with the oceans as they traveled and engaged with the seas' creatures. Various wakas are featured in the exhibition, all telling the story of respect and appreciation.

Somewhat unsettled but inspired, I go on and walk towards the other rooms, touched by the beauty of the pictures, the monument-type statues and artefacts, and the way they are arranged, telling stories of men (and sometimes women) out there to learn about and live with and off the Oceans. Each room has a different theme - the World of Nature, The Underworld, The World of Light, Travelers, Hunters, six rooms altogether, each a completely different sensation in terms of colours, atmosphere, stories that are being told. 
Little did I know about the relationship between Austria and New Zealand, the Austrian Imperial Court and the Maori Elders. 19th century Austrian geologists Ferdinand von Hochstetter traveled to New Zealand and used what he learned to develop calculations that helped estimate the size of the Pacific Ocean, among many other geological works done by him. Somewhat different was the contribution of taxidermist Andreas Reischek who also traveled to Christchurch but stayed 12 years, collecting, sometimes destroying, and at other times taking with him both animals and artefacts, the ownership of which is still unresolved in the relationship with today’s Maori. And while his behaviors seem despicable, they also were typical of much of the 19th century scientist community who took a rather utilitarian - and colonialist - view of what they found wherever they went. The exhibition deals with these difficult parts of the shared history respectfully, telling the stories as they happened, and also not forgetting to mention the journey of two Maroi Chiefs, Wiremu Toetoe Tumohe and Hemara Te Rerehau, who visited Vienna in 1858, met the Emperor and his wife, and traveled back with a printing press in tow, a device that greatly seemed to have helped the Maori in highlighting the unjust nature of the British invasion at the time.
Oceans. Collections. Reflections. offers unique moments to take a deep-dive into the world of oceans. I had gone by chance - the Wiener Linien offered the owners of an Annual Ticket a free day pass on November 12 - not knowing what I should expect. Yet, with the World Climate Conference just about to conclude in Egypt, visiting the oceans at the World Museum seems the right thing to do.  The world’s oceans are a victim of climate change, absorbing 90% of the heat from global warming, experiencing heatwaves that cause ever growing losses in marine life - coral bleaching, reef degradation, loss in microscopic algae and loss in fish populations. And they are part of the solution, given their capacity to absorb carbon by hosting coastal blue carbon ecosystems
Visiting the exhibition at the World Museum will be an unusual trip also for you, I promise. It will be a trip that will expand your perspectives - about our relationship with nature, about respect for God’s creation, and perhaps most of all about beauty.  Enjoy!.
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Blog #94: It's worth every cent..!

November 10, 2022
Monika Weber-Fahr
It’s blue and red. It’s 446 pages long and weighs 1377 grams. And it offers its readers, packaged in neatly written short and engaging blog-type chapters, anything there is to know and understand about Climate Change: The Climate Book. Would you buy it? I just did. And I am here to tell you that you won’t regret it if you did so, too.

 

Foto: The Climate Book is a fabulous resource for everyone looking to understand the Big Picture around climate change while enjoying a series of very readable articles and short essays. It just came out a few weeks ago, The Times, The Guardian, and many others have reviewed it favorably.  

Allright, allright, I will concede that if you only enjoy crime stories or novels, The Climate Book may not be for you (even though some of the stories told across the chapters do have a bit of a page-turner vibe). But if you occasionally read biographies or other non-fiction: This one might just be right for you. It is built around five main chapters, each set up as an inquiry, taking the readers by their hands and guiding them along, on the journey into that land of science, observation and opinion that Climate Change has become. The five chapters - How Climate Works, How our Planet is Changing, How it Affects Us, What We’ve Done About It, What We Must Do Now - each include between nine and 27 - what? Stories? Articles? Features? It’s hard to say. Some rather factually cover topics such as Droughts and Floods, Wildfires, Permafrost or Insects, while others explain the economic, political and socio-cultural contexts as they reflect on Climate Refugees, Fighting for the Forest, or Warming and Inequality. And finally, there is psychology and philosophy: The Perception Gap, Overcoming Climate Apathy, or Resisting the New Denialism.
More than hundred authors have contributed to this rather extraordinary and highly readable Source Book. It’s a diverse group comprised mostly of scientists such as Johan Rockstrom or Katherine Hayhoe, across disciplines such as earth sciences, physics, or ecology, but it also includes journalists such as Elizabeth Kolbert (one of my personal favorites, a science writer at the New Yorker) or Elin Anna Labba, economists such as Nicholas Stern, activists such as Wanjira Mathai or Sunita Narain, and authors such as Amitav Ghosh or Margaret Atwood. Two Vienna based scientists have also contributed, Karl-Heinz Erb and Simone Gingrich, both hailing from Vienna’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, explaining how forests can offer a contribution to get out of the crisis we are in, and what we need to do about it.
So is this a book that you purchase quietly, to peruse from time to time yourself, or is it even a potential Christmas gift? Would it be odd to offer - as a gift - a book that tells the story of how humanity has failed in maintaining its own prospects for a healthy future? Well, as any prolific reader of criminal stories would, in opening up The Climate Book I have taken my time in skipping ahead and going on to the last chapter, What Next? - but in the end I did. By then my mind was filled with scientific evidence, historical perspectives, and sociological analyses - and so the perspectives offered here made sense: If you are looking for answers to how we can fix the climate crisis without changing our behaviours, then you will be forever disappointed, I am reading here. And the text goes on, just as thought provoking:  However, that does not mean we do not have solutions, because we do. [...] If we are prepared to change, then we can still avoid the worst consequences. There is still time. I won’t keep quoting the text here - it really is a worthwhile read for you yourself!
As a person of faith, I could not help but notice the absence of people of faith amongst the authors. In the faith-based community, we have no shortage of climate activists and groups looking for and offering solutions, in particular when it comes to the notion of changing our lives. Those of us looking to the Old and the New Testament for guidance and inspiration are well aware of the persistent message about changing one’s life, about modesty and restraint, about abandoning greed and taking care of everyone’s need. And I would not be surprised if faith is guiding or inspiring some of the authors in this book - certainly their writings’ messages are getting close to where faith-based communities would get started, touching upon topics such as honesty, solidarity, integrity and justice.
Convinced? Want to check it out? I’ll leave a copy at the Church Office for you to peruse through - just in case I got you interested….(P.S. apparently a kindle version and an audio book version are on their way but not yet available).
Feeling inspired? Want to contribute? Remark on or question something? Please send thoughts about or suggestions for the Living Light Blog to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.