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 #111: Water, water, water...

March 16, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Lent is all about prayer - and repentance and good works, of course - and with this Blog I would like to invite you all to take a moment and pray for water.  For enough water.  For clean water.  For water for everyone.  For protection from what too much water - floods - can do to us.  For water to be our friend and not our enemy. 
Why? Well, for one we are in the middle of one of the most dramatic winter droughts that Europe has seen in centuries:  Across France, Spain, and Italy, rivers have been at the lowest levels on record, and many fields have been running so dry that they cannot be worked. Even hydropower has been affected for parts of the past weeks and months. More recently, other countries nearby, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal have also felt the pressure on their water resources.  Already, there are signs of wheat and barley crop failures. And even though those of us living in Vienna saw much rain and some snow even Austrian’s western parts have been heavily affected by the drought, to the degree that farmers and the food industry have begun to worry. Europe is still new to droughts, most of the rest of the world can teach us here a lot.
Foto: The UN Water conference that takes place next week, starting on Water Day on Wednesday March 22nd, invites us all to do our part in being mindful in how we use, consume and manage water: Maybe you want to participate? The Hummingbird in the picture was inspired by a Quechan fable about being the change that one wants to see.  
Droughts are an odd phenomenon - not quite your usual disaster - mainly because they usually take a long time to arrive, and then authorities may debate whether a spell of dry weather should be considered a drought or not, whether to take action or not. While droughts are in their early stages it’s usually hard to get people to react and prepare - everything (still) seems normal, so why ration water or change one’s habits? Some countries have been smart enough to prepare anyways - in our neighborhood such good examples include  both Hungary and Slovakia who have structured drought management plans. Austria is a bit behind the curve, with gaps in decision-making at multiple levels, but this seems to be work in progress. With all of this, it’s important to remember that droughts are of course a normal phenomenon that has been around for a long time: Remember the seven years of drought in Egypt - symbolized by seven ghastly looking cows in the Pharao’s dreams - and Joseph’s drought management plans. What is new is that climate change brings us more droughts, in more places, and at more extremes than we are prepared for around the world.
Last Sunday’s epistle - and Adam’s beautiful sermon - reminded us of the role that water plays in the Bible, both in the New and the Old Testament. “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”, Jesus responds to the Samaritan woman in John 4:14.  To never thirst is, of course, so much more of a powerful message for those that know from first hand experience, and perhaps from frequent first hand experience, how it truely feels like to be thirsty. I don’t have this experience, having grown up in privileged Europe. But I have seen the care with which folks in the Middle-East or in the Sahel treat water, and it tells me something about how we might want to treat our faith. 
Right now is a good moment to remember the role water plays in our lives - and to pray for those whom we have put in charge to be our leaders here. Next week, from March 22nd to March 24th, the UN’s General Assembly will host its only second conference to discuss the world’s water challenges. Most of the events and discussions will be online - so you can go, check out the program, and see where you’d like to listen in and perhaps even engage. Sofar, despite many people’s best efforts, progress towards a point at which all people have long-term sustainable access to affordable and clean water has been off-track. The UN Water team has thus also reached out way beyond the conference, inviting everyone to be the change we want to see - check out their website, maybe there is something you want to do yourself? Either way, there are plenty of reasons to include everyone who uses water and everyone who works on improving access to and management of water in your prayers this week.
If you have a moment next week - on World Water Day next Wednesday, March 22nd, and throughout the subsequent days, do check out what our leaders are up to in New York, at the World Water Conference in New York, and do send a prayer on their and all of our behalf.
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 #110: Hot Seats for our Church?

March 9, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
One of the great advantages and joys of serving as Christ Church Vienna’s Environmental Officer - and one that I personally appreciate a lot - is that I regularly receive all sorts of interesting information from places such as the Green Anglicans or the Church of England’s Environmental Programme team. So, two weeks ago I was invited to a webinar during which Catherine Ross, the Anglican Church’s Net Zero Carbon Project Manager explained to us how individual churches could become Net Zero Carbon Churches. Now, Net Zero Carbon is a fancy-sounding word for a rather ambitious routemap that the Anglican Church’s General Synod has committed all of us to last July: By 2030, the route map says, the buildings of the church are to be warm, bright and welcoming while powered by renewable energy - using low or zero carbon technologies for heat and light.
Within the next seven years all Anglican churches - and that includes us here at Christ Church Vienna - are supposed to have carefully considered all the ways in which we use energy, reduced our energy consumption where we could, and shifted away from carbon intensive sources of energy such as oil or gas to renewable energies where at all possible. The details of how to get there are a bit more complex, of course; they involve doing an energy audit and then developing specific steps both for insulation and for switching to low-energy use technologies and renewable energy sources, figuring out how to finance all of this, and then getting it done. But before you get either bored or daunted by the complexity and size of the challenge we have at our hands here: Let’s take a quick look at our church building and what we do to feel warm when we come to church in winter.
Foto: Check out the story of this little church in Gloucestershire - they installed under-pew heating and are now enjoying a much lower heating bill have taken a major step on their journey to becoming a Net Zero Carbon church.  
Who knew that most churches - in the UK, that is - spend the majority of their energy bills on heating? This is not different for us at Christ Church - so we are not alone, nor are we the first one looking to tackle the situation. The general advice from the Anglican Church’s Net Zero team (simplified for this blog) is: Switch off your gas heating systems and get yourself an electric under-pew heating system instead.  Three great benefits would come with this: Firstly, just heating the seats - by installing an electric heating system under the benches we sit on - is much cheaper than heating the entire building; it seems that most churches who have done it immediately reduced their heating bills by 50% or more. Secondly, pew heating - warming you right where you are - normally makes people feel warmer than when we are heating the air around them. And thirdly, by switching to a system that uses electricity rather than gas we can go 100% renewable sourcing - simply because we in Austria have access to electricity that comes to 100% from hydropower. 
Daunting? Complicated? Well, check out this little video that tells the story of St Andrew’s Church in Chedworth, a little village in Gloucestershire. These guys had a 12th century church to work with - not exactly easier to heat than our beautiful Christ church building. “Let’s warm the people - not the church” was the motto that this Church deployed - and in addition to changing the heating system they also got much more careful in when they are actually switching the heating on (and off), really only putting on the heat when people were actually in the building or right beforehand. When you watch the 3-minute video, you definitely get the sense that a Zero Carbon journey is something like this is doable. 
This is a journey that needs more people than just your Environmental Officer to get us started on and to complete. So please do feel invited to consider whether you have time or talent (or both) to give to help brainstorm on how to mobilize the needed insight and input and then help moving the process along. For further information and inspiration, there are more webinars coming up, including two with further details on Church heating solutions - one on March 21 at 5pm CET,the other one on May 2nd, also at 5pm CET. And there are many more resources and interesting videos telling us about other churches on similar journeys you can check out. 
Want to join? Love the idea to get our Church some Hot Seats?! Do contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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 #109: Lent, herrings, and my green-mindedness ... 

March 2, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Anyone walking along downtown streets in Vienna last week, or indeed anywhere across Austria passing a restaurant, would have seen the big signs inviting passerbys to come in and enjoy Heringsschmaus. Schmaus is an olden word for Feast, and indeed when you google the term Heringsschmaus in Österreich, you will be graced with nearly 150,000 references to either the best restaurants for Heringsschmaus or the best recipes for Heringsschmaus. Marking the end of the Carnival festivities and the beginning of lent with a meal consisting mostly of pickled herring apparently makes sense along various dimensions: For those who partied hard during the last days of carnival, herring might have been an excellent remedy against their hangover, while for those looking to mark the beginning of lent, in the olden days, herring was an inexpensive meal and a sign of modesty. And yes, it’s not just a catholic thing - also we in the Anglican church do sometimes consider fish to be the right thing to eat when fasting.
Sofar so good. But what are we doing - here in Austria, so far away from the sea - eating a type of fish that had no other way to get here than by carriage, truck or (more lately perhaps) plane?  And is herring overfished or available plentiful? I got curious and did a bit of research - and found both comforting and concerning information. For one, the CO2 footprint of herring specifically seems to be on the low side - if you live in Sweden or Norway that is (that’s where the research was done that led to the visual below). Having said that, if one considers that herring comes to us in Austria internationally imported - from Northern Germany or the Nordic countries - the distances are at least not as dramatic as for tuna and perhaps more comparable to the Salmon 1 or Salmon 2 categories in the graph below. Where the herring comes from does matter though - and here is the second good news: Most of the herring available in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is Atlanto-Scandic Herring, fished in the north-eastern part of the Atlantic. Over there, herring is plentiful and therefore nowhere close to being endangered; in fact, herring is not on the endangered species list.
Foto: Different fish have different CO2 footprints - depending on how far they need to be transported but also depending on the fishing methods. In Sweden and Norway - where the data for this study come from, Herring has a very low CO2 footprint; by the time the Herring gets to us in Austria, that footprint will be higher but still moderate in comparison to some other types of fish.  
I figured this was good news since not only am I a huge fan of herring as a culinary joy, but also, as my older son just moved to Hamburg, I had visions of visiting him and regularly enjoying - indulging in - the traditional Heringsbrötchen (herring in a bun). And as I was contemplating these northern delicacies, that’s where I discovered the limitations: There are a number of areas in the Baltic Sea where herring actually is endangered - both because of overfishing and because of the impacts of climate change, warming the water, changing the availability of the plants that herring relies on and thus changing reproductive and  migration patterns. The EU Commission thus imposed strict and limited  fishing quotas for herring from the Baltic Sea - where much of Hamburg's Herring comes from - much to the chagrin of the fishermen and of course not without debate. So when purchasing your herring: Do look for labels signaling that the herring comes from good and plentiful fishing grounds, look for the emblems of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), of ASC or BioFisch. Even if some of the work of these organizations is also debated - in particular when it comes to aquaculture - at least they will certify that there are others who watch and look carefully what happens to the fish that you are buying.
With all that we have just learned, do we need to wait for next year’s Ash Wednesday to enjoy Heringschmaus? Probably not - in fact, I have seen a number of restaurants offering their Heringschmaus for well over a week after Ash Wednesday. And: Buying the herring yourself and preparing it along one of the many good recipes available online may even be more fund - and is probably the safest way of making sure that you get the right and possibly the best hering. A fish that - by the way - also is extraordinarily healthy to eat.
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 #108: May these Ashes ... !

February 23, 2023
Monika Weber-Fahr
Today, the day on which I am writing these lines, is Ash Wednesday, and I have the Ash Cross fresh on my forehead. “Grant that these ashes may be unto us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we remember that it is only by thy gracious gift that we are given everlasting life“ - these are the words spoken when ash is administered in our churches today (and no, I had not made it to Christ Church this morning but had to go elsewhere - just this time, Patrick, I hope you forgive me ;-)).
Ash is a weird element - not something we tend to think about a lot, and yet it plays a major role in how our environment works, well beyond what we reflect on during Ash Wednesday. Most of us know ash as the solid, somewhat powdery substance that is left over after any fuel undergoes combustion - and yes, our old palm sunday crosses are indeed a fuel, not one for heating perhaps but one that we use at Christ Church Vienna as the base for our Ash Wednesday ashes.  Yet, ash is so much more than a left over from a combustion process. Having once visited the tallest trees in the world in Redwood National Park, I remember a Ranger explaining how the wildfires helped the sequoias forests grow - not only because the heat cracked open the cones that held the seeds for new trees, but also because the fires left behind ashes full of nutrients, enriching the soil. So choosing ash as a symbol to remind us of everlasting life seems to have been a smart thing - at least when considering the fertilizing effect of many ashes.
As Christians we know ash as a symbol not only for this week’s Ash Wednesday - it enters our prayers also when we come together at a Burial.  “We commit this body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, the minister  may say as part of the funeral ritual. Well beyond the ritual, there are things to consider here in regard to the role of ash - when taking an environmental perspective. Before his death, my late brother had asked that he be cremated - because any other format for his burial would have harmful consequences for groundwater. I was surprised and somewhat taken aback when he told me. But he was right: Until we had had that conversation it had never occurred to me what might have been obvious to others - namely that “cemeteries are among the chief anthropogenic source of contamination of water in urban areas”, in particular where people are buried who had gone through chemotherapy or are buried with make-up, cardiac peacemakers or other metal hardware. Well beyond these chemicals and metals, processes of decomposition will generate all sorts of contaminants including microorganisms that may pollute water and groundwater. So: If this ever comes up - cremation is the most environmentally friendly path! Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust. It’s not a great topic to write about - but when other than on Ash Wednesday can we reflect on the role and indeed benefits of ash in our lives?
Foto: Ashes are a familiar item for us Christians - on Ash Wednesday and in the context of Burials. Looked at through an environmental lense, they turn out to be a high-impact natural fertilizer for tired soils as well as a critical solution for the contamination risks that many cemeteries may otherwise expose the local groundwater to.  
Let me add one last thought: Before you get all excited about the benefits of ashes as a fertilizer, do a bit of research and check the fine print in case you are buying some. Only ash that is the result of burning wood that came directly from trees (as opposed to having burned old furniture or recycled wood or paper) should be applied in the garden; everything else is rather to be avoided on account of potentially containing pollutants.
By the time you read this Blog, Ash Wednesday will be over, and you might be well into your lenten practice. Sentences like "remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" might still be on your mind. And as you reflect on these words, do also remember: From a planetary health perspective, there is more to ashes than (just) mortality.
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.