By: Mncedisi Masuku, Diocese of Swaziland
The Anglican youth of Hlathikhulu Parish in the Diocese of Swaziland had a Green Valentine weekend. We began the weekend on Friday 12 February with an evening song before going to bed in preparation of a busy day on Saturday.
Saturday began with a morning prayer in our church backyard vegetable garden. It was a refreshing experience to enjoy the presence of God outdoors in the beauty of nature looking on the planted vegetables.
Our first session was facilitated by Mr. M. Masuku and he talked on Climate Change and Eco-Justice. He explained how green house gases emitted by human activities have led to climate change and how it has affected world temperatures and rainfall distribution.
He then gave some effects of Climate Change in food production in Africa and how the future is projected to be if no actions are taken. This presentation was an eye opener and it provoked questions and discussions that even tried to address the role the youth and the church can play in influencing the justice system of the country especially on the subject matter. Swaziland Environment Authority (SEA) delegates were part of the discussion and gave the youth an assurance that they are ready to listen to their issues on environmental affairs.
Thereafter, SEA took the stage and made a presentation on their role as an organisation on environmental issues in the country. Areas of interest for the youth were education and project implementation. The organisation also promotes Eco-clubs in schools and as the Anglican Church has numerous schools in the country, the youth decided that their next action after the conference was to implement Eco-Clubs in Anglican Schools.
The Parish sealed its relationship with SEA by planting an Avocado tree which will be a permanent symbol and reminder for their commitment to be Earth Keepers. This tree will also be a source of shade for the church and shelter for other animals, food and plays a role in reducing the carbon footprint in the environment.
After lunch, Rev. M. Simelane gave a presentation, “The theological aspect of the Environment”. A lot was discussed but to mention a few he stated that the church or people have developed at a very fast rate such that they are far ahead of God whereas God is still in the beginning where he said it is good. If the church is to deal with environmental issues, it has to go back to the beginning where God is.
It was said that God loves nature and whenever he revealed himself it was through nature (Moses and burning bush, the dove when Christ was baptised) and even God the Son is at times described through nature (root of David, rock of ages, Lion of Judah). In discussion it was stated that God is not happy if nature is not taken care of and is a sin in His sight. It is the duty of the church to take care of nature and to question the state when it is not doing well, as much as the state has the duty to question the church.
After this presentation the youth went into town and informally were picking up litter along the streets raising awareness that Hlathikhulu should be kept clean. After town the youth did some landscaping. The youth felt the need to keep their church looking good thus they planted flowers around the church. In moving forward on their review for the conference, they stated that they need another workshop that will involve different stakeholders including government representatives.
Sunday was declared as the day of Love for Creation where the whole church was involved in the service. Swaziland is currently faced with drought which has lead to serious water shortages. The focus of the service was on water as the readings of the day, sermon and prayers focused on water. Season of Creation was used to get readings and prayers. The readings were:
Genesis21:8-19 (dependency on water)
Psalms 104:10-17 (recognition of the relationship between water and life and God as the provider)
Revelation22:1-7 (water as a metaphor for the life that flows from God)
John 4.1-15 (the spiritual meaning of water)
After the service the non-youth and Sunday school church members were given an avocado tree to plant as a way of committing themselves to journey with the youth in being Earth Keepers. The youth also planted their own avocado tree, committing themselves to the Young Green Anglicans Ministry.
St. Michaels and UNISWA Anglican Chapels held the same on Sunday and had their own trees to plant. Manzini Parish is yet to plant their own tree.
We are grateful to the Wilson Family of St. Antony’s, Anglican Youth Guild and Diocesan office for assisting the Parish with resources to run this conference and SEA for availing themselves in our conference. A special thank you to Rt. Rev. E.N Wamukoya who sponsored the trees and flowers, what a green Bishop. We are looking forward in our next workshop and activities to implement as we are a green Parish.