Three years at its synod gathering the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island took the pulse of those gathered to see what social justice issues were closest to their hearts. Poverty, homelessness, and education were all priority areas for these Anglicans, but it was environmental concerns that came to the fore.
The diocese responded to concerns for the environment by growing the work of an environmental task group. One new clergy to the diocese was a natural fit to head up this important mission. The Rev. Marian Lucas-Jefferies came to Nova Scotia and PEI with broad experience in Canadian justice issues through service to Canadian Foodgrains Bank, PWRDF, KAIROS, and Creation Matters. Drawing on her knowledge of community development, Lucas-Jefferies reimagined the task force as a broader network that would have a stronger participatory element.
Through a network format, Lucas-Jeffries drew the circle wide. Now more than eighty committed Anglicans from Nova Scotia and PEI “encourage and support each other around caring for creation,” she says. Lucas-Jefferies is thrilled with her new role and the abundance of committed Anglicans she meets along the way. “The church is crawling with environmentalists,” she exclaims.
As an example of both the pervasiveness of environmentalists and her skills as a networker, Lucas-Jefferies recalls a happenstance meeting in a corn maze in Truro, Nova Scotia. There, among the groomed rows of corn the environmentalist priest met a kindred Anglican woman from down the road in Dartmouth. The two forged a strong bond when they discovered, with dismay, that the maze had a conflicted history of corporate interests and genetically engineered corn.
Keeping her sights close to home, Lucas-Jeffries was inspired to take action on a justice issue unfurling in New Brunswick. Protests, political conversations, and public engagement around hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—was heating up in New Brunswick at the same time she began her work with the diocesan network.
Fracking, a process that can be used to more easily extract fossil fuels from rock deep below the earth’s surface, is met with some controversy. Namely, some, including KAIROS’s sustainability circle, have questioned the ecological impact of fracking and identified issues relating to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from First Nations, whose traditional territories are often implicated in fracking.
The current provincial government in Nova Scotia rolled out a public consultation on fracking. Through this, Lucas-Jefferies found herself among 330 others at a Windsor, NS consultation. Wearing her clericals as a visible sign of the church’s presence in this public space, she eventually found herself in front of a microphone.
Lucas-Jeffries spoke from the heart. She also spoke not as an expert, but as someone committed to listening and learning and discerning the movement of the Spirit in this space. With her time at the mic, she put to the room questions she thought essential for the fracking conversation, “Why do we need to do this? Who is going to benefit? What about the pitfalls?”
Looking back on that meeting, Lucas-Jefferies is impressed and encouraged by response to her presence, and the presence of the Church in that space. “You’re behind us. You’re with us,” she says, echoing the sentiments of those who approached her at the consultation.
She brought the issue of fracking to her network. Members responded positively and agreed that there was much room for faithful response to what was happening around them on this front. They discussed and discerned possible approaches. A concrete action that arose from this was the decision to approach Bishop Ron Cutler to sign a call for a moratorium on fracking drafted by the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax. He readily agreed.
Now the network looks forward to the next diocesan synod, where more formal and deeper discussion can take place.
Lucas-Jefferies hopes in integrating faithful social justice work with the public sphere, Anglicans as a whole can be a vehicle for change. With a pastoral presence and commitment to justice, Anglicans can work for positive change in the world and shift perceptions about the church. Lucas-Jeffries imagines this interplay of faith and culture to be an important way to fulfill people’s spiritual needs. “It’s not just about the fact that it will destroy our planet,” she reflects, “It is because of the existence of Creation that I have this particular relationship with God—and with others—that is enhanced by the beauty of it.”
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