Listening to the Leaves
For many of us here in Southwell, and further afield, The Leaves are more than a rare and exquisite example of medieval stone carving. They speak to us today. One of their striking features is the way in which they communicate the richness and abundance of the natural world. Hawthorn, maple, oak, vine and buttercup from surrounding fields and forest are easily recognised. There are grapes, and there is even a young lad collecting them. There are realistic and mythical creatures that would have figured in the lives of the men who carved them. Green men remind us that we too are entwined with nature. The Leaves celebrate this, and draw to mind our need to respect and care for the living world we inhabit. For most Christians, and many of other faiths, care for God’s Creation is felt to be a sacred duty.
Unlike the medieval masons who carved The Leaves in celebration of the natural world, we sense its decline. Greenhouse gas emissions have caused average global temperatures to rise, with a catalogue of well-rehearsed consequences. While we share that sense of wonder and gratitude, we also suffer climate anxiety, mourn our losses, and fear the results of what we have done.
With all of this in mind, here are some of the initiatives we are following.
- Southwell Minster is one of the growing number of churches, other Christian foundations and sites which are Partners in Action with A Rocha UK, a Christian charity working to protect and restore the natural world, and committed to equipping Christians and churches in the UK to care for the environment.
- Southwell Minster owns and is ultimately responsible for Potwell Dyke Grasslands, some 1.7ha of historically uncultivated remnants of the Archbishop of York’s deer park and hunting ground now designated a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation.
- Land to the east of Southwell Minster, variously the site of a Roman villa, an Anglo-Saxon burial ground, farmland and more recently school buildings, was generously gifted to Southwell Minster when the school was redeveloped. Under the name of Higgons Mead its use is now committed to nature conservation once essential flood mitigation works are complete.
- Recent years have seen extensive and sympathetic development of the Archbishop’s Palace Garden, popular among visitors, gardeners and botanists.
- Southwell Minster’s ‘Church’ Yard is a notable space enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Our commitment to supporting biodiversity is on display as areas of it are returned to more diverse habitats.
- Prayer and Worship. Anyone attending Divine Worship at Southwell Minster would quickly discover that concern for God’s Creation is woven into our regular services. In addition, we explicitly celebrate the Season of Creation during September and early October, and every three months a leaflet suggesting prayers and intercessions is made available at a dedicated service. The current edition is available here.
In November 2020 Dean Nicola welcomed protesters marching in support of COP-26 into Southwell Minster. Prayers and expressions of hope were collected and put on display.
Among other achievements, these partnerships have enabled the installation of some thirty swifts’ nesting boxes on Minster property and homes elsewhere in the town.