Friday, 9 May 2008

Waste and publicity

About a month ago I mentioned that I was involved with a big cleanup project by many of the evangelical churches on the southern edge of Crymlyn Bog, a large wetland that has somehow survived on the edges of Swansea. It is the largest area of lowland fen in Wales and of international significance for its birds, plants and insects. The cleanup was scheduled for last weekend – the Bank holiday – and as one of the organisers I was somewhat nervous. The weather in the days before had been very cold and wet and we had made something of a public promise that 200 people would turn up and clear up the rubbish over two days.

In the event it all worked out magnificently. People from churches all over Swansea responded in large numbers: the first teams were sent off at ten but people kept on coming! By half eleven there were already 200 people working on the clean up and all our careful plans were in ruins; teams were already working on areas we had reserved for Sunday. New projects were urgently assigned and people were reallocated. By the end of Saturday, we had done all that we had hoped for. Two skips were full and mounds of plastic bags covered the edge of the cycle path. The end result was the removal of over 80 car tyres, three mattresses, one bath, three shopping trolleys and over 800 bags of rubbish.

Over three hundred people had been involved and to those of you who live in the States this is a very large number from a fairly slender church community. (The number of active Christians in Wales is probably now under the hundred thousand mark.) Anyway, if you wanted a single event to show that Christianity is not all talk, this was it. It was a tremendous and very visible witness to the vigour and enthusiasm of Bible-based churches in Swansea.

One interesting point is that we didn't really get the local press properly involved. I think we justified not pestering them to turn up on the Saturday because we were concerned about a poor show. I suspect we rationalised not begging for publicity as protecting the honour of the church. Yet I wonder whether it was really a lack of faith. We prayed for the weather to be good and it was. Perhaps our prayers did not really extend to it being a successful witness.

It's an interesting thought partly because in a month’s time I have a book coming out which I expect will get very little publicity. Is the fact that I am not seeking publicity for it here evidence of my modesty, my spiritual maturity or, more worryingly, a lack of faith?

Have a good week