"I’m wanting to inspire in people a fresh understanding of God"

Dr. Ruth Valerio speaks to us about the upcoming Micah Lecture and her book Saying Yes to Life. She also speaks about her work with Tearfund & Eco Church and what she would add to our list of #DoTenThings.

What are you hoping people will take away from this year’s Micah Lecture, which is based on the themes in your book Saying Yes to Life?

More than anything else I’m wanting to inspire in people a fresh understanding of God. One of the things in SYTL  that has caught people’s imagination is the holding together of God as Creator with God as Saviour. We tend to focus on God as Saviour and miss the enormity of what it means for God to be Creator, and we lose something when we have either one without the other. You’ll have to come to the lecture to hear more about that!

Then from that fresh understanding of God comes a new appreciation and love for what he has created – both his human creation and the whole wider creation. Our desire to take care of our planet comes from that deep-rooted desire to love God and worship him and serve him more. In SYTL I loved exploring some amazing aspects of the natural world (including a bird that catches worms by farting!) and I hope people will enjoy hearing about some of those things in the lecture.

Could you tell us about your role at Tearfund as Global Advocacy and Influencing Director?

It’s my privilege to oversee a group of amazing teams doing amazing work. We focus on advocating to governments and global institutions around the systemic issues that cause poverty; mobilizing churches and communities, and influencing theology and thought – all both in the UK and around the world. My role is like an orchestra conductor: I want to help each team play the best music they can, and then work together to make an even more amazing sound.

My role is very varied. I have lots of internally-focussed work, of course, and then I also have quite a pronounced external role and so do a lot of speaking and writing too.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in your work as a social activist when you are faced with obstacles and setbacks?

Good question! It can genuinely be hard at times. I’m currently SO frustrated that we haven’t learnt our lesson from the pandemic that we need to get ourselves onto a better economic track that respects environmental limits and builds a better relationship with the nature. We are heading for increasing trouble and we aren’t responding fast enough and that just makes me despair.

My motivation comes from my faith though. I know what God has called me to do and I root myself in him. I have a regular practice of spirituality which help and all I can do is keep walking with and trusting God. It sounds a cliché but I don’t know what else to do!

Our Diocese recently became a Bronze Eco Diocese and we are working towards Silver. You developed the Eco Church scheme in your work as Churches and Theology Director at A Rocha. What differences have you seen the Church make to wider environmental issues since engaging with the Eco Church scheme?

Following on from the last question, it has actually been really encouraging seeing churches in the UK get involved with Eco Church, at both local and diocesan level. I think there are now something in the region of 2,500 churches involved, across denominations, and over half of dioceses have signed up. Seeing the church waking up to caring for the whole creation has been great – though of course I know there is a lot further to go. One of the things the Church of England is setting out to do is reaching net zero. That is a massive challenge for everyone involved, at every level, but will make a big difference to carbon emissions.

In Liverpool Diocese we are encouraging one another to Do Ten Things in order to make a bigger difference to the communities we are called to serve. What would be on your list of simple things that we could do to make a bigger difference to the communities we serve and to God’s creation?

From a wider-creation perspective, my top things would be to switch to a predominantly grain and vegetable-based diet; only fly when absolutely necessary, and switch to a green energy supplier. Community-wise I’d say get to know your neighbours and learn: learn what the issues are in your area…what are the problems that people are facing? And remember we are part of a global community, called to take care of both our local and global neighbours.

The Micah Lecture is taking place on Zoom on September 10th 2020, 1-3pm. You can sign up for free on Eventbrite.

Ruth Valerio’s book Saying Yes to Life is available at a discount price of £7.99 from Liverpool Cathedral bookshop.