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Chair’s annual report: June 2018

Posted in: Featured, Reports
Date posted: 21 June 2018

This annual report was presented by Nicky Bull, Chair of Operation Noah, at our AGM on 16 June in London.

Summary of Activities

Early in 2017, we were delighted that Bishop David Atkinson accepted an invitation from the board of Operation Noah and became one of our patrons. He joins Sir John Houghton, Professor Michael Northcott and Ann Pettifor. Details of all our patrons can be found here. They are a distinguished group but we are very aware that – with the notable exception of David Atkinson, who is with us today – we do not get to meet them, largely because they are such busy people. 

In March 2017, York-based theatre group Riding Lights completed the filming of scenes from the 2015 eco drama, Baked Alaska, and made them and the accompanying resources for both schools and church-based groups available freely via their website as from May 2017. I attended the preview screening of the films in May last year in York. As I mentioned at last year’s AGM, I do encourage anyone with contacts at secondary schools to commend these schools resources to the RE and Geography departments, and the small-group resources continue to be excellent for home study groups or as the basis for creation-themed services.

In April 2017, we launched our new vision and mission statements. In case anyone hasn’t yet taken a look at these, here is a reminder:

Our vision is for a world:

* where care and restoration of creation is at the heart of Christian teaching and practice;
* where the balance between the needs of human beings and the climate system is restored; and
* where the energy needs of all people, in every part of the world, can be met safely, affordably and cleanly without changing or destabilising the atmosphere or the oceans.

And our mission is that we are:

* working to promote and develop leadership in response to the climate crisis throughout the Christian community;
* supporting the rapid transition to 100% (fossil-free) clean energy by campaigning for churches to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy;
* working with Christians of all denominations to engage with them, in order to come together, to speak out and to act in response to climate change; and
* writing and producing resources to help Christians understand and explore the theological basis for engagement on climate change.

Gemma preparing to do her bungee jump.

In May 2017, Gemma Gordon, who had come across the work of Operation Noah and was keen to support us, undertook a sponsored bungee jump at the O2 arena in London. If any other brave individuals are planning a daring escapade and would like to raise funds for us, then do get in touch – we would love to hear from you! Also in May, ON was one of the UK faith partners for the Global Divestment Mobilisation and was represented at a divestment event in Shrewsbury.

In August 2017, Operation Noah was present at the annual Greenbelt Christian festival, sharing a stand with Green Christian. The then Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett signed the ON divestment petition and James Buchanan put together a short drama based around an exchange on climate change between Leonardo di Caprio and Donald Trump.

September is the month in which the churches highlight creation care and we promoted this through our newsletter and with links to resources on our websites.

In October 2017, we were able to report that a considerable number of Catholic institutions had used the culmination of the Season of Creation to announce their plans for divestment from fossil fuels. Operation Noah had joined with members of Christian Climate Action to hold several vigils outside Church House in London, praying for Church of England investors to cut their financial ties with fossil fuel companies and particularly with Exxon, which had been shown to have concealed research results linking fossil fuel emissions with climate change for decades.

In November 2017, members of Operation Noah’s board attended talks by the internationally renowned Katharine Hayhoe when she appeared in both Oxford and London, and Nicky Bull attended the presentation of awards to the winners of the Green Church Awards, at Lambeth Palace. There were some exciting and inspiring stories from up and down the country, where local communities are doing some amazing things to ‘green’ the church. We also urged our supporters to pray for the COP23 talks taking place in Bonn during November.

We continue to send representatives from the ON board to the meetings of the Faith for the Climate network; this provides a very useful networking forum where we can meet and discuss with people from a range of organisations whose focus is on mobilising the faith communities on climate change.

Funding

We are grateful to the Sainsbury Family Trusts (the Ashden Trust, the JJ Charitable Trust and the Mark Leonard Trust), the Sheila McKechnie Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for the grant funding we received from them during 2017. However, we are totally dependent upon our regular donor supporters who give to the unrestricted funds that are needed to cover the ongoing running costs of Operation Noah. For a number of years now we have been aiming to achieve the equivalent of 100 donors each giving £10 per month. This continues to be a difficult goal to reach and in the coming months we intend to look at whether Operation Noah should have a ‘membership’ scheme, with an annual subscription.

Thank you

Lastly, and most importantly, there are some very important thank-yous this year: Marilyn Hull, one of our trustees, is currently on a year’s sabbatical; we hope to welcome her back in 2019 but are very grateful indeed for all her assistance during 2017, especially bringing us up to date on job appraisals, contracts and other aspects of being a good employer. Ruth Jarman, a founder member of the Operation Noah board, has taken on additional responsibilities during the last year, helping out in the office to make sure that our administration runs smoothly and that requests for resources are responded to promptly. She has also done invaluable work on facebook and in helping us to recruit a new treasurer – thank you very much, Ruth. During 2017 we also had occasional input from two co-opted board members who have since had to move on: Lucy Zwolinska and Phil Guthrie at least temporarily reduced the average age of those attending board meetings and we wish them well in all that they are doing. Following last year’s AGM in Birmingham, we were delighted to welcome John Beardmore to the board. We are also very grateful for the continuing consultancy work that Penny Dakin-Kiley, a former ON board member, is undertaking for us on all aspects of our communications. She and John have steered us through the recent introduction of the GDPR. Penny is about to start a three-month sabbatical break, but during that period Richard Collett-White, recruited just over a week ago, is going to spend a day per week covering ON comms work and an additional three days a week on the Bright Now campaign alongside James Buchanan. We are delighted to welcome Richard for this three-month temporary appointment. During 2017, my predecessor as ON Chair, Isabel Carter, provided valuable assistance with the writing of our new outreach resource – about which you will hear much more this afternoon. And Leonard Beighton, who stepped down from the board in June 2017 has continued to hold the reins of the organisation’s finances right up until the last few months as he saw the 2017 accounts handed over to our new Treasurer, David Miller. Leonard was due to undergo a heart operation ten days ago and we wish him all the best for a good recovery. Many thanks to all of them – and to all my fellow board members who have continued to work extremely hard throughout the year.

Two new reports

Throughout 2017, James Buchanan and Stephen Edwards have been working tirelessly on the two Operation Noah campaigns – the Bright Now fossil fuel divestment campaign and the outreach campaign. Both have recently produced publications and you will hear more about them after lunch. Thank you to both James and Stephen for all that you have done. Stephen is only with us for another few weeks and as he moves on to an exciting opportunity with London City Mission, we are sure that he will be keeping in touch with how things are going at Operation Noah and he leaves with our very best wishes for the future.

Looking for new board members

This brings me to an ongoing need that Operation Noah faces, which is finding new board members to join us and to share their energy and skills with those of us currently on the board. We have the opportunity today not just to re-elect Darrell Hannah, and Alex Mabbs (nominated by the Environmental Issues Network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland) and me – if you wish to do so (nominated by ON supporters) – but also to co-opt one or two further board members, especially if there are interested people who can offer specific skills in any of the following areas: fundraising; data management; or people management.

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