Scientists in Congregations Guest Post: Life on the Edge

By Dr Mike Kent, project co-director of Life on the Edge at Wadebridge Methodist Church and Tubestation, Cornwall. Image credit: Adrian Langdon. Read more about Scientists in Congregations here.

The Life on the Edge project is based at Wadebridge on the banks of the outstandingly beautiful Camel Estuary, a wonderful backdrop to our explorations of the world ocean through science and faith.

The Camel estuary. Photo credit: Adrian Langdon

Writing this blog has been an opportunity to reflect on what our project has achieved so far – to share with others engaged with or interested in Scientists in Congregations projects about what has and hasn’t worked.

2021 was not an easy year for any of us. Our project, like many others, was hit hard by the pandemic; nothing went entirely to plan.

Our Ocean Sundays beach activities with Tubestation Methodist Church at Polzeath were intended to be exciting hands-on Messy Church-like investigations of marine life. But sharing equipment and working closely together was too risky. To be Covid-safe, we held socially-distanced rock pool rambles on the shore, and safaris out into the Atlantic Ocean. They didn’t allow participants to discover secrets of the shore for themselves, but they did enable us to share a sense of awe and wonder at the great diversity of marine life. They also inspired conversations about how the lives and habits of marine creatures can reveal things about ourselves and our relationship with God’s creation.

Some of the marine life encountered during the seashore rambles, clockwise from top left: A Celtic sea slug, a painted top shell, a three-spotted cowry, and a sea hare on sea lettuce. Image credit: Dr Mike Kent

Our Autumn series of Ocean Science talks were led by an awesome list of speakers who are living proof that you can be an expert scientist and a committed Christian. Professor David Huntley used the formation of sand ripples to demonstrate how order can come out of chaos; Professor John Spicer entertained and educated us about marine biodiversity and its impact on literature and art; Dr Tim Taylor explained how the marine environment can be valued spiritually as well as economically; Dr Bob Sluka and Hannah Hereward described how A Rocha researchers are helping to conserve marine wildlife and habitats; and a Zoom talk with Dr Nick Higgs in the Bahamas gave us an insight into the effects of climate change on island communities.

The speakers, all professional scientists, gave amazing, thought-provoking talks that thoroughly engaged the audience and led to discussions that opened our minds to different points of view. However, even this series didn’t go entirely to plan. The number attending each talk was restricted by Covid regulations, and Professor Meric Srokosz’s talk had to be cancelled due to road closures. We also had to edit all the recordings ourselves, so the quality isn’t as high as we’d hoped. Learning from our experiences, we have contracted a professional videographer to film and edit our summer events.

During Revd Alistair Sharp’s Lent series of sessions we explored, through science and faith, who we are, what we are, and what we should be. We considered how scientific evidence informs us that we are related to all life on Earth by physical, chemical, and biological processes. We discussed how our Christian faith, based on different evidence, tells us that we are not just material beings, but have been ‘made in the image of God’, and that we have purpose – that we should ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’. We also discussed how marine science has shed light on who our neighbour is, by showing us that we have one Ocean that interconnects all parts of our world, and that marine creatures such as dolphins and octopus are sentient beings with feelings.

Like the Autumn talks, the Lent series went beyond conflict narratives and showed that science and faith can work together to help us better understand our place in the universe.

The final event on September 1st will be held in Wadebrdige at St Petroc’s Church which overlooks the Camel estuary. We we will be taking part in the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, focusing our prayers on our relationship with the World Ocean – giving praise for its splendour, begging forgiveness for our abuses, and asking for help to be better stewards of the blue part of our planet.



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