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Listen to dawn again: the sound of many waters and many birds

April 9 2008:

Blue Tit. PHOTO: Chris Sperring

The Catholic Bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang, invited all visitors to his garden in Bristol this weekend to celebrate the dawn chorus in a snow blizzard.

Despite the unseasonal weather, both people and birds flocked to the garden from five am on – and the event, from 6am to 10am was recorded and broadcast by BBC Radio Bristol and Radio Somerset, hosted by Trevor Fry.

If you missed it, or indeed if you would like to hear this magical British spring dawn chorus – with its blackbirds and finches surprised by snow – then it is a delight, and can be heard in full with the following links: hour one, hour two, hour three, hour four. Or here for the Clifton Diocese story.

Naturalist Chris Sperring MBE of the Hawk and Owl Trust led the event. He was on hand to explain the sights and sounds of this wonderful springtime sonic experience.

The dawn chorus was part of Sound of Many Waters - a series of events which Clifton Cathedral has organised throughout this year to explore our need to care for our environment. “It’s a way of helping us find out more about the natural world on our doorstep,” said Bishop Declan Lang, who is also the UK Catholic Bishop of Environment and Justice.

“Climate change is part of the issue, but it is only part of it,” Bishop Declan said later in an evening talk at the Cathedral.

He prefaced his talk with an inspiring poem by Mary Oliver entitled 'Praying'.

The programme includes interviews with Bishop Declan; Chris Sperring; Mary Colwell (the inspiration behind Sound of Many Waters); Julian Hector - talking about his series 'World on the Move', Clifton Diocese World Youth Day pilgrims; Jean Young - who's just returned from a Lourdes pilgrimage with the Pilgrimage Trust; Head of the Clifton Diocese Music Service, Richard Jeffrey-Gray; Clifton Cathedral altar server Alice O'Neill; and an interview about
It doesn’t have to be 
the blue iris,
it could be
 weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few
 small stones;
 pay attention, then patch 

a few words together and don’t try

 to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

 another voice may speak.

(From Thirst by Mary Oliver (ISBN 9780807068960).

He emphasized the importance of paying attention to all that we see: "and when we pay attention we understand that all is gift, and we are thankful".

For the full talk - which also includes poems, inspiring ideas, and vivid and thought-provoking BBC clips – please link here.

Mary Colwell began by referring to the Jesuit writer Gerry Hughes, who commented that: “most of us suffer from a split spirituality: we like to apply God to a beautiful sunset but not to the forecourt of a petrol station or a queue in a supermarket… we find it easier to thank God for the flowers in our garden, rather than for the slugs...”

It means, she continued, that we are able to accept 20 million battery hens living in terrible conditions but at the same time - in the US alone - $3 billion were spent on pampering pets. Or that we can both love the sea, and pollute the sea.

"Changing this doesn't just mean feeling bad about it, it means doing something. And that can sometimes hurt... How many of us will cut down the meat we eat, or stop buying soy, or stop buying palm oil? We still want to take that cheap flight don't we, because it's there, and everyone else is doing it... We live in such affluence, where we are so often judged by how much we have and how much we can acquire, and we have a very hard job ahead of us."

“most of us suffer from a split spirituality: we like to apply God to a beautiful sunset but not to the forecourt of a petrol station or a queue in a supermarket… we find it easier to thank God for the flowers in our garden, rather than for the slugs...”
Other Sound of Many Waters events took place throughout the day including a Brilliant Birds Family Fun Walk led by Ed Drewitt from the Bristol Ornithological Club and Mandy Leivers from the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project. The walk went to the peregrine watch point on the Downs.

Next Sound of Many Waters event:

Thursday 5 June 2008

Clifton Cathedral has organised a year of ecological events, entitled The Sound of Many Waters.
Saints & Sustainability

United Nations World Environment Day

A lively evening at Clifton Cathedral exploring tales of Catholic saints who protected the environment. Radio presenter and Secretary General of ARC, Martin Palmer, guides us through 2000 fascinating years of Christian engagement with our natural world, bringing to life amazing stories, legends and myths. Martin’s presentation leads up to Bishop Declan Lang launching the theological reflection produced by Gavin D’Costa, the University of Bristol’s Professor in Christian Theology and Mary Colwell. Come World Environment Day 2008 you will be able to access this beautifully-produced and much-needed summary of current theological thinking on the environment from The Sound of Many Waters

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