The Communion Forest is taking off!

12 May 2023

The Communion Forest Zimbabwe. Photo: Darlington Musekiwa
Irene and Nicholas

Since its launch last August, the Communion Forest has caught people’s imaginations across the Anglican Communion. From Canada to the Solomon Islands and everywhere in between, the Communion Forest team is hearing about action being taken by Anglicans on tree growing and ecosystem conservation, protection and restoration.

The Communion Forest team is blessed with two brilliant (very) part-time facilitators, Irene Sebastian-Waweru (for Africa) and Nicholas Pande (for the rest of the world). Irene and Nicholas have been reaching out to provinces across the Communion to find out how they are taking the Communion Forest initiative forwards; to learn about what they are currently doing in terms of ecosystem conservation, protection and restoration; and to see how the Communion Forest as a global network can support their work.

Here are just some of the exciting new initiatives they have heard about:

Communion Forest Zimbabwe
The Diocese of Central Zimbabwe (Province of Central Africa) has committed 105 hectares of church land for the Communion Forest Zimbabwe. Bishop Ignatius Makumbe dedicated this land, which the Church has embarked on restoring and conserving, during the launch of Green Anglicans Central Zimbabwe. The Church partnered with the Zimbabwean Forest Commission and Environmental Management Agency to inspect the land and give recommendations. A teacher in the school, Nyikadzino Mukaro, an ambassador of the Friends for the Environment in Zimbabwe, donated 800 indigenous trees and the Zimbabwean Forest Commission also donated 100 exotic shade tree seedlings, 20 exotic fruit tree seedlings and 2 baobab tree seedlings. Read more here.

Church and government working together
The Anglican Diocese of South West Tanganyika (Province of Tanzania) has partnered with two government agencies to plant 310,000 trees in the Njombe region. The Church worked with Njombe Natural Resources & Land Management and Tanzania Forestry Services to acquire barren land in 20 parishes most affected by climate change. The agencies also provided technical support to identify the right trees for different areas. Read more here.

The confirmation certificate

Trees for special occasions
The Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross (Church of Ireland) is busy preparing for Confirmation season. Bishop Paul Colton is keen to make a link with Communion Forest by giving each candidate a wildflower seed kit and having a tree planted for them, with a certificate.  The Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross (Church of Ireland) is busy preparing for Confirmation season. Bishop Paul Colton is keen to make a link with Communion Forest by giving each candidate a wildflower seed kit and having a tree planted for them, with a certificate.  Andrew Orr, the Archdeacon of Cork, Ross and Cloyne, said “The Communion Forest is such an important initiative, bringing together Anglican environmental action from around the globe. Ireland is the least wooded country in Europe and we are delighted that our confirmation candidates will be doing their part to develop our native woodlands and increase biodiversity across the entire island”.

Pledges to engage with the Communion Forest
In the United States, at least three dioceses of The Episcopal Church have pledged support for the Communion Forest. These include the Diocese of Virginia, the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. This is part of a wider commitment of The Episcopal Church to the Communion Forest, made at the 2022 Episcopal Church General Convention, which resolved “[t]hat the dioceses of the Episcopal Church pledge to support the Communion Forest initiative… to plant trees, practice reforestation and regenerative agriculture, protect forests and other plant communities…” Read more here.

Connecting, sharing and praying together
On April 27, the Communion Forest held its first Connect, Share and Pray session. These are informal online sessions to learn and share together in an open dialogue. The session was held twice, with interpretation, to allow as many people as possible from different parts of the Communion to join in. April’s session focused on trees for special occasions and had three short presentations followed by questions, conversation and prayer.

The presentations were a wonderful mix of brand-new and long-established activities. Saplings for Sacraments is just getting off the ground, an initiative of the Rev. Deacon Mary N. Sebold from St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (DC), USA. Mary joined the first Communion Forest webinar last October and was inspired to take action. Saplings for Sacraments is the wonderful result!

The Rev. Andrew Orr, Archdeacon of Cork, Ross and Cloyne spoke about the diocese’s confirmation initiative described above.

The third speaker was Rev. Dennis Nthenge from the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). Dennis talked about the extensive reforestation initiatives ACK is undertaking and the many creative ways trees are becoming an integral part of all celebrations, including confirmations, weddings, anniversaries, baptisms and funerals. He described how in his office, birthday cake has been replaced by birthday tree planting – an idea that initially met with some resistance but which is now enjoyed.

Recordings of the presentations will be available shortly.

The Communion Forest needs everybody – tell us what you are doing!
It is profoundly encouraging to learn about these commitments to the Communion Forest and wider determination to safeguard creation. If your church or diocese has started a Communion Forest activity, please let us know:

The Communion Forest initiative is being incubated by the Anglican Alliance and Anglican Communion Environmental Network until at least the end of 2023, with the support of an advisory group from across the Communion, predominantly comprising eco-bishops and others who have been engaged with the initiative since its inception.

Safeguarding creation is one of the Anglican Alliance’s priority work areas. The environmental crisis is an existential threat to millions of people and species across the world. Its impacts take lives, destroy habitats and beloved homes, devastate livelihoods, cause food shortages, force migration, disrupt communities and break up families. The impacts of the crisis are costly, both financially and in terms of the trauma they create. The Communion Forest is a practical, spiritual and symbolic response to the environmental crisis and an act of Christian hope for the well-being of humanity and all of God’s creation.