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FRIAS Lunch Lectures - 'Daily Bread': Resilience, Religion and the Arts

Prof. Dr. Catherine Rigby
Environmental Humanities, Bath Spa University
Lunch Lecture recorded on November 19, 2020

'Daily Bread': Resilience, Religion and the Arts

This lecture contributes to the FRIAS focus on ‘multidisciplinary research on resilience’ through the lens of the environmental humanities, and in particular environmental religious and cultural studies. The environmental humanities examine fundamental questions of meaning, value, and purpose, and how these are framed, communicated, reinforced and contested, in order to disclose the attitudes and assumptions that underlie the ways in which humans shape their environment and perceive and interact with nonhuman others. Historically, religion has played a significant role within this cultural dimension of social-ecological relations and systems, contributing, directly or indirectly, to those propensities and capacities now being considered in relation to questions of ‘resilience’. While religion has many different faces in today’s world, there is a growing body of research exploring how religious practices, values and communities can contribute to both personal-psychological and collective resilience in the face of adversity. In this lecture, I want to consider how religion, in conversation with both the arts and the sciences, might also motivate action in support of enhanced social-ecological resilience by advocating and modelling transformative change.

The lecture focusses on a project that is currently underway in an ‘eco-church’ in the heart of London, St. James’s Piccadilly, which I take to be exemplary of the ‘ecological turn’ that is increasingly evident within and across the world’s religions. ‘Daily Bread – Grain of Hope: Slice of Heaven’ is a ‘community wheat-growing project connecting city-dwellers with food production, engaging with ecological and environmental concerns and exploring humanity's 10,000 year relationship with wheat.’ Regrounding the symbolism of the liturgical year in the rhythms of agricultural life at a time when those rhythms are being thrown out of synch by industrial monocultures and anthropogenic climate change, this project discloses the vulnerabilities engendered by current global food systems and issues a powerful call for socio-ecological transformation.