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Clergy join blockade of tanker at oil refinery  

14 April 2022


Canon Jonathan Herbert takes part in a blockade of the oil refinery in West Thurrock, Essex, last week

Canon Jonathan Herbert takes part in a blockade of the oil refinery in West Thurrock, Essex, last week

ANGLICAN clergy celebrated the eucharist in front of an oil tanker last week, as part of national climate-change protests that have slowed the import of oil into the UK in an effort to get the Government to go further than its current measures.

Canon Jonathan Herbert, a chaplain to Travellling People, who is based at Hilfield Friary, in Dorset, and the Revd Sue Parfitt, a retired priest from Bristol, are members of the campaign group Just Stop Oil. They held the impromptu service, on Tuesday of last week, while blockading the oil refinery in West Thurrock, Essex.

They were joined by another Christian, Ruth Jarman (Interview, 21 May 2021), who had brought a tablecloth, some red wine, and bread. She said: “It was really powerful. We were right in front of this oil tanker. It was dirty and dusty. It would have just filled up; so it was full of oil that is destroying the earth. And there we were. We were trying to break the journey of this tanker taking all this oil to be burnt, to add to climate breakdown.”

Canon Herbert said: “You could almost call the tanker an instrument of death. We know that oil is destroying the planet. We’re all complicit in climate breakdown, we’re destroying our beautiful world; so, as with any communion service, we began with a confession.”

The group were later arrested and released on bail. Other Christians have also been taking part in the protests, which have led to shortages of petrol in stations in the south of England.

The Revd Tim Hewes, aged 71, a retired priest from Swindon, is among a group tunnelling under a caravan at the oil refinery site in Thurrock. He said: “I’m here because our Government is useless: they make a lot of noise, but they are doing nothing. As a priest, I have a duty of care for people, and also for creation.

“What I’m doing here, with everyone in this caravan, is what our Government should be doing: that is, trying to protect our families and our loved ones from the appalling future that stands before us. I hope we can continue what we’re doing and stop the flow of oil, if the Government won’t.”

A United Nations report published last week warned that countries needed to ensure that global greenhouse-gas emissions peaked by 2025 to avert “catastrophic” temperature rises (News, 8 April). The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, described investing in new fossil-fuel infrastructure as “moral and economic madness”. He said: “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing production of fossil fuels.”

This week, Christians joined a wave of Extinction Rebellion protests in London; members marched from Hyde Park on Saturday, past the BP headquarters, en route to Trafalgar Square. Others closed down roads around Piccadilly Circus and Tower Bridge.

Among them was the Revd Hilary Bond, Pioneer Priest in Wareham, in Salisbury diocese. She said: “Jesus spoke truth to power. As a Christian, I am called to be like him, and the truth is that we know that our use of fossil fuel is killing the planet. We need to stop oil now.”

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