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Transition Towns


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Pictures of the Conference: Transition Towns -
getting involved

Link to a Report by Jerry and Sue Barr

CEL National Conference 2009

 7 Nov 2009 - 11am to 5pm, St Mary's Church, Ottery St Mary, Devon, EX11 1DQ

(Preceded by CEL's Annual Members' Meeting at the same venue at 10am )

Speakers and Panel members:

  • Prof Tim Gorringe (Dept. of Theology, Exeter University. internationally renowned writer and speaker on theology and environmental ethics);
  • Ben Brangwyn (Transition Town Totnes);
  • Martyn Goss (Director, Church & Society, Exeter Diocese)
  • Sara Drew (Founder Member of Sustainable Ottery).

Workshops led by Sustainable Ottery, Brother Sam SSF, and Martyn Goss will took place in other churches around the town.

Bus transport was arranged from the railway station to Ottery St Mary.

The conference was organized by CEL members at Ottery St Mary. Enquiries 01404 811067
See poster and booking form about
the Transition Towns conference

For a short report of the Conference see the article by Jerry and Sue Barr




Ben Brangwyn introduces the topic.








An appreciative audience.




Brother Sam runs a workshop



Peep past the arch and at the very left of the picture you see Tim Gorringe.



What are Transition Towns?

Transition towns are a response to the two related problems of climate change and peak oil. Groups of people in transition towns seek ways of tackling climate change in their own community and becoming less reliant on oil. They are groups of people concerned about the state of the planet and ready to do something right now. Many people are already doing lots of things: recycling, buying locally, using low energy bulbs, growing vegetables, using alternative energy, taking the bus, walking to work and school, going on holiday in the UK . There are many Christians across the UK who are involved in their local transition initiative - either as a member of an organising group or as a participant in the various activities. Visit for more on 'churches in transition' ideas.


CEL's web editor - JA - used the 20 spare minutes before the AMM to explore the town and discovered the fantastic recycling centre. "If only we had something like that ay my home town - where we are not allowed to touch the junk once it is given to the council skip"

Dan (below left) explained how the centre was run by some paid workers and many volunteers, and it made a small amount of money. But they needed a large grant to be able to buy extra large buildings as much more material and furniture could be brought (and sold) than they have space for.

See their website

Below - Alder catkins at the River Otter nearby.

Text from the Pre-conference Material:

Who are the main speakers?

Conference keynote speaker Prof Tim Gorringe will help us begin to make the connections between our theology of hope for a future of restored relationships and repaired connections with one another and with the Earth community as a whole. Ben Brangwyn will speak from his practical experience working with Totnes, one of the first transition towns. Marytn Goss will make the connections on how these ideas can be integrated into the life of the church. See below for details.


Speakers and workshop leaders

Professor Tim Gorringe worked in parishes for six years before going to South India to teach theology at the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, where he worked for seven years. His links with India remain close. On return to Britain he was for nine years Chaplain, Fellow and Tutor in Theology at St John's College , Oxford . In 1995 he became Reader in Contextual Theology at St Andrew's and in 1998 took up his present post as St Luke's Professor of Theological Studies at Exeter University . His academic interests focus on the interrelation between theology, social science, art and politics. His most recent major book is a theology of culture. Aside from theology he is a bee keeper, poultry keeper, theatre goer, home wine maker, political activist, poetry lover and a member of the Iona Community.


Ben Brangwyn had put his ecological aspirations on the back-burner, spending many years quite successfully infiltrating the world of business and hi-tech, with occasional forays into charity work. Like many before him, the strain of disconnecting form a long-lost inner Gaian core was taking a heavy toll, especially with peak oil and climate change looking fast. However, finding out how to be part of the solution wasn't proving to be easy. And just when it was all looking a little tragic, an encounter with Stephen Harding of Schumacher College re-energised the eco-warrior. At that point, realising he could no longer be part of the problem, he backed irrevocably away form his bizarre day job of manipulating pixellated abstractions while feigning enthusiasm and started plating acorns with a vengeance. Once he ran out of acorns he co-founded Transition Network with Rob Hopkins. And ever since, he's been putting all his efforts into helping nurture the accelerating emergence of a network of communities that aspire to implement the fast developing transition model. Ben has two sons, Josh 19, Ollie 17, and hopes they'll inherit a human-scaled world.


Martyn Goss is a native Devonian with a professional background in teaching and Christian education. He has spent most of his career involved in community work and community development and worked previously as Social Responsibility Officer with the Board for Christian Care. He is now Director, Church & Society, Exeter Diocese. He is CofE co-founder of the European Christian Environment Network (ECEN) and an active member of
the ECEN Enabling Team. His interests include gardening, wildlife, amateur dramatics and Napoleonic history, as well as films and reading. He is a Trustee of Exeter Community Initiatives, Devon Global Centre, and chairs the Cammpaign for Better Transport in Devon and the Devon Faiths Forum. His joys in life are making people laugh and making them think!


Brother Sam SSF is from Hilfield Friary in Dorset . The Hilfield Peace and Environment Project seeks to express and share an 'integrated ecology' for the sake of and out of love for the world.

Francis of Assisi, in his living the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the full, gives us an example of three ecologies:

  • an environmental ecology, living in harmony with creation
  • a social ecology, knowing all people as brothers and sisters
  • a spiritual ecology, in praise of God as Father and Creator of all things

Hilfield Friary is set on the north-facing slope of the Dorset Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty with views over the Blackmore Vale and towards the Mendip Hills. Part of their nineteen acres has been designated as a site of Special Nature Conservation Interest, and a Countryside Ranger has described their grassland as 'one of the finest wild-flower meadows in Dorset'. Adjacent to their land the Dorset Wildlife Trust has recently acquired Hendford Coppice, a richly diverse area of woodland. Their aim is to manage their land to enable the greatest possible diversity of plant life and animal habit. Visit

Sustainable Ottery consists of a group of local people working to create a sustainable community, a greener, healthier, more connected place to live, much less dependent on resources and solutions from 'out there'. Since February 2007 they have grown from three people to a core group of sixteen and a mailing list of over 150. They have held film screenings, a Green Family Day and successfully lobbied the council to adopt the Feniton to Sidmouth cycle path in its local plan. They began from the view that our current resource hungry life style is unsustainable and that fossil fuels which supply us cannot last forever. It is our hunger and over consumption of such fuel that has led to the global warming crisis which we now face.






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