Mourning Rosebank

"This is my Father's world

May we tend her gentle life

Her seas are filled with the oil we spilled

Her skies growing warm in their plight

This is our Father's world

He has fashioned us a home

And lest our crib become our grave

This world is not our own".

Father’s World, Gungor

            This verse is taken from an updated version of the 1901 hymn Father’s World, originally written by Maltbie Davenport Babcock. Babcock lived in New York and would frequently take walks along the Niagra Escarpment and enjoy views of Lake Ontario. He would tell his wife Katherine that he was “going out to see the Father’s world”. The hymn engages us in a theological vision of appreciation and wonder upon viewing God’s creation. Michael Gungor’s additional and new verse confronts us with the reality we face as a result of a vision of the world obsessed with extraction and consumption. 

            This morning we all woke up to the news that the green light has been given to proceed with developing the Rosebank oil field.  The oil and gas produced by this one oil field would produce so much carbon that it is equivalent to the carbon emissions of the world’s 28 lowest-income countries combined. The justification given for proceeding with Rosebank is that it will lower energy bills for UK residents, yet the Norwegian state oil company and majority owner of Rosebank, Equinor, has confirmed that this will not be the case. The oil and gas produced from Rosebank will be sold on global markets “through open market mechanisms”. This is despite the fact that research shows that renewables, not increased oil and gas is the way to lower energy bills. In approving the Rosebank oil field the UK government is not attempting to benefit the poor or working class but rather are acting in the interests of capital. 

            It is necessary that we act upon this appalling decision and that we do all that we can to fight it. Yet, in this moment it is also necessary that we mourn. Womanist theologian and scholar Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan argues that:

To engage lament as ritual is to move toward a process of healing that shows our complex pain is also God’s pain, our sorrows, part of God’s sorrows. Ritual as symbolic, patterned activity can engage us as individuals and communities, where we interpret things differently, and ultimately move to restoration of spiritual vitality, bodily well-being, emotional wholeness, mental functioning. 

Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, “Lament as Womanist Healing in Times of Global Violence”, in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Approaches to the Hebrew Bible, ed. Susanne Scholz (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 154. 

            Kirk-Duggan’s womanist theology is especially relevant to acts of climate violence as the climate crisis disproportionately affects women and people of colour. To be clear the approval of the Rosebank oil field is an act of climate violence. In this moment let us take a moment to mourn, to lament, to recognise that our pain over the approval of the Rosebank oil field is also God’s pain. The following lament is taken from the Iona Community’s worship resources and reflections on the environment titled “A Heart for Creation”.

God of creation and care,

you dreamt of a world of beauty and balance ...

but we have not realised your dream.


You separated night from day,

establishing a world of patterns and rhythms:

we confess that we have ignored and interrupted those cycles-remaking the world as chaos and confusion.


You separated sky, water and land, establishing a world of habitats and homesteads:

we confess that we have destroyed and disrupted that belonging - remaking the world with displacement and dislocation.


You gave fertility to air, sea and earth, establishing a world of plenteous sufficiency for all:

we confess that we have plundered and polluted that treasure store - remaking the world bare and barren.


You looked at the world and saw that it was good.

We look at it and see that it is so much less than you dreamt it to be.

Forgive us.


Pat Bennett, “God of Creation and Care”, in A Heart for Creation, ed. Chris Polhill (Glasgow: Wild Goose Publications, 2010), 66-67.

            Take the time today to reflect on these words, to grieve. As we engage in this process of healing through the practice of lament may we find ways to think and act differently when it comes to the climate crisis. If you are involved in organising your church or faith community’s worship, then consider incorporating a lament into your Sunday service this week. I know that personally I am often guilty of trying to look for hope or something positive in a situation and not always taking the time to mourn when it is necessary. Yet, it is important to remember that the hope that comes from God is not detached from our suffering, it is not far from our pain, and it is not blindly optimistic. Rather, the hope that comes from God is present in our struggles as we realise that the word made manifest in the world through human flesh and the community of creation understands our pain and mourns with us. The rocks cry out, the earth protests, Jesus wept. 

            With all this in mind, we are not powerless. As well as mourning we have an opportunity to act. The campaign group Stop Cambo has some excellent recommendations for action we can all take today to challenge Rosebank as part of their #StopRosebank campaign, including challenging Rosebank’s owner Equinor, writing to your MP and signing their petition. Beyond this, they also host multiple events and public meetings. You can find out more about how you can take action today on their website. You can also get involved in Christian Climate Action - find more information about their grass roots movement and how you can get involved here