City of York & Cumbria Flooding

City of York Boxing Day Floods York Press

The City of York and its environs experienced water surges on a scale not seen since 2000, when on Boxing Day evening in 2015 floodwater reached the electrics in the Environment Agency’s Foss Barrier, potentially rendering the pumps useless.

There was no choice but to lift the flood barrier, and allow large parts of the city to be inundated. Between Christmas and the New Year this was particularly difficult for individuals and families, many of whom were completely unprepared for the inundation which occurred.

At this time, there was serious flooding in Tadcaster, where the riverside by St Mary’s Church was badly affected, along with many local homes and businesses. On 29th December 2015, the Tadcaster bridge partially collapsed, splitting the community in two, devastating the town’s economy and causing hardship for everyone in the town. And across Cumbria, many residents faced the continued misery of repeated flooding affecting many communities.

The Archbishop said: "Besides the shock and danger of the floods themselves, for those flooded out, the drying time and clean-up period will be long, tedious, costly, and sheer hard work. It is no surprise, however, to see the people of York responding with tremendous spirit, resolve, and generosity, to the plight of their flooded neighbours at this time. The City Council, the Emergency Services, and a great army of volunteers are rising to the challenge with characteristic courage and compassion. I want to express my thanks and appreciation to all those who are giving up their time to help and care for those who have been flooded out. You are our modern day Good Samaritans –I salute your readiness to respond to your neighbour’s need.

As expected the undercroft in my home here at Bishopthorpe Palace is flooded again – we are fortunate however that back in the 13th century they built with flooding in mind, such that when the water subsides it soon washes through the original flood drains made for the purpose. I am thankful for the foresight that went into planning all those years ago.

I know that a lot of work has gone into making more robust the flood defences in the City of York over recent years – it will be all the more disappointing to those who have laboured to achieve this, that we have not been able to prevent another serious flood in our beloved City. With climate change, things may not be on the scale here as elsewhere, such as in the South Pacific, where Margaret and I visited last summer. Whole island populations are preparing to leave their homes for good. However, these experiences certainly drive home for everyone the need for urgent action, both locally and globally.

There has been a particularly busy response to the floods on social media, which has enabled many to respond quickly to immediate needs for help. I congratulate those who have made the most of social media to gather support for those in danger or in need of a helping hand. Others want to help but are not sure what to do. Many will have found local radio and the radio websites a helpful source of information. Be sure, there will be opportunities for people to respond generously to those in need – financially, with practical assistance, food, accommodation, and moral support. Please support local flood appeals in affected areas."

Flood relief appeals

Cumbria and Calderdale both launched flood relief appeals in 2015. Donations were also made to The York Disaster Fund, set up by Archbishop David Hope in response to the 2000 floods. This Fund is a registered charity (it is not a Council department) with independent trustees. Only flooded households may apply. (not businesses or public bodies such as parish councils.) Anyone needing to apply to the fund should get in touch with City of York Council on 01904 551550. For advice and support on the York floods visit www.york.gov.uk/floods

Remembering what the Psalmist said:

“The Floods have lifted up, O Lord,

The Floods have lifted up their voice;

The floods lift up their roaring,

More majestic than the thunders of

Mighty waters,

More majestic than the waves of the sea,

Majestic on high is the Lord! (Psalm 93:3-4)

Leadership Reflections on Climate Change

Planting mangroves on Pangaimotu (visit to Samoa, Tonga and Fiji) Diocese of Polynesia Fiji, Tonga and Samoa

In August 2015, Archbishop Sentamu visited churches and communities to lead a series of Leadership Reflections on Climate Change in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji at the invitation of the Most Revd Dr Winston Halapua, the Archbishop of Polynesia.

Following his visit the Archbishop wrote in The Tablet that: ' Within a few decades we are likely to see some small islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans being submerged. In such a context, worldwide debates about the ethics of recycling, of reducing our carbon footprint, and of challenging our ‘throwaway culture’ seem remote –across the Pacific Rim, it has become a matter of survival, and above all, addressing the plight of those most vulnerable.

I stood on the beach with those who said ‘the tides never used to come this far, there used to be plants here that now don’t grow any more because of the salt’. They know that they cannot control the sea coming in, but they can plant mangroves along the sea front to act as a barrier and to prevent further loss of land. I was bestowed a Chief or ‘Matai’ TO’OSAVILI in the village of Poutasi in the District of Falealili and joined in planting mangrove seedlings on the coastline of Pangaimotu Island.

The fact is, wherever you are, Poutasi in Samoa or Pickering in the great vale of Yorkshire, the ground of God’s earth is holy. On ground, on land that is the meeting place of earth and heaven, a place of encounter with the living God. Where heaven touches earth surprising things happen. For our gracious God makes the impossible possible. But friends, around the globe we are waking up to a new reality. Our sleepy eyes are opening.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical – Laudato Si: Praise Be: On the Care of the Common home - following the Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi - made climate change centre stage for the Church. Why? Because “Climate Change is a global problem with grave implications and represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day”. (p.14ff). And quoting the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference Statement on Environmental Issues, Pope Francis recently asked, “What the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ means, when ‘twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.’?'

The Church of England at its July 2015 Synod sessions welcomed the new climate change policy adopted by the Church's investing bodies and backed a call for world leaders to seek to limit the global rise in average temperatures to a maximum of 2 C - widely considered to be the threshold above which the impacts of climate change will be the most severe.

We must be a church of the poor with a Gospel of hope. I love Ethopia’s Amharic word, which means ‘It is possible’: Yechelaler – it should inspire hope in us all. May God give us grace in our time to know and treasure the holiness of the earth he has made us stewards of, and the ground he has set us on, so that we may meet with him, and be gathered up into his purposes in and with the whole of creation

Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

Synod presentation

The Archbishop and Mrs Margaret Sentamu gave a presentation on Climate Change at General Synod for the Church of England in November 2015.  This followed their visit to churches and communities in Samoa ,Tonga and Fiji. 

Margaret Sentamu said: "We had the honour of visiting Poutasi village, one of the many villages in Samoa which suffered devastation by the Tsunami in 2009 where the Archbishop was bestowed with the highest chiefly title of To’osvili meaning ‘he who steadies the boat’ by the paramount chief whose wife died in the tsunami; he survived."  Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, Paramount Chief of Poutasi later shared his story in John Sentamu's Love Agape Stories

The Archbishop reflected on the Moana/Oceanic Eucharist held on Pangaimotu Island of Tonga which was broadcast live on radio and television.  He said: "To be on an island which once upon a time had everything, but is now barren, because of human activity thousands of miles away due to pollution by the developed nations, was a sobering experience."

At the end of the Moana/Oceanic Eucharist, worshippers planted seedlings of mangroves as a sign of hope and new life for the future. 

Their joint presentation at Synod can be read in full here. This also features Archbishop Winston Halapua's pacific prayer for the moana (ocean). 

Our hope for God's Creation

‘Our Hope for God’s Creation’, produced by the Church of England in Yorkshire and the North East, and illustrates how very different parishes are responding to the threats posed by climate change as we are called to steward God’s creation. It features the solar panels on Bradford Cathedral’s roof, and churches of various traditions in Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Wakefield and York, as well as featuring a vicarage in Durham diocese with air-source heat pumps.

“God's love for the whole of the cosmos lies right at the heart of the gospel,” said the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who commissioned the film. “Our Hope for God’s Creation shows us how churches can put that love into action with examples of good stewardship and how we can all contribute and make a difference. I hope it will be an inspiration for churches throughout the province and beyond.”


The Diocese of York, led by the Archbishop of York, celebrated 2011 as the Year of the Environment and sent a bird nesting box to every church and church school in the Diocese.

The Archbishop said: "I want every Christian, every church in the Diocese of York, to pledge to make a difference to their environment in 2011. Whether you decide to use a bicycle instead of cars, or put up your bird box in your churchyards to increase biodiversity, everything you do will make a difference to our world and how we care for it."