This Sunday marks the opening of the annual Season of Creation, an ecumenical liturgical season that demonstrates the change in climate in how the church feels about creation.
Just as the season of Advent acts as a preparation for Christmas and Lent prepares us for Easter, the Season of Creation acts as a prelude to St Francis of Assisi Day on October 4, which commemorates the Catholic church’s patron saint of animals and the environment.
“That forest lung is vital for our planet.” – Pope Francis
But this year there is a special urgency to the liturgical journey that originated in Australia and is now celebrated across the world. On September 20 workers and students across Australia and the world will take a day off to march in the global #ClimateStrike, demanding stronger action on climate change.
Three days later, on September 23, the UN is holding a Climate Action Summit. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on all leaders to come to New York with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.
As raging fires in the Amazon rainforest focus minds across the world on threats to our planet, Pope Francis this week prayed that “with the commitment of all”, the fires “might be contained as soon as possible.”
“That forest lung is vital for our planet,” he said.
Locally, the effects of the prolonged drought and destruction of the Murray/Darling River system prompted Bernard Holland, director of Catholic Earthcare Australia to call for urgent action to safeguard “our common home.”
The phrase “our common home” is drawn from the Pope’s 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si’, which called on every person to care for creation and take collective action in the face of global environmental degradation, which led him to declare September 1 as the annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.
“Citizens need to stand up and show that we care. The alternative scares me witless.” – Nicola Fraser
Nicola Fraser, a marine scientist and grandmother, writes: “The climate is changing too fast for animals and plants to successfully adapt. We are facing a climate emergency. There is nothing about this to debate. It is a crisis and we need to deal with it as such.
“Some governments, corporations, organisations and individuals are making positive changes but not enough, so we need to take more serious action. Citizens need to stand up and show that we care. The alternative scares me witless.”
Nicole was writing in a blog called God’s Beautiful Earth for Common Grace, a Christian social justice movement. She writes that she has observed the climate crisis first-hand, in damage to fragile reef ecosystems, and wants to be able to tell her granddaughter that she fought for the Earth.
“My granddaughter is only two, but when she grows up and learns about this crisis I’m sure she will ask ‘What did you do, Granny?’. I want to be able to say ‘I fought for the earth’.
“Please, wherever you are, stand with us on 20 September, however you can. The future of our beautiful earth depends on you.”
Monique Hughes, a member of the Climate Justice team at Common Grace, makes a plea for Christians to take time this week to reflect and pray through their response to the damage Nicola has witnessed to fragile reef ecosystems and her call that “The future of our beautiful earth depends on you.”
“It may be grief for the devastating loss of habitat and the loss of life as these habitats die. Sadness for future generations who will never see the diversity and experience the beauty of God’s creation that we have freely enjoyed in our lifetime. Or anger at the global inaction to respond appropriately to this crisis,” she writes.
“It is right that we experience strong emotions as we live in this moment. But we are called to not be merely witnesses to this crisis. As Christians our faith informs and compels us to action. To embody the hope we have in Christ. To be sacrificial love in action.”
Monique suggests the following prayer: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
You can find liturgies, sermon suggestions, Bible studies, ideas for children’s talks for each of the weeks of the Season of Creation here. There is also a new Season of Creation preaching commentary.
Uniting Earth has produced a collection of video resources to go with the themes, together with short liturgies. Many of these videos and liturgies were produced for and in collaboration with Project Reconnect.
“We’re urging people to do what they can do within their circle of influence.” – Bernard Holland
Catholic Earthcare Australia, the ecological agency for the Catholic Church in Australia, has a range of resources for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation this Sunday here.
Catholic Earthcare is planning a convocation in Melbourne in 2020, to bring together all of the ecological voices of the Church in Australia to engage with the theology emanating from Laudato Si’ and to take practical steps to implement change across the Church.
“The overall story is that there are many good people doing really good things in isolated pockets in the Church, but what has not been able to happen is to bring everybody together,” said Bernard Holland.
“We’re urging people to do what they can do within their circle of influence. It’s all about your circle, who you can connect with at work, at home and in your social groups.”