As part of our commitment to creation care and the fifth Mark of Mission, our diocese has been celebrating Earth Sunday (on the nearest Sunday to Earth Day, April 22) for over a decade. This year, faith communities across Canada are invited to participate in Earth Week 2023, an initiative of the nation-wide, faith-based coalition For the Love of Creation (FLC).
Between Sunday, April 16 and Sunday, April 23, churches are encouraged to participate in some form of climate justice activity that reflects and challenges their communities. This could take the form of prayer or worship, an educational event, or an action like visiting an elected official or participating in a community clean-up.
The For the Love of Creation coalition, which launched on Earth Day 2020, includes many national church and other religious bodies, including the Anglican Church of Canada, the Primate, the National Indigenous Archbishop and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, as well as the ecumenical organizations Citizens for Public Justice, KAIROS, and Faith & the Common Good.
One of the initiatives promoted by FLC is the Lenten “Give it Up for the Earth” campaign originally developed by Citizens for Public Justice. As part of this campaign, individuals pledge their own personal commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and combine it with advocacy by sending a letter to the federal environment minister calling for stronger federal emissions targets and supporting climate justice legislation. You can learn more about the Give It Up for the Earth campaign and send your letter at www.cpj.ca/fortheearth.
Together with KAIROS, For the Love of Creation sent youth and Indigenous delegates to the UN climate change conference (COP27) in Egypt last November. The coalition has also created a range of resources for use by faith communities, including guides for discussions on climate change called Faithful Climate Conversations. You can find all these resources at www.fortheloveofcreation.ca/resources.
There are three guides, suitable for parishes or small groups at different stages of engagement with the climate crisis. “Creation, Climate and You” is a basic, introductory look at creation care and climate change from the perspective of people of faith, for those with limited knowledge or previous engagement with the topic. The second guide, “From Concern to Action,” as the title implies, is for people who are already concerned about the changing climate but who wonder what they personally can do to address it. The last guide, “Building a Better Future,” focuses on the larger-scale systemic and policy changes needed. It is recommended for those already involved in local action who are looking to take their engagement to the next level.
Kylah Lohnes, currently a parishioner at Trinity, Streetsville, sits on the local engagement committee for the FLC coalition. While pursuing her Master of Theological Studies in Development at Wycliffe College in 2020, she did an internship with KAIROS, during which she was directly involved in drafting and launching the Faithful Climate Conversation resources. Most churches, in Ms. Lohnes’ view, are at the second stage.
“At this point, there are not that many people who still need convincing,” she says. “What people most need is to know what they can do about the situation.” She likes that the “From Concern to Action” guide is very practical, leading a small group to discern together what actions make the most sense. “Ideally, you have a small group of about eight to 12 people. They don’t necessarily all have to be from your parish, but it’s most helpful if you’re with people you already know or have some shared experience with, people you meet with regularly, so you can hold each other accountable.”
Ms. Lohnes has personally facilitated about eight such discussions, both in person and online, but stresses that a trained facilitator is not required. “The guides are meant to be user-friendly. Anyone can pick them up and use them, and adapt them to their local context.”
What she likes most about the Faithful Climate Conversations is the sense of community that’s created. “It is easy to be overwhelmed by a big thing like climate change. But through these conversations, people find that they are not alone in their concern. They can provide encouragement and accountability to each other.” As other climate activists have noted, she finds taking action is a real antidote to climate anxiety.
For Ms. Lohnes, it is also crucial that these conversations are grounded in our shared faith. “The faith piece is so important. We know that we ourselves cannot save the whole world. But that’s not what we are called to do. Rather, we are called to act faithfully, to care for creation and for those who share the Earth with us, wherever we are.”
Could your parish host a Faithful Climate Conversation as part of Earth Week? Or perhaps you could host a special prayer service, invite a speaker, organize a visit to your local elected representative, or join a local community cleanup. For the Love of Creation would love to hear from any churches or faith-based organizations that are planning events during Earth Week 2023 so that these events can be promoted more broadly and help to create a network of solidarity and support across Canada. You can post your events at www.fortheloveofcreation.ca/earth-week.
Whatever you choose to do, do so in faithful response to God’s creating, redeeming and sustaining love for all creation!