The Fifth Mark of Mission for the Anglican Communion calls us “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” At Joint Assembly-General Synod in 2013, a vow incorporating the Fifth Mark of Mission was added to the Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Alternative Services (BAS). Thus, during a baptismal service conducted according to the BAS, every member of the congregation is reminded of their call as Christians to live out their faith by striving to respect, sustain, and renew the life of the earth.
While the original print copies of the BAS do not contain this commitment, the online version of the BAS, which is available for free download from the Anglican Church of Canada, does contain the wording added in 2013. The pages relating to Holy Baptism can be printed as a leaflet for use during baptismal services.
At Easter, we remember that we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We recall how we have died to the sinful patterns of the world and are raised to new life in Christ – a life that expends itself for others, that restores the goodness God intended for all of God’s creation, and that repairs the relationships between humans and God, each other, and the earth, that have been damaged by sin. How fitting, then, that in remembering our baptism we are reminded to take our part in caring for God’s creation, which has suffered so much from humanity’s sins of greed and waste. And how fitting, as well, that during Eastertide we celebrate Earth Sunday, this year on April 23.
Each year, the diocese’s Creation Matters Committee produces resources for Earth Sunday, including notes on the lectionary readings aimed at those preparing sermons, as well as a bulletin insert with a reflection and action ideas. You can find these resources by going to the diocese’s website, www.toronto.anglican.ca, and searching under “Environmental Resources.” This year, we invite you to explore how you and your parish can carry out our baptismal vow to care for creation in a fresh way.
Perhaps you can follow the example of St. Cuthbert, Leaside, which recently hosted an environment fair to showcase eco-friendly vendors in the community and to give an opportunity for local elected representatives to discuss environmental initiatives at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. You might look into options for environmentally and economically sustainable investing. Perhaps you can organize a team from your parish to clean up garbage in your neighbourhood, or join efforts to maintain wildlife habitat in a local park or shoreline. Perhaps you can study the impacts of climate change on Inuit communities in the Arctic or villagers in east Africa or island nations in Polynesia. Our treatment of the earth and its resources is inevitably linked with our treatment of our neighbours at home and worldwide.
Through baptism, we are reborn into a living hope – hope in Christ whose resurrection gives life to the entire world. Let us go forth into the world as bearers of that Easter hope.