As summer turns to autumn, Christians worldwide will unite in prayer and commit to the ministry of healing the earth during the Season of Creation, an annual initiative spearheaded by global Anglican, Roman Catholic, ecumenical, and interfaith organizations.
The Season of Creation runs from Sept. 1—proclaimed as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation by the Orthodox Church in 1989, and subsequently recognized by other denominations—through the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4. During this period, Christians across denominations and national borders are encouraged to join together in prayer for creation and environmental stewardship.
To raise awareness of the 2016 Season of Creation, the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) is partnering with the World Council of Churches, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, GreenFaith, and the ACT Alliance.
The need for a period within the church calendar focusing especially on creation has drawn increasing support across denominations in recent years.
“A season such as Advent or Lent or Easter looks at significant events in the life of Christ, different parts of Christ’s story … and creation factors into every one of those seasons,” said the Rev. Ken Gray, secretary of the ACEN, co-chair of the Creation Matters Working Group, and dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, B.C.
“Essentially, since the late 1960s, there has not been a profound conversation or theological reflection on God as creator or God in creation in some way, apart from persons such as St. Francis,” he added. “So it’s time, and we’re trying to figure out a way to help folks focus on this particular aspect of God’s graciousness.”
Creation Matters co-chair Nancy Harvey, who also serves as the co-chair of the EnviroAction Committee in the Anglican Diocese of Huron, drew a connection between the Season of Creation and the fifth Mark of Mission: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
“For us as Anglicans, that time is a way for us really to reflect and pray and act and live out the fifth Mark of Mission,” Harvey said.
The season also serves as a way to reflect upon the 17 Sustainable Development Goals identified by the United Nations and highlighted by Anglican leaders, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. These goals include clean water, affordable clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, and action to tackle climate change.
A website for the Season of Creation includes a list of liturgical resources and steps to help organize prayer services. Individuals and parishes can pray as they see fit, while churches may organize their own services related to the care of creation.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, for example, is planning a four-week program of worship for each Sunday starting on Sept. 11 that will delve into four themes: Jesus and climate science; Sabbath as a life principle; footprints (i.e. how does the congregation itself affect creation); and life lessons from St. Francis and Pope Francis I—the latter of whom highlighted problems of consumerism and environmental degradation in his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’. The cathedral will also host a public lecture series with presentations from local members of the community, along with educational and artistic events and field trips.
Though clergy and lay leaders may find it too late at the moment to organize prayer services for the 2016 Season of Creation, Gray and Harvey emphasized that the primary goal is consciousness-raising around environmental issues, and that individuals and parishes are welcome to pray for creation at any time. At St. Mark’s Church in Brantford, Ont., parishioners including Harvey will be celebrating the Season of Creation this year at Thanksgiving.
“It’s not [necessarily] going to give them time to act this year,” Harvey said. “But it is making them aware that there’s an example being set, there’s leadership there, and this is happening across the country.”