[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Christians around the globe are uniting in a World Day of Prayer for Creation today (Thursday 1 September) – a move which was started by the spiritual leader of the Orthodox churches. The day of prayer – and the Season of Creation that runs from today to the Feast of St Francis of Assisi (4 October) – was launched by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios in 1989. Last year Pope Francis called on Catholics to join in; and the Anglican Consultative Council – while not specifying any particular period – has repeatedly called on Anglican Provinces to set aside a liturgical season of prayer for creation and the environment.
This year, many Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Anglican organisations have joined together in what may the first significant cross-denominational movement of prayer on this scale. Together, they are encouraging the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide to pray and act on ecological issues over the next month. And they are promoting a new ecumenical resource website: seasonofcreation.org.
More than 200 special prayer services will take place today across the globe – including Vespers led by Pope Francis at St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican this evening. Leaders of other Christian denominations will be at the service, which will mark the formal launch of this year’s Season of Creation.
The message is spreading by social media. A Twitter “thunderclap” has a potential total reach in excess of 300,000; and a video of comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury at this year’s Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka has been watched by more than 30,000 people on his Facebook page and the ACNS website.
“We urgently need to make changes,” Father Frédéric Fornos, the international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said. “All the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is involved in this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, by prayer and action to preserve our ‘common home’ for future generations.”
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said: “As Christians, we have hope. We believe God does not abandon creation and that we ourselves can become beacons of that hope by sowing the seeds of a different future.
He called on Christians worldwide to pray together for “God’s beautiful work” and also to take practical action, by calling on governments to ratify the last year’s Paris agreement on climate change.
The US and China are expected to make a joint statement on climate change during the two-day G20 summit, which gets underway in the Zhejiang city of Hangzhou in China on Sunday.
“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,” the secretary of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN), the Very Revd Ken Gray, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, said.
“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. 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.”
“The global Catholic community joyfully joins Pope Francis and other Christian churches for this important celebration,” the global coordinator of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Tomás Insua, said. “The website has proven to be a wonderful tool for Christians worldwide to come together in prayer and action to address the severe ecological crisis of our time.”
ACEN is a leading member of the ecumenical group preparing resources for the World Day of Prayer and Season of Creation. The others are the World Council of Churches, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer), the Global Catholic Climate Movement, ACT Alliance and GreenFaith.