The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has joined leaders of other Christian churches in a joint letter encouraging participation in the Season of Creation. The annual celebration of prayer and action to protect the environment emerged from a proclamation by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I in 1989. He called on Orthodox Christians to observe 1 September each year as a day of prayer for creation. Many churches across the world from different traditions began celebrating a Season of Creation between that date and 4 October 4 – the feast of St Francis of Assisi.
In 2009, the Anglican Consultative Council called on provinces to “celebrate a liturgical ‘Season of Creation’ as an integral part of the church’s yearly pattern of worship and teaching”; and repeated the call in 2012, when it asked provinces to “consider the inclusion of a season of Creation in the liturgical calendar.” In 2014 Pope Francis designated 1 September as an annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation; and in 2015 he called on Catholics to join “together with all Christians” in the Season of Creation.
Now, nine Church leaders have signed a letter encouraging Christians around the world from all traditions to mark the season of prayer.
“As the environmental crisis deepens, we Christians are urgently called to witness to our faith by taking bold action to preserve the gift we share,” they say in their letter. “As the psalmist sings, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein’ (Psalm 24:1-2).
“During the Season of Creation, we ask ourselves: Do our actions honour the Lord as Creator? Are there ways to deepen our faith by protecting ‘the least of these,’ who are most vulnerable to the consequences of environmental degradation?
“We invite you to join us on a journey of faith that challenges and rewards us with fresh perspective and deeper bonds of love. United in our sincere wish to protect creation and all those who share it, we join hands across denominations as sisters and brothers in Christ. During this season, we walk together towards greater stewardship of our place in creation.”
The letter has been described as “the first joint statement of support for the season from leading authorities across denominations including the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion” and as “a sign that Christian leaders increasingly see environmental protection as an essential expression of their faith.”
Commenting on the letter, Archbishop Justin Welby said: “‘In the beginning, God said. . .’ These words usher in the most extraordinary account of creation: an account of abundance, of multiplicity, of creativity.
“Creation is God’s intricate work of art, and human beings are privileged to be placed within it. In this Season of Creation, we celebrate God the Creator, we thank god for the extraordinary riches of his grace. But we also come in sorrow for the way we have defaced creation and misused it for our own ends. In this Season, let’s find again a true vision of what being made in the image of God, caring for creation can mean, and commit ourselves to action.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said “As Pope Francis tells us in Laudato Si’, ‘living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience’ (217).
“As caretakers of God’s creation, we must choose between tending to its richness and neglecting it to impoverishment. For the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, our choices have profound implications. Let us embrace the Season of Creation in all its joy and depth, and fully enter into our role as caretakers of the Earth, our common home.”
Environmentalists from a number of different denominations have created and collated a number of resources, which are available on the Season of Creation website: seasonofcreation.org.
Letter in support of the Season of Creation
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?” (Job 12:7-9, NRSV)
Once every year, from 1 September to 4 October, members of the Christian family set aside time to deepen our relationship with the Creator, each other, and all of creation. This is the Season of Creation, which began in 1989 with the first recognition of the day of prayer for creation by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church, and which is now rembraced by the wider ecumenical family.
During the Season of Creation, we join together to rejoice in the good gift of creation and reflect on how we care for it. This season offers a precious opportunity to pause in the midst of our day-to-day lives and contemplate the fabric of life into which we are woven.
As the environmental crisis deepens, we Christians are urgently called to witness to our faith by taking bold action to preserve the gift we share. As the psalmist sings, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1-2). During the Season of Creation, we ask ourselves: Do our actions honour the Lord as Creator? Are there ways to deepen our faith by protecting “the least of these,” who are most vulnerable to the consequences of environmental degradation?
We invite you to join us on a journey of faith that challenges and rewards us with fresh perspective and deeper bonds of love. United in our sincere wish to protect creation and all those who share it, we join hands across denominations as sisters and brothers in Christ. During this season, we walk together towards greater stewardship of our place in creation.
“O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent” (Psalm 104:1-2).
With you, we give thanks for the community of believers around the world that is bringing love to creation this season, and we praise the Creator for the gifts we share.
In God’s grace,
Archbishop Job of Telmessos,
Permanent Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC,
on behalf of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby,
Archbishop of Canterbury
Cardinal Peter K A Turkson,
Prefect, Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
The Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit,
General Secretary of World Council of Churches
The Revd Dr Chris Ferguson,
General Secretary, World Communion of Reformed Churches
Bishop Efraim Tendero,
Secretary-General of the World Evangelical Alliance
The Revd Dr Martin Junge,
General Secretary, Lutheran World Federation
Rudelmar Bueno de Faria,
General Secretary, Act Alliance
Father Heikki Huttunen,
General Secretary, Conference of European Churches
- There is a Season of Creation ecumenical steering committee which brings together the Act Alliance, Anglican Communion Environmental Network, ARocha, Christian Aid, Global Catholic Climate Movement, Lausanne/World Evangelical Alliance Creation Care Network, Lutheran World Federation, and the World Council of Churches. They have produced a number of resources which are available online at seasonofcreation.org.