This year the month of March covers the first five Sundays of Lent. Lent is a period of fasting and abstinence in preparation for Easter, which falls on 12th April this year. Traditionally we adopt some discipline for Lent to help us with repentance, with turning back to God. The discipline might involve giving something up, perhaps alcohol, social media, chocolate, or Sunday shopping. It might involve taking something up, perhaps a daily quiet time, regular exercise, family time or attendance at church. I tend to avoid coffee and chocolate in Lent. One year I tried to give up rushing. But my most interesting Lenten disciplines in recent years have been to do with helping the environment. One year I did the “Carbon Fast” which was all about reducing my Carbon Dioxide emissions. Another year there was the Lent Plastic Challenge, all about the Reduce, Reuse and Recycle of plastics, especially one-use plastics.
This year the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book is “Saying yes to life” by Ruth Valerio. It reflects on the biblical creation story, suggesting environmental actions for each stage of creation. The CofE’s social media campaign #LiveLent also has a creation-care focus.
It does seem highly appropriate to use our Lenten disciplines to improve our relationship with the environment. Simpler lifestyles that are more in harmony with God’s creation are one dimension of the gospel life to which we are called. We need to repent of our extravagant creation of the greenhouses gases which contribute to Climate Change and its devastating impacts on poorer nations. Of course, this is very difficult! We like our cars, our holiday flights and our meat rich diets, and I am no exception to that. But repentance is always hard. We have to want it, pray for it, and then look for God’s grace to make it possible.
On 12th February 2020 the General Synod of the CofE passed a highly ambitious environmental motion:
[We] call upon all parts of the Church of England… to work to achieve year-on-year reductions in emissions and urgently examine what would be required to reach net zero emissions by 2030 in order that a plan of action can be drawn up to achieve that target;
The resolution is similar to a Birmingham Diocesan Synod motion passed in November 2019. The 2030 date is extremely ambitious, but I do think it will focus our minds! I hope that the Synod resolution can become a true vehicle for our repentance in the church and can lead us to a better relationship with creation and the Creator.
Prayer for Creation Care (A shortened version of the prayer at the end of “Laudato Si”)
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love,
that we may advance the weak and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you! Amen.