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PARISH PRACTICE MARY COLWELL Time for today


Churches have traditionally held harvest celebrations at this time of year, in thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth. But they could be combined with a new celebration – that of Creation Time – to focus on both the benefits of Creation and humanity’s responsibility for it


I nspirational Christian environmentalist,


explorer and writer John Muir, who encountered God in the landscapes of North America in the late nineteenth


century, once wrote: “A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship.” Muir believed that Creation worships the Creator in ceaseless praise – as we hear in the third Eucharistic Prayer: “Father, you are holy indeed, and all Creation rightly gives you praise.” But as part of Creation, do we offer him that ceaseless praise ourselves in thanksgiving for the world of which we are part?


Creation Time is a new concept – an idea that we should set aside time for celebration, devotion and reflection on God and the natural world, consider our relationship to Creation, and act and pray for guidance in protecting it for future gener- ations. Creation Time is increasingly being adopted by churches throughout the world. Bartholomew, the Ecu - menical Patriarch of Constantinople, some years ago designated 1 September as “a day of thanksgiving for the great gift of Creation and of petitions for its preservation and healing” and, in September 2007, it was extended into a Creation season at the recommendation of the third European Ecumenical Assembly, which was held in Sibiu, Romania. The assembly proposed that the period from 1 September to the second Sunday of October be observed as a period of celebration of the Creator and Creation – and they noted with interest that certain Churches had begun to use this period as an occasion to strengthen within the Churches the con- sciousness of responsibility for Creation. They suggested that the Churches introduce this period into their calendar. As 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and as we approach 18 October, the date set for the UN Convention on bio- logical diversity to meet in Agoya, Japan,


and discuss the crisis facing much of life on Earth, this is a particularly apt moment for parishes to set aside this time for Creation. The European Ecumenical Environmental


TO DO


Encourage a consciousness of our responsibility for Creation


AdoptCreation Time in your parish as a time to thank God for Creation


Use the gifts of the parish musicians, poets, performers and artists for thanksgiving events to help focus on Creation Time


Network’s document, “Time for God’s Creation”, asks that parishes use this time set aside for reflection on the nature of Creation to recognise the magnitude of the crisis and to reflect on its implications for faith and discipleship. The document suggests that we enter into dialogue and exchange with one another and people of other persuasions and faiths, that we learn from scientists and experts and that we discover new approaches and accept new commitments – as both congre- gations and people. Moreover, it invites us to witness to the true voice of the Scriptures so that we can become a kind of first fruits of God’s creatures (James 1:18). One of the difficulties that some people have with constant reminders from the environmental movement about the threats to the planet from climate change and global warming is that it encourages many negative responses, including guilt about the state of the natural world; there is a lack of joy, celebration and hope which so many associate with nature. Think, for exam- ple, of the popularity of


television natural history programmes that display planet earth in all its beauty. But Christians understand the power of joy that is rooted in a faith full of hope for the future. This is an area in which many parishes can excel. Their musicians, poets, performers and artists can help express thanksgiving for Creation. There are resources already packaged and available for parishes to start to formulate a celebration for Creation that can be found on the websites, LiveSimply, and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. What a difference it would make to the perception of the environment if all people of faith were seen to cherish the world around them and thank God for the gifts given to us by the earth, such as food, water, air, energy and useful materials. Folded into


our praise is a deep appreciation of the inspir ation offered by nature: a beauty that has moved so many to the heights of creative achievement.


If parishes embraced the idea of Creation Time at this time of year, it would be an opportunity to enhance traditional harvest celebrations, which have become less important in many Catholic parishes over the last few decades. This precious ceremony could be used to reflect on our food in a con- temporary context – now so dependent on global connections and therefore on the health of the earth itself. A further step that could be taken during Creation Time/harvest, when we mark the season of plenty as the fruits of the earth are gathered for our benefit, is to adopt the “Loaf” principle at home and in parish events; Loaf stands for Local, Organically produced, Animal friendly and Fairly traded. (Loaf principles can be found on the Christian Ecology website.) Then there are other green activities that can be adopted or stepped up by both the parish and families to help educate their children: learning more about the local envir - onment, using less energy, encouraging people to make fewer car journeys to Mass. Making a point of saying grace before and after meals also helps focus attention on the planet’s resources through the food we eat. Children can also be reminded of these lessons during their preparation for First Holy Communion when Creation is seen as an ongoing process of love and as a precious gift to all of humanity. One of the greatest opportunities for reflec- tion in the coming weeks is on 4 October, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, who was declared by Pope John Paul II as the patron saint of ecology. It is a moment to echo St Francis’ words as we reflect on developing a holy relationship with the natural world – “Sing a new song to the Lord, Sing to the Lord all the earth”.


■Mary Colwell is a freelance producer specialising in environment and wildlife. For more information, visit her website: www.curlewmedia.com or contact her by email: marycolwell1@mac.com


2 October 2010 | THE TABLET | 15


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