Time for Creation 2011: Trees and forests shall rejoice

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has joined in a call to observe Thursday 1 September through Tuesday 4 October 2011 as a time for prayer, reflection and re-dedication regarding care for and just use of God’s gifts in nature.

For more than twenty years, increasing numbers of Christians throughout the world have reserved these dates in September and early October as a time to give thanks for God’s creation and to join in common prayer and action for the environment.

“A Time for Creation” is a modern addition to the liturgical calendars of many churches, emphasizing the work of God as Creator. It arose from a challenge issued by the late Dimitrios I, then the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, in proclaiming 1 September 1989 as a day of prayer for the earth and its ecosystems.

The Orthodox church year traditionally begins in September, so it seems appropriate to turn worshippers’ attention to the opening verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The new liturgical season of Creation has come to extend to 4 October, long celebrated by Roman Catholics and others as the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi.

The year 2011 has been designated as the International Year of Forests, and the WCC has appealed in particular for prayers and reflections to be offered on forests and related themes, in the spirit of such scriptural passages as this prophecy:

“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” - Isaiah 55:12 (NRSV)

In its public policy, the WCC has called for commitment to “eco-justice” and has stressed the need for action to overcome such problems as planetary pollution and other causes of climate change.

In a message delivered to the UN Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen in December 2009 (COP 15), a high-level ecumenical delegation told the meeting, “The injustice is that those who are suffering the worst consequences of this crisis have contributed the least to causing this situation. This is a matter of justice and a call to moral responsibility. We would like to underline the importance of legally-binding commitments to addressing this crisis”.

A separate statement on behalf of the WCC and bodies representing other world religions recognized the scientific evidence for human causation of climate change, and asserted that “climate change is not merely an economic or technical problem, but rather at its core is a moral, spiritual and cultural one.”

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More information on the WCC and eco-justice: www.oikoumene.org/eco-justice

(This story was provided and used with permission by the World Council of Churches.)