The ‘Season of Creation’ theme for 2022 is ‘Listen to the voice of creation‘. ‘Season of Creation’ is the annual Christian celebration of prayer and action for our common home.
This year, more so even than in previous years, the Season of Creation needs to focus on to listening to earth, to the groaning of creation, to the voice of creation. The floods and fires and droughts and earthquakes around the world speak volumes about the environmental crisis.
[There are excellent resources available on the Season of Creation website for congregational worship. The Season of Creation begins on September 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation established by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I in 1989, when he proclaimed September 1 as the Orthodox Day of Prayer for Creation. It ends on October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology. Congregations can focus on 4 Sundays in September and possibly also the first Sunday in October].
In July, Pope Francis defined the Season of Creation as “an opportunity to cultivate our ‘ecological conversion’”, recalling this concept encouraged by St. John Paul II as a response to the ‘ecological catastrophe’ announced by St. Paul VI as early as 1970. In his message for this year’s Season of Creation, he asked “in the name of God” that large extractive corporations “stop destroying forests, wetlands and mountains, stop polluting rivers and seas, stop poisoning people and food.”
(Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudatory Si’ can be found here).
In a recent Sojourners article two questions are posed:
* Can songs about nature contribute to climate activism?
* How can hymns and worship songs respond to the climate crisis?
Debra Rienstra, an English professor at Calvin University and author of Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth, said hymns and other worship music may play a role in shaping and deepening our feelings toward God’s natural world.
Rienstra hosts a podcast that explores places of renewal spiritually, biologically, and otherwise. She told Sojourners that spiritual formation includes orthodoxy (right thinking), orthopraxy (right doing), but also orthopathy (right feeling). “Getting people to care about creation might be part of orthopathy“, she said. “Can we shape that pathos toward a renewed love for creation? I hope that answer is yes.”
Maybe the 2022 Season of Creation needs a focus on orthopathy, on a renewed love for creation and therefore the imperative to care for creation.
Richard Lindroth, a forest ecologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and teacher on Christian environmental ethics, wrote that inaction in Christian churches is a result of “long-term estrangement from the natural world.”
Debra Rienstra said there is a “disconnection of place,” which she sees as foundational in colonialism. “The Bible is about Indigenous peoples basically. So, what we need to receive from Indigenous people is connection to place“.
Ron Rienstra, a worship pastor, and co-author with Debra Rienstra of the book, Worship Words, said music as a commodity has tended toward wide appeal, choosing metaphors, but not making them particular to place. “When we sing or speak or argue theologically in abstract ways that are trying to articulate truths for all time, we’re removing ourselves from the time and place that we are. We’re clearly in a particular time that calls for us to sing, preach, and pray about what’s going on in the world in regard to climate change.”
Richard Lindroth notes, “We instinctively care for the things we love, and we love the things to which we are intimately connected. Creation connection is a fundamental and necessary antecedent to creation care.”
While Christian environmental ethicists in the past focused on “stewardship” or “creation care” – a theology of right thinking – it hasn’t motivated the church to do much. Ron thinks that is because “the whole conversation takes place under the umbrella of duty or obligation. That’s a very short-term motivator for most people. Connecting to and loving creation is the key to unlock people to actually do things“.