“Creation.” “Creator.” Are these words important to current debates and actions concerning pipelines and coastlines, Indigenous rights and economic interests? Words common to many religious/spiritual traditions/practices, are they of significance to wider concerns of the health of the earth and its species and a changing climate? Are they in conflict with the important science that informs these questions? Or, could environmental science and spiritual/religious traditions both make meaningful and critical contributions to the individual and collective commitment required for the present and future health of the planet, its air, lands and waters, its peoples, plants and animals?
Many religious/spiritual traditions/practises have creation stories or myths that affirm a Creator that is the beginning and sustaining force of life and all that is. That we as human beings are creatures along with all other creatures, and dependant on and connected with all creation, are humbling truths and right relationships that we have often failed to see and follow to the devastation of the earth and one another. This affirmation of a Creator and we as one part of a whole creation, offers correction and renewed direction for more grateful and responsible ways of living on this planet.
In the Christian community, churches across the world are adopting an ecumenical time or season of creation as part of a yearly worship calendar. The season began on September 1, a Day of Creation, and continues through October 4, a festival day to honour Saint Francis of Assisi, known for his love of all God’s creatures. In the community I serve, we are recognizing this time of creation by hanging fabric and weavings coloured with earth based dyes; singing songs emphasizing the gift of creation like, “Touch the Earth Lightly,” “God Whose Farm Is All Creation,” “Mothering God,” and the Dakota tune, “Many and Great, O God, Are Your Works.” The prayers, confessions, affirmations and other words reflect gratitude, responsibility and concern for the wellbeing and healing of creation. There is a daily calendar of challenges for living with more justice and care for the planet and one another. And we’ve constructed a beautiful “earth loom” for weaving plants and other things of the earth and the work of the congregation and neighbourhood together. In this and other ways, communities are raising awareness and concern, making connection to local daily actions and global impacts, and working in solidarity with others in this common concern for creation.
Author Bruce Sanguin, in his book If Darwin Prayed – Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics (Sanguin, 2010 p. 143) writes: ‘This is a time to realize and celebrate that we live within a miracle – life on the planet Earth. As we realize that we are biologically and spiritually kin with all creation, a fierce resolve rises up to defend and protect creation – from ourselves! This means that an ecological mission focused on the repair of the planet, and living in right relationship with all species will emerge as a priority, alongside social justice. In truth, ecological and social justice cannot be separated.”
This ecological mission is far from completed by recognizing a time of creation together. But this time is informing, it is impetus, it is inspiration to join the debates, the protests, the court challenges; to stand in solidarity as indigenous and non-indigenous peoples together, as scientists and environmentalists, as people of many and various religious and spiritual traditions and practises, for the urgent need of, for the care and healing of, for the future of, all creation. It is my fervent prayer to the Creator that it would be so, in all our relations.
Rev. Lyle McKenzie is pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria and part-time chaplain in Multifaith Services at the University of Victoria.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times colonist on Saturday Sept 8th 2018