‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.’
(Acts 2:17, NRSV)
‘God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation.’ (Basis of Union, Par. 3)
In February 2021 at the annual meeting of the South Australian UCA Synod, we resolved that in the Shaping the Future – Strategic Priorities for the Uniting Church Synod of SA 2021 -2025, Caring for Creation should be one of our guiding principles through which all strategic priorities pass.
As we approach Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded of our Uniting Church’s vision toward the goal of reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation. In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, our Church’s confession that Jesus is Lord comes together with its interconnected confession that, ‘the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’ (Psalm 24:1, NIV). Humanity is not the master of the earth but is responsible to care for the integrity of creation. We, as God’s people are called to participate in the mission of the Holy Spirit to renew the whole creation.
Recently, a series of new resources were developed by the UCA Environmental Action Group in cooperation with Uniting Church Fellowship and Mission Support (UCFAMS), with support from the SA UCA Synod, entitled, “Lessons from Covid-19 for the Climate emergency”.
At the launch, Dr Deidre Palmer, President of the Uniting Church in Australia, said:
“This resource raises awareness of the climate crisis we face, encourages conversation and reflection – personally and communally. It sets it within the context of our Biblical and theological foundations and our faithful following of Jesus. It encourages us to engage intelligently with the science, and to seriously question the way we are living our lives daily. The resource sets it within the context of what we have been facing over this past year, and our response. After more than a year of the emergence of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, and as we continue to live with all its impacts, we are grieving -the loss of life, loss of social connection, loss of income and the uncertainty for our future. We lament the inequities in our world, where not everyone has the opportunity to wash their hands in clean water, or to socially distance, as they cope with crowded shelters and inadequate health care. We are joining together in global cooperation, and in Australia, to stem the spread of this virus, and to protect the most vulnerable in our community”.
“Our political leaders and health and economic professionals are leading us through this crisis with guidance that is based on scientific evidence and compassionate care for those impacted. We have seen what can be achieved in a very short space of time to address a crisis that threatens us all. In the resource, “Lessons from COVID19 for the Climate Emergency”, we recognize as a Church, we have another crisis that we need to face together – the crisis that our whole creation is groaning under the impacts of climate change, pollution, and degradation of our ecosystems”.
“Emerging from the COVID crisis – what will we do? Some have talked about what will be the “new normal” on the other side of this pandemic. This is a time for us as the Uniting Church to be asking: What do we want our common life to be? As followers of Jesus, what are the values and practices we want to embrace and maintain? How will we bear witness to God’s vision of the reconciliation and renewal of the whole creation?”
“The new resource encourages us to consider these questions and others that are before us, and to take action. We need to urgently take action to prioritise what is important for now and into our future. God is calling us to shape a world, where our common life includes care for the earth, which we all share; a recognition, that creation is not there simply for our use and abuse, but the creatures of the earth, the plants, and the land itself, need to be respected, and cherished. We need to live in a sustainable way, using renewable sources of energy, recycling, reducing waste, and having sustainable manufacturing and agricultural practices, so that there is a future for our earth. We need our Government to set in place strategies to ensure that all communities are able to transition into the new low carbon world for the sake of the whole planet”.
Deidre outlined the video series:
The first video is an introduction to the series by Rev Jennifer Hughes.
In the second video “Compassion and Innovation”, Tarlee Leondaris speaks of the significant challenges that face us, if we don’t respond to the climate crisis. And she reminds us of God’s great compassion for the earth. She also reminds us that God’s call to us is to participate in God’s mission now in our present: “Jesus’ understanding of the new heaven and new earth includes that it is not just a future phenomenon, after our death. We are participants in bringing them about in this time and in this place.” She notes that there is hope – and that “Hope is a verb, rather than a noun” – an action.
The third video features Rev John Hughes speaking about our “Connectedness” – with a reference to our SA Synod Moderator’s theme: Connections – we are connected with God, with each other and the earth.
The fourth video is led by Leigh Newton, exploring “Learning from Science”. Leigh reminds us of one of the significant lessons from COVID19 –we need to heed the science – listen to those scientists, who point to the evidence of global warming, and the effects of climate change.
The fifth and final video features Carys Penny who challenges us to consider: “how much do we need?” – and calls us to consider how we live with integrity and sustainably, respecting the earth. She calls us to challenge over consumption and a disposable, throwaway lifestyle.
“As the Uniting Church, as followers of Jesus, we are called to take action to address climate change and renew and protect the life of our planet. We are called to move toward sustainable and non-exploitative living, embracing a relationship of mutuality and respectful interdependence with the whole creation. In concluding, Dr Palmer said, “I highly commend this resource to the whole Church – it will contribute to the deepening of our Christian discipleship in our care for God’s creation”.
A PRAYER FOR THE EARTH
We give you thanks for your beautiful creation. We give you thanks for the intricate web of life that weaves us together. We give you thanks for this resource and pray your blessing on all those who use it. Christ, our Redeemer, forgive us when we exploit and degrade the earth. Forgive us when we consume more than we need. Forgive us when we greedily use the earth’s resources, while others are living in poverty and lack the basic necessities of life. As people around our nation gather in groups to reflect on the themes raised in this resource, renew your vision within us of a world in which we love our neighbours, share equitably all the gifts of the earth, and live in harmony with all creation. Holy Spirit, Life giver, may we be bearers of your liberating hope. Sustain us as we participate in God’s reconciliation and the renewal of the whole earth. Amen.
‘Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth’ (Ps 104:1).
Environmental Action Group on Youtube, blogsite
Uniting Church Fellowship and Mission Support (UCFAMS)
Youtube channel; President: Jill Polkinghorne
Phone 85226188/0404 326 092 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
(On Friday 21 May, Uniting Church members across the country will join with young people at marches and other events calling for a more genuine response to climate change. Read more here).