The climate crisis and biodiversity loss are on the G7 agenda this weekend, along with the covid crisis. And more Christians than ever are recognising that caring for creation or stewarding the environment - whatever language we want to use - is an integral part of the mission. Thank God. Because the next decade is critical for restoring nature and stabilising our climate if we are to head off environmental catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale. Governments and society need to act urgently and boldly and Christians and Churches could make a game-changing contribution to that by acting together.
A Rocha UK’s mission is to equip Christians and Churches to protect and restore the environment, by practical action and using our collective voice to speak up for change.
That means, of course, that we must work in coalitions and partnerships – no organisation can solve the environment emergency working alone. This year, with the UK hosting critical UN international climate negotiations, COP26, in November, Christians in this country have a unique opportunity to influence, if we act together.
That’s why A Rocha UK has joined with nearly thirty other charities and denominations, including CAFOD, Christian Aid, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales, to run the Climate Sunday initiative. Our collective vision is to leave a lasting legacy of thousands of UK churches better equipped to address climate change as part of their normal discipleship and mission; and to make a very significant contribution to civil society efforts to secure adequate national and international action at the COP26 conference.
We are calling on all UK churches – all 50,000 worshiping Christian communities in the UK – to do three things. First, to hold a climate-focused service before COP26. Secondly, to commit to taking further ongoing practical action themselves, through progressing through our A Rocha UK’s Eco Church programme or CAFOD’s Live Simply scheme. Thirdly, we encourage churches to add value to their practical commitments by signing the common Time is Now declaration, calling on the government to commit to go further faster on UK climate action, before hosting the summit. By this combination of practical action locally, and raising our voice together nationally, we can make the biggest possible difference.
A key focus of the campaign will be a national Climate Sunday event in Glasgow Cathedral, close to the summit site, on Sunday, 5 September 2021, where we will celebrate the commitments made by churches so far at local level, and present the UK government with the combined commitments and signatories to the Time is Now declaration. This will show our political leaders that they have our support for acting boldly, justly and compassionately on this issue.
Bishop John Arnold, of Salford diocese, who is also the Catholic Church of England and Wales’ lead bishop on the environment, will be holding a Climate Sunday Mass this Sunday 13 June at Salford Cathedral. He explains: “We need to recognise the damage we’re doing to the environment and our failure to look after our brothers and sisters in our common home. In a post-pandemic world, the Climate Sunday project is an excellent opportunity for Catholic parishes in England and Wales, as well as our ecumenical brothers and sisters, to understand responsibility to heal our planet and to pray and act in response to the climate emergency.”
But individual Christians can and want to act too, not just on climate but on nature loss. And of course they are intimately related: climate disruption is already affecting nature badly; yet nature also holds many solutions to climate change, such as reforestation and restoring our damaged wetlands, which can lock up climate-changing gases from the atmosphere. Human experience, and psychological research, tell us that it is much easier to take concerted action for someone or something that we love; and it’s easier to do challenging things in company.
So that is why A Rocha UK is facilitating a growing community of individuals and families committed to enjoying nature together, nurturing it in their own homes and communities, and defending it together by raising their voices through regular campaigns. The scheme is free to join and participate in, now with 3500 members, sharing ideas and tips on how to live more joyfully and sustainably. Our aim is to create tens of thousands of confident, empowered and well-informed agents for change and local community, and influence together nationally in this absolutely critical decade ahead to restore our environment – for God, nature and all people.
Wild Christian is for everyone and all denominations – from Christians just starting to explore what being “green” might mean to those who have already made big decisions to live more lightly and in tune with God’s creation.
This year provides a unique opportunity for UK Churches to act and speak up together on the environment, for maximum collective impact. Climate Sunday is our best way of doing so. Individuals and families will also have to act in the years ahead and doing so in company will be essential for most. Wild Christian provides one innovative and motivating way to do that.
Church congregations can register to participate in Climate Sunday by visiting www.climatesunday.org, which has service resources for a range of traditions. To sign up to Wild Christian, please email them.