A Lenten Carbon Fast
By LeeAnne Beres, part of the Vestry Papers issue on Caring for God's Creation (March 2011)
Forty days of Lent. Nine hundred and sixty hours. Fifty-seven thousand, six hundred minutes. This time before Easter is one for reflecting on and fasting from the actions, objects, or attitudes in our life that separate us from God. For many, it is also a time of renewal and reconnection, to our Creator and the great gift of creation.
Marjorie Thompson writes in her book Soul Feast, “For the early church, Lent was just the opposite of a dreary season of restriction. It was understood as an opportunity to return to…the life of natural communion with God that was lost to us in the Fall.”
In this view, Lent is a time to restore our life of natural communion with God, which includes understanding both our limits and the limits of God’s creation. One way to celebrate Lent, therefore, is to practice practical ways of honoring those limits.
The spiritual practice of fasting, accompanied by prayer and meditation, moves us to be more open to the will of God in our lives. Fasting helps us listen to what God wants us to be and to do. During Lent this year, Earth Ministry and Washington Interfaith Power & Light (WAIPL) invite you to try a “fast from carbon,” that is, to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide you put into the atmosphere.
Why should you consider a fast from carbon? There are at least five reasons:
- The carbon dioxide we are putting into the environment, in the form of greenhouse gases, is changing the climate of God’s creation, our planet Earth. Scientists no longer debate the basic facts of climate change.
- The sources of these greenhouse gases are largely produced by human beings and the society we have created.
- The largest component of greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide, which comes from the burning of fossil fuels during the generation of electricity and from the modes of transportation that we use.
- Unless we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, the impact of these increases will be devastating for our planet, for its people—especially the poor and vulnerable—and for the plants and animals that have lived here for millions of years. Time is critical.
- God created this Earth, declared it to be good, and expects us to care for creation and to maintain its goodness for future generations.
Engaging your congregation in a carbon-free Lent is a practical and timely way to put faith into action. These free resources can help you get started.
Lenten Creation Care Resources
Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s Prayer and Action Guide for a Lenten Fast from Carbon
This Lenten prayer guide features seven prayerful reflections (for Ash Wednesday and the six Sundays of Lent), which include insights on regional impacts of climate change, Scripture readings and prayers, and actions of individuals wanting to reduce their carbon footprints. An excellent resource for weekly bulletin inserts, adult forums, and even personal devotions.
Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s 2014 Carbon Fast for Lent Calendar
This 40-day calendar suggests a practical, carbon-dioxide-reducing action for each day of Lent (e.g. "find the most environmentally friendly way to get to church today" and "run your dishwasher only with a full load"). And under this program, you can have your chocolate and be observant too: the Lent calendar allows for an indulgence in a Theo Chocolate bar, which is organic and free trade certified.
For Further Action
For congregations who want to continue their creation care efforts after the Lenten season concludes, there are many opportunities and resources for further involvement.
Caring for All Creation
Earth Ministry's three-part Caring for All Creation program encourages both individuals and communities of faith to live in loving community with all of God's creation, in specific aspects of our lives. Each of the three modules provides worship aids to address a particular environmental issue as part of a regular Sunday worship service:
- On the Road – transportation and climate change
- At the Table – sustainable agriculture and organic/locally grown food
- By the Waters – water conservation and river restoration
All of these modules give congregations an understanding of the Christian faith that underlies our call to care for the earth, and a pathway to experiencing that connection in the context of a familiar worship service. Congregations celebrate an “Action Sunday” around each issue area of transportation, food production, home/grounds maintenance, and water – exploring relevant themes through adult and youth education opportunities, hymn and music choices, prayers and liturgy, and the sermon/reflection.
Earth Ministry's extensive Greening Congregations program offers a flexible strategy for engaging faith communities in creation-care efforts. The program supports your congregation as you envision and celebrate the “greening” of many different areas of your church’s life: worship, education, building and grounds, community engagement, and individual stewardship.
Participants in the yearlong program gain access to online resources, staff support, and a half-price Greening Congregations Handbook. For more information on how to earn recognition as a Greening Congregation, contact Dana Swanson at 206.632.2426 or email@example.com.
LeeAnne Beres is the Executive Director of Earth Ministry, which engages individuals and congregations across the country in caring for creation through education, individual stewardship, and organizing for social change through environmental advocacy. Under her leadership, Earth Ministry built upon its flagship Greening Congregations program to become a national leader in training clergy and lay leaders to put faith into action. LeeAnne has an undergraduate degree in biology and graduate degrees in fisheries management and non-profit management, and 20 years experience working with environmental and religious non-profits.
Resources for Lent:
- Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s Prayer and Action Guide for a Lenten Fast from Carbon
- Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s 2014 Carbon Fast for Lent Calendar
- Earth Ministry’s Lenten Devotions and Resources
- Environmental Stations of the Cross
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