Colette Joyce is the Justice and Peace Co-ordinator for the Diocese of Westminster. From 9-15 August this summer, she joined the YCCN Relay from London to Oxford, walking for Climate Justice as part of a larger pilgrimage from the G7 in Cornwall to COP26 in Glasgow.
‘Come, ye thankful people, come’ – I have always loved a good harvest festival. This time of year always brings back memories from my Essex childhood of ecumenical services in village churches, displays of pumpkins, apples, fruit, vegetables, tins and packets of every kind, and always, in the middle, a wheatsheaf baked out of bread. And afterwards everything was always distributed to those in need – the children’s home, the residential care home, refugee families. Christians in the UK have long celebrated the produce of the earth in autumn and practiced the tradition of sharing it out.
Since 2015 Pope Francis has called Catholics to join other Christians worldwide in widening their gaze still further at this time of year. From 1st September to 4th October we are invited to celebrate the Season of Creation, a time that includes many of the elements familiar to the tradition of harvest festivals but can now be shared universally across all countries and cultures, each with their own unique patterns of fruitfulness. While still giving gratitude for the great bounty of the earth, what we are being called to celebrate now is the very gift of Creation itself, every plant, tree, animal, insect, bird, fish, river, ocean, mountain and plain.
‘The Earth is the Lord’s and everything on it,’ (Ps 24:1) says the Psalmist. Our Scriptures tell us that we are stewards of creation, receiving a gift from the hand of God that we hold only in trust for our time on earth. No matter how much we might want to build bigger barns to store away more and more of this gift for ourselves, we can take nothing with us when we die, but will be judged instead on what we leave for the next generation.
Sadly, our earth is in danger so the Season of Creation calls forth from us a new urgency to understand and cherish the eco-systems of our world, that we might also know how to protect it. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report on 7th August 2021 stated unequivocally that, “Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe,” (A3) and, “Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.” (B1)
However, this is also the year when governments and businesses have the opportunity to unite and address these challenges at the COP26 UN Climate Change meeting in Glasgow, 1st-12th November. The actions of millions of people of faith, whether through advocacy, prayer or personal lifestyle changes, will be instrumental in helping the best collective decisions to be made.
This Season of Creation, let us strive to be part of the solution, not the problem, so that future generations, too, will be able to ‘Raise the song of harvest home.’
Young Christian Climate Network – www.yccn.uk/
IPPC Report – www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM.pdf
Westminster Justice and Peace – https://westminsterjusticeandpeace.org/season-of-creation-1st-september-4th-october/