A great way to get your faith community interested in taking action on climate change is to start talking with them about it.
Seminar in Caloundra Catholic parish, Queensland
A great way to get your faith community interested in taking action on climate change is to start talking with them about it. There are many angles to approach this from!
The Science of Climate Change section provides resources for you to learn about the issue and educate your faith community. But while it important to understand some of the science behind climate change there are also other aspects to think about. We need to keep talking about what justice means in this context as people of faith. If we have been part of the societies that have contributed the most to climate change, what response are we required to make to vulnerable communities who have made the least contribution to climate change, but will possibly suffer the most? What does justice mean from our faith perspective here? Some of this is covered under Morality of Climate Change.
As people of faith, we also need to re-discover what our traditions have to say about Creation – how we are to relate to it, how we learn about God’s character through the imagery of Creation shown throughout. The Tools for Reflection section provides some resources for connecting it all with our faith.
You might like to integrate these reflection and learning tools throughout your Steps2Sustainability journey, interspersing some education with practical actions to give your faith community an action-reflection experience.
To start with, here are a few ideas you might like to use along the way to help people connect with the roots of your faith tradition, as well as looking towards a future of hope. Remember that people learn in different ways, so it’s great if you can provide different styles of opportunities for people to engage with the issues.
Idea 1: Reclaiming the context for our relationship with the Creator: Start helping your faith community connect with Creation just like you did with your sustainability team.
In most faiths, Creation was the very context for our relationship with the Creator. This is something many of us have lost sight of, with much of our lives, work and even worship conducted indoors, shut off from Creation. We need to consciously reclaim this and start with some practical small steps at our place of worship, whether it is bringing more of Creation indoors so it is part of people’s consciousness as they worship, or whether we take the people outdoors more to relate with God in the context of Creation. Either way, we need to remember that Creation is good, we are part of it, and the more we interact with it, the more we will understand our Creator and our need to protect Creation. This needs to be the basis for our action on climate change and sustainability because without a strong inner motivation that comes from our faith, we will be in danger of burning out.
Here is one activity you could try:
- Hold a worship service outdoors and give people ways to interact with Creation as part of the worship. You might like to find readings that talk about creation, or create reflection stations outdoors where people can read texts while interacting with Creation, eg. read out the Creation story, and then get people to walk around the grounds of your place of worship and the streets around it, observing the goodness of God’s Creation that surrounds your gathering place.
Idea: 2 Inform your faith community about human impacts on the environment and human responsibility
“The Creator Spirit is crying because the deep spiritual bonds with the land and its people have been broken. The land is crying because it is slowly dying without the bond of spiritual life. The people are crying because they long for a restoration of that deep spiritual bond with the Creator Spirit and the land.” (from Rainbow Spirit Theology: Towards an Australian Aboriginal Theology)
Human-induced climate change is a symptom of a broken Creation and more specifically, the result of the way humans have used and exploited the earth. We need to be willing to see the reality of this, learn about how it happened, and what needs to be done practically and structurally to change this relationship with the earth. We need to reclaim our roles as carers and stewards of Creation.
There are a number of ways you could do this, through the worship services, communications to the community, small groups, or from your faith leaders.
Here are some activities you could try:
- Encourage your spiritual leader/s to talk about climate change in the worship service and to include readings, reflections and prayers about Creation and climate change.
- Give a short presentation or talk about climate change at an appropriate time, or invite a guest speaker to do so. We may be able to help you find a speaker, especially if you are based in greater Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra - just contact us.
- Have a special event about climate change. You could screen one of the documentaries that have been produced, such as An Inconvenient Truth, ‘The 11th Hour or Age of Stupid, followed by a discussion session afterwards. TEAR Australia has some great DVD resources.
- If your place of worship has text study groups or small groups, let them know about study resources that will help them engage with issues of faith, climate change and justice. (See Tools for Reflection resource list)
- Show DVDs and share stories about how climate change is impacting poor communities around the world.
Idea 3: Remember the poor
As you educate your faith community about climate change, help people keep in their consciousness that it is the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people who are impacted the most.
Here are some ideas:
- Displaced by a changing climate: Ask people to share with the person next to them any times they have moved house and reasons for moving. They might like to share what the experience was like for them and whether the reasons for moving impacted whether it was a good or bad experience. After a few minutes, draw people together and share a story about people in developing countries who are displaced because of climate change (see below for stories). Give people some time in silence to reflect on what it would be like to have to become homeless because of a climate related event. You might like to lead people in a prayer for poor communities affected by climate change, or simply leave people to silently pray.
- Let people know about organisations that have projects that support communities to adapt to climate change and reduce the risks of climate disasters. You could run fundraisers or encourage people to donate to these organisations.
Idea 4: Get your faith community to envision a new way forward:
It’s important not just to be informing your community about how Creation is being damaged, but to have a vision together of the renewal of Creation, and how we can be a part of this. Your faith community will no doubt have many creative ideas and visions amongst them about how you can become more sustainable together. Find ways to give space for these creative ideas to arise and be shared and to get people excited about what you could work towards together. Also try to look at where renewal is already happening.
Here is one activity you could try:
- Facilitate a community visioning exercise; for example, ask people to draw a picture of your faith community and what it might look like if it was more sustainable. Ask them to include a picture of themselves in the picture, showing the role they might take in this vision. Spend time sharing your pictures and visions with each other, and perhaps stick them up on the walls so that people can be inspired by each other’s visions (and others can see them later). Your team could then use some of the ideas expressed in these visions and turn them into action – you might even get clues from the pictures about who you could enlist to help!
- Think about ways that can become regular rhythms in the life of your community to connect with Creation physically and spiritually.
- See Tools for Learning for information on the science and morality of climate change and how climate change is impacting poor communities around the world.
- See Tools for Reflection for statements on climate change from different denominational leaders, prayer resources and sample sermons/homilies.
- Community visioning resources: www.gdrc.org/ngo/vision-dev.html