[Jesus] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:27 (NRSV)
By Rev. Paul Gehrs
I write to you from Treaty 1 Territory: the land of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. I acknowledge that from time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples have lived as stewards and defenders of this land; this work is ongoing. I am grateful every time Indigenous leaders welcome me to a place; usually this comes with encouragement for all on our spiritual journeys. The consistent message I hear from Indigenous leaders is that place is important, that every place has a history; and that the People and Nations who live in a place have a holistic and spiritual connection to the land.
Acknowledging traditional Indigenous territory is respectful and helps to start a gathering in a good way. For me, acknowledging territory is a liturgical and worshipful action. It grounds me in my current context: this time, this place, the need for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous Peoples, the need to address racism in all its forms, the need for healthy relationships with the Earth. It opens me to God’s call.
On September 27, 2019, I attended a local (Winnipeg) expression of the global strike for climate action. Primarily organized by young people, the event highlighted the urgency of the climate crisis and the urgent need for action. Thousands of people attended, including my daughter Emma, a teacher, who attended with her grade 10 students. Like many demonstrations, there was a march, speeches, music, photos posted to social media, and informal conversation.
The challenges of addressing climate justice can be overwhelming. We need to change practices and for various reasons, at different times, we are reluctant to adapt. There are those who benefit from the existing systems and actively resist change. The voices from the climate strike speaking of urgency continue to echo within me and to move me forward.
For me, the 2019 climate strike day began with an interfaith worship service. It was good to hear reflections from various faith groups. Intentional silence and prayer were moving. We need multiple faith traditions and spiritual practices to work together for climate justice.
In the midst of worship, I realised that part of what was giving meaning to this particular march was the presence of my daughter and her students. I certainly want to honour the presence of everyone who showed up; we need you all. Nevertheless, it was important for me to recognize that the presence of someone I care about and respect was helping me to be present at the climate strike in a deeper way.
I believe we need act for climate justice with our whole being. We need the resources of heart, soul, strength, mind, family and neighbours to continue the journey. Worship and prayer are practices that help me to be energized, grounded, creative and loving.
The Season of Creation is an annual celebration of prayer and action to protect creation. It runs from September 1 to October 4. Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed September 1 as a day of prayer for creation (World Day of Prayer for Creation, or Creation Day) for the Orthodox in 1989. Other Christian European churches embraced it in 2001 and Pope Francis for the Roman Catholic Church in 2015. Many traditions celebrate St. Francis of Assisi on October 4. 1
This year for Season of Creation, the presiding bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Episcopal Church (TEC), the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have prepared a series of devotions to guide us in our journey through this season together.
These four churches share a sense of call to follow Jesus together in this part of the world where we live, serve, worship, witness and work for justice. Sometimes we call this Full Communion. Sometimes it feels like desperately trying to be the church in some small way. In prayer and conversation, we have a growing sense that ELCA, TEC, ACC and ELCIC need each other on the journey of discipleship.
These devotions are an invitation to enter more deeply into the Season of Creation and more hopefully into the journey of faithful discipleship. Thanks to Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Archbishop Linda Nicholls and National Bishop Susan Johnson for lifting up the Scriptures and encouraging us on our way.