Written by Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss
Part of an ongoing series on best practices for Creation Justice Churches.
Among the liturgical seasons celebrated at my church in North Hollywood is the Season of Creation. For those unfamiliar with this liturgical season, it starts on September 1st which Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Dimitri designated as a day of prayer for creation, and it ends on October 4th, the celebration of Francis of Assisi. In 2007, the Third European Ecumenical Assembly adopted this period to celebrate creation. The following year the world Council of Churches called for the observation for the Season of Creation. It is now celebrated by a number of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches as an addition to the ordinary time of the lectionary schedule which begins after Pentecost and ends with Advent. Each year new churches add the Season of Creation to spice up ordinary time. It brings a freshness to the lectionary cycle of readings and our churches. .
In observing the Season of Creation for the last few years at the church at which I serve as pastor, we have found that it reinforces our commitment to Earthcare. The Season can be a time to introduce your church to environmental issues through sermons, prayers, educational programs, and children programs.
Worship teams may roll the eyes at the introduction of a liturgical season. This is, however, an important issue facing us with severe weather events resulting from climate change. This year in the Season of Creation focuses on the Cycle of Wisdom: Ocean Sunday, Fauna and Flora Sunday, Storm Sunday, and Cosmos Sunday. The first Sunday of October includes the blessings of the animals. In blessing the companion animals of our church members, I tap my Catholic heritage and give each animal a little medal with the image of Francis of Assisi. Each household has been pleased to receive the Francis of Assisi medal.
There are resources online to cover each Sunday and provide scripture, sermon themes, songs, prayers, electronic resources, and ministry events. There is also a section on guidance and suggestions for children’s reflections.
In addition to these resources, I want to add some reasons for why UCC churches should participate. The UCC describes itself “uniting and united.” We have the opportunity to join churches in other denominations to honor and celebrate God’s creation. It expresses our core mission to unite and be united with other churches in witnessing to Christian care for the Earth. It is a time to incorporate ecojustice into worship. The Season of Creation turns our liturgical attention in preaching and ritual to God’s relationship with all creation and with our relationship with creation.
Churches can also make the most of the season by showing educational videos for discussion or inviting speakers from local environmental organizations. It can also be an opportunity for UCC churches to start their journey in becoming recognized as a Creation Justice Church. Finally, it can allow you to build ecumenical relations with other faith communities who participate in this season.
From my church’s experience, the Season of Creation is a wonderful way to appreciate and deepen our connection with God in creation. We need to create hearts converted to a creation-centered spirituality that will become the fuel and passion for creating sustainable communities and embark upon a commitment to environmental justice.
The Rev. Dr. Robert E. Shore-Goss is the Senior Pastor/Theologian for MCC United Church of Christ in the Valley, North Hollywood.