Written by Gregg Brekke
United Church of Christ pastors, denominational leaders and members are joining with ecumenical colleagues for the second consecutive year to make Lent an opportunity to enter into a spiritual discipline of fasting from carbon.
"Last year, more than 6,000 people in every state and 14 countries participated in a daily invitation to fast from carbon as their Lenten discipline," said the Rev. Jim Antal, Massachusetts Conference Minister.
The Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast – initiated by the UCC in 2011, endorsed by Episcopalians this year and promoted worldwide – begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of a period in which Christians engage in spiritual disciplines centered on repentance, fasting, prayer, study and works of love. Throughout Lent, fast participants will receive a daily email with a suggested carbon-reducing activity. When possible, a quantitative measure of the carbon reduction resulting from the activity will be reported on the group's Facebook page.
Fasters are encouraged to meet weekly with their congregations to discuss ways in which the church can engage in that week's theme.
Carbon-reducing activities range from everyday actions – unplugging unused electrical devices and appliances, conserving water in the shower and reducing drive speed – to long-term practices such as buying local produce and becoming involved in a community garden.
"Living as we are at a time when our actions – along with the actions of only a few generations – have threatened Creation as we know it by the excessive burning of fossil fuel, it is fitting to engage in a spiritual discipline of fasting from carbon," said Antal.
"This particular spiritual discipline will invite Christians to repent over the earth we have lost, and more importantly, will encourage Christians to re-purpose their life with new commitments."
Antal was one of 1,257 protesters arrested last summer in Washington, D.C., during a sit-in aimed at pressuring President Obama into denying a permit for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline. The line, designed to transport heavy crude oil trapped in tar sands, would have run from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Obama denied the permit Jan. 18.
Noting the involvement of people of faith in every historic social movement, Antal said, "This movement must eclipse the Industrial Revolution. And it must be a moral revolution, a spiritual revolution and a political revolution, as well as a material revolution.
"But people of faith – manifesting love – are the strongest force in the world," he said. "We can do this."