Boston church links Advent and climate change to proclaim peace, justice
A Boston congregation of the United Church of Christ is building the season of Advent around climate care as a reminder of the hope brought each year through the celebration of Christ’s birth on Christmas. Church of the Covenant will explore how faith empowers its members to face fear and work for peace through climate justice.
Part of the message: In the way that the Christ Child was born to bring freedom, a climate change movement is born to bring justice. The connection between Advent and climate care also corresponds with the upcoming global climate conference beginning in Paris on Nov. 30.
“We are a church that is deeply committed to following Jesus out into the world — a world that is often laden with injustice and inequality,” said senior pastor the Rev. Rob Mark. “Climate change is one of most significant moral challenges our entire planet is faced with, as it affects the most vulnerable most significantly. And our congregation understands that our faith has something to say about this global injustice. When we realized the beginning of the climate talks in Paris this year coincided with the beginning of the season of Advent, we heard an invitation by the Spirit to engage this topic in a liturgically intentional way.”
This is the first time that Church of the Covenant is focusing Advent around climate change. Mark added that an important part of the theme is the addition of new liturgical aspects to congregation’s worship service.
Each service in Advent at Church of the Covenant we will begin with lighting a “climate flame” —an old-school oil-wick lamp. Then the lamp will be ceremoniously “banished” from the sanctuary, followed by the unfurling of sanctuary-long, see-through blue fabric rolls that run down each side aisle and center aisle.
“It is a strong, artistically visual way to remind people that there is hope in the promise that God is with us, especially as we face our fears and great challenges like climate change,” Mark said. “On Christmas Eve, we will extinguish the climate flame altogether… We also hope to have a good portion of this Christmas Eve service lit by candles and fossil fuel free lamps — to emphasize a new way forward with alternative sources of power.”
As Church of the Covenant begins Advent with an eye on climate care, the UCC national offices are highlighting a focus on El Niño during the season with weekly devotionals, sermon ideas and other resources. UCC General Minister and President the Rev. John Dorhauer is also inviting the wider church to join a broad interfaith coalition for a Day of Global Reflection on Climate Disruption on Sunday, Dec. 6. Congregations and individuals are encouraged to observe that day by setting aside 30 minutes for a contemplative activity such as prayer or meditation.
Advent is the season observed, mostly by Western Churches, as the time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ on Christmas. Advent begins on Nov. 29 this year and ends on Dec. 24.
“Advent is a season of preparation and longing for light,” Mark said. “This year, our world seems to need Advent more than ever — in the face of growing fear over violent extremism, displacement and instability. Our planet and her people cry out.”
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