In a deeply moving and spiritually enriching gathering, over 800 people from different walks of life came together in a profound ecumenical prayer service to initiate the Season of Creation 2023. This ecumenical event, adapted from the ecumenical prayer service found in the 2023 SOC Celebration Guide, focused on the importance of reflection, understanding, and healing through prayer and connection with the Earth through the voices of the following faith leaders:
- Rev Dr Jerry Pillay, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches
- Sr Alessandra Smerilli, Secretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
- Bishop Marc Andrus, Episcopal Diocese of California
- Dr Louk Andrianos, World Council of Churches and member of the Season of Creation Ecumenical Steering Committee
- Sarah Eulitz, World Student Christian Federation-Europe
- Stephen Taylor, Diocesan Secretary of the Diocese of Canterbury, Church of England, board member of the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN)
Prayer interwoven with the sounds of a flowing river
Dr. Jerry Pillay’s opening prayer resonated with the hope for justice and restoration for all of creation. Drawing from Lancelot Andrewes, this prayer beautifully acknowledged the role of light and life in renewing the Earth:
“May we rejoice in this day you have made open our eyes to behold your presence and strengthen our hands to work for justice for all of creation…”
Bishop Marc Andrus led a powerful prayer honoring the four directions, connecting with the natural world in a profound way. This Indigenous-inspired prayer called for healing and balance, echoing the need for humanity to restore harmony with the Earth.
Sr. Alessandra Smerilli drew attention to the link between fossil fuels, violence, and war as she recited Psalm 85. “May love and truth meet together. Let justice and peace kiss,” responded those gathered as they reflected on the consequences of our actions and the need for reconciliation.
Dr. Jerry Pillay led a litany of repentance that touched upon humanity’s disregard for the environment and the consequences of ecological sins. This powerful acknowledgment of our role in environmental degradation was a call to action and a plea for transformation:
“Creation roars in pain. Yet we are deaf. You call us in Christ, to speak truth to power and peace to this planet, our common home. Yet we are silent. God of hope and healing, May your Rivers of Righteousness Wash away our apathy, our greed and selfishness and reveal the deep relationships.”
Moment of scripture, moments of reflection
Bishop Marc Andrus read a modern interpretation of Amos 5:21-24, emphasizing the call for justice and fairness over religious rituals. At this moment, attendees heard the voice of a river via video footage, a poignant reminder of the theme for this year’s Season of Creation–let justice and peace flow — and a reminder of all living things and the importance of listening to the natural world. The Gospel of John, Chapter 7, verses 37-39, read by Sr. Alessandra Smerilli connected Jesus’ message to the flow of this living water.
At this point the service included three powerful video reflections from individuals such as Rev. Dr. Marie Ropeti-Apisaloma of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand who reminded those gathered that “ensuring that all people have access to the resources they need is crucial to caring for the Earth…by working together we can create a better future for ourselves and for generations to come.”
Cacique Dadá Borari, of the Borari people in Brazil’s Amazon and a protagonist of the documentary film The Letter, invoked the imagery of a river with the invitation to “wash ourselves as if we were cleaning a creek that was filthy.” Borari rooted this in his people’s concern for creating “a good heart, a peaceful heart, an intelligent heart.”
Finally, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate highlighted the global nature of the ecological crisis and the need for unity in addressing it.
“Is everyone sharing in the river of fairness? Is everyone experiencing the peace that surpasses understanding? No. We are facing a climate emergency!”
She emphasized the injustice faced by African communities who suffer from the crisis despite the continent’s minimal contribution to it. But Nakate named hope too. “Another world is possible…the people united can never be defeated. The church united can be able to transform this world…”
Upon the concluding moments of the prayer service, the Lord’s Prayer was recited in various languages, symbolizing unity and diversity among the attendees, and emphasizing the universal message of faith. This shared moment was experienced across many countries unnamed and named, including Australia, Italy, Kenya, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, Ireland, Singapore, Venezuela, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, Sri Lanka, and Wales.
Bishop Marc Andrus closed the service with a heartfelt benediction, invoking blessings upon all present and calling for the living waters of justice and peace to flow through the Earth. As the final song, ecumenical committee co-chair Suzana Moreira let the song “A Mighty River,” fill the virtual space and sacred gathering that touched the hearts and souls of all participants.
The service reminded us of the profound connection between faith, spirituality, and environmental stewardship. It emphasized the urgency of addressing environmental challenges and the power of collective prayer and action to heal our planet. In a world often filled with division and turmoil, this prayer service served as a beacon of hope, a reminder that through faith, compassion, and a renewed connection with the Earth, we can strive for justice, balance, and a brighter future for all living creatures.
For more information and opportunities to participate in events for the Season of Creation, see the website here.
To preview the full prayer service, enjoy the recording below: