Christian worship all down the centuries has given inspiration for the Church’s mission of caring for creation. The Bible teaches about God being the Creator from Genesis right the way through the Psalms and into the New Testament. Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians (1:15-17) portrays Jesus Christ as the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of creation. Some of our best loved hymns proclaim the wonders of creation; from the rather overdone “All things Bright and Beautiful” through to classics like “For the beauty of the Earth”.
The following resources are helpful sources for prayers and service plans. Resources for worship outdoors that engages with nature are here.
This links through to a selection of resources on the Eco Church website.
One of those that may be particularly useful is resources for use on special Sundays, such as services in Great Big Green Week, Climate Sunday or during the Season of Creation.
Prayers on the CofE website for the Agricultural Year: link goes through to the introduction, scroll down for prayers for Plough Sunday, Rogation, Lammas, Harvest and prayers in time of agricultural crisis.
These prayers are most obviously of value in rural areas, but urban churches can be creative with the resources in allotments and community gardens.
Plough Sunday – early January: praying at what was traditionally the time to plough and plant. Farming works differently now but the prayers still fit well at this time of year as we pray for life and growth, during the dormant season, looking ahead towards growth yet to come.
Rogation – usually a Sunday in May: praying for life and growth during the season of fast growth and increasing abundance. Many churches prayer walk around agricultural fields, sometimes walking between churches in multi-parish benefices or teams.
Lammas – early August: harvest thanksgiving at the time of the grain harvest. The Lammas loaf, made from new grain, is one of the possible traditions to celebrate, or celebrating communion with locally baked bread.
Harvest Festival – September/October: continued harvest celebration, with a more general focus, giving thanks for all the sustenance God gives us through growth and harvest.
Environment Sunday – the Sunday after 5 June
This timing is around the Great Big Green Week, which is a great opportunity to link worship with community activities around throughout the week.
June is also the time of Churches Count on Nature – offering plenty of opportunities for join-up between worship and wider community activities.
The national CofE website gives us resources for a huge variety of different kinds of worship, for the Season of Creation but also useful any other time a Creation focus is sought.
Climate Sunday is often part of the Season of Creation (Creationtide) in early September but the liturgies can be used whenever makes best sense locally.
St Francis of Assisi – 4 October
Creationtide ends on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. This link isn’t liturgical resources but through to the Society of St Francis page concerning Care for Creation
Common Worship: Times and Seasons (2000) provides a helpful introduction: “The Jewish and Christian Scriptures give eloquent expression to the creative power and wisdom of God. It is therefore a natural instinct for worshipping communities to develop patterns of worship and prayer around the agricultural year. Of course, there were dangers, and the same Scriptures bear witness to concerns about the idolatry of fertility cults and the worship of created things rather than the creator. Nevertheless, ancient society lived close to the land, and it is no surprise that the ancient Jewish festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread, Weeks and Tabernacles all have agrarian roots.”
The Christian tradition, too, has assimilated, but with differing emphases and in different times and places, particular agricultural festivals: Plough Sunday, Rogationtide, Lammastide and Harvest. The ancient farming communities that first devised these forms of worship were expressing their dependency on God to provide food that would sustain their lives. Christian liturgy also expresses a proper humility before God as source of all things, gratitude for his goodness, and our responsibility in stewarding the resources of the Earth.
The Celtic tradition has a very strong appreciation of the natural world. Celtic centres for renewal and mission on the Isle of Iona and at Lindisfarne have developed modern liturgies which are becoming popular in parish churches.
With growing awareness of the global environmental crisis an increasing number of urban congregations are exploring ways of adapting traditional creation-based festivals. The most notable example is the Season of Creation which originated in 1989 when the Ecumenical Patriarch suggested that 1 September, the first day of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s year, should be observed as a day “of protection of the natural environment”. The annual Season of Creationtide culminates on 4 October at St Francis’ Day and often encompasses local harvest festivals. It is a time for Christians to contemplate the link between their spirituality and the need to care for God’s creation. This relatively new festival has spread widely among Anglican, Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations; bringing Christians together to pray and work for the protection of the natural world that sustains everyone.