Attention to the global impacts of a changing climate were brought into focus this past week with international movements staging protests and “climate strikes.” Across Canada, people of faith are increasingly speaking up about the urgent need for climate action. Gabrielle Gelderman, 28, a member of Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alta., is one of them.
Serving Citizens for Public Justice as its Edmonton chapter organizer since May, Gelderman initially invited others from the church to a meeting. That grew into a faith and climate justice group which caught the interest of people from other Christian Reformed congregations in the city — Bethel, Avenue, Centrepointe Community, and Maranatha. In wanting to make people of faith visible during Climate Action Week the group decided to host a climate vigil and began reaching out across Christian denominations and other faith traditions. The event was held Sunday Sept. 22 on the grounds of the Alberta Legislature.
“Faith communities, mosques, synagogues, temples and churches––we all have a responsibility to take a stand on the defining moral issue of our time: the climate crisis,” said Rabbi Gila Caine from Temple Beth Ora Synagogue, one of several representatives from various faith traditions leading segments of the vigil.
Hundreds of Edmontonians of all ages gathered with music, prayer and reflection. Faith leaders led participants through four themed stations of mourning, repentance, gratitude and hope.
For Jennifer Porritt, member of Bethel CRC, there are many reasons a vigil is helpful. “Caring about creation can be lonely work in the church, so we gather to support each other. This is a way to show the larger public that there are people of faith who care deeply about this subject. We have also been complicit in harming the earth and part of holding vigil is a public display of repentance. ... Finally, in silence and in prayer we hope that God will guide us in creative and loving ways forward to heal our relationships with each other and the earth.”
“This coming together of faith groups is one way of bearing witness to each other and to our youth and children that we are willing to walk this unknown path into all our futures,” reflected Marian Groot of Fellowship CRC. “It’s an opportunity to share our grief, lament the devastation of our creation, provide support to each other and seek out ways to embrace hope as we move forward.”
Karri Munn-Venn, senior policy analyst for Citizens for Public Justice, said from the perspective of the organization “creation care and the pursuit of climate justice connect to the heart of how we, as Christians, are called to live in God's world. The value of prayer vigils, and marches and rallies and other opportunities to come together, is that they counter feelings of fear and isolation. At the same time, they provide a demonstration of support for action to address the difficult challenges we face.”
Ana Sophia Groot, a grade 12 student at Edmonton Christian High School, was actively involved in the vigil. “I believe we were put on this planet by God to be stewards towards the earth. Instead, I feel as though we have taken advantage of and exploited the planet, disrespecting God’s creation. It was incredibly encouraging to see people that care … people of faith that care.”