In the current issue of Liturgy, Mary E. McGann, RSCJ, offers the outline of a course on Ecology and Liturgy which is based upon a graduate she co-developed and co-taught at Franciscan School of Theology/Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. The course is designed to be in three sections: Phase 1. Earth Our Home: Thanksgiving and Praise Our Vocation; Phase 2. Earth in Crisis: Conversion, Lament, and Intercession Our Response; andPhase 3. Earth Healed and Restored: Ecological Worship and Ethical Living Our Path to the Future.
Sr. Mary suggests that the second phase of the course, with its focus upon lament and conversion, would be particularly suited to the Lenten season, and includes the following practices for communal embodiment of the learnings associated with phase 2.
- prayer in natural settings where degradation is evident (near an oil spill, a forest struck with sudden oak disease, polluted water, or a place where wildlife is threatened)
- assessment of parish use of resources (water, electricity, petroleum) and choices for greater conservation, less waste, committed recycling
- viewing educational films, such as Flow, that delineate the global water crisis
- presentations by experts (perhaps from within a congregation) to provide serious exposure to statistics about earth’s failing systems and species loss
- sitting with a dying tree as one would sit with a dying person
- writing laments for the earth that give voice its suffering creatures; learning to pray laments honestly in worship and allowing them to disturb us
- making direct connection between sacramental elements and degradation of the earth (baptismal waters and the global water crisis; industrialized food production and our use of bread/wine for the Lord’s Supper)
- firsthand interaction with victims of climate change and other earth tragedies (from local/national/international settings)
- communal fasting on behalf of those who go hungry because of earth’s degradation
- hosting a listening session in which people can ask honestly: How do I contribute to earth’s suffering? How can we support each other in changing our attitudes/practices?
During this season of Lent, does your congregation plan to include any means of repentance for ecological devastation in its worship?
Mary E. McGann (2012): Making Vital Connections: Developing Creational Consciousness in Life and Worship, Liturgy, 27:2, 55-56.
Mary E. McGann, RSCJ, is associate professor of liturgy and music at the Franciscan School of Theology and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. She is the author of several books, most recently, Let It Shine! The Emergence of African American Catholic Worship.