Stories from “Prayers for COP21 in Paris”

By Citizens for Public Justice

From The Catalyst, Spring 2016

In the lead-up to the COP21 climate negotiations last December, Citizens for Public Justice produced resources to support faithful worship, action, and reflection on climate change. CPJ also coordinated a national prayer chain. Canadians were praying for climate justice for 296 consecutive hours during the climate negotiations.

As world leaders gathered at COP21 to draft the Paris Agreement, here are a few ways that people of faith across Canada were using CPJ’s resources to engage climate justice in the pews.

In December 2015, people of faith gathered in Nelson, B.C. for a climate prayer vigil each day throughout COP21.

Beginning with the Pope’s speech on climate change in September, we gathered in Nelson, B.C. with over 70 people of various faiths for a six-week discussion. At each week’s gathering, hosted by a different faith community, we discussed one of the six chapters of the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato si’. With growing momentum from this weekly discussion series, we decided to organize a daily vigil throughout the two weeks of the Paris climate negotiations. Beginning with a community climate march on November 29th, different faith traditions took turns hosting an hour or two each day. At the vigils, we participated in a diversity of ways, including chants, meditation, songs, prayer, and worship. We finished the two weeks with a candlelight vigil and march around Nelson’s downtown, stopping to pray at various places and ending at Nelson United Church for hot chocolate and cookies. Looking forward, we’re hoping to create some new opportunities for sharing information, discussion, and political action. Montana Burgess, a community organizer with the West Kootenay EcoSociety, spearheaded these inter-faith events. Ecosociety is working to create a broad-based leadership coalition that can address climate from a variety of perspectives. And faith communities have something important to contribute! In the past, people of faith have often felt only tolerated at public events, so it’s good both to get together with a group of like-minded folks from different faiths and to talk about the power of spirituality. It’s given us a bigger voice in society and brings a different perspective to public action. In this way, those who don’t identify as activists, but who would identify under a faith umbrella, can participate. When you look outside of your walls, you find a lot of people who are also looking for others to be in partnership. The work that we do is only strengthened by seeking out others in a larger circle!

—The Reverend David Boyd,
Minister at Nelson United Church in Nelson, B.C.

On Friday, December 4, 2015, Karen Tjaden invited her community to join in an outdoor prayer vigil as part of CPJ’s prayer chain throughout the Paris climate negotiations.

This event was wonderful for me. It was not chilly at all, but we still had snow to enjoy and ice to skate on. I felt blessed by the day and the outdoor rest it provided for me. Nine other people joined me. I especially appreciated the opportunity to be quiet and reflective, praying about climate justice while walking the labyrinth in the snow, skating on the outdoor ice, talking to people who stopped in, sharing CPJ’s prayers each hour, and reading the Pope’s encyclical on the environment as well as a wonderful new book written and illustrated by Bob Haverluk, When God Was Flesh and Wild: Stories in Defense of the Earth.

—Karen Tjaden,
Minister at Carman United Church in Carman, Man.

On Monday, November 30, 2015 at noon, the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada gathered to hold a special service of prayer of Holy Eucharist for COP21 in Paris. This photo was taken after the service, in front of a symbolic bowl of melting ice. Along with national office staff, gathered in the photo include Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (centre), Alyson Barnett-Cowan, President of the Canadian Council of Churches (front row, first left), Henriette Thompson, Director of Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice at the Anglican Church of Canada (back row, first right), and Adele Finney, Executive Director of Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (front row, first right).

—Sonia Hsiung,
Program Associate, Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice at the Anglican Church of Canada.


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