Statement on Liturgy and Climate Change

Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission

Liturgy in a Time of Climate Crisis: The Collegeville Statement

In the hottest summer on record on our planet, the Council of the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission (APLM) met from July 17 to 21 to launch a year-long program accompanying six congregations in the US and Canada as they develop new resources and practices for worship and mission in response to the urgency of the climate crisis.

Continue reading “Statement on Liturgy and Climate Change”

Liturgical Joy

Midnight Oil is a rock band from Australia.  (For details about the band, see here.)  Formed in the 1970s, they continued recording and performing through 2022.  Their music is often political in nature, lending support to the cause of Australian aborigines , for example ( “Beds Are Burning”), or workers caught up in economic systems of exploitation (“Blue Sky Mine” ).  They have also repeatedly raised concerns about environmental destruction.  Their final album, “Resist,” is devoted almost exclusively to ecological awareness.  Though this album retains the Oils’ edge of anger and protest, some lyrics take a different turn. Continue reading “Liturgical Joy”

Worship and Wildfires

A recent news headline caught my attention: “Californian winemakers are learning firefighting techniques.”  Of course, humans have long been familiar with the injury, death, and destruction that fires can cause.  What struck me about this headline is the direct connection between wildfires and the wine that is used in Christian liturgy.  In regions of California, at least, wine country no longer merely abuts wildfire country but *is* wildfire country.  I have no evidence to suggest that the world is going to run out of wine any time soon.  Still, I wonder about how the ways in which our liturgies, which sacramentalize wine into the Blood of Jesus Christ, contribute to the circumstances which make wine country into fire country.

For example, do we heat / cool our worship spaces to an excessive degree, all the while drawing on fossil fuels?  Can we convert some spaces in our parking lots into EV charging stations, which can be used when the worship space is not engaged?  For at least some parishes, is it feasible to install solar panels to mitigate reliance on fossil fuels?  Can we use wine with integrity in our Eucharistic liturgies if we do not at least begin to consider questions such as these?  What other “questions such as these” should we be raising?

The risk is not simply to the grapevines themselves.  When our ways of celebrating liturgies and running our parishes contribute in however small a way to global warming, we also place the lives of others (e.g., firefighters) at hazard.  The “fruit of the vine and work of human hands” we raise to God in our liturgies should involve the work of vintners who tend the vines, those who harvest and process the grapes, those who oversee the fermentation, those who ship it.  As a general rule, it should not have to involve the work of emergency crews battling fires burning thousands of acres.  Can we worship with integrity if our parish affairs and personal decisions simply take for granted the risks those affairs and decisions impose on others?

The news item from California sacramentalizes the wider field in which liturgical practices are inevitably and inexorably situated, namely, the entire ecosphere.  Regarding liturgy and the ecosphere as two mutually exclusive domains is an error which we must always challenge, first of all in ourselves.

Through a Mirror, Darkly

Attempting to reconcile the abiding quality of love with development of the human perception of that love, Paul writes to the church in Corinth that “for now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

I have been pondering questions of sight and seeing lately because, like many people in my age group, I am undergoing cataract surgery to remove cloudy lenses in my eyes and replace them with lens implants.  As I write, my left eye is recovering from surgery.  Its vision is somewhat improved but still blurry.  This eye experiences much more brightness and light than the right eye.  I removed the left lens from my eyeglasses.  (Look closely at the image accompanying this post.)  The right eye, though its view of the world is dimmer, perceives my surroundings with much greater clarity and no blurriness since it is still benefiting from the remaining lens in my glasses.

I wonder about the ways in which Christian discipleship is a bit like my currently differentiated vision.  Do sacramental symbols open us up to a world that is brighter yet a little blurry precisely because they operate in the mode of symbol?  Does daily life all too often swamp us with dimness that is also characterized by the clarity of our faults and the faults of others?

At the same time, I wonder about darkness that insinuates itself into Christian liturgy.  At Mass, do we extend a sign of peace to some of those standing nearby but not to others also standing nearby?  Does a show of fashion and consumer style obscure the humble yet daring promise to live life wed in the Lord?  Whose voices are excluded from music ministry or preparation for worship?  What place is there in our worship for those whose vision and / or hearing is impaired?

Likewise, I wonder about the light that shines through in daily life, at times more luminously than in our liturgies.  Liturgy is to shed light on all dimension of Christian life, but liturgy is also a matter of celebrating and raising up the light that is already before us in the world.  Recognizing the God at work in our liturgies requires recognition of God at work outside of our liturgies, and vice versa.