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Season of Creation – Gathered at the Table of God’s Abundance

Learning Module #2

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to this second learning module of a five-part series that invites you to explore the connections between climate change and food security through learning, prayer, action and giving. Over the year, we are following the seasons of agriculture, as well as the liturgical calendar. In this module we will explore the “Season of Creation,” a time to renew our relationship with our Creator and all creation. A global ecumenical time of celebration and commitment, the season starts on September 1, the Day of Prayer for Creation and ends October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

Below you will find resources for a learning module with prayers, reflections and learnings from a PWRDF volunteer and PWRDF partners, questions for discussion, links for further learning and action, and an opportunity to support the ongoing work of PWRDF partners engaged in caring for God’s creation.

This module can be undertaken individually or as a group. You will see tips for group process throughout. Should you have any questions about the content or would like further information, please email Suzanne Rumsey.

GROUP TIP

In preparation for your session, send a message to participants, asking them to bring a symbol/image/story of a personal experience of what “creation” means to them. They will be invited to share those with the group. See also the homework assignment under the ACT section.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

OPENING PRAYER, INTRODUCTIONS AND SHARING SYMBOLS

  • LEARN about climate change and food security from our volunteers and partners
  • REFLECT on how scripture speaks to the issues of climate change and food security
  • ACT in small and large ways to address climate change and food security issues
  • GIVE to support the vital work of PWRDF partners who are addressing climate change and food security

CLOSING PRAYER


OPENING PRAYER

Group tip: Begin your session by saying together, the following prayer/grace:

Take a moment to become aware of your body and your senses.
The smell of the food prepared for you,
your salivating mouth, your growing stomach.
Become aware of your hunger.
The hunger we bring to this table is not for bread alone
but for a sharing with others and our Creator.
No matter who we are at the table, no matter our difference,
we are united by our hunger.
We give thanks for our bodies, this bread,
and that some of what we long for will soon be satisfied.
We remember those whose hunger will not be satisfied this day.
May this food give us the energy we need to work
for a world without hunger.  Amen.

(Source: The Seeds Network, Australia – now an archival site)

Introductions and the Sharing of Symbols
Group Tip: Following the Opening Prayer, invite each participant to introduce themselves and to share their symbol/image/story of “creation.” If your session is taking place online, invite participants to hold up their symbol so that others can see it. If your session is in person, invite participants to place those symbols on a “banquet  table” at the centre of the circle.

LEARN

  • Read “What Season of Creation Means to Me” by the Rev. Marion Lucas-Jefferies,  
  • Read the article about PWRDF partners, ILSA and the Alizana de Pisba (ASOPISBA) in the Páramos moorland region of Colombia
  • View the video from Finn Church Aid, a PWRDF partner 
  • Reflect on the questions for discussion follow. You may also find some of your own questions or observations emerge as you read and watch. Discuss those too!

What the Season of Creation Means to Me

by the Rev. Marian Lucas-Jefferies

“Seeing God in All Things” was my favourite course in theological school. The answer to the reflection question during the course each week, “Where do you see God?” was a “no brainer.” I see God in the beauty of creation. God’s presence is found in nature.

Marian is passionate about environmental, social and economic justice. A retired registered nurse, Marian is currently priest-in-charge at St Alban’s/Holy Trinity Emmanuel parishes, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She has a long history of involvement with PWRDF, including serving as PWRDF’s representative on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) board of directors from 2008 to 2017. Marian is chair of the Diocesan Environment Network (DEN) in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and sits on the KAIROS Eco-justice Circle.

I live in the Maritimes, where I see God in last night’s sunset at Peggy’s Cove, last week’s view of the eagle circling over the river in front of my house searching for supper, or last winter as I looked out the window at a fresh blanket of snow sparkling in the sun on a crisp morning. 

On any given day, twelve months a year you can find me engaged in any one of a number of outdoor activities, always acutely conscious of the fact that the beauty that surrounds us is evidence of God’s presence and I am in awe!

Like the disciples on top of the mountain that day so long ago, I find myself wanting to hang on to the scene before me and have it last forever. I love this planet. And so, I love to celebrate its beauty and set aside the month of September each year, Season of Creation, to give thanks to God. 

Season of Creation, a more recent arrival to the church calendar, but my favourite season, is the month the church sets aside to reflect on the beauty of this world and celebrate all that God has given us. It was only adopted by the church this past decade or so. But with the growing awareness and evidence of the climate crisis, the more churches around the world have been encouraging congregations to engage in it as a way to help Christians better understand what is at stake.

As a coordinator of the Diocesan Environment Network (DEN) for the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, I have been promoting Season of Creation beginning in the spring each year and encourage parishes in our diocese to engage in it for a week, a few weeks or throughout the month of September, that time of the year when the leaves are turning and brilliant autumn colours are on display here in the Maritimes.

In the midst of a climate crisis, worship during Season of Creation also gives me hope in a world full of despair. I love to hear stories from parishes within and beyond our diocese about the innovative ways they celebrated Season of Creation. Every time a parish engages in the season, whether it be one Sunday or the whole month, is a gift, allowing me to feel hope and with it, more resolve to continue my environmental ministry. Every story no matter how small an act the parish may think it is, can be a giant step in our call to tread lightly on the planet. I believe being spiritually grounded and expressing our love of God’s creation during Season of Creation and the rest of the year is the first step towards a healthy planet.

As someone actively engaged in PWRDF over the years, I have been able to witness that love of God’s creation lived out through the efforts of both PWRDF and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), actively engaging people of faith in creation care, working with our partners addressing the impact of climate change. As we are about to celebrate Season of Creation, knowing that and being able to be part of that through PWRDF and CFGB, also gives me hope.


Partner Perspective

Read the article and view the video, then consider or discuss the questions.

Edilma, Elizabeth, Karen and Marta are just some of the 75 women who are working together to defend and promote the protection of the Paramos, key water reservoirs and the most important ecosystem in the mountain highlands of Colombia.​
Returning to Yei county, the “food basket” of South Sudan, after conflict forced them to flee, farmers needed support and training to begin anew. Together with Finn Church Aid and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, PWRDF is helping this new “season of creation” to be planted and to grow.

Questions

  1. What is one new thing you learned about caring for creation in Canada, Colombia and South Sudan that you didn’t already know?
  2. Creation care requires both personal and collective action. What are some of the ways you heard Marian and people in Colombia and South Sudan acting to address creation care and climate change?
  3. The Season of Creation calls us to act and to hope. What are the instances of hope you heard? And what are the challenges to that hope?

REFLECT

Read together or in turn, one or more of the following readings. Reading all three will help give the group the sense that God’s Covenant call to care for creation – and humankind as part of creation – permeates the biblical narrative. Then discuss the reflection questions or others that the group might have.

A reading from the Book of Isaiah (55:1-2, 6-7)

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare …
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (15:29, 32-38)

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down …

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.

They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children.

A reading from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (9:6-9)

The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written,

“He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”

For Reflection

God’s Covenant call to care for creation, and humankind in creation, is everywhere in the Bible, including the prophetic writings of Isaiah, the gospel narratives, and the Apostle Paul’s epistles. We are not separate from creation but form part of it.

  1. If those same writers were writing today, what imagery might they use to call us to care for creation and one another?
  2. What challenges would they pose to us about creation care, food security and climate change?
  3. Can you think of one or more modern “prophets” who are speaking about these issues? What are they saying?

ACT

A number of activities are suggested below. One or more could take place during your session. Alternatively, participants could undertake one or more activities following the workshop.

Homework! Ahead of your session, encourage participants to do some research and come ready to respond to the following question: Who is growing food in your community/region and how is it being grown?

Talking about food production in your community (an in-person or online activity)

  • Invite participants to share what they learned about who is growing food in their community/region and how it is being grown.
  • If your group is large, consider breaking into small groups or (online) breakout rooms and then come back together to share key learnings from each group. The idea is to get a sense (it doesn’t have to be exhaustive) of who and how food is being grown in your community/region.
  • If you know a local farmer/food producer who has some experience with community farming/food growing initiatives, invite them to join your group to speak to this same question.

Discovering our Food Footprint (an in-person or online activity)

Even our small decisions impact the Earth and those with whom we share it. Let’s look at how our personal behaviours affect the size of our food footprint. This exercise is adapted from Living Ecological Justice, a 2016 publication of Citizens for Public Justice. You can develop your own variations, using any of the many “food footprint tools you can find on the Internet.

For each item that will be read, you are to step forward, step back, or stay in place:

  • If you use a composter for food waste, take one step forward.
  • If you purchase fruits and vegetables seasonally, take one step forward.
  • If you turn off the water while brushing your teeth, take one step forward.
  • If you drink bottled water, take one step backward.
  • If you have more than one refrigerator and/or freezer in your home, take one step backward.
  • If you grow some of your own food, take one step forward.
  • If you use a rain barrel to collect water for your garden, take one step forward.
  • If you buy individually wrapped snack items, take one step backward.
  • If you use chemical cleaning products, take one step backward.
  • If you belong to a community garden, take one step forward.
  • If you regularly purchase local or organic food, take one step forward.
  • If you consistently use plastic grocery bags, take one step backward.
  • If you recycle every day, take one step forward.

Now, take a moment to talk with your neighbour. What did you learn about yourself from this exercise? Is there anything you would change in your habits as a result?

100-Mile Meal (an in-person or online activity):

Invite participants to bring ingredients for a dish/meal that have been produced within a 100-mile (140 km) radius of your community. Depending upon the time of year, the ingredients will be more or less varied. Invite a discussion about what is available locally; what our eating habits were like in the past how they have changed, and how they still need to change. Continue that discussion as together you prepare and share the meal.

If you are doing this session online, invite participants to bring a prepared 100-Mile dish that can be eaten while online as the group has the discussion outlined above.

Prayer of Thanksgiving to conclude the 100-Mile Meal

We come with thanksgiving
For our very breath, the warmth of sun, and the sustaining waters
For life all around us; the plants, soft grasses, and sheltering trees
For the ones that crawl, those that swim
All of our relations
We celebrate the diversity in creation as reflected
in the four winds from the four directions.
We especially honour the many peoples with their many gifts
For understanding our shared life on earth.

– Rev. Stan McKay, Cree Holy Man

Digging deeper (beyond this learning module):

Visit to a farm, food producing garden or other growing project or a farmer’s market (a good inter-generational activity)

  • If you don’t know a farmer/food producer, there are lots of online resources to help you find one. For example, the Sustain Ontario website offers and extensive list of local food producers throughout the province:
  • Consult ahead of time with the farmer/food producer about the numbers and age-range of the group coming, and ensure participants know what to bring for the visit (ie: rubber boots, sunscreen, insect repellent, hat, etc.).
  • Invite the farmer/food producer to describe the farm to the group, their philosophy and/or rationale as to why they are growing food, and then tour the farm/garden. Ideally – and especially if you have children in the group – have participants identify the various fruits and vegetables they are seeing, and if permitted, harvest a few items. If there are animals on the farm, with permission, invite participants to touch or engage with the animals in some way.

If you can’t make an in-person farm visit, and for some further inspiration, watch “Kiss the Ground,” a documentary that sheds light on an approach to farming called “regenerative agriculture” that has the potential to balance our climate, replenish our water supplies, and feed the world. View the trailer at right and watch the full film on Netflix.


Advocacy actions For the Love of Creation (an in-person or online activity)

PWRDF is an active member of both the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and the For the Love of Creation campaign (FLC). Both organizations are encouraging people of faith to write letters to the Canadian government regarding food security and climate change respectively.

And here is a link to CFGB’s Harvest of Letters campaign:
Here is a link to the FLC Faith in Action letter campaign:

GIVE

ILSA, Finn Church Aid and other PWRDF partners are confronting climate change and caring for creation as they work to ensure food security for the communities they serve. Your gift to PWRDF supports their work. To make a donation go to pwrdf.org/give-today and click on the Climate Action button. You can also call Donor Relations Officer, Mike Ziemerink, at 416-822-9083 or leave a message toll free at 1-(866) 308-7973.

PWRDF also accepts cheques, which can be mailed to 80 Hayden St. Toronto, ON, M4Y 3G2. Please indicate “Climate Action” in the memo line to designate to this program.

Have a birthday or anniversary coming up? There are many ways to raise funds for PWRDF’s Climate Action work. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a personalized crowd-funding page, please email Mike Ziemerink.


CLOSING PRAYER

Group tip: Gather around your symbols of creation, or if online, hold them up as you say together the closing prayer.

Season of Creation 2020 Prayer

Creator of Life,

At your word, the Earth brought forth plants yielding
seed and trees of every kind bearing fruit. The rivers,
mountains, minerals, seas and forests sustained life.

The eyes of all looked to You to satisfy the needs of
every living thing. And throughout time the Earth has
sustained life. Through the planetary cycles of days
and seasons, renewal and growth, you open your
hand to give creatures our food in the proper time.

In your Wisdom, you granted a Sabbath; a blessed
time to rest in gratitude for all that you have given;
a time to liberate ourselves from vicious consumption;
a time to allow the land and all creatures to rest from
the burden of production.

But these days our living pushes the planet beyond its limits.
Our demands for growth, and our never-ending cycle of
production and consumption are exhausting our world.
The forests are leached, the topsoil erodes, the fields fail,
the deserts advance, the seas acidify, the storms intensify.
We have not allowed the land to observe her Sabbath,
and the Earth is struggling to be renewed.

During this Season of Creation, we ask you to grant us
courage to observe a Sabbath for our planet.
Strengthen us with the faith to trust in your providence.
Inspire us with the creativity to share what we have
been given. Teach us to be satisfied with enough.
And as we proclaim a Jubilee for the Earth,
Send your Holy Spirit to renew the face of creation.

In the name of the One who came to proclaim good news
to all creation, Jesus Christ.

Amen.