Church bells ring out for action on climate change

Churches around the world will be ringing their bells at 3pm  local time this Sunday at the height of the talks at United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen, to call for an ambitious, fair and effective deal on climate change.

In the UK, dozens of churches taking part include Westminster Cathedral, York Minster, St Elizabeth’s RC Church, Durham and Our Lady Help of Christians in north London. St Peter’s CofE parish in Bexhill-on-Sea is combining it with a ‘Christingle’ service.

The bells will ring 350 times, referring to 350 parts per million. This is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere according to many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments. The concentration currently stands at 390 ppm and rising.

Since immemorial times, in cultures across the world, musical instruments like bells and drums have been used to warn people of imminent danger – but also to call people to religious service and marking important moments in worship. 

The bells in Denmark will start at the end of a large ecumenical celebration at the Lutheran Cathedral in Copenhagen, the Church of Our Lady. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will preach at the service. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, as well as bishops and church leaders from Denmark and abroad will participate. Politicians and delegates from the Climate Summit negotiations will also be present.

Last Saturday, 5 December, more than 20 senior church leaders and tens of thousands of Christians joined the London Wave of 50,000 people, urging an effective deal at Copenhagen. At a Westminster service, in front of a congregation of 3,200 people
Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales reflected that: “this morning is a marvellous expression of solidarity and compassion and they are robust Christian virtues”. He added that “today we are concerned for all those whose lives are directly affected by climate change, the world's poorest and the most disadvantaged”. He felt that Christians are called upon the live more simply, and felt that “unless it is clear that we are prepared to change, political leaders will not be able to reach the agreements which are now needed”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams said: “We are to be bearers of good news for the world that God has made. Not for any one little bit of it, not any one community at the expense of others, not even for humanity at the expense of everything else in the universe. Good news for all of creation. The health of the world around us and our own long-term health are not two things but one. Let us not lose sight of that.” 

Church leaders internationally have also spoken out on climate change. Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, said last week: “We fervently pray for the best possible international agreement during the UN Conference on Climate Change, so that all industrialised countries may undertake a generous commitment to reduce polluting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% (of 1990) by 2020 and provide crucial financial support to developing nations”.

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