Christian Climate Action (CCA) and Extinction Rebellion Faith Communities have joined forces to hold a Lenten vigil in central London and initiate 40 Days of Action, where people are invited to commit to one action during Lent to protect Planet Earth. The launch took place on Ash Wednesday, with services outside Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and then participants moved to Parliament Square to commence the six-week vigil. This vigil will take place throughout Lent and will focus on lament for the climate and ecological crisis, and prayer for leaders and representatives to take urgent action.
During the service at Westminster Abbey, Extinction Rebellion flags waved in the breeze outside the Great West Door, under the ten limestone statues of modern martyrs who gave up their lives for their beliefs, including St Oscar Romero and Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The 40-minute service in chilly sunshine included a call on religious organisations to commit to fully divesting from fossil fuels - the key drivers of climate change - by the end of Lent. Following the Church of England's recent motion to establish a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, attendees encouraged the Catholic Church to follow suit. It was noted that severe weather is not only affecting the global south; that two recent storms in two weeks in Britain have caused widespread disruption and flooding. Individual commitments could include buying more locally-sourced food, switching to an eco-friendly bank, or pausing regularly to appreciate the beauty of Planet Earth. Some may commit to nonviolent civil disobedience to raise awareness and prompt action on the climate crisis.
Before this, a similar service was also held outside Westminster Cathedral where participants stood in a circle and prayed for God's blessing, "as we strive to walk in the way of our Lord over these coming days". Penitential responses at both services included repenting of dependence on fossil fuels, the immorality of Ecocide, and "the sin of consuming and commodifying our world". There was a commitment to "carry the cross that is crucifying creation". When ashes were distributed by Passionist Fr Martin Newall and others, participants were asked to think about the ashes of unprecedented fires worldwide which have destroyed huge areas of forests and the biodiverse plants and animals that rely on them.
Nick Cooper, a Christian Climate Action spokesperson, said: "This is about system change, triggered by personal growth. We invite everyone to journey with us into the wilderness of Lent and encounter the 'quiet voice' so often hidden from us in daily life. We need desperately to hear that sacred voice calling us together as a global community - learning to live simpler more connected lives, and to find the courage to take up civil disobedience in the face of an ever more desperate climate crisis. We need to stop denying the power that we hold as one sacred and interconnected body."
· In County Durham CCA members held an Ash Wednesday Service at the entrance to Bradley Coal Mine, which is currently being blockaded in protest at the extraction of fossil fuels and the expansion of its operations.
· CCA Leeds hosted a climate-themed stations of the cross-style prayer and protest walk, stopping at Civic Hall, War Memorial, and ending at a branch of Barclays where participants were Ashed, before a small group entered the branch and attempted to lodge an official complaint.
· CCA Cardiff will hold a prayer vigil for climate justice outside the Senedd every Friday during Lent.
After the London services, a sizeable crowd walked to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall for the annual witness for a nuclear-weapons-free world. (Further reports tomorrow)
Christian Climate Action is on Twitter @CClimateAction
Anyone wishing to join in the Prayer and Meditation Vigil in Parliament Square can sign up for a prayer slot at: www.24-7prayer.com/signup/68b291
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