In this session, looking at week two of Advent, we will use the second line of the hymn Sleepers Wake, written below, to frame a discussion about the situation we are facing in terms of climate change and the environment.
Midnight’s solemn hour is tolling,
And seraph-notes are onward rolling;
They call on us our part to take.
Watch the video below featuring an interview with Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, discussing his opinion of the issues of climate change and the environment. Stephen Cottrell is a Church of England bishop. Since July 2020, he has been the Archbishop of York and Primate of England; the second-most senior bishop of the church and the most senior in northern England. He previously served as Bishop of Reading and as Bishop of Chelmsford.
Traditionally Advent is a time where we think about judgement, death, heaven and hell and eternal life or what the church calls the last things or the ultimate things. The biggest dilemma facing planet Earth right now is the climate catastrophe. It’s such a huge topic that the temptation is to bury our heads in the sand. However, if Advent is about facing up to ultimate things and the reality of Gods judgement upon us, then it’s a great theme to discuss. We are being told right now, that if we go inhabiting the earth as we are then this is where it is leading.
The book looks at the ‘Twelve Steps’ programme from Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve Steps Groups in parallel to fossil fuel consumption. The opening line of the section says, “I am Nicholas, and I am addicted to fossil fuels.” This statement points to our attitude towards consumption in general. It’s almost as if we do not know how to live without these things. However, we are going to have to learn to live differently. We are not going to get any solutions to this problem until we confront the truth of the issues. Jesus says in John 8:32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
1) We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5) Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8) Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
9) Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12) Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
We won’t get our relationship with creation right until we learn to appreciate that we can’t continue to consume and use the resources as we have been doing. There is something beautiful about creation that we have been given to treasure and respect. In the book, on the Saturday of the second week, it puts it like this:
Pope Francis suggested that we should stop to admire something beautiful, and that contemplation will prevent us from treating everything as something to be used. Losing – or finding – ourselves in the beauty of holiness, and recognizing the holiness of beauty, will encourage in us the kind of reverence for life we need if we are to take our part in the global response to the climate emergency.
Archbishop Stephen draws a parallel between this and the line of the Lord’s Prayer, give us this day our daily bread. In that part of the prayer, we are asking for God to give us today enough for today; to stop us from taking or wanting more than our share. In essence, we are addicted to wanting more. The challenge is to learn what enough looks like. This forms part of the Popes teaching on these issues; it is through prayer and contemplation of our place in the world that we understand that we need to play our part within our means.
With the landscape of political turmoil that today we see the issues we need to be talking about are not on the agenda – we urgently need to accelerate the greening of our economy and policies. This is where us, as Christians, have a really important role to play. We all have a part to play.