Saying a prayer at an Earth Hour candlelight meditation at St. Cuthbert’s Anglican church in Toronto.
The bells rang softly at exactly 8:30 p.m. on March 28 and, inside Toronto’s St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, illuminated only by the glow of candles, about 100 people gathered to observe Earth Hour, a global event to turn out the lights for an hour to seek action to combat climate change.
As they sat in silence, parishioner David Turner began the church’s “Candlelight service of reconciliation with the Earth through prayer, reflection and music,” by strumming his guitar and singing a variation of the beloved African-American spiritual, I want Jesus to walk with me.
The service drew an ecumenical and diverse group – seniors, young families with babies and children past their bedtimes, middle-aged men and women – united by a common concern for what they see as an increasingly fragile Earth.
“I think it’s very meaningful to be in the church at this hour so we can really think about what we can do” to save the environment, said June Salisbury who goes to Bethel Baptist Church. She came with her friend, Lily Anthony, whose church, Glebe Presbyterian, announced the service. “I think this is a wonderful thing and I’m glad to be part of it,” said Ms. Anthony.
Various churches and faith communities also participated by holding services. At St. Stephen-in-the-fields Church, Toronto, participants paid $12 for a candelight dinner “featuring a menu of plant-based foods and music by English singer-songwriter Max Cann.”
Elsewhere around the world, about 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries joined the event first initiated in 2007 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Australia. Iconic buildings and landmarks such as Egypt’s Great Pyramids, Sydney’s Opera House, Paris’ Eiffel Tower, New York’s Empire State Building, Toronto’s CN Tower, and even Beijing’s Bird Nest Stadium turned dark for the global blackout.
In her reflection, Rev. Beth Benson, priest-in-charge of St. Cuthbert’s, said Earth Hour could be “an awakening” that could provide “an alternative way of thinking about connection and about how our priorities impact the world around us.”
The reality of global warming, “the reality that the earth’s biosphere is being changed at an alarming rate has finally set off alarm bells in every sector and in every corner of God’s magnificent creation,” she said. “…We are part of God’s majestic creation, not separate from it.”
Ms. Benson noted how people’s “many competing priorities” such as the desire for comforts and short-term gains “make unsustainable demands on God’s creation.”
She added, “The message in front of us tonight is that God’s fullest, most profound glory can be experienced when we allow God the creator, the architect… to be the centre of our lives.”
At the end of the service, participants were invited to sign “action cards” prepared by Kairos, the ecumenical social justice organization, which includes the Anglican Church of Canada. Kairos describes Earth Hour as “a symbolic pause to reflect on our use of fossil fuels, to think about the impact of our activity on people and eco-systems around the world, to pledge to make a difference – as individuals, communities, and as a nation.”
It adds, “Our dependence on fossil fuels is fueling climate change, deepening human rights abuses around the world, and contributing to conflict and economic inequality. It doesn’t have to be this way – a more just and sustainable energy future is possible. But we must act now.”
Kairos has been urging faith communities to participate in a “carbon sabbath initiative,” aimed at reducing carbon footprints “by a few sizes.” For details, visit the Kairos Web site, www.kairoscanada.org