As boys my brother and I knew
every tree, stream and hill
in the bush near our home.
One of our hobbies was collecting birds’ eggs.
Our practice was to take only one egg from a nest
and leave the rest to hatch.
The rare mistletoe bird eluded us.
Finally, one day we saw her tiny nest,
made mostly of wool
and suspended delicately from a branch
a few inches above the water of a local creek.
We had found the one egg missing
from our collection.
As we waded into the water
that delicate suspended creation mesmerised us
and we did not take an egg.
It was too precious, too sacred!
It was as much a song of praise
as any human creation!
Harvest Thanksgiving was always a great time of celebration. The church was adorned with numerous sheaves of wheat, fleeces of wool, pumpkins, carrots and virtually anything the farmer’s wives felt appropriate to say thanks for the gifts of creation God had bestowed on us. Eating the fruit that adorned the altar was a bonus for us as kids.
Over time, whether as a pastor in Brooklyn, a professor in St Louis or a lecturer in Adelaide, the communities I knew lost that strong sense of connection with creation. It became automatic to celebrate the seasons of the church year focusing on Jesus Christ. After all, Christ was all we needed to get to heaven; the Creator faded into the background.
We had seasons that celebrated the advent, birth, death and resurrection of Christ. We even celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But there was really no season when we celebrated creation and the Creator!
Then the environmental crisis became more than a rumour. Our fragile planet was in jeopardy. Numerous works were written in the face of this crisis – educational, theological and biblical. But there was a gap. Little had been prepared for liturgy, worship and ministry.
I worked with a team of Uniting Church leaders and developed a plan to introduce a Season of Creation parallel to the seasons of Advent, Easter and Lent. The immediate response was that the church year was fixed, as if the dates and seasons had been handed down by the apostles or even God. A brief search of history reveals that even a date like Christmas is arbitrary.
Tradition said, No! The environmental crisis and the Bible said, Yes!
The Season of Creation materials were developed with the support of the Uniting Church in Melbourne and mission departments of the Lutheran Church of Australia.
The date chosen was September, partly because September 1 is the first day of creation in some Orthodox traditions, partly because it leads up to St Francis Day on October 4 and partly because this period was relatively free of fixed traditional celebrations.
The Season of Creation website is www.seasonofcreation.com and incorporates all the resources necessary for celebrating The Season of Creation in a three year cycle. These resources include Bible studies, liturgies (Australian and US versions), calendars, Bible readings, Earth care and liturgical guidelines.
In this website we have selected a Narrative Liturgy from The Season of Creation website for inclusion here. This is a sample liturgy for two of the Sundays of The Season of Creation but with accompanying narrative explanations of each step of the creation liturgy. This form may serve to explain the biblical basis for each part of the liturgy or be celebrated as is.
For the Sundays and liturgies for the current calendar year as well as current News, see the website: www.seasonofcreation.com
For additional Season of Creation resources see www.letallcreationpraise.org.
Also of interest is that one of my song books, Habel Hymns Volume One is subtitled Songs for Celebrating with Creation and has a range of songs suitable to use for The Season of Creation. Click on Songs and Hymns to access details about this volume.
In 2011, Fortress Press published a volume in their New Proclamation series entitled The Season of Creation A Preaching Commentary. This volume provides an introduction to the Season together with a relevant analysis of the lectionary readings for a three year cycle of texts by leading biblical scholars.