3,000 gather for service to start The Wave

By agency reporter
December 5, 2009
Church leaders gather for The Wave

More than 20 senior church leaders have gathered for a church service with more than 3,000 other Christians to support the London Wave, urging an ambitious, fair and effective deal at the Copenhagen Summit on climate change.

Joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, led the congregation through the service and its prayer intercessions for people and planet. David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference, led an act of repentance.

One of the 3,000 Christians attending the event was Nicki Smith from Huddersfield who has spent the past month walking to the Wave, a journey of 250 miles. She wanted to draw attention to the climate change issue, and the report ‘Hope for God's Future’ produced by her Methodist Church. “I have visited an interesting A Rocha wildlife project, spoke[n] to several youth clubs, and just raised awareness with ordinary people I met along the way,” she said. Nicki arrived at the service with her hair dyed blue, the colour of the Wave day of action.

Tearfund worker Richard Avery cycled from his Greasby home, a journey of 200 miles. “I visited Bangladesh with Tearfund five years ago and I was struck by how the changing climate is already impacting people there,” he said. “I met people living right on the water’s edge who are so vulnerable to the extreme weather and sea level rises.”

Bishop Lee Rayfield, the Anglican Bishop of Swindon also arrived on a bike, having cycled from Newbury to raise awareness of the need to reduce carbon emissions. “Our Government needs to appreciate how concerned ordinary people are about the impact of climate change on our planet” he said. “They need to hear our voice urging them to take the tough decisions in Copenhagen and I hope and pray that this cycle ride will amplify that voice.”

During the service, Christine Elliot, Secretary for External Relationships of the Methodist Church, interviewed partners of the Christian development agencies from the global south. Umme Kulsum, from CAFOD partner Prodipan in Bangladesh, spoke movingly about the impact of climate change on her country. “People are raising their houses, strengthening roofs, but sometimes they think that their effort in adapting is like using a single straw to stop the tide. The problem is big. They are trying to increase their resilience, but they also call for reducing or stopping use of greenhouse gasses, to hold the pace of climate change.”

Philippe Ouedraogo, who runs a Tearfund church-based partner agency in Burkina Faso called on Christians around the world to pray and to change their own lifestyles in order to combat the effects of climate change.

Daleep Mukarji, Director of Christian Aid said: “This service is an important part of today's action. Climate change is already having a devastating impact on the world's poor which is why Christians are increasingly speaking out. The poor - who have done the least to cause it - are suffering the most from climate change. Hence as Christians we are calling for a binding deal at Copenhagen that has the concerns and hopes of the world's poor and vulnerable at its heart.”

Messages of support to the Wave were received from church leaders internationally. Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew I of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, said: “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 per cent (of 1990) by 2020 and provide crucial financial support to developing nations.”

The Anglican Archbishop of Burundi, Bernard Ntahoturi, called for the bishops in the North and South to do joint advocacy work. “Most of the consequences of climate change in the South are the result of over-development and over-consumption in the western world. We need to ask the West together to slow down their consumption and this is not something that Africa, or even Asia, can do alone” he said.

In her message, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church of the US said: “The crisis of climate change presents an unprecedented challenge to the goodness, interconnectedness, and sanctity of the world God created and loves.” She felt the faith community “has a sacred responsibility to stand on the side of truth, the truth of science as well as the truth of God's unquenchable love for the world and all its inhabitants.”

After the service, many of the church leaders went on the join the UK’s biggest ever march in support of action on climate change, standing with a banner reading, ‘Churches say ‘ACT NOW ON CLIMATE CHANGE’. One of them was Colonel Brian Peddle, Chief Secretary for The Salvation Army UK and Republic of Ireland. He said: “The Salvation Army is privileged to join our voice with thousands of others, to call for action which will make a real difference to the lives of our entire global community now and in the future.”

The church leaders stood alongside children with their faces and hands painted blue and an array of banners from parishes, dioceses and justice and peace groups, which contributed towards the encircling of the Houses of Parliament during the afternoon. Afterwards, church agencies joined others meeting with Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for energy and Climate Change, to emphasise again the need for urgent action in Copenhagen next week.

The Wave ecumenical service was organised by A Rocha, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Christian Concern for One World, Christian Ecology Link, Columban JPIC, MRDF, Operation Noah, Progressio, SPEAK and Tearfund. It was part of The Wave events on 5 December organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.