English church leaders have called upon Christians to use the period from 1 September until 4 October 2008 as an opportunity to put the environment at the heart of their prayer, worship and practical concern.
The 'Time For God's Creation' initiative, which would run annually, follows a resolution made at the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in 2007, attended by representatives of Europe's Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant churches, that the period "be dedicated to prayer for the protection of Creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change."
At a meeting on 3 June 2008 the four co-presidents of the ecumenical body Churches Together in England – Archbishop Rowan Williams, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Commissioner Elizabeth Matear, and Bishop Nathan Hovhanissian – affirmed together their shared commitment to making the environment and collective responsibility for tackling climate change a fixed annual feature of the worship and shared witness of all the churches in England.
'Time for God's Creation' incorporates several existing dates related to Creation themes in the different church calendars. In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarch invited all Christians to observe 1 September as a day of thanksgiving for Creation and an occasion for petitions for its preservation and healing. The period also incorporates Harvest festival, celebrated by Anglican and Protestant churches and concludes on 4 October with St Francis' day, when Roman Catholics reflect on Creation themes.
Commending the initiative, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams declared: "Every Sunday in the creed, Christians confess their faith in God who created the world we inhabit. It's his gift. As stewards of that gift, each of us has a responsibility, both to God and to the generations to come, to ensure that this remains a sustainable world. Placing environmental concerns at the heart of our Christian worship for this fixed time each year, demonstrates our shared commitment to that end."
The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, added: "In his World Day of Peace message for 1990, Pope John Paul II draws our attention to the figure of St Francis, and reminds us that 'he offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation.'
He added: "'Time for God's Creation' is a sobering reminder of our obligation to respect and care for our world. Inspired by St Francis we pray and work together for the common good."
Meanwhile, the Moderator of the Free Churches of England and Wales, Commissioner Betty Matear, said"
"We believe that God is our Creator and humanity, created in [God's] image, has been given responsibility for the care and stewardship of the world's resources. We are accountable to those who will follow us... but our lifestyles also affect the lives of others – today. This period will be an opportunity for us all to look at our choices, to reflect on how our lives impact on others and to allow God to challenge us to become positively involved in caring."