Six North American congregations selected for new climate-related worship and mission partnership

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Sep 7, 2023

Phillippe Carr-Jones prepares a visual focus for lakeside worship during a meeting of The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission July 17-21 in Collegeville, Minnesota. Photo: Amy McCreath

[Episcopal News Service] The Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission has embarked on a yearlong partnership with six congregations in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to help them develop new resources and practices for worship and mission in response to climate change.

APLM, which was founded in 1946 to promote liturgical renewal, works within The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and other denominations to support liturgy that is well-done and appropriate to the culture and context of the congregation, according to the organization’s website.

The six churches, which were among a pool of nine applicants, were selected for their “awareness of their cultural context, committed lay leadership, a desire to work creatively and a mission orientation,” APLM president the Rev. Amy McCreath told Episcopal News Service by email.

They are:

  • St. Andrew’s, Ayer, Massachusetts, in the Diocese of Massachusetts;
  • Christ Church, Tacoma, Washington, in the Diocese of Olympia;
  • St. Columba’s, Inverness, California, in the Diocese of California;
  • St. John the Evangelist, St. Paul, Minnesota, in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota;
  • Salal + Cedar, lower Fraser Watershed, metro Vancouver British Columbia, in the Diocese of New Westminster; and
  • Sunshine Coast Anglican Collaborative, Sechelt, British Columbia, in the Diocese of New Westminster.

The partnership was made possible through a Vital Worship grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, with funds provided by the Lilly Endowment.

Members of APLM met in July in Collegeville, Minnesota, with two representatives from each of the six churches to deepen their understanding of the climate crisis and to begin to look at existing resources for prayer, theological reflection and ministry in response to their local needs.

McCreath said that one point of the partnership is to help these congregations use liturgy to express the fear and other impacts that climate change is having on people inside and outside the church. “We hold in our hearts and bodies the fear of an apocalyptic future,” she said. “Those attending worship know this, and it is central to their lives in a way few worship services acknowledge.”

While the shape of that liturgical acknowledgement in each of the six churches will be up to them, McCreath told ENS there are ways that every congregation can begin to think creatively about how they can reconnect liturgically with their local natural environment.

She suggested using locally made wine and bread baked by parishioners using local ingredients; learning more about local watersheds and hosting a worship service there; drawing on parishioners with expertise as scientists, gardeners or farmers to help plan liturgies; and bringing back liturgical traditions that center the Earth, including Rogation Days and their ceremonial blessing of the fields, and Lammastide, an ancient English tradition of blessing bread made from the first corn or wheat harvest on Aug. 1.

McCreath said that if churches could find ways to make creation care more prevalent in their worship, people who aren’t part of a church might be more interested in participating, “if they saw the church lamenting, repenting of our individual and collective complacency and complicity in climate change.”

To help every congregation and diocese think more carefully about this need, McCreath said APLM will be offering a series of webinars that should help with planning worship and mission around the climate crisis. The organization also will be working with other justice-related groups in the church to help champion resolutions to next year’s General Convention that address this need.

She added, “In a time of so much injustice – racial, economic, climate and more – which is also a time when many outside the church see it as irrelevant or unaware of their heartaches, we want our leaders to encourage us to live into the truth The Episcopal Church has long held, that ‘praying shapes believing,’ and that believing includes how we live, connect outward, protest and legislate.”

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance writer and former director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.