Faith responses to COVID-19
The urgent measures being introduced to tackle the spread of COVID-19 have hit local communities hard. At Faith for the Climate, we are aware of the challenges that many of our network members face in helping already overstretched faith groups to respond, whilst others have had to drastically rethink their services and outreach over the coming months. As the UK grapples with the continuing outbreak this March, we outline some of the impacts so far on faith communities and faith-based climate action. We would welcome hearing from network members or any other faith communities within the UK about how the pandemic is affecting you and what support your community needs in this difficult time.
A Lent-inspired Faith Vigil for the Earth, hosted and supported by a range of partners including the XR Faith Bridge and Christian Climate Action, has moved online after 20 days onsite outside the Houses of Parliament. Supporters can join the Facebook group and sign up online for slots in the 24-hour vigil, and online prayers and meditations are being held twice daily at 9am and 9pm. For Welsh activists, a Cymru Prayer Vigil for Climate Justice has also moved online, with three Zoom calls every Friday throughout Lent.
An interfaith climate gathering to mark Earth Day 2020 on 22 April, planned for Birmingham and the West Midlands by Footsteps Faiths for a Low Carbon Future and partners, will also take place online. Operation Noah’s plans for a global divestment announcement by faith groups has been postponed until 18 May, in Laudato Si’ week. It joins other significant climate actions which have sadly been put on hold, including the final weekend of the national Citizens’ Climate Assembly, and a Mothers’ Day March.
Meanwhile, Pray Without Ceasing, a 24/7 prayer initiative of CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund and others, continues online until the scheduled start of COP26 in November 2020. Anyone wishing to join can sign up for a slot and view the location of others taking part. On 22 March, online “Environmental Worship” was held across the worldwide Anglican Communion to mark World Water Day, providing a range of resources including services and prayers, reflections, preaching notes, and Sunday school materials. The Church of England’s #LiveLent campaign, Care for God’s Creation, continues to offer daily resources and an app, inspired by Ruth Valerio’s book Saying Yes to Life. Beyond the UK, GreenFaith is offering a recurring Faith Community Call for Care and Resilience at 12 noon GMT (4pm NY time), aimed at helping support its wider network through the COVID-19 crisis. GreenFaith and Living the Change have also launched an online multi-faith statement, inviting “people of faith and spirit” to pledge to work together to support the most vulnerable through the pandemic, and calling on decision-makers to act with love, justice, and compassion.
Extinction Rebellion has suspended all public actions and launched a new phase of “regenerative rebellion”, #AloneTogether, offering resources to focus on achieving a world of justice, cooperation, and resilience.
Even before the Government enforced restrictions on public gatherings, faith organisations have taken hard decisions suspending congregational activities. For many people of faith, the immediate urgency of climate action has receded, while supporting vulnerable people in their local communities has become an urgent priority. Many religious communities are moving online, and resources are constantly emerging to help members stay connected and supported. We are aware of a range of statements and guidance from Church of England, Catholic, Quaker, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist groups; we would love to hear from anyone who knows of other announcements throughout the UK. Other acts of service and devotion will be less visible, from prayer or meditation, to joining volunteer hubs, checking in with neighbours and loved ones, the daily ritual of caring for children, or simply doing what it takes to uphold our own hearts during the crisis.
With events moving rapidly, the current situation throws up urgent questions of what matters most to us, how we are connected to those around us, what we can contribute, and how best to work together. As we come to grips with these difficult times, we hold all our network members and the communities they are connected to in our thoughts. We pray and hope for you and your loved ones to stay connected, safe and well.