Blog #5: Dominion means ... ... ... care?!

February 11, 2021
Rosie Evans
Is taking care of creation really a priority for Christians? As important as love, justice and peace? Something that we, faith-based people, need to pay attention to, engage with and take action on? And if so, to whom can we look for inspiration?

 

 Picture: A view of the greenanglicans.org site, quoting Genesis (1:31)

Last September, during Creationtide here at Christ Church Vienna, I attended Dr. Clare Amos’s Bible study “And God saw that it was good: The Bible and Creation,” and it left me both inspired and full of questions. Dr. Amos, Director of Lay Discipleship for the Anglican European Diocese, has written about and taught on the topic of creation. Before taking a deeper look into the New Testament perspective on the subject of creation, Dr. Amos looks at the description in Genesis of our dominion over creation: “let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth.” At that point, the wheels in my head started turning, and I began to wonder: What does it mean for us to have dominion over creation?
“God gave us Dominion. Dominion means stewardship, it means care,” says Revd Canon Sally Bingham, and she is not mincing words.  She is an Episcopal priest in California, president of the Interfaith Power and Light Campaign, whose goal is to “help people of faith recognise and fulfill their responsibility for the stewardship of creation.” Revd Bingham has a beautiful 4-minute video online explaining the spiritual dimensions that should guide Christians to invest time and energy in matters of environment: “Taking care of creation is a matter of faith. It is as important as love, justice, and peace,” she says in the video. And she reminds us that “we need to do a better job, God put you here to be a Caretaker!”
Inspired by both Dr Amos and Rev Canon Sally Bignham, I began to search for more people of faith who had spoken on the topic of creation and climate change, and I was reminded of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Tutu, who is also well known as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist, speaks clearly about climate change and the impact that the ever more frequent heat waves, storms, droughts and floods have on the poor. "We fought apartheid.  Now Climate Change is our global enemy" he says. In the 2020 International Peace Lecture, Archbishop Tutu challenges us: "Words are not enough. We must work the work." His introduction, accompanied by images that brought tears to my eyes, confirms the need for action and explains the meaning of “climate justice”, a term that describes how different people are affected differently by climate change, in terms of geographies, incomes and generations. The more I looked, the more faith leaders I found caring and calling for action and change, both within the Christian churches and beyond.
But what about formal guidance? Institutionally, most faith groups have come to follow their leaders. There are multiple declarations out there, ranging from the famous Laudato Si’ Encyclia of 2015, through to the many individual and joint declarations by churches and faith groups in the context of Climate Change conventions and other contexts. In the Anglican Church, we have the Five Marks of Mission, the fifth tasking us to “strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustaina and renew the life of the earth”. This was added in 1990 to the other four marks. In fact, the Anglican Church has an entire program around environmental protection and climate change, as do many associated groups - we will explore them in one of our next blogs. 
So no shortage in guidance and challenges. But what about faith? From where can we draw inspiration and connect through prayer and communion? Prayer is a very important aspect of my faith, and something that I believe is important when it comes to issues such as climate change and climate injustice. I invite you to pray. To pray for those who campaign against these challenges, who change the ways we live. To pray that the Lord may guide and inspire them and us in working towards a positive change. Looking for further inspiration?  You can find it in the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St. Francis of Assisi, with the Church of England Creation Care prayer, the Church of England prayer for World Environment Day, or also Prayer, poetry and other worship resources from the Interfaith Power and Light Campaign.
Want to learn more? Caring for Creation is the new Lent Course we are running at Christ Church in Vienna. There will be 2 groups, one in the church centre starting on Wednesday 17th February at 10.15am, and one on Zoom starting on Thursday 18th February at 7pm. There are five sessions in which we will learn more about topics such as the environment and climate change, and together consider what prompts us as Christians to pay attention to what is actually happening to our planet today. We will discuss how, with God’s guidance and strength, we can consider what to do as individuals and as a community, to care for creation. We will use the structure of the York Course Caring for Creation to search for facts on what it means to be living in a climate crisis, what it takes to open our eyes, and to discern pathways for action. And we will add other resources as we go along, for knowledge, inspiration and prayer. 
Join us! Let’s figure out together what God put us here for, giving us dominion!