Blog #6: The Creation Keepers’ Guide to Lent

February 18,2021
Monika Weber-Fahr
So Lent has arrived! It’s meant to be a time to (re)focus on what it means to be and live as Christians, to be just in the biblical sense, meaning to be in the right relationship with God, with ourselves and with our neighbours. The traditional Lenten practices are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbours). Among fellow Christians, though, I have seen many different paths walked in adopting these practices, in particular as far as fasting is concerned, ranging from food practices (absolute or partial fasting such as giving up meat, sweets, alcohol, and so on), to fasting from negative habits (giving up gossip, excuses, or, my personal favorite, giving up nagging) and to many more life-choice type things. Yes, fasting has arrived in the mainstream.
Is there a Creation Keepers’ Guide to Lent? The good news is that all three Lenten practices -- prayer, fasting, and almsgiving -- can point us to and allow us to partake in practices of stewardship for God’s creation. All three play a role across the four Lent Choices that we have reviewed here for you.
 
1. A Learning a Week: God’s Creation, Praying, and Reviewing Your Choices. This year’s Christ Church Vienna Lent Course: Caring for Creation offers fact-based information on topics such as the environment and climate change, combined with the opportunity to consider jointly with other members of the community what prompts us as Christians to pay attention to what is actually happening to our planet today. We will also discuss what, with God’s guidance and strength, we can do as individuals and as a community to care for creation. The five sessions are based on the York Course Caring for Creation and combined with other resources for knowledge, inspiration, and prayer. The in-person group will meet on Wednesday mornings at 10:15 am (from Ash Wednesday). The Zoom group will meet Thursday evenings at 7pm (starting on Thursday, 18 February).
Do you want to complement the Christ Church course with something more? The Diocese in Europe recommends For Such A Time as This. It is a set of 6 studies exploring environmental justice from Anglican perspectives around the world. Check out the PDF format here. Each study provides a reflection from a global partner, biblical extracts for reflection, questions for discussion, prayers, and a simple action or commitment.
2. An Action a Day: Plastic Fasting. Here is a fun idea - do one thing each day that helps you take a step towards reducing your use of plastic. This day-by-day guide can help. Originally developed by the Church of England's Environment team, as part of a 2018 “Plastic Free Lent Challenge,” it offers a practical tip each day of lent to reduce your use of plastic. These tips cover different areas of life such as “in the kitchen,” “in the bathroom,” “when traveling,” “in the home,” and so on. Thee is a great Facebook Group, “Plastic-less living” associated with the original lent challenge, worthwhile subscribing to even beyond lent.  I have printed out the day-by-day guide and put it on my fridge at home. We’ll see what we can do each day.
 
This is how the "Plastic Fasting" calendar of the Green Anglicans looks. Check it out online.
3. A Moment a Day: Walking in the Wilderness. Looking for more spiritual resources, both for your Lenten prayer practices, and to reflect on God’s mandate for us to take care of his creation? In researching for something that would both reflect our current situation and be inspiring for the environmentally-minded, I came across Beth Richardson’s Walking in the Wilderness. It’s a day-by-day guide through this year’s Lent, offering a poem or quote, a piece of scripture, and a “word to carry in your heart today.” Why do I recommend it? For full disclosure, originally I was attracted just by the booklet’s title, Wilderness. I quickly learned that wilderness has many spiritual meanings and does not necessarily describe what my somewhat jungle-book shaped mind had envisioned. Indeed, the author takes the concept of wilderness way beyond what nature has to offer. The reflections and prayers offer insights and sources of strength for anyone seeking to bring about change in one’s own life or that of others, which really is the journey ahead for anyone seeking to address the environmental challenges of today. And I imagine we can, in addition to reading the daily dedications contained in the book, enrich the experience by taking a proper “walk in the wilderness,” whether it’s in the Vienna Prater or anywhere else close to where we live. Other day-to-day resources that I checked and can recommend for Lent include the Anglican Church’s #LiveLent app (also you can sign up via email).

A view of the front page of Beth Richardson's day-by-day guide to this year's Lent, Walking in the Wilderness.
4. A Commitment for all 40 Days: Car Fasting and inviting others to Car-Fast. The idea of reducing or cutting out one’s use of one’s car (or others’ cars) has been around for sometime, for various reasons, perhaps starting with the 1970s oil-crisis driven car-free Sundays in many countries. Much later, in 2013, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of CapeTown, one of the 2015 founders of the Bishops for Climate Justice Initiative, invited his congregation to join him for a Carbon Fast for Lent that included reducing the amount of petrol used for cars. Here in Austria, car fasting or Auto Fasten has also been around for some time, organized by the ecumenical environment initiative of Austrian churches. Autofasten.at offers some practical resources (though regrettably only in German), including a CO2 calculator to work out the emissions associated with your car rides. There is also a cute Autofasten Kalendar to record one’s achievements. Of course, many Christ Church members may not even own a car. But hey, AutoFasten.at explains also to the non-car-owners what we can all do to promote Auto Fasten more broadly. This could include inviting others (who have a car) to join us in walking, cycling, or taking public transport, including for getting to church, fixing an Auto Fasten sign on our bicycle, actively supporting the bicycle lobby in Vienna, discussing at our workplace activities that would not involve cars, reducing the use of services that rely on the use of car (e.g., ordering online), and supporting local initiatives that aim to reduce the use of cars. Of course, this year, and in particular on colder days, we must be mindful that the COVID-19 risks may cause some of us to use a car instead of public transport to minimize infection risks, in particular where we cannot choose the time of day and degree of crowding on the buses or trains. It’s worthwhile checking out Wiener Linien’s information and guidelines on reducing infection risks on buses, trains, and trams.

A screenshot of Autofasten.at, where one can find (German) guidance and resources for promoting reductions in car use. 
Inspired to adopt an environmental theme for your lent practices this year? Whatever you end up doing within your relationship with God, with yourself, and with your neighbours, may it well lead you to doing justice to God’s creation! Let us know what you think and do!

A "word cloud" of all the words we used in the first five Blogs of this series.