In this week’s prayer email:

  • The Paris Agreement: Thanksgivings and next steps
  • For all the saints …
  • Coming up in November

This week there are two possible sets of Revised Common Lectionary readings, one for All Saints and one for ‘ordinary’ time.  Somewhat paradoxically, the ‘ordinary’ readings actually give wonderful examples of how individuals and communities are forgiven and transformed by God’s grace. Read them – and praise God for God’s goodness!

The Paris Agreement: Thanksgivings and next steps

A year ago, climate negotiators, UNFCCC secretariat members and French diplomats were working frantically as the Paris climate talks approached … and the question still remained: after years of failure, would there be a new climate agreement for 2020? And if there were, could it be anything other than a lowest common denominator effort?

Not only did the Paris Agreement, which was adopted unanimously at the COP talks, exceed expectations, but its entry into force – not anticipated until 2020 – has been the most rapid in the history of UN major agreements. By 5 October, less than ten months after the agreement’s adoption, 55 countries representing at least an estimated 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions had deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the UN – and the threshold for entry into force had been reached. The agreement will enter into force this week, on 4 November.

What does this mean for on the world stage? Politicians from diverse contexts, including Barrack Obama, the President of the Marshall Islands, and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth  have expressed their hopes for what this means. So have business leaders such as Paul Polman of Unilever, and the heads of international bodies such as Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (and Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC former head) and Faith Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency.  Religious leaders have also made statements, including one from a conference held at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

And what does it mean for us, here, now? Where do we go next? As we pondered these questions, we asked for reflections from some of the Christians who walked from London to Paris and some who helped to organise a global prayer movement for Paris.

May they inspire us to engage with – and help others to engage with – the opportunities for hope and further action that the Paris Agreement offers.

I am truly excited for the Paris Agreement to come into force on the 4th November. Less than a year ago myself and a gallant group of pilgrims walked from London to Paris in-order to show that we care about Climate Justice. The events in Paris were a turning point for the globe. This was the moment when the majority of the world finally recognised Climate Change as a serious issue. This has given me hope, that together we can have a beautiful world. 

But it saddens me that our government is yet to ratify the Paris Agreement. During the Speak Up week of action, earlier in October, it became apparent to me that MPs across the country still do not place the need to protect our climate high on their priority list. The MPs and local councilors who campaign and actively lobby to protect our environment are easily overturned by the government; this is what we’ve seen here in Lancashire with regards to fracking.”

Jade Ashley Till, Pilgrim

Walking the Pilgrimage2Paris, witnessing the global faith petition – including 100 names from my parish community – delivered to Christiana Figueres, returning during COP21 to help deliver the global faith petition to President Hollande and lobby Amber Rudd outside the conference centre, seeing on TV in a Paris bar the final Paris Agreement made, was heady stuff and enormously exciting and encouraging. Back in my parish, the agreement has given fresh impetus to our work to become a livesimply parish, a Catholic initiative which has involved us in a range of activities to live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the world’s poor. Globally there have been great stories of progress. But nationally, despite our commitments, there are so many contradictions: cuts to renewable energy subsidies, the go-ahead for fracking, Hinkley Point and, now, a third runway at Heathrow. One thing’s certain: we mustn’t give up! As Christians we are a people of hope, and our hope encourages and enlightens others.” 

Judith Tooth, Pilgrim

The agreement reached in Paris was so encouraging, but a year on the UK Government now seems to be putting economic growth ahead of environmental issues.  The recent report of the Climate Change Committee suggests that current policies, at best, will only produce half the required reduction in emissions. The reversal of many of the policies on renewables that has taken place post Paris will surely exacerbate the situation.”

Paul Williams, Pilgrim

I’m pleased that, following ratification by the requisite number of countries, the Paris Agreement will come into force next month.  However, it is difficult to see how a 2 degrees target on global warming, never mind the 1.5 target mentioned in the Agreement, can be achieved, if our government’s actions since Paris are anything to go by.  The decision to override the wishes of people in Lancashire on fracking, and to recommend the building of a third runway at Heathrow, are but two examples of the way that this country is completely failing to lead the way.  A massive campaign to mobilise public opinion, and to oppose fossil fuel-friendly developments with nonviolent direct action, is needed; but I remain profoundly pessimistic about the future”.

Andrew Smith, Pilgrim

The Pilgrimage to Paris was an experience that shaped my outlook on the world and the spiritual reality of the struggle for transformation and climate justice. It also connected me with the very real world pressures we face. It was so humbling to be strangers welcomed in as friends by people at a time of national mourning and loss following the Paris attacks and more than that, to celebrate the opportunity to look outward and stand up for people affected by climate change because of the recent events, not in spite of them.

The year since has seen my commitment to sustainability deepen through a journey towards veganism, second hand clothing and localism. This in turn has deepened my relationship with Jesus and enriched my ministry of sharing a passion for sustainability with other people. Meeting such a group of diverse and motivated people has stayed with me until today and will do for years to come.”

Josh Evans, Pilgrim
When we first began praying for the long hoped for a long hoped for climate agreement to be reached in Paris, it seemed likely it would fail as so many other attempts had failed. But when agreement was finally reached, there was such a sense of achievement and celebration!

The warning signs from all around the world are clanging so loudly; as CO2 levels soar, global air and sea temperatures rise, sea levels rise and the climate becomes more unstable. Still our governments largely delay from the massive response required – but the Paris Agreement marks a hugely significant turning point for our global community; a line in the sand which says – yes we will respond. We will continue to pray that this response will be adequate and that nations will rise up together to meet this massive challenge.

Isabel Carter, Pray and Fast for the Climate

A year ago in Paris representatives from 195 nations agreed to tackle climate change. That was huge!
Now enough individual governments have confirmed it, and the agreement will come into force on the 4th of November. That is lightning speed!
But coming into force is only the start of a long journey. As Christians I see joining that journey as a way of showing love to God and our neighbours.
In future there will be many challenges and probably setbacks. But just now, as the Paris agreement comes into force, we celebrate a milestone.

Brendan Bowles, @ClimatePrayer

For prayer …

Why not pick one of the responses that has spoken to you. Reflect on it, and ask God to show you the next steps for your own response. If there are friends or colleagues or other members of your congregation with whom you can share this, consider taking the time to do this together, beginning in silence and then moving to a time of sharing.

And please pray:

  • in thanksgiving for the cooperative working that enabled the Paris Agreement to be adopted, signed, and ratified so quickly.
  • that the Paris Agreement may indeed be a turning point in our response to climate change, enabling a shift to a fairer, more sustainable world
  • that countries will implement their national contributions well – and indeed will strengthen their targets
  • that the forthcoming climate talks in Marrakesh will help to further implementation and continue the momentum of Paris. Pray that countries will address positively questions around the implementation of the agreement as a whole and questions around areas of the agreement which need strengthening

For all the saints …

Recently I (Maranda) was privileged to be present for part of a visit that members of two churches shared. The churches are in different parts of the world, and their congregations are living in radically different contexts. But what has been striking in interacting with both of them is a quality of loving Christian hospitality.

Those who had previously visited the South African church spoke frequently of being welcomed with a generosity which was both costly and genuine. And that generosity was mirrored in the way the UK church hosted those who came to visit this country, with people here, too, giving abundantly and joyfully of their time and prayers and energy and resources.

But what struck me most came during some discussions of the work that the South African church members do in their church. Hunger is an issue for many in their community, and they’ve been feeding children at the church for a decade – welcoming any who come. But they had begun to realise that there were children who weren’t coming – who because of their disabilities were kept at home, unable to participate. And this grieved the women’s hearts. So they now go out to fetch the children, bringing them to the church so that they can eat together with the rest, all part – as they said – of the family of God.

In Acts and several of the letters attributed to Paul, there are frequent references to members of the young Christian churches as ‘the saints’. For Paul, it seems, a saint is not someone singled out from Christians generally as particularly holy, but rather refers to all the people being made holy by participation in the life of Christ as part of the Body of Christ.

If this is your definition of ‘saint’ then the church becomes by definition a place of tremendous power, where people join together to ask the Spirit to transform them; receive, by grace, the love of God in their lives; and grow over time to be more Christlike. Where that happens, generosity can – as was the case in the church of Acts 2 and 4 – be the norm; the outsider can be welcomed with love; the needs of others can be met.

This All Saints Day, pray that this may be reality for all of us – and that we, as members of the Body, may be transformed, so that we are working for God’s glory, with God’s praises in our heart and in our words, and God’s love and mercy evidenced in our lives.

Coming up in November

7 to 18 Nov 2016 – UN Climate Negotiations (Marrakesh)

The first Conference of Parties since Paris – and a good time to focus prayer on the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as many key decisions on the mechanisms for implementation will be made at this conference. More material in next week’s prayer email – the UNFCCC also has a handy website for all information about the conference.

8 Nov 2016 – US Presidential/Legislative Elections

13 Nov 2016 – Remembrance Sunday

We’ll be focusing this year on prayers for forgotten victims of conflicts, here and in other countries. If you’re looking for worship materials, here are some suggestions:

20 Nov 2016 – Internat’l Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

A vital day for prayer at a time when so many Christians are suffering persecution and hostility. Christian Solidarity Worldwide is offering resources around the theme ‘Pray justice for the persecuted church’. Open Doors UK is offering resources focused on the church in Syria and Iraq, with theme ‘Pray for ME’. Release International is offering resources focused on the church in Sri Lanka.

20 Nov 2016 – Women against Violence Sunday, which leads into 25 November – 10 December – Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence

Information and resources are available from the Anglican Communion, The Christian AIDS Bureau for Southern Africa (CABSA), The Methodist Church (2015 resources, but still useful), The Mothers’ Union and Restored.

27 November or 5 December – Sundays around World AIDS Day (1 December)

Worship resources available from CABSA and Diakonia.