Sacred Circle Liturgy – a Climate Crisis Resource
David R. Weiss, September 18, 2019
I’m pleased to share a worship resource I recently created around the climate crisis. It’s finished just in time to be ready for use in my immediate setting: at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ here in St. Paul. We’ll offer it as a Sacred Circle for Our Climate this Friday evening, 6:30-7:30, following the Global Youth Climate Strike.
BUT—while our timing (and my timeline) was set by the Climate Strike, the service itself could be used anytime you want a prayerful gathering around climate. Although it may be too late for others to use it this weekend—but it is pretty much out-of-the-box ready, so if you’re still looking, look here!—I hope it can be useful in the months and years ahead. You’ll find the original liturgy here as a Word doc or a PDF, but now you can also download a customizable template that makes it easy for you to create your own Sacred Circle. This is a prime example of one type of resource I hope to devote more time to through my Patreon-funded Community-Supported Theology work.
If you lead or assist with worship-planning, please check it out. If you’re concerned about the climate crisis and connected to a faith community, pass it along to those who do the worship planning. Here’s a little more background:
This Sacred Circle service was a spontaneous outgrowth of a book study using Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In without Going Crazy by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (New World Library, 2012; www.activehope.info). The book presents a practical way to process thoughts and feelings about the threat posed by climate change. It is especially powerful when read as a group. We found it transformational.
We did the book study over the summer of 2019. As we were completing the study, the Global Youth Climate Strike of September 2019 was on the horizon, so we chose to plan a contemplative service for the evening of the same day as the strike. This was both to be in solidarity with the youth (who were inviting adults to join them in daytime strikes, marches, etc.) and also to offer a quieter and more spiritual opportunity at the end of the workday.
However, this service is NOT specific to the Global Youth Climate Strike. Although it reflects the rising voices of youth around climate—a theme hardly limited to the September 2019 Strike—the service is shaped much more directly by the themes in Active Hope which express Joanna Macy’s “Work That Reconnects” philosophy of personal and communal empowerment. In that sense, this service can provide a powerful moment of spiritual reflection at any point during the year.
Active Hope is not a Christian book, but it is certainly spirit-friendly. Because the climate crisis is such a looming human threat, we were committed to creating a liturgy that, while reverent and prayerful, was also expansive and inclusive so that persons of many faiths (or no religious faith) would feel comfortable.
The Work That Reconnects (the “philosophy” underpinning Active Hope) is grounded in four “movements”: coming from gratitude, honoring the world’s pain, seeing with new eyes, and goiing forth. The book explores each theme at some length. Our liturgy reflects them, although for time’s sake we combined the last two movements in our third section. Our purpose was not to “teach” the book, but to trust its wisdom and honor the power of our experience in using it together.
Finally, although I wrote the liturgy itself, the service as a whole—and the energy to make it a reality—is thanks to all the members of the Active Hope Book Group at St. Paul’s UCC in St. Paul, Minnesota: Deb George, Kate Hansen, Tracy Kugler, Donna Olson, Tracie Olson Payne, Bruce Tyler, and myself, David Weiss.