Theology and liturgical resources

‘In Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.’ Colossians 1:19-20

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible proclaims the value of God’s creation, God’s love for all that he created, and the importance of right relationships between God, humanity, and the entirety of the created order.

All too often, though, the Church has focused solely on God and humanity. So how do we return to a theology that gives creation its rightful place? And how can our theology help us think through what it means to love God and neighbour in the face of environmental crisis?

On this page you can find prayer resources, litanies, new hymn lyrics, and whole services drawn from a variety of Christian traditions. During October 2020 we are also publishing four short films from Bishop Olivia about care for creation. Look out for a brand new episode each Monday.

We’ve also got links to resources that help small groups look at vital questions: What does the Bible say about ‘right relationship’? What are the major issues facing the earth, and how are Christians already responding to them? How do we think about environmental justice?

There are resources for deeper individual study, as well, and for helping those who preach to reflect on creation care in sermons.

If you’d like to explore further, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re blessed to have a number of environmental theologians in our Diocese and we can put you in touch with someone who can offer further suggestions.

Care for creation

four short films from Bishop Olivia

Episode 1




  • How does this understanding of incarnation help us to think about our relationship to the rest of creation?
  • If God is incarnate in the whole of creation, can there be any separation between sacred and profane?
  • What does that mean for each of us, and for how we work out our response to the environmental emergency which faces our world?

A helpful clarification

A clarification from the Diocese of Oxford and Bishop Olivia, following a number of comments on social media about this film.


Episode 2




  • What does each of the foundational stories in Genesis stir up in us as we think about the relationship God wants us to have with God’s creation?
  • When we are thinking about our relationship with God and with Creation how do we see our sinfulness and our responsibility?
  • Can we think about sin on both an individual and a corporate level? What does it mean at each of these levels to turn away from it?
  • How can we participate lovingly in the web of life, and challenge our own tendency to be careless and destructive of what has been created and sanctified by God?

Episode 3




  • Do we use both our minds and our hearts to understand God?
  • What do we notice God around us?
  • How often do we stop and do the deep, deep noticing until we see God’s divine presence in the intricacy of creation?
  • How does heart-knowledge help us to take in the reality of the environment crisis, and to express what we feel about it?
  • What would it take for us to seek a different future?

Episode 4




Shift 1: from “I” to “We”.
The recognition of our interconnectedness; the importance of relationship right across society and across the world; the realisation that we are not a free-standing species but a part of a complex web of life, relying on other parts of the web for our ability to survive.

Shift 2: from valuing productivity…to valuing life
The engine of our economic system is the idea that we will continue to increase, every year, the amount that we consume. We are constantly encouraged to buy more, to waste more and throw away more so that we can continue to consume . This is self-evidently not good for the planet. Our economics is also based on the idea that the more people are paid, the more value they have to society. We have a new realisation of how this is simply not true. Those who bring the most value to our lives are the lowest paid and often most insecure and perilously employed. We have clapped them on Thursday nights. Money is simply not the measure of all things. But it is true that the more we seek money, the more we want to consume.

Shift 3: from making small adjustments to being ambitious for a whole new way of being
Many of us have tweaked our lifestyles. We have become more conscious, perhaps, of the amount of non-reusable plastic we use; of where our electricity comes from; of sorting our rubbish. These are all good things. But they are not enough by themselves. We have an opportunity to reshape our churches and our culture and society for a new, sustainable future. As a species we are capable of adapting fast. The diocese of Oxford has committed to making significant changes into order to reach our target of net zero carbon emissions by 2035, and each church and school within it is strongly encouraged to do the same. We all need to work on this, and we need to do it together, as Easter people.


Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord God!

The whole of creation sings your praise
And proclaims your glory.
As we study your word and your works
Help us to draw closer to you
That we may love you and your world more deeply,
Turn from the things we do that are harmful,
And discern how you are calling us

To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with you
For your glory and the good of all creation.

Amen

Further reading

The Community of Creation by Richard Bauckham — sermon exploring our place in creation, each part of which is precious to God.

Cherishing the Earth by Martin and Margot Hodson — an overview of how Christians can live sustainably. Accompanying Bible studies make it helpful for home groups.

A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues by Martin and Margot Hodsonintroduces the issues affecting our planet and possible Christian responses. Also contains materials for group study.

Laudato Si  by Pope Francis — influential work calling on Christians to heed ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’.

[Saying Yes to Life] by Ruth Valerio — the Archbishop’s Lent Book for 2020. Explores the theology and practice of creation care through the lens of the story of creation in Genesis 1.

Other useful resources

A Rocha’s At your service includes theology reading lists and service materials produced for Earth Sunday.

Anglican Communion Environmental Network — an amazing array of theological and liturgical resources from around the world.

Church of England Environment Programme — good range of liturgical materials in the ‘Celebrate Creation’ section.

JRI — briefings and study materials that bring together scientific and Christian thinking on environmental questions.

Operation Noah — a wide range of theological reflections and studies.

Pray and fast for the climate — monthly prayer points relating to climate issues and a collection of other prayer resources.

Climate Change: complete reading list

Some Christian theological and ethical responses

Renewing the Face of the Earth: A Theological and Pastoral Response to Climate Change by David Atkinson (Canterbury Press, 2008) — In light of the moral and theological challenges climate change poses, how do we live? An exploration which focuses on the nature of God’s covenant and what it means to live as a covenant people.

Bible and Ecology: Rediscovering the Community of Creation by Richard Bauckham (DLT, 2010) — One of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars explores what the Bible says about humans’ relationship with the rest of the creation. Short, clear, beautifully written and original.

Planetwise: Dare to Care for God’s World by Dave Bookless (IVP, 2008) — The biblical case for caring for God’s world presented with a blend of theology, story and suggestions for practical action. Engaging and great for small group study.

God Doesn’t do Waste by Dave Bookless (IVP, 2010) — An engaging narrative account of what it means to live in right relationship with God, with one’s family and neighbours (local and global), and with creation.

Angels with Trumpets: The Church in a Time of Global Warming by Paula Clifford (DLT, 2009) — What does it mean for the church to speak prophetically and care pastorally for neighbours local and global in a warming world? An early challenge to rethink how we communicate and respond to climate change.

Eco-Theologyby Celia Deane-Drummond (DLT, 2008) — Important book from a senior Roman Catholic theologian, examining and analysing critical questions and debates in environmental theology. More academic.

Cherishing the Earth by Martin and Margot Hodson (Monarch, 2008)

A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues by Martin and Margot Hodson (BRF, 2015)

Responding Faithfully to the Environmental Crisis: Christianity at the Time of the Anthropocene by Tim Howles (Grove, 2019)

Jesus and the Earth by James Jones(SPCK, 2003) — Many people start from Genesis when thinking about creation and don’t look for guidance in the New Testament. The former Bishop of Liverpool looks at what Jesus says about creation. Short, useful for group study.

The Environment and Christian Ethics by Michael Northcott (CUP, 2008) —  A magisterial survey of Christian thinking on environmental ethics. Academic.

Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis (2015) — Seminal call to hear ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’… important in uniting considerations around care for creation and questions of human flourishing.

Just Living: Faith and Community in an Age of Consumerism by Ruth Valerio (Hodder & Stoughton, 2017) — How do we think about discipleship in a globalised, consumerised world? Sets out our context, considers the issues theologically, and suggests some practices for a Christian life well lived.

Saying Yes to Life by Ruth Valerio (SPCK, 2019) — Archbishop’s Lent Book for 2020. Considers the environmental issues facing the earth through the lens of the Genesis story. Introduces scientific issues and real-life examples of global impacts, examines theological considerations, and offers stories of hope and suggestions for action.

Science of Climate Change

Take a look at the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The executive summaries are short and clear; there’s more detail in the full documents.

Keep up to date by signing up for the Carbon Brief daily or weekly emails — full of useful information and analysis.

The Basic Science of Human Induced Climate Change’ with Myles Allen — A series of five short (13 min) video presentations, originally done as evidence in a court case on climate change. Clear, succinct, and state of the art.

How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee (Green Profile, 2010) — Greatly informative, and great fun. A short look at the carbon associated with a variety of goods and services, which helps us to see the impact of our choices and decide how we can change them for the better.

There is no Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years by Mike Berners-Lee (CUP, 2019) — In an engaging style takes big issues (how can we feed people in a warming world?), presents the scientific/economic/social questions involved and suggests possible ways towards positive change… all in a simple Q and A format.

The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Cristiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac (Bonnier, 2020) — The former head of the UN climate talks and her chief political strategist look at the world we’re creating and the world we must create to survive… and show the mindsets and practices needed for the world we must create.

The Rough Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson (Rough Guides, 2011) — useful introductory text.

Prosperity without Growth by Tim Jackson (Routledge, 2016) — Do we really need exponential economic growth in order to prosper? And what is prosperity anyway? Are there other paths to human flourishing? What would a post-growth economics look like? Important and challenging.

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas (Harper Perennial, 2008) — What does the earth look like with one degree of global warming? With two? With more? British journalist Lynas sets out the different scenarios based on extensive reading of scientific research — and makes a clear case for urgent action.

Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change by George Marshall (Bloomsbury, 2015) — We know climate change is a threat to all we love. So why have we been so slow to act? Using insights from behavioural psychology, Marshall explores the things that make climate change so hard for people to process… and suggests ways forward. Engagingly written, fascinating, and highly influential.

Climate Change: A very short introduction by Mark Maslin (OUP, 2014) — useful introductory text

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth (Random House, 2018) — How can we set a new economic goal to ‘meet the needs of all within the means of the planet’? Raworth explores the social needs that must be met for all people to have the opportunity to flourish, the planetary resources we have to meet them, and how we find an economy that hits ‘the sweet spot for humanity’.   (Animated YouTube summary)

The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future by David Wallace Wells  (Penguin, 2019)  (also available free in its original article format) —Forthright, occasionally controversial, US journalist Wallace Wells has helped to raise awareness of the climate emergency.