Article by Peter Koeppel, member of Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton. Koeppel serves on the diocesan Stewardship Resources team and the diocesan Creation Care Initiative.
You have obviously carefully read, studied, and built your faith and personal life on the Catechism contained in our Book of Common Prayer. Ok, let’s be honest, probably not. Not that we don’t try, but it’s hard. What if we take every time we fail living up to Jesus’ commandments as another opportunity to recognize our failing, and try again?
This applies to every aspect of our lives: we fail, we recognize that we failed and may need to ask for forgiveness, and we try again to do better. The first part is a given; the second part takes willingness to question the righteousness of our own doings and acknowledge that our actions may do harm; the third step is perhaps the hardest yet: having admitted a failure to ourselves and God, we now must stand up and correct that failure, maybe even publicly.
What can we learn about our relationship to God’s creation from this approach? For the second step, perhaps a recommendation by Franciscan writers Ilia Delio, Keith Douglass Warner, and Pamela Wood, adapting the historic Christian practice of examination of conscience to focus on how we have harmed or helped our relationships with God’s Earth, can get us started.
Here I have transformed the questions they propose for the examination of conscience regarding our relationships with God’s Earth into the form of a Catechism—except that it’s you who has to develop the answers:
- Why should my whole life be centered on God’s overflowing love in my life, revealed through Jesus and through all of creation?
- How do I accept the gifts of God’s goodness and diversity in creation?
- Why do I pray for the forgiveness of sins between humans and the created world, and for the healing and reconciliation of our broken relationship with creation?
- How can I use my God-given gifts to honor and protect the diverse, interdependent, fragile nature of all life and to preserve it for all future beings?
- How have I stolen from or damaged the habitat of other created beings by wasting or consuming more than I need?
- Why should I seek to preserve in the world whatever allows all created beings to live their full development intended by their Creator?
- Will I recognize and stand up against pollution, greed, overconsumption, loss of habitat, disease, war, extinction of species, oppressive laws and structures?
- Why do I need to encourage others to take care for creation seriously?
Did you notice that these questions ask us to examine how we impact the lives of every living being—be they flora, fauna, or human? To fully step into and live in a loving relationship with God’s magnificent creation, we must lift the blinders which prevent us from seeing how our actions, and those done on our behalf, impact all living beings, so that we can, with humility, love, and dedication ensure that all living beings find places on Earth where they can not only survive, but thrive, fully expressing the diversity of God’s loving creation.
The Episcopal Church has published a foundational paper “A CATECHISM OF CREATION” which includes a section on caring for creation. I encourage you to read this in its entirety; it’s available on the Episcopal Church Website: A CATECHISM OF CREATION
I am indebted to Fr. Richard Rohr for pointing his readers, including me, to Ilia Delio’s, Keith Douglass Warner’s, and Pamela Wood ‘s questions for the examination of conscience concerning our relationship with God’s love-filled creation.