A new way to engage with Lent: commit to care for creation

by Karri Munn-Venn

I used to take a lot of sugar in my coffee.

Several years ago, I cut it out for Lent. It felt good to skip the sweet stuff (while remaining highly caffeinated!). But cutting sugar from my coffee didn’t feel like much of a spiritual practice.

Citizens for Public Justice are inviting Canadian Christians to approach Lent a little differently this year. You can read the whole story in the Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today,

I tried a few different approaches. Then, last year, I finally hit on something that helped me to take my Lenten practice to the next level.

I pledged to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging and waste I was bringing into my home. No more cereal boxes – I have teenagers, so there were a lot of those! – peanut butter tubs, or bags of nuts, coffee, or dried fruit. Instead, I washed out a bunch of old canning jars, picked up a few larger reusable containers and made a weekly excursion to the bulk food store.

It was something I had been thinking about doing for a little while and it felt good to have finally made the shift. There was also something quite rich about bringing more congruence to my life; aligning my faith, my environmental concern and my consumption habits.

I did this as part of Give it up for the Earth! – a faith-in-action campaign that I helped coordinate as part of my work with Citizens for Public Justice. It was powerful to know that I was joined by other people of faith across Canada who were also making changes to reduce their personal and household greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Some of them were walking more (and driving less), buying food that was grown closer to home and even moving their investments out of funds that included oil, gas and coal – chief producers of GHGs. We were living into God’s call to care for creation.

The specifics of our personal Lenten commitments varied, but we came together around one critically important collective action: we each sent a postcard to Catherine McKenna, federal minister of the environment and climate change, urging the Government of Canada to also Give it up for the Earth! by making policy changes to better align with international efforts to address climate change.

Minister McKenna was visibly moved when we arrived at her office with close to 2,000 postcards. As Christians, we’re still often seen as “unlikely suspects” when it comes to supporting action on climate change. And so I think we have an even greater impact than those she expects to hear from.

That’s why I’ve committed to Give it up for the Earth! again this year. Recognizing the significant GHG emissions produced by the meat industry (especially beef), I’ve decided to adopt a vegetarian diet for the 40 days of Lent. Doing so will once again bring more consistency between what I believe and the way that I live.

The idea of alignment is central to CPJ’s campaign. This year, we’re asking the government to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry as part of efforts to reduce emissions and lessen the impact of climate change.

Already I’ve heard from 101 people – from Parksville, B.C. to Mayo, Yukon, to St. John’s, N.L., and many places in between – who want to bring the Give it up for the Earth! campaign to their faith community. You can too! Visit www.cpj.ca/for-the-earth to learn more and to register to receive materials. Together, let’s signal to the federal government that as Christians, we’re prepared to make lifestyle changes to reduce GHG emissions.

Karri Munn-Venn is senior policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice (analyste principale de politiques chez Citoyens pour une politique juste). The Jan/Feb issue of Faith Today has a story about the Give it up for the Earth! campaign. Lent happens this year from Feb. 14 to March 29. 

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