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Churches and charities prepare for COP26 

Forty Christian denominations and charities from across the UK came together for a special service marking ‘Climate Sunday’ at Glasgow Cathedral - close to where the COP26 climate summit will take place in two months’ time


Those who took part on Sunday (5 September) included members of the clergy, Christian charities and young people, with the aim of bringing the environmental commitments made by more than 1,950 congregations before politicians and the wider Church. 

Many of those involved were ‘speaking up’ for the first time, joining thousands in signing the Time is Now declaration, which calls on the UK government to go further faster on climate action before hosting the COP26 summit in November.

The service was part of the Climate Sunday initiative, which provide focus for churches from across Britain and Ireland committed to action to combat climate change.

Over the past year, Climate Sunday has been asking churches to act, pray and speak up on climate change. As well as signing the declaration, Christians were invited to take part by holding their own Climate Sunday services in parishes across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland - and nearly 2000 have done so. They were also encouraged to get involved with a church ‘greening scheme’, such as A Rocha’s Eco Church, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s Live Simply or Eco Congregation in Scotland and Ireland. 9,248 UK churches are now registered with one of the schemes.

ClimateThe movement has involved those from many diverse church traditions, which was reflected in the worship. The Revd Catriona Gorton, minister of Hillhead Baptist Church in Glasgow (pictured), was one of the participants in the service, the largest ecumenical event before COP26. 

The Climate Sunday service was live-streamed to around 2,800 viewers and opened with representatives from the 40 denominations and Christian organisations processing into Glasgow Cathedral. As the service began, the bell of the cathedral rang, both as a call of welcome and call for climate justice, linking to the Celtic tradition of bells calling to account. Music included hymns by leading modern composers Keith and Kristyn Getty. The service closed in commending COP26 in prayer (including in Welsh and Gaelic) and pledging the nations’ churches to continue climate action.

Andy Atkins, Chair of the Climate Sunday coalition, and CEO of Christian nature conservation charity A Rocha UK said, ‘It’s hugely encouraging to see so many churches making their own practical commitments on climate change - surely one of the biggest moral issues of our generation. Clearly every section of society needs to contribute to heading off climate catastrophe including urging governments to use their greater powers and resources to maximum effect. 

'There are still eight weeks before COP26 and we hope hundreds more churches will hold a service, commit to action, and speak up in that time.’

Climate Sunday has formal backing from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Joint Public Issues Team and the Baptist Union of Wales.

The Revd Judith Morris, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Wales, said, 'We are delighted to be a part of Climate Sunday which has succeeded in bringing together so many denominations and agencies seeking to protect our planet. We hope that this collective impact will help secure ambitious and bold targets at the forthcoming COP26 enabling both global and local changes to be made so as to safeguard creation and the lives of our brothers and sisters who are already experiencing the very real cost of climate change.'

Churches can still register a Climate Sunday service and find resources at www.climatesunday.org

The Time is Now declaration is organised by the Climate Coalition, of which most members of the Climate Sunday Initiative are also members. It can be signed by individuals, business and community organisations. So far, 146,570 individuals, 640 businesses/organisations, and 264 community/faith groups have signed up (147,474 in total).  

Baptist Times, 07/09/2021
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