SPOTLIGHT: Changing the Usual Advent Service to Focus on the Changing Climate

SPOTLIGHT: Changing the Usual Advent Service to Focus on the Changing Climate

When members of the Church of the Covenant in Boston realized the beginning of the climate talks in Paris this year coincided with the beginning of the season of Advent, they heard an invitation by the Spirit to engage the climate change topic in a liturgically intentional way. 

“Climate change is one of most significant moral challenges our entire planet is faced with.  It will affect the most vulnerable most significantly because it will make life on the streets all the more extreme and challenging,” said Rev. Rob Mark, pastor of the church.  “Our congregation understands that our faith has something to say about this global injustice, and we are choosing to use this Advent season to help delve into how our faith in Christ inspires us to be leaders in the climate justice movement.”

The church hopes to engage the entire congregation, as well as the community, over the course of the season through worship, adult education sessions, reading groups, devotionals, and conversations. More than twenty members are involved in the planning of the worship events, which includes special meditations and liturgies, guest speakers, and intentional use of light.

Each Advent worship service begins with the lighting of a climate "flame," represented by an oil lamp with red-colored fuel that is "banished" from worship space during the opening prayer of confession (prayer for God's grace). Then in contrast, the Advent wreath is lit towards the end of each service as the church focuses in on hope and action. The climate flame will then be extinguished finally on Christmas Eve in contrast to the alternative sustainable energy of their vigil candles. In addition, several anthems will be interspersed with scripture and “words from the world” of tough climate realities paired with hopeful local climate responses.

climate change talksOther activities include a local screening of This Changes Everything, a movie which attempts to help viewers re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change. Also, Covenant and Old South Church are collaborating on a two-session reading group, based on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si encyclical, to discuss climate change and how to respond to its challenges.  

Covenant is inviting members from the local Boston climate advocacy and activist community to join them and offer some “moments for mission” in some of the worship services to help shed light on the current pulse of the climate justice movement. (At this writing, officials from the Climate Disobedience Center and the Charles River Watershed Association were invited to speak.) Covenant also hoped to have some of the homeless friends in their community be a part of the experience to share their stories and concerns but also their visions of adaptation, advocacy and resistance.

Mark  believes that this particular moment in human history has never before seen so powerful a gathering around the climate justice movement, and as people of faith who follow Jesus we have a mandate to not only join this movement, but to help lead and shape it.

“Advent is a season of preparation and longing for light,” said Mark.  “Our world seems to need Advent more than ever this year – in the face of growing fear over violent extremism, displacement and instability.  Our planet and her people cry out.  It is an appropriate time to explore how our faith empowers us to face our fears and work for peace through climate justice.”

“We, as people of faith, need to be reminded of a God being born among us as the source of our hope as we together press on in this movement to heal our planet,” he said.

Read Rev. Mark’s blog article “Should Climate Change Be Addressed During Advent Season?

The Church of the Covenant plays an active part in the UCC-inspired NEREM (New England Regional Environmental Ministries), and they are committed to the new initiative, “A NEW AWAKENING: Proclaiming a Season of Prophetic Climate Witness Through Preaching, Prayer and Practice.”   You can click here to get additional information about Covenant’s Advent offerings. You can contact Rev. Rob Mark at the Church of the Covenant office at 617-266-7480, x 203, or  


Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane

Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane writes news articles for the SNEUCC website. She is also the editor of the Starting With Scripture newsletter. Contact her if: Your church has a great story to tell about an innovative ministry. You have a prayer request to ...

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