At the beginning of the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Year, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew blessed and greeted the faithful with his annual Encyclical. His message this year highlights again our calling to be good stewards of our environment, and to help preserve the natural world. “The Ecumenical Patriarchate, which in recent decades has pioneered in the field of the protection of the creation, will continue its ecological initiatives, the organization of ecological conferences, the mobilization of its faithful and especially the youth…”[Encyclical September 1, 2020].  For over twenty years, His All Holiness has been one of the greatest advocates for the preservation of our planet. His words are always inspiring. This year’s message has particular resonance as he calls on us all, especially our young people, to join in this moral struggle for the preservation of life on our planet.

As a world, we are living in a particularly turbulent time. We have experienced months of record breaking fires up and down the west coast of the Metropolis of San Francisco. My family and I have watched, from our own backyard, colossal and horrific plumes of smoke from raging fires just 10 miles away. Each year the fire season becomes longer, fires become more prevalent and with greater intensity - all the result of climate change.

In the Book of Genesis, God said, Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of heaven, and over every creeping thing that moves on the earth.” [Gen. 1:26]. We as humans are in charge. God has given us a responsibility to care for the creatures of the earth and the environment. In light of the increasing devastation by fire and drought, one can only wonder: Are we doing the work of protecting His Creation? Are we acting as God would have us act, in His image, with love, caring and respect for His Creation? Or do we thoughtlessly use and discard the gifts God has given us?

Beyond our fervent prayers, worship, and acts of charity for our fellow human beings, what practical actions can we take to be worthy stewards of God’s awesome creation? Which choices can we make to preserve the richness of life God created on our beautiful planet? Can we, as Christian individuals and parishes, take some of these steps?

  1. Actually eat all the food we buy. (Approximately 10% of US energy use is for the growing, processing and shipping of food- 40% of which end up in landfills.)
  2. Reduce water waste (with drought tolerant planting, shorter showers, etc.)
  3. At our Festivals and Fellowship hours: Replace plastic, Styrofoam and polystyrene packaging with eco-friendly alternatives. Current options include plant-based plastics, based on corn, bamboo, wood pulp, wheat, and others. These natural products are abundant, renewable, and they make for high quality plates, cups, bowls, containers, utensils, etc.
  4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (as much as possible)
  5. Power our homes and parishes with solar energy.

The consequences of climate change have affected us all profoundly this year. We have a moment in time to stop and consider how we treat and care for all creation. Our actions are a direct reflection of our gratitude to God for all the blessings He has given us.

As we continue to grow as good and faithful servants of Christ, my hope and prayer is that we will each be moved to act for the well-being and preservation of all of God’s creation. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” James 2:14.