Toronto churches take part in Earth Hour

By 
  • April 3, 2008

{mosimage}THORNHILL, Ont. - Fifty wax candles flickered in the semi-darkness of St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Thornhill, Ont., on March 29. Aside from the candles, which congregants used to follow along in their song books, the only other light source came from a dim spotlight shining on the sanctuary’s large wooden cross.

The parish, like a handful of other Catholic churches across the Toronto area, took “Earth Hour” a step further by incorporating song and prayer. “Earth Hour” originated in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, as an hour-long electricity fast to create awareness about the impact of fossil fuel consumption. This year, encouraged by the World Wildlife Fund, millions of people worldwide joined in turning off their electricity to save energy.

“It gives people a sense of not being alone and that it’s possible to join together and address this issue,” said Fr. Bill Burns, St. Luke’s pastor.

He said environmental protection is important for churches to address because it is not only a justice issue, but also a spiritual and moral issue.

“It’s the right of all people to share in the goodness of the Earth and not just this generation, but the generations of all the Earth,” he said.

Natalie Doucet, a member of St. Luke’s social justice committee which organized the church prayer event, said the parish actually began focusing on the environment two years ago. Last year the committee displayed a variety of things parishioners can do to reduce their carbon footprint. Earth Hour was an opportunity to help people connect energy consumption and environmental responsibility to their faith.

“When God created the Earth, ‘He saw that it was good’ and when we pass it on to our children, it would be good to echo that,” Doucet said. “But right now we can’t.”

Doucet helped prepare the service based on a format offered by KAIROS, an organization dedicated to Canadian ecumenical justice issues. It involved alternating song and prayers for “courage and grace to act now.” However, Doucet also included excerpts from the recent Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops letter “Our Relationship with the Environment: The Need for Conversion.”

Tom Sagar, KAIROS regional representative for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region, said that several Catholics played an inspiring role at an ecumenical service at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in King City north of Toronto.

Gabrielle Bryantsmith, 12, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Seton in Newmarket, gave a 10-minute presentation at Holy Trinity’s service on how to reduce the carbon footprint. She said that upon visiting a web site, she learned that even though her family was environmentally conscious, their impact on the Earth was still quite large.

Other Toronto-area churches held their own services. For instance, St. Basil’s Catholic parish in downtown Toronto held a candlelight Vespers.

Among the participating Canadian cities, Toronto was a leader in reduction of its electricity usage during Earth Hour. Toronto Hydro reported an 8.7-per-cent dip in electricity usage between 8 and 9 p.m., based on the average of the last Saturday in March from the past three years.

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