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Season of Creation – Observance honors Earth

People worldwide will be part of a 34-day observance that begins next week to honor their home — the one that contains all the resources for life. It is the home called Earth.

Known as A Season of Creation, the observance was initiated on Sept. 1, 1989, to celebrate the planet as well as communicate an awareness for its well-being and what its inhabitants can do to enable it to flourish. Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of the Orthodox faith launched the observance that was embraced by other major Christian churches in 2001 and by Pope Francis in 2015.

It is observed annually from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology.

During that time, people take measures to protect the Earth as well as pray.

Locally, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Conference of Greater Altoona will observe the Season of Creation with a prayer service. It will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 8 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 309 Lotz Ave. (Lakemont). Monsignor Michael Becker, pastor of the church and chairman of the event, said representatives from multiple faith traditions will take part in the service, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist.

The worldwide theme is “The Web of Life: Biodiversity as God’s Blessing.”

According to SeasonofCreation.org, the theme was suggested by the celebration’s international ecumenical steering committee because it helps people meditate on two facts about creation: “It comes from God, and we play a part in it.”

The service in Altoona will be one of many activities taking place throughout the world during the observance.

The purpose of the prayer gathering is “to raise the awareness of the community of our spiritual relationship to creation,” Becker said. “Not to use it and discard it, but to cherish it as our common home.”

Becker will share reflections on the need to protect the environment and why the Season of Creation is important. Reading will be given by individuals representing different denominations and faith traditions, and music will represent different cultures.

Pastor Evelyn Madison of Wehnwood United Methodist Church will play the piano.

“I think it is important that we gather together,” she said, adding that it is an opportunity to meet other people of faith in the community and to learn from each other.

“We have a lot in common,” she said. “We all live on the Earth. We all breathe the same air.”

Rabbi Audrey Korotkin of Temple Beth Israel will send participants home with instructions on how to calculate their carbon footprint and their water footprint. Korotkin said they will be able to compare what they use with what is normal in the rest of the world.

“If your footprint is too large, then you are stepping on somebody else’s toes,” she said.

Suggestions for reducing water usage or one’s carbon footprint will accompany the calculations.

“We can’t survive without water,” Korotkin said, adding that it’s a global issue.

Among the concerns is drought in places such as in India, where the lakes in Chennai went dry in June, leaving 4.6 million people without water.

When a land becomes bone dry, there is no water to grow crops, feed people or stave off illness, Korotkin said.

Becker spoke about several areas where changes are affecting the world. He said global warming is causing ice glaciers to melt and raising sea levels. Those who live along the coasts of Africa, India and the Far East are losing their habitats, Becker said.

In South America, the rainforest is being cut down to make grazing land for cattle in response to demands for meat in other parts of the world, he said. According to the Rainforest Concern website, other contributors to the loss of the rainforest are unsustainable agriculture, mining, logging, the extraction of oil and dams.

“Our environment is under stress,” Becker said. “We live in a throwaway culture. We confuse our wants and needs.”

Korotkin said climate change and industrial pollution issues can seem overwhelming to Americans, who wonder if they can make a difference.

“If each of us is proactive, we can do something about it,” she said.

Participants are encouraged to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to the service. The produce will symbolize the gifts of the Earth and will be donated to local facilities that provide food for those in need. An offering will be taken for the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society in the spirit of St. Francis and the need to care for animals.

Participants will receive fabric grocery shopping bags with the saying: “I’m a green believer.”

Becker said because this is the first year for the celebration locally, the focus will be on awareness. In the future, churches or other faith-based groups plan to promote projects. He said the organizers would like to get teens involved as many of them seem to have concerns, and want to care for the planet.

“We must recognize that the Earth is not ours to use and throw away,” Becker said. “We need to pass on to the next generation a world that is clean and healthy, not toxic.”

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