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PRESS RELEASE: Religions to be partners in Earth Hour 2017

February 15, 2017:

Clifton Cathedral Earth hour mass by candlelight.

ARC and WWF have created this thoughtful, inspirational reflection pack for churches and places of worship wanting to mark Earth Hour on March 25 by switching off lights and lighting up candles to think about treading gently on the earth. ... On the WWF WEBSITE...

EARTH HOUR 2017 is Saturday March 25 8.30pm

#EarthHourUK Make Earth Hour Matter

PRESS RELEASE, FEBRUARY 15, 2017. A new initiative, led by WWF-UK and with the help of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) aims to bring Earth Hour to churches and other places of worship throughout the country. The hope is to encourage even more Christians and members of other religious communities to come together, switch off the electricity, light candles and think about protecting the planet and how to live more simply.

Each year since 2007, millions of people around the world have been switching off their lights for a candlelit hour or more of reflection and contemplation. It’s a quiet way to call for action to protect our amazing planet, and it’s been remarkably effective.

In 2016 a record 178 countries took part in Earth Hour from 8.30pm to 9.30pm, their time. Not only did hundreds of thousands of householders join in, but many iconic landmarks switched out their own lights, from Big Ben and Edinburgh Castle to Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sears Tower in Chicago. And 2017, the 10th anniversary, is set to be the biggest yet.

Last year WWF-UK did a survey of people who had celebrated Earth Hour to find out what they found most important. What they discovered surprised them. A clear majority said that what they loved about Earth Hour was the time to spend quietly, without electricity or computers or televisions or their phones… just sitting in the darkness or in candlelight, thinking, meditating, or talking with friends. It was the simplicity they loved. Which is why this year there is a special focus on increasing the number of churches and cathedrals who switch off and open their doors at Earth Hour on March 25th.

Churches throughout the UK are encouraged to spread the word of Earth Hour. They will be invited to make plans about how to mark it, as congregations and communities; for groups and for individuals.

They will plan how to offer a special place of reflection, mediation and silence for that precious hour without electric light on Saturday 25th March at 8.30pm. And they will be encouraged to bless a symbolic candle to be lit when Earth Hour starts on March 25th and if possible to bless other candles of all shapes, colours and sizes, brought by people, which they will use at home or bring to church on the 25th.

There are resources available on the WWF-UK and ARC website for churches, places of worship and youth groups to plan their own Earth Hours.

“Earth Hour is a powerful way to bring home the reality of climate change. The Faith for the Climate Network encourages all faith centres - be they churches, mosques, synagogues, temples or wherever - to be open for Earth Hour and create a chance to reflect on the beauty and mystery of creation. I hope the initiative will inspire thousands of people across the UK to take action on caring for our planet,” said Canon Giles Goddard from Faith for the Climate Network.

“With over 170 countries around the world celebrating Earth Hour, it’s the perfect opportunity for us all to come together and take time to reflect on our amazing planet and how we can manage and protect it,” said Glyn Davies, WWF-UK’s Executive Director of Global Programmes. “That’s why we’re delighted to work with ARC to encourage churches and other places of worship throughout the country to be part of Earth Hour – whether that’s by turning the lights off or by holding a community event.”

“I’m delighted to support Earth Hour 2017,” said Revd Dr Stuart Burgess, senior Methodist church leader. “It’s critical we protect our planet for future generations - our children and grandchildren. It's very appropriate to link it with Candlemas with its emphasis upon light shining in the darkness,” he said.

Background: What is Earth Hour?

In 2007 in Sydney, WWF and other activists invited people to switch off their lights and appliances for one hour. More than two thousand businesses and 2.2 million people did exactly that – to demonstrate their support for global action against climate change. Their effort reduced the city's energy consumption by more than 10.2% during that hour – equivalent, astonishingly, to taking 48,000 cars off the road for a year. They called it Earth Hour, and decided to make it global.

Why launch this at Candlemas?

Candlemas is one of the oldest festivals in the Christian church, dating back to at least 542 when the Emperor Justinian ordered it to be part of the church year. It marks the day when, like all 40-day old Jewish boys, Jesus was taken to the temple. The Gospel of Luke tells of an 80-year-old man, Simeon, who has been serving at the temple much of his life, awaiting the arrival of the Messiah and of how, when he saw the child he wept, because in that small baby he had seen what he called “the Light to the World” who had been prophesied, and he could now die content. This is traditionally the day that all the candles for the year are blessed. It is an appropriate time on which to bless the candles that will be used to cast light on Earth Hour, with its connection not only to the light, but also to positive prophecy, prophecy about how to survive the darkness.

Why March 25?

This year Earth Hour day is March 25th. This coincides with Lady Day, named after the Virgin Mary and the first day of the old style New Year when people made sure they had settled their debts in preparation for the turn of the year. It is a time when people traditionally recognized their physical mothers (Mothering Sunday is the next day), as well as their spiritual mother the Church and especially the cathedral., So it is appropriate that also we celebrate our Mother Earth, the focus of St Francis’ prayer Song of the Earth, cited by the Pope in the title of his 2015 encyclical of the environment Laudato Si’.

Which cathedrals have taken part?

In the UK in 2016, Blackburn Cathedral, Leeds Cathedral, Manchester Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey took part, with activities ranging from turning off non-essential light to holding community events. Reflection Pack

• The reflection pack for churches and places of worship includes opening and closing prayers, poems, a prayer for candles, as well as meditation or conversation prompts for the hour of silence and reflection. There is a selection of Christian texts as well as texts from secular sources. Each church or group can use whatever is most helpful to them or just provide a place of silent mediation in a sacred space.

• It explores the message that it’s good to go beyond just switching off the lights… recommending switching off all other electronic devices except fridges and freezers (especially phones and computers) and later taking a look at what you turned off: for how long can you leave it off?

• How to plan a low carbon Lent, (Earth Hour comes in Lent this year).

• Going Beyond the Hour: ideas include encouraging a weekly day of no meat or fish, getting involved in campaigns, celebrating Creationtide in September

• If you can’t make 8.30pm, then choose another hour when you would normally have the lights on, and switch them off and see what happens.

• Resource material for involving children in Earth Hour.

Notes to editors

Earth Hour, organised by WWF, is the world’s biggest celebration for our amazing planet. In the UK last year, over 6 million people took part, along with over 4,800 schools and youth groups, 175 landmarks and thousands of businesses and organisations. Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Blackpool Tower, the Kelpies, Brighton Pier and many more joined the global lights out. Globally, from Samoa to Tahiti, a record 178 countries and territories took part in the world’s biggest Earth Hour yet. The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Acropolis in Athens, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building and Times Square in New York, and the Las Vegas Strip were just a few of the landmarks that joined in.

Social Media

@wwf_uk and #EarthHourUK. WWF WEBSITE download

Available for Interviews

Karen Gates, Senior Communications Manager WWF-UK and Martin Palmer, Secretary General, ARC are both available for interview.

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, with more than five million supporters and a global network active in more than one hundred countries. Through our engagement with the public, businesses and government, we focus on safeguarding the natural world, creating solutions to the most serious environmental issues facing our planet, so that people and nature thrive.

About ARC

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) is a secular organisation that helps the major religions of the world develop environmental programmes, based on their core teachings, beliefs and practices. It also links major religions with key environmental organizations, creating powerful alliances. It was founded in 1995 by HRH Prince Philip. @arcworld

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