The ARC liturgy against toxins: shorter version
HURT NOT THE EARTH, AND THE SEA NOR THE TREES
Revelation Chapter 7 verse 3
FOR HALLOWE’EN AND ALL SAINTS’ DAY OR FOR USE ON ANY APPROPRIATE OCCASION
Creating a New Covenant
In the story of Noah told in Genesis, God makes a great Covenant with humanity and with creation. God has flooded the world, but as he brings Noah and his Ark to dry land he promises never to destroy life in such a way again. As the Bible says, God makes the covenant with “every living creature of every kind that is found on earth.” And the rainbow is given to be a perpetual reminder of this promise.
Now we need a new covenant. We do not doubt God’s promise: it is humanity that we cannot always trust. As humans, we all hold the power of life or death. We are altering the very balance of life on earth, polluting it with toxics and poisoning it through misuse.
In the past, our fears of unmanageable forces found expression through descriptions of demons and devils, witches and ghosts. To our ancestors these were a way of representing the reality that the balance and harmony of life was threatened. However today, we have new forces. They are forces that are of our own making and they include the vast array of chemicals and toxics we have created over several hundred years.
For we have unleashed upon the world that God created, powers that are eroding Creation’s balance and poisoning the very fabric of life. Most of these forces were originally designed to make life better. But they have ended up by gaining a terrifying power and life of their own. We can scarcely control them
Ninety percent of the chemicals currently on sale in Europe have never been assessed for safety. Which means that we do not know for sure what they do. But we do know that their impact stretches far beyond our own communities and generations.
PCBs have been found in the tissue of Polar Bears in the Arctic, and in other animals – and plants - living far removed from any human settlements. Banned in 1977, these toxics are still active in creation today. Chemicals that enter a woman’s body while she is pregnant, can sometimes disrupt, and change, the hormones of her unborn child. Other chemicals can give us cancer. Other chemicals are harmless. But we don’t know which ones.
Humans have already swept away countless “living creatures of every kind that are found on the earth”. Unless we change, we, not God, will destroy life. Unlike God however, we cannot bring to life again, nor can we create a new heaven and a new earth.
This is why we need a new covenant based upon the one God made with Noah. This covenant is between us and our neighbours; between us and God; between us and the rest of nature. It is a covenant to the generations who have not yet been born, yet whom we are already endangering by the poisons we are producing now. It is a covenant between us and those who came before us who helped preserve the very balance of creation itself.
We ask you today to make this public covenant and then to seek ways in which to live it out – supporting cutting back the use of chemicals in your own homes and places of work and worship as well as seeking other ways to help restore the balance and harmony of all life.
It is spoken here today in a church, but it is designed to be used by all people of good will - of any religion or of none.
The Rainbow Covenant
Brothers and sisters in creation,
We covenant this day with you,
And with all creation yet to be;
With every living creature and all that contains and sustains you.
With all that is on earth and with the earth itself;
With all that lives in the waters and with the waters themselves;
With all that flies in the skies and the sky itself.
We establish this covenant, that all our powers will be used to prevent your destruction.
We confess that it is our own kind
Who put you at risk of death.
We ask for your trust
And as a symbol of our intention
We mark our covenant with you by the rainbow.
Let the Rainbow always be a sign
Of the covenant between ourselves
And every living thing that is found on the earth.
Lord, through the Rainbow Covenant we offer ourselves to be the instruments of your blessing.
Lead us to be your partners in the restoration of the harmony of creation,
As through your son, Our Saviour, we seek to hurt not the earth, and the seas nor the trees.
This Order of Service was created by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation. It was developed to expand the debate about toxins stimulated by the REACH legislation brought before the European Parliament in late 2005, and to alert people to the dangers of toxins and of the inadequacy of the current legislation which means that most chemicals developed before 1981 do not have to be tested. We are grateful to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for their assistance, and to artist Hilary Goddard for her kind permission to reproduce her painting.
This liturgy is copyright free but we ask that its source be acknowledged - and that if you use it you let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on REACH.
To sign the WWF REACH petition.
Link here for the full liturgy for All Saints and Hallowe'en.
To contact ARC about how faiths can participate and support REACH, email John Smith, at email@example.com.