ECEN Assembly: Blessing of the water, theological engagement, nature walks

Sunday, 12 June
Helsinki

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ECEN delegates enjoy an evening nature walk along the peninsula outside of Helsinki.

The first full day of the 11th Assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network combined worship and liturgy, listening and discussion, and ended with a time to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of the Culture Centre Sofia outside Helsinki.

In the morning, delegates travelled into the city centre to worship at the three cathedrals in Helsinki. The groups were warmly welcomed at the Helsinki Cathedral (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland), Uspenski Cathedral (Orthodox Church of Finland), and St. Henry’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic).

The afternoon sessions opened with a report on the activities of ECEN from secretary Peter Pavlovic in the two-year period between the Balatonszárszó and Helsinki assemblies. Of particular note were the activities leading the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. The outcomes of COP21 and responses to the Paris Agreement inform the churches’ current work and the discussions here in Helsinki. During this time, the latest papal encyclical from Pop Francis—Laudato si—have highlighted the role of religion and faith in addressing ecological crises. Pavlovic also highlighted the work of the churches in dialogue with European political institutions. In particular, ECEN in partnership with other church and ecumenical organisations, held an event in 2015 at the European Parliament focussing on Cristian perspectives on climate change.

An afternoon panel on theological perspectives to ecology featured presentations from the Rt Rev. Graham Usher, Bishop of Dudley (Church of England), Dr Pauliina Kainulainen, University of Eastern Finland, and Dr Pan Pihkala, University of Helsinki. Together they highlighted the biblical and theological significance of water, including its sacramental value. The also proposed ways for dealing with the spiritual and psychological dimensions of climate change, and cultivate resilience in the midst of crisis.

During the late afternoon, delegates broke into smaller thematic groups where they discussed in more detail creation theology, biodiversity and nature protection, church eco-management, climate change, and education.

After the evening meal, the delegates were privileged to join in a liturgy for the blessing of water. Everyone brought water from their home contexts, which was then poured together and blessed by Metropolitan Ambrosius of Helsinki. At the close of the liturgy many delegates enjoyed a guided nature walk in the area and a time of friendship and networking.

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