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Celebrating nature

WATERLOO: Raglan Street was alive with the sounds of dogs barking, cats meowing and humans speaking for foxes, cats, fish, sheep, trees, rivers and all creation. These voices were raised in celebration of the lives of St Clare and St Francis of Assisi on Sunday, September 29, at the South Sydney Uniting Church (SSUC).

The service was packed with many wonderful activities including the yearly blessing of the animals, reaffirmation of baptismal vows, prayers drawn from the Council of All Beings, and a moving presentation by Chris Gambian CEO of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW (CCNSW).

Mr Gambian is new to his role but has a strong background in campaigning and advocacy. He started his presentation by introducing the CCNSW’s four campaign areas:

  • Air Quality
  • Ending Deforestation
  • Climate and Clean Energy
  • Marine Conservation

He outlined the serious harms associated with all of these issues, and then concentrated on speaking about the damage caused to native flora and fauna by deforestation, with 75 species already extinct in NSW, and 60 per cent of all native mammals, including koalas, currently under threat (see www.nature.org.au).

Threats noted by Mr Gambian and from climate disruption – which are challenging all of creation – influenced the inclusion of a prayerful version of the Council of all Beings in the service. This is a practice created by the eco-psychologist Joanna Macy and the famous Australian environmentalist John Seed where people gather contemplatively, choose a being to represent, and then speak for that being. Describing the practice the Rainforest Information Centre says this ritual “aims to heighten awareness of our interdependence in the living body of Earth, and to strengthen our commitment to defend it”.

At the SSUC celebration there was a plea from the artic fox who is losing its home, from factory farmed sheep who are treated brutally, from rivers that are drying up, from trees that are being cut down, and from fish that are dying. This was a moving and poignant part of the service that led into the blessing of the animals.

Members of the congregation, neighbours and friends brought their special friends, including some lovely dogs who mainly kept their woofs in the lower registers, two cats who were stoic, and some beautiful, remembered, furry friends displayed in photographs.

The morning concluded with a wonderful shared vegetarian lunch comprising vegetables from the community garden at the back of the church and delicious dishes that people contributed.

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