Tying Climate Into Customs: A Carbon Fast for Lent

Many people give up things like chocolate or coffee for Lent. But carbon? That’s what the Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, the conference minister and president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, and 6,000 other participants across the country have agreed to as part of the Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast. According to a recent article, the Fast was born out of the idea to apply the concept of repentance on a larger scale. Another critical motivator was the idea that Christians have a deep, biblical obligation to care for God’s creation. Plus, the church’s leadership on climate may help convince young people that the church has an important role to play in society and bring them into the community, said Rev. Dr. Antal, who serves on the Blessed Tomorrow Leadership Circle.
The Lenten Carbon Fast is an excellent example of how programs can engage new constituencies on climate change. The Fast shows why climate change relates to people’s religious values. It also connects climate solutions with a religious custom that is deeply ingrained in tradition and history — Lent. Furthermore, the program sends daily tips and messages through Facebook and email to keep participants inspired and active.

Giving Up Carbon for Lent

Joshua Eaton, Contributor to Faith & Leadership
Katharina Wilkins still passes on things like alcohol and Facebook during the season of Lent, but what’s really important to her is giving up needless car rides and investment in fossil fuels. That’s because, for the third year in a row, Wilkins is participating in the annual Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast.
“I have done Lent before, but in comparison, there’s so much more sense of purpose now,” said Wilkins, a member of the Congregational Church of Weston, Mass. “It certainly is still an exercise in self-discipline in many ways, but somehow it fits better into a bigger picture.”
The Carbon Fast was started in 2011 by New England Regional Environmental Ministries (NEREM), which describes itself as “a loosely affiliated group of Christian environmental activists from throughout New England.”
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