Celebrating World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in Fredericksburg

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Religious leaders and members of local faith communities filled the sanctuary of Shiloh Old Site Baptist Church in Fredericksburg Sept. 1, the day that Pope Francis declared World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

The first day of the Orthodox Church's new year has been a day of prayer for creation since Patriarch Dimitrios' declaration in 1989. The patriarch spoke of his concern that "the abuse by contemporary man of his privileged position in the creation and of the Creator's order to him 'to have dominion over the earth' (Gen 1: 28), has already led the world to the edge of apocalyptic self-destruction."

Themes from the evening of prayer and reflection included how man has turned this dominion into selfishly treating God's creation as a commodity; man's obligation to provide the care upon which all God's creatures depend; and asking God to give us new eyes to see, new ears to hear and new hands to care for the chorus of creation which is our gift and our charge.

Following a welcome from Shiloh pastor, Rev. Aaron Dobynes, Father John Katsoulis, pastor of Nativity of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church, gave a teaching on the intention of the day. Atonement Friar Father Jim Gardiner, regional representative of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, spoke on Pope Francis' declaration.

Imam Sheikh Lamptey of Imani Cultural Center and Rev. Brenda Biler, pastor of Fredericksburg United Methodist Church spoke on the teachings of Muslim and other Christian traditions on care for the environment. The evening concluded with a litany of prayer for reconciliation with God and the environment.

The event marked a remarkable moment in ecumenical dialogue. Following the pope's announcement Aug. 12 of the day of prayer, Father Gardiner called to ask if any commemorating events would be held locally. With none planned, it seemed that there would not be enough time to put something together. However, Pastor Gay Rahn of St. George Episcopal Church and Pastor Dobynes contacted the rectory at St. Mary Church, asking what we were planning to do in response to Pope Francis' announcement.

Thanks to them the evening became a reality.

Fr. Rooney is pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015