Inspired by Earth Hour, we chose to go off the grid a little early, and pledged to fast from electricity in preparing for – and during – morning worship yesterday. The results of switching off were incredibly powerful, so we wanted to share some of the experience with you… and recommend you doing something similar yourself at a church service or in a small group session.
Partly because, following the heart-breaking attack in Westminster the previous afternoon, we decided it was important to read the headlines that morning, as we wanted to incorporate prayer for London into our time together. (Our morning routine usually relies on online news sources, and we didn’t even think of making extra time to buy a newspaper instead.)
But mostly because, although we used no lights, heating, sound equipment, projector, keyboard, laptop or internet based media or print-outs, it was impossible not to benefit from previous uses of electricity.
As we listed the things we normally use at the Sanctuary without thinking to prepare, lead or participate in our prayer rhythm, we realised how few hadn’t at some stage been ‘produced’.
Even the things that felt ‘natural’ such as pens and paper, printed Bibles, candles and matches are with us because of layer after layer of energy use.
As the list of our usual electrical – and hidden electrical – use at the Sanctuary grew and grew, something was also happening in our hearts.
That was – of course – the point… the whole aim of the fast. It did its job!
After it, we are feeling much more thankful
Colossians 16:1 reminds us of something we often forget when we celebrate the wonder of God’s creation – he created all things invisible as well as all things visible: Spiritual powers yes, but also imagination, inspiration, ideas… and gravity, magnetism, and electricity.
But we tend to sing a lot more about the mountains, moors and lakes we can see than we do about these things.
And whenever we aren’t actively practising gratitude for any of God’s gifts, we tend to become less present to it being a gift, and less careful with both our praise and our stewardship as a result.
We often take time to remember just how much our encounters with God – and our lives as a whole – are served and enriched by the natural world, and all the wonders God has filled it with…
But today we were truly blown away by how rich we are in our encounters with God – and our lives as a whole – because of electricity, and the other gifts it serves and enables in turn.
Songs are recorded and shared widely, and their sheet music, chord charts and lyrics are instantly downloadable for people to play and project to a group of people.
A wide range of art, graphics and films to bring concepts to life are available by typing key words into a search bar.
That ‘somewhere in the Bible’ verse can be instantly at your finger tips, then studied further by flipping to another translation or clicking on a wealth of commentary.
The news is on tap; information and statistics are immediately available to us.
All God shows us in worship times can be shared through resources on our website which people all over the world can access within hours of it being revealed to us in prayer.
And if we want to share a gospel message in the window we can very quickly get specialised art materials (such as glass pens in every colour of the rainbow) delivered to our door to create one… tomorrow!
Transport, printing, heating, lighting, labour saving appliances, devices and gadgets… hot water, hot drinks, stationary manufacture… the list just goes on and on…
Our powerless worship exercise has made us even more aware of the huge amount of energy we’re actually using, and just how much of the time.
Even the best online carbon calculator doesn’t have room to ask you questions about all of these things, or the ability to make a true calcualtion of your complex use of resources.
And as we prayerfully seek to move forward in living lighter, it’s helpful to be more mindful of just how much energy use comes into our worship and day to day life.
By becoming more aware of – and more thankful for – all these half-overlooked gifts, we are much more likely to be more care-full.
By being more present to our usage, we’ll be more mindful of it and, surely therefore, more intentional. Hopefully, we’ll be more cautious and just kinder – to God, planet and people – in our choices over how we use the earth’s resources.
We need to be – in the whole of our lives’ worship. But even more so in our devotion… there’s another level of echo here of passages Amos 5:21-24 that we talk about so often in response to worship that undoes itself through injustice.
Because doing this exercise has also reminded us just how much powerlessness in energy terms equates with poverty and powerlessness in other senses.
An estimated 1.2 billion people in the world today don’t have access to electricity. Most of these people live in Sub-Saharan African countries and rural areas of India.
The poorest people in the world are the most powerless in every sense – and their lack of access to energy cuts them off from so many joys, advantages and riches.
They are also some of the people most adversely affected by the consequences of our power consumption…
We need to consume less, use more renewable energy, and ensure they are given the choice and opportunity to come on grid if they want to…
But our prayer is that they don’t try to emulate our way of life, which has so many flaws…
Because please God, help us remember what we’ve also newly seen again… sometimes when we gain everything, we lose much of what is most important.
So many things can be done and communicated quicker and more conveniently, so we do more and more and more things… and our pace can become exhausting.
So much content and information and variety is wonderful, but sometimes we just pack it all in, and forget to just go deep with one thing, or simply to be.
So little of our time is spent in and with the real, un-manufactured and unprocessed… and so much of our life is detached from the real business of living it… and simply being.
Don’t get us wrong… we’re not planning to retire the keyboard, sound system and projector in order to have ‘earth hour’ worship every day.
The lights are back on, the music’s playing through the ipod dock, the kettle’s resumed it’s constant service, we’re all at our laptops again, typing, searching and linking away… and we’re loving all these gifts.
But we are more grateful to God for them, more aware of the cost of them and – perhaps, please God, perhaps – a little less dependent on them, and another step towards a lot more dependent on him.
To find worship and prayer resources related to environmental justice, creation care and climate change, visit our search by issue page.