Worshipping with the choir of all creation in Wangaratta

The Anglican Diocese of Wangaratta in Australia launched the Communion forest with a wonderful Season of Creation service held in the beautiful gardens  at Bishop’s Lodge.  Bishop Clarence Bester gave every parish and Anglican school an orange tree as a symbol of their commitment to care for creation. A beautiful Season of Creation liturgy was prepared.  Rev Dr Rachel Mash was the preacher and here is her sermon for the day:

(Photo credit MIchelle Bester and David Lewis)


Gen 2: 5-15: Psalm 24: John 3: 16-21: Rev 22: 1-3

Our Scriptures today begin in the garden and what a joy it is to worship God in this beautiful place. This is the hard work and vision of Michelle, Bishop Clarence, Rev Scott and so many that have worked so hard to turn what was a run down garden into this beautiful space


We do not just worship here because it is beautiful. We are choosing to worship outdoors because we believe that God is present in all of creation, not just inside the church building. Today we have chosen to worship in the Cathedral of Creation

But Creation is under threat. A few days ago the newspapers told us that  2023 likely to be the hottest year in 100,000 years…

The head of the UN tells us that we have moved from the era of global warming to the era of global boiling


In a parish I visited recently  there is a parishioner  who  lost her children and sister and nieces in bushfires. Many people are nervous as  we are entering a bush fire season with undergrowth dry  and now with  el nino we face a hot summer. Not only here, but Canada is burning , the Amazon is burning.

If we love our global neighbour, and we care for our children and grandchildren, then God is calling us to act but it seems so very daunting!

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that ”. Gus speth

We need a change of world view – from the current western extractive view of the world

“the Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”  Psalm 24 There are two statements of faith at the heart of this psalm.

All that is in it is the Lord’s . The first is that every creature belongs to the Earth community. The second is that the entire community belongs to the Creator. Our common home, the Earth belongs to God, and each beloved creature belongs to this common home.

We are one of those creatures, we are part of the web of life, and not separate. Genesis 1 tells us that God created us on the sixth day – the wild, animals, the tame animals, the reptiles, the humans and the seed bearing plants.  We don’t even get our own day! It is this wonderful web of life that is being called so very good.

The first commandment we are given (Gen 2:15) work the land and look after it. Yes drink the water, eat the fruit, warm yourselves, make your shelter – but look after it!  We have misunderstood God’s commandment to be earth keepers, and become destroyer of the earth

The earth is the Lords. This challenges every political leader ., every farmer who puts pesticides on his crops and grows mono crops.. Every multi-national corporation. Every builder who builds houses without even space for a tree- for profit – they add house to house till no space is left and you live alone in the land (Is 5:8)

  “we have not inherited this earth from our forefathers, we have borrowed it from our children” in fact we have stolen it from our grandchildren.

Whether we bought our land, or our ancestors took the land – our western way is to say – the land is mine The land belongs to me – but the Biblical and Indigenous view is that the land does not belong to us, we belong to the land , the land belongs to God.

Rather than being keepers of the Earth – made in the image of God and so co-creators, restorers and renewers, we have taken control of the Earth – and seen it as a resource to be used and discarded, rather than seeing the inter- connectedness that we are a part of the web of life on which we depend. What must we learn?

  1. It is not only humans that praise God – it is the whole web of life – Choir of all creation Ps 148

Praise the Lord from the earth,

    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,

9 you mountains and all hills,

    fruit trees and all cedars,

10 wild animals and all cattle,

    small creatures and flying birds,

11 kings of the earth and all nations,

    you princes and all rulers on earth,

12 young men and women,

    old men and children.

All those voices join us to praise God – and the sadness is that this great choir of Creation that we worship with is being silenced. A priest in Melbourne told me he used to camp in the Grampians and they would hear the koalas at night. And when he takes his kids now they no longer hear them..


  1. We need to recognise that Creation is sacred

The early church taught that there are two books of God – the first “book” of Creation and the second written book, the Bible.  .

in Romans 1:20-21 for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

So if we don’t listen to creation, if we don’t open our eyes and see the fingerprints of God, we will not hear God speaking to us

  1. We need to move from an extractive view of the earth to a relationship. The earth is not a resource to be used or abused – we are part of the web of life.. St Francis got it! he called wind his brother and water his sister, and the talked of Sister Earth, our Mother.

So to talk of Mother Earth is not ‘new agey’ it is old agey! We are going back to traditional Franciscan beliefs.  If we thought of the Earth as our mother and water as our sister we would no longer abuse them or use them as a dumping ground.

If we don’t look after Mother Earth she will not look after us

  1. And we need to listen to indigenous voices. It is sad that the referendum turned down the voice for Australia – for as a global community we desperately need to listen to indigenous voices, because they get it they treasure the Earth – they respect sister Earth our Mother. though Indigenous peoples comprise only around 6% of the global population, they protect 80% of biodiversity left in the world. Preserving biodiversity is key to turning around the climate crisis

Three challenges for the Diocese

  1. Reduce our impact on the earth- footprint. When Adam and Eve were placd in the garden they were told – eat all these wonderful things – but not this tree. Their sin was to eat beyond the limits. If everyone on the planet was to consume as much as the average Australian we would need 3 planets. We must reduce our footprint – the food we eat, the plastic, the paper, the water, the electricity , the clothes we buy. That is what we are doing – we are eating beyond the limits.
  2. Season of Creation – it is wonderful to see the Season of Creation taking off in the Diocese – celebrating services in Creation – listening to the voice of God in Creation – and what a wonderful liturgy we shared today!
  3. Communion Forest

COMMUNION FOREST- this is a vision that was shared at the Lambeth Conference.

One of the way the Anglican Communion  is responding – is the vision to regreen the earth – to renew the earth. The story begins in the Garden of Eden – first commandment. God said to Adam and Eve Look after my garden planet.  They sinned, they ate beyond the limits. And when sin entered into the garden of Eden three things happened

  • Breakdown of relationship between humans and God
  • Breakdown of relationship between humans
  • Breakdown of relationship between humans and the earth

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Gen 3;17

In John 3;16 we read that God so loved the world that he sent his son to save us. The Greek word for world is cosmos – God so loved the whole cosmos, animals, insects, eco- systems, humans, stars that he sent his son to save all of us , not just  human beings

And so we have this vision of water of life flowing from the throne of God. And the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse.

So we see this picture of Eden restored – the curse is removed, water flows from the throne of God in the city – reconciliation between humans and God, humans and each other, and humans and all creation .

The communion forest vision is to be part of the restoration of Eden  – Trees for baptism as a symbol of spiritual growth, trees for shade to reduce the temperatures as they soar, trees for food, trees to take in carbon pollution, trees to create places where we can mourn our loved ones,  trees to create community  like this garden here, trees that provide a home for thousands of pollinators and birds and restore the choir of all creation.

Jesus died to bring reconciliation – every christian is called as a disciple to love God, love neighbour and love creation

So as we bless and plant our trees we do it as a symbol of our hope that creation will be renewed –

And the leaves of the trees will be for the healing of the nations –  there will no longer be a curse on the land..

… and may the choir of creation sing again.