A guide to religious education during the climate crisis

For Jennifer Ayres, it’s crucial to name our ecological identity and responsibility.

“Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.” So begins a canticle of St. Francis of Assisi, whose love for all creation anticipated contemporary environmentalism by a millennium.

The same words open the 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, one of Pope Francis’s first official papal statements. The encyclical in turn provides the epigraph for Jennifer Ayres’s guide to religious education in an era when Mother Earth’s children may be on the verge of committing matricide.

Ayres is a practical theologian who, in a time of accelerating climate change, seeks to counter both the despair of ecological activists and the complacency of those who profit from environmental exploitation. It is time for churches, she urges, to step forward with a compelling vision of a path that can deliver us from the prospects of environmental disasters that loom ever more imminent.