Kyla B. Predy, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon.
The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon hosted an inaugural Season of Creation Akathist Prayer Service on the evening of Wednesday, September 19, 2018. The event took place at Steve Patola Park/Treaty 6 Territory, where guest panellists from multi-faith affiliations were greeted with traditional Cree and Ukrainian customs.
While Season of Creation was a multi-faith event, everyone held one idea in common: Gratitude for the gift of God’s Creation. The Earth is dynamic and full of potential. In a whole galaxy of stars, planets, and other astronomical wonders, Earth alone has the ability to sustain our lives. The wonder of creation promotes awe and amazement in those who study it. Indeed, it’s the beauty of creation that inspires us to reflect on our Creator.
With this gratitude in the people’s hearts, the event continued with the Akathist Prayer of Thanksgiving in Praise for God’s Creation. Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov composed the Akathist Prayer shortly before his death in a Soviet prison camp in 1940.
This Akathist prayer praises God for many aspects of creation. In it we thank God for our existence, for love of family and friends, and every moment of life. The prayer continues with praising God for the flowers and fruits of the Earth, for light and for water, and for all creatures. These ideas are paralleled with our gratitude for salvation – that God uses our lives for His glory, that He reveals Himself to us, and for our hope of eternal life.
The beauty of the Akathist service carried in the voices chanting this prayer. Even those from other faith traditions, who were unfamiliar with the Akathist form, picked up the tones quickly, as candles flickered in the light of the crisp autumn evening, well-fitting the theme of Season of Creation.
After the Akathist service, people gathered indoors at St. George’s Seniors Centre for the program presentation. Dr. Lesya Sabada introduced guest speaker Robert White. White spoke about Richard St. Barbe Baker, an alumnus of the University of Saskatchewan. Baker worked in the forestry industry in the first half of the 20th century, and his legacy of planting trees and uniting communities inspires people even today. He and the people he inspired planted millions of trees throughout the world.
A panel presentation followed, consisting of fifteen panellists representing various branches of Christian and inter-faith communities, with each representative speaking for approximately three minutes. The Christian communities represented were Ukrainian Catholic, Syro-Malabar, Evangelical Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Knox United, Mennonite Church of Canada, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican and Doukhobors. Panellists from other faiths represented Unitarians, Hindus, Sunni Muslims, Bahais and Tibetan Buddhists.
Most panellists began with a prayer from their tradition related to creation. The prayer was followed by an explanation if done in a language other than English – Russian, Hindi, Arabic, and Tibetan were among the languages represented. All panellists also gave a short explanation of how creation was important in their tradition, and what their community was doing to care for creation.
At the end of the panel discussion, Dr. Lesya Sabada invited Dr. Chris Hrynkow, a university professor from St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan to speak about a related initiative. Hyrnkow introduced a local affiliate group for the interfaith organization “Faith and the Common Good”, called Communities Inspired for Environmental Action. He explained that, “We want to find ways to motivate and foster common action to care for our common home in ways that make sense in Central Saskatchewan but also draw on the insights circulating the national network of which we are part: Faith and the Common Good.” Communities Inspired for Environmental Action is about to plan a launch event for November 29th of this year. If you’d like to be a part of the planning, or to join an email list about the event, you can contact Dr. Chris Hrynkow at email@example.com
Closing remarks were given by Dr. Lesya Sabada, Coordinator for the Eparchial Human and Environmental Development Program. Sabada discussed her understanding of the sciences showing that state of the environment is in crises and encouraged an urgent response. She lamented that science is not deterring human activities that destroy life on the planet. She continued by stating that over the millennia, many different religious traditions have developed, and they carry the same message: the message of love. Sabada believes it is these wisdom traditions that are capable of motivating and inspiring change. At the end of her remarks, Sabada encouraged us to make a commitment and give back to all God`s children a world of beauty and wonder.
More about Dr. Lesya Sabada’s thoughts may be found in her Star Phoneix interview.
His Excellency Bishop Bryan Bayda, CSsR, closed the evening program, thanking Dr. Lesya Sabada for organizing this event, and spoke about the opportunity for future and further engagement with the other faith communities that were present. Fellowship and refreshments, including sharing of the blessed bread, followed the concluding remarks.