Earth Day revival preaches ‘Consumption Sabbath’By Will Braun
WINNIPEG, Man. — The faithful and the curious gathered under a red-and-white tent, 300 strong, for an old-fashioned revival meeting with a newfangled “consumption sabbath” twist.
Members of the Sunday morning crowd in downtown Winnipeg sang spirited gospel numbers. They shouted their “amen’s,” reluctantly at first, then with rising gusto.
The blue-robed gospel choir filed off the stage while “Brother Aiden John” settled in behind the microphone.
Some in the crowd were familiar with the way traveling tent revival preachers of yesteryear invited people to bring their sins to the altar. But no one had been invited to lay their consumption burdens on the altar — or, in this case, on the golden oil barrel next to the cross.
“There must be more to the gospel than a clean heart, material comforts and waiting for the Earth to expire,” said Brother Aiden — better known as Aiden Enns, 50, who attends Hope Mennonite Church.
Speaking with the cadence and volume of an old-time evangelist, Brother Aiden asked: “What can be done to keep this Earth from going the way of the landfill?”
The event, which took place on Earth Day, April 22, was planned by a largely Mennonite group that came together at the initiative of people from Charleswood Mennonite Church. The choir was made up mostly of students and alumni of Canadian Mennonite University.
The event, which began with a procession down the city’s main street to the tent site, was designed to combine performance art, sincere faith and concern for the Earth. The theme, “Consumption Sabbath” encapsulated the imbalanced relationship between humanity and the Earth.
“We buy too much stuff; we use too much energy,” said organizer Melanie Dennis Unrau. “We’re literally consuming the Earth; spewing our excess into the atmosphere. It’s time for a holy pause, a different rhythm of life.”
The intent of the service was not to parody the revival genre but to re-purpose it. So instead of toning down the religious stridency, as is the impulse of our age, Brother Aiden revved it right up, but with plenty of self-referential humor.
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