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‘Washing Creation’s feet’: Archbishop of Canterbury blesses first Anglican Communion Forest in Central America

by Kelly Valencia

Anglicans in Central America have officially joined the Anglican Communion's global efforts in forest protection, tree growing, and ecosystem restoration. On Wednesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury blessed the region's first Anglican Communion Forest in El Salvador.

Neil Turner

Over 500 people gathered at Iglesia Divina Providencia for a special Eucharist service led by the Archbishop of El Salvador, Most Rev David Alvarado. He was joined by Most Rev Justin Welby, the bishop of Panama, Rt Rev Julio Murray, and Rt Rev Daniel Gutierrez, bishop of Pennsylvania and a candidate for the next presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church.

The city's mayor and the UK’s ambassador to El Salvador, David Leliott, were also present.

The service took place in an open-air space in El Maizal, a city about 40 miles west of El Salvador’s capital, where an Anglican community of over 25 families resides. This community is dedicated to forest conservation, a commitment that began in 1970 in response to deforestation.

Neil Turner

Now, the 40-hectare area is officially recognised as the Anglican Communion Forest, home to diverse flora and fauna.

“To have the Archbishop of Canterbury here to bless an effort for creation care, which is his legacy and one of his main commitments, is very moving for us,” Fr Juan Pablo, the local priest, told congregants as he was visibly emotional.

“Thank you very much, Archbishop, for blessing our effort and for highlighting our commitment to creation care,” he added.

Fr Juan Pablo and Archbishop Justin / Neil Turner

Reflecting on the significance of the event, Archbishop Justin said: “In Genesis, God says, ‘Rule the creation,’ and for the last 2,000 years, Christians thought that meant ‘dominate.’ But when we look at Jesus, on the night before he died, he washed his disciples' feet. That is the ideal form of ruling. And that’s what we are doing when we plant trees. We are washing creation’s feet.”

Following the service, Archbishop Justin planted a tree and blessed a commemorative cross marking the official name of the Anglican Communion Forest. He then took a walk through the forest.

The Communion Forest initiative was launched at the Lambeth Conference in 2022 and is part of the Anglican Communion’s worldwide efforts in tree growing, conservation, and ecosystem restoration.


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