On Tuesday a display of plants were set up in the seminary's chapel and students in the "Extractivism: A Ritual/Liturgical Response" class said sorry to them.
Today in chapel, we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.— Union Seminary (@UnionSeminary) September 17, 2019
What do you confess to the plants in your life? pic.twitter.com/tEs3Vm8oU4
The ceremony has prompted some criticism and mocking on social media, with some calling it nonsense or crazy.
The New York school has defended itself saying it was a "beautiful ritual" for students to confess the harm we've done to plants.
It added that the world is in a climate emergency caused by our disregard for creation and part of addressing the issue should be building new bridges to the natural world spiritually.
"Far too often, we see the natural world only as resources to be extracted for our use, not divinely created in their own right-worthy of honour, thanks and care," the statement read.
"We need to unlearn habits of sin and death. And part of that work must be building new bridges to the natural world."
So, if you're poking fun, we'd ask only that you also spend a couple moments asking:— Union Seminary (@UnionSeminary) September 18, 2019
Do I treat plants and animals as divinely created beings?
What harm do I cause without thinking?
How can I enter into new relationship with the natural world? /9
Ruth Jarman from the environmental charity Green Christian told Premier although she's never done it before, she can understand the thought behind it.
She explained that it's important to acknowledge our reliance on plants to live and that we have a duty to take care of what sustains us.
"It just made me think you know, if you tread on someone's toe you don't just say sorry to God, you say it to that person whose toe you trod on.
"So maybe there is something to be gained for us and for our journey towards living a better life to actually say sorry to the species that we're destroying."
Jarman added that there are several oak trees on her way to church and she might whisper "sorry" as she walks past them.
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