Pitt Street Uniting Church ran a Carol Against Coal after their carols service on 2 December, using the tune from a familiar Christmas Carol to spread an environmentalist message.
With lyrics like “Cool down the world, the time has come, for targets tight and fair”, the song reworked Joy to the World.
The song was one written by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) and was performed after the worship was finished.
ARCC is encouraging community groups and choirs to sing carols and post a video online as part of its Carols Against Coal campaign.
The campaign has come under fire for its reworking of classic Christmas songs, with conservative commentator Chris Kenny decrying it as “a futile bit of virtue signalling” that mixes religion with politics.
Organisers argue, however, that Christians are called to stand up for the poor and marginalised, who are adversely affected by climate change.
In an interview with Mr Kenny on 2GB radio, Pitt Street Uniting Church minister Rev. Dr Margaret Mayman said that the carols were, “a nice way to get people to think about the choices that are being made politically and the choices that we make in our own lives to live well and ways that are good for our communities and our planet.”
Uniting Church congregations are encouraged to arrange their worship within the Uniting Church’s guidelines, which allow some freedom for context and community.
Christmas carols have often been altered to reflect the community and culture of the day.
The NSW/ACT Synod Standing Committee began to divest from fossil fuels in 2014, a gradual process that was completed in 2016. The decision was featured as a case study in the Divest Invest Faith-Based Guide due to the Synod’s commitment and action to ensure a sustainable climate for future generations.
In October, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that governments have 12 years to keep global average temperature rises between 1.5C and 2C.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor