Ash Wednesday Actions for Climate Crisis Across the UK

Two Arrested at Big Ben

The Christians of Extinction Rebellion, known as Christian Climate Action (CCA), have organised actions and prayers across the country on Ash Wednesday to tackle the climate crisis.

Vigils took places outside Westminster Cathedral at 12pm and Westminster Abbey at 2pm, with a call for all churches to divest from fossil fuels by the end of Lent. Following the Church of England’s recent motion to establish a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, attendees also encouraged the Catholic Church to follow suit.

Instead of making the sign of the cross with ash as is traditional, priests marked a cross onto the foreheads of worshipers using fake crude oil. The ‘oil’ was a symbol of human mortality, as real oil is made up of dead matter, but also of human frailty as we are currently losing the fight against the over consumption of fossil fuels.

At Big Ben, two Extinction Rebellion activists were arrested when, alongside CCA members, they sprayed several litres of fake crude oil onto the protective facade which is currently around the clock while it undergoes restoration. Gail Thomas and Alice Lynch were arrested after using repurposed fire extinguishers filled with washable, biodegradable, non-toxic fake crude oil (made from water and a plant-based thickener).

Eva, a member of CCA and 19 years old, was at Big Ben when the action took place. ‘It was a very striking action which really hit the nail on the head – there were banners that said ‘FOSSIL FUELS = DEATH’ and that’s exactly it. As a young person I feel that if went to university right now I’d investing in a future I won’t have. The government is making decision around investment in fossil fuels which are actively harming citizens. We need to publicly hold them to account for that, so that’s why we’re here.’

Activists brought this action to the centre of UK’s government to say that our political and faith leaders need to do more to make sure that carbon emissions. fall sharply in 2020. They are demanding that as a country we achieve Net Zero Carbon by 2025, rather than the government t’s planned 2050, and that the government commits to abandoning dirty fuels in favour of renewables.

  • In Northampton protestors used fire extinguishers to spray fake oil inside the Barclaycard Headquarters at Brackmills Industrial Estate.
  • In County Durham CCA members held an Ash Wednesday Service at the entrance to Bradley Coal Mine, which is currently being blockaded in protest at the extraction of fossil fuels and the expansion of its operations.
  • CCA Leeds hosted a climate-themed stations of the cross style prayer and protest walk, stopping at Civic Hall, War Memorial, and ending at a branch of Barclays where participants were Ashed, before a small group entered the branch and attempted to lodge an official complaint.
  • CCA Cardiff will hold a prayer vigil for climate justice outside the Senedd every Friday during Lent.

In Parliament Square, 40 days and 40 nights of continuous prayer and meditation for the climate emergency began at 3pm. This vigil will take place throughout Lent and will focus on lament for the climate and ecological crisis, and praying for leaders and representatives to find in themselves the courage to take urgent action. Anyone wishing to join in the Prayer and Meditation Vigil can find out more, and sign up for a prayer slot, here:


Dr Ruth Valerio, Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund: “The window to address climate breakdown is closing rapidly and the UK government needs to act by getting our finances out of fossil fuels overseas, increasing investment in renewable energy and getting on track to achieve our own net zero commitment. Lent, which is a time of reflection and commitment, is an important time to pray for our politicians to have the courage to take action. The physical presence of this vigil is a reminder of this.”

Nicky Bull, Chair of Operation Noah: “At Operation Noah we are supportive of Christian Climate Action’s plans for a round-the-clock vigil in Parliament Square during Lent 2020. In this important year for action on the climate crisis, we endorse the principles and values of Christian Climate Action and wholeheartedly support a call for more widespread divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in alternative sustainable energy.”

Nick Cooper, Christian Climate Action member: “This is about system change triggered by personal growth. We invite everyone to journey with us into the wilderness of Lent and encounter the ‘quiet voice’ so often hidden from us in daily life. We need desperately to hear that sacred voice calling us together as a global community, to share what we have left, learning to live simpler more connected lives, and find the courage to take up civil disobedience in the face of an ever more desperate climate and ecological crisis. We need to take courage and stop denying the power that we hold as one sacred and interconnected body.”

Rev Daniel Woodhouse, Methodist Minister from Brighton: “’The climate crisis is the defining issue of our generation, which is already having devastating affects around the world. The 40 days of action happening this Lent is a great way of bringing the whole church along as we explore together what being faithful looks like in this time.”

Sr Katrina Alton, Sister of St Joseph of Peace, living in the Nottingham Diocese: “In his most recent apostolic exhortation, ‘Querida Amazonia’, Pope Francis has defined ‘ecological sin’ not only as ‘actions’, but also ‘inaction’, that crucify the poorest and the environment. The Pope goes a step further and says, ‘It is a sin against future generations’. Our presence here in Parliament Square for these 40 days of Lent is a sign of our personal and collective commitment to make the sacrifices required to put pressure on our government to tell the truth and act now!”

Editors Notes:

  1. Christian Climate Action is the name given for the Christians of Extinction Rebellion. We are a community of Christians supporting each other to take meaningful action in the face of imminent and catastrophic anthropogenic climate breakdown. Inspired by Jesus Christ, and social justice movements of the past, we carry out acts of non-violent direct action to urge those in power to make the change needed.
  2. 40 Day Prayer and Meditation Vigil:

One thought on “Ash Wednesday Actions for Climate Crisis Across the UK

  1. Derek King says:

    20 years ago I installed a wood burning stove because I thought it would be better to burn wood rather than fosil fuels that had been in the ground for thousands of years, Now I am told they are bad for the environment by my local council. How should I heat my house this week?

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