Faith Communities in a Time of Climate Change

Faith Communities in a Time of Climate Change

 

by Lisa Locke and the Rev. Canon Martha Kirkpatrick

So ponder a spider … she spins an intricate web five times stronger than steel, infinitely renewable, while consuming little energy and producing no damaging wastes. She is attuned to her surroundings. She is using her resources wisely. She takes. She gives. She is part of the larger web. She feels the pulse of the planet as her own. She is powerful.

This image is a profound metaphor for our interconnectedness with all God’s creatures and creations —the web of life. We can learn from the spider.

We can notice other things too, if we pay attention. Every day brings new images of melting ice caps, retreating shorelines, extreme weather events, raging wildfires, bleached coral reefs, species extinction, uncontrolled spread of disease, food and water shortages, and growing numbers of refugees. All too often, those suffering the greatest effects of these impacts are those least responsible for causing them.

We can see effects right here in Delaware, in eroded beaches, flooded neighborhoods, damaged farmlands, worsening coastal flooding, and increased salt levels in critical estuaries and aquifers. We are having more extreme heat days; our growing season is being affected, as are migratory patterns of the birds and waterfowl that delight and sustain us, attracting tourists from around the world.

The practical reality is that there is a direct relationship between the severity of the issues that confront us — the economy, jobs, energy, national security, hunger, disease, war — and our understanding of and respect for the natural world. The web of life is not some childish image; it is a biological principle to which we are beholden. The seeds of change will only take root when we can sense the pulse of that blue-green orb as our own.

The issues of planetary health have evolved and taken many different shapes over the decades — governance, politics, human health, ecology, community planning, and the economy. These challenges run more deeply and fundamentally to who we are as people of faith because our planetary crisis is primarily a profound failure of relationship. This crisis springs from our painful illusion of separateness, our failure to see how all life is radically interconnected. It is, at heart, a failure of love.

As the depth of the planetary crisis meets the polarization of society, we have difficulty both discussing these threats and taking action in ways that seem like we can actually make a difference, individually and collectively. However, there is cause for hope. People are coming together to talk about climate change and related issues in ways that are less divisive and political and more unifying and practical. Through these conversations we can expand our understanding and develop strategies to work together. This initiative is called Climate Conversations, funded by Energize Delaware, (Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created by the State of Delaware). We have held many Climate Conversations around Delaware. Bringing people together we can move hearts, inspire hope, and impel action.

April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day when people began to take action and confront our planetary crisis:

• Twenty million people across the US participated.

• Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment.

• Legislatures in 42 states passed Earth Day resolutions to commemorate the date.

• Congress closed its doors so politicians could go home and participate in local events.

• Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor, factory workers and farmers, business leaders and labor leaders united in a common cause.

This environmental movement led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. These laws affected every major industry in the country and brought about significant improvements in their environmental impacts.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. What was it that united us back then? What could unite us today?

Each of us is called upon to be part of the solution as we confront this defining moral challenge of our times. Within our religious communities, we have a unique voice and profound potential. Many churches are finding ways to embrace this practical and moral imperative and take action. We are

• getting energy audits and upgrading and repairing facilities to reduce costs and car-bon footprints;

• forming stewardship teams sometimes led by youth to develop programs, engage our members, and educate ourselves on the issues;

• observing liturgical seasons of creation, exploring biblical wisdom and bringing ourselves into communion with all life;

• serving as earth care resource centers and demonstration sites for our members and the communities we serve;

• hosting Climate Conversations to share beliefs, uncertainties, fears, and hopes openly and respectfully around the topic of climate change;

• modifying our diets to consume more locally grown and organic foods;

• planting trees and pollinator gardens, installing solar panels, hosting meatless potlucks, and pledging individual acts of conservation;

• meeting with legislators to advocate for clean energy policies and resources for vulnerable communities;

• setting goals and strategies to reach the Genesis Covenant; and

• exploring this big world of wonders to be inspired, refreshed, and reconnected.

What might you do? What inspires you? How can we work more effectively together? The mission of Delaware Interfaith Power & Light (DEIPL) is to work through faith communities and community partners to address the causes and impacts of climate change, to scientifically inform and spiritually deepen our understanding of our relationship with the natural world and with each other, and to act on those understandings. Find us at Delawareipl.org or contact us directly, llocke@delawareipl.org. We are here to assist you to turn mission and inspiration into action on behalf of our planet.

Lisa Locke is the past executive director and current project manager for DEIPL. The Rev. Canon Martha Kirkpatrick, Canon to the Ordinary, serves on the DEIPL Board and was an environmental regulator for many years. Martha can be reached at mkirkpatrick@delaware.church

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