taking the words of Jesus seriously

 

Climate change is profoundly impacting God’s creation and people, with the poorest and most vulnerable bearing the greatest consequences. The impacts of increasing droughts, floods, wildfires, extreme weather and rising sea levels can be measured in lost lives, higher food prices, poorer health and billions of dollars in disaster relief. Our faith demands that we act now.

 

Pope Francis will come to the United States September 22-27, 2015, visiting Washington D.C., New York and Philadelphia. In Washington D.C., on September 23rd, the Pope will meet with President Obama, visit with US Bishops (St. Matthews), and hold a Canonization Mass (Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception). On Thursday, September 24, Pope Francis will give an historic address to a joint session of Congress and visit St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

 

On Thursday and Friday, September 24 and 25, Blessed Tomorrow, Convergence, the National Cathedral and other partners will host Coming Together in Faith on Climate, bringing together Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other national religious leaders in Washington D.C. at the National Cathedral to express inter-denominational support for the Pope’s call to action on climate change and creation care.

 

Coming Together will help catalyze the moment provided by the Pope’s encyclical and U.S. visit to accelerate leadership and collective action for climate solutions by faith leaders and communities with a public event and leader gathering at the National Cathedral and the announcement of supporting initiatives.

On Thursday September 24, the evening of Pope Francis’ historic speech to Congress, we will gather 1, 000 faith leaders at the National Cathedral for two hours of prayer, sermons, songs and poetry to reward and inspire faith and climate leaders in their work. On the following day we will gather 150 faith leaders at the National Cathedral to watch the Pope address the United Nations in New York City, and share experiences and ideas on building support for climate solutions through faith in our congregations, our communities and our nation.

 

The first initiative of our Coming Together in Faith on Climate begins immediately after the Pope’s visit on September 24. That weekend, September 25-28, we’re asking people to speak to their clergy persons with a personal message of support, agreement, and commitment … something like this:

 

Reverend (Rabbi, Imam, etc.) Smith, I wanted to tell you that I agree with Pope Francis about climate change. I believe that caring for God’s beautiful world is part of our spiritual responsibility. I wanted to ask if you a few questions…

 

Are you already planning to lead our congregation to be involved?

 

How can I be of help?

 

Are there other people I should be in touch with?

 

If your congregation is so large that you can’t get a personal word with your clergy, we hope you’ll write a brief note (attached to a check, of course) and include it in your offering. If your congregation has a Facebook page or blog, speak up there. The first step for all of us is to speak up and identify ourselves as people who care.

If you’re a congregational leader, we’re asking you to speak to your congregation through your sermon, through a prayer, or through a simple statement like this:

 

Like millions of people, I’ve been deeply impressed by Pope Francis’ leadership on climate change and integral ecology. I want you all to know that I am personally committed to finding climate solutions, and I hope all of you who feel this call to action will join me. I’ll be organizing (a meeting, a Facebook group, etc.) later this week….

 

What do we hope you’ll do?

 

Create an “integral ecology action group” or “climate action team” (please don’t call it a committee … which sounds so boring) in your congregation. Thankfully, many such teams already exist, but we need many more. We hope that the vast majority of congregations will have these teams in the coming years.

 

If your congregation is closed to such a group, you could

– find one in a neighboring congregation.

– form one in your neighborhood.

– form one in your congregation, but “unofficially”

 

Such a group might meet weekly for a month, and then monthly thereafter, or it could meet “virtually” online or via phone/videoconferencing too.
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What might your group do? Here are 6 starter ideas:

_____1. Read, discuss, and distribute the Laudato Si encyclical. It is a delight to read, theologically rich, inspiring, full of substance, and understandable.

_____2. Find and incorporate integral ecology prayers into your weekly services. You’ll find excellent resources here.

_____3. Use a “starter kit” available at one of our partner organizations,  here.

_____4. Focus on energy efficiency first – in your congregation and in your homes. You’ll find ideas here.

_____5. Solarize – your group could launch some solar energy projects. You’ll find excellent resources from Interfaith Power and Light here.

 

You might help your congregation’s facility to go solar.

 

You might organize a solar energy co-op – cutting costs by getting 5 or 10 or 50 families in your church buy solar panels for their homes together.

 

You might get families in your congregation forming solar energy co-ops in their neighborhoods – as a beautiful outreach from your faith community.

 

_____6. Divest from Fossil Fuel companies, and invest in socially responsible companies. More on this later…

 

The possibilities are endless and exciting!

 




About The Author

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Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and networker among innovative Christian leaders. His dozen-plus books include A New Kind of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy, Naked Spirituality, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, We Make the Road by Walking, and The Great Spiritual Migration. He is a senior fellow with Auburn Seminary, and a board member and leader in Convergence Network, Center for Progressive Renewal, and Wild Goose Festival. He and his wife, Grace, live in Florida and have four adult children and five grandchildren.

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