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Reflection on Hope

Offered by Harrisburg PA IPL chair, Rachel Mark, and member congregation Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, 12/31/17

On the subject of hope, I pondered what I thought about it and how I personally relate to it. If you know me, then you would assume I was going to make a climate change connection. But everyone has heard that before. So I thought about how hope ties in to world peace, how hope relates to equality, and how it relates to any number of social justice issues. However, for me hope is deeply connected, not just with aspiration, but with action. So yes I did indeed come back to climate change.

On October 16, when I traveled to the small Susquehanna River town of Columbia in Lancaster County, with intrepid UCH member Barbara Van Horn (right), I did not have a preconceived notion of what I intended to do that day. I only knew I wanted to be present with a group of people who over the course of several weeks, had inspired me with their stories, their vision and their determination. As we gathered that morning and listened to instructions, options, and possible consequences of civil disobedience, it became clear to me that I needed to stand with those in the “no trespass zone”, in the way of pipeline construction, and to risk arrest.

I felt a deep resolve to stand in support of new and old friends, who were committed to taking action against an injustice to their land and neighbors, an injustice to their children, an injustice to the climate. With this community, I have now shared a prison cell, sang songs, stood in the rain, and froze our butts, all of which has restored my energy and hope. I have discovered that where there is resolve, where there are still options and choices to be made, there is hope.

Active hope, in community with others, seems to me the healthiest and perhaps only sane way to live in the face of an uncertain and daunting future. Daunting, not just in terms of climate change, but in terms of our democracy and civilization.

Several days ago in my email box, there was a short message written by a writer familiar to many UU’s. Rebecca Solnit is an American writer whose book A Paradise Built in Hell was read by many UU circles. The email message read:

Dear Rachel,

It’s a race. And you’re in it; it’s your race too, to win or lose.

A race between the increasingly ominous news about how the climate is changing and the extraordinary measures being taken to slow that change and transform our society. That’s one of the challenges of this moment: to feel the despair and the hope, both, together. And then to choose hope.

Hope doesn’t mean pretending that climate change doesn’t exist or that we can erase it. It means we can fight for the best outcome instead of settle for the worst.

Leonard Higgins, a Unitarian Universalist from Oregon, has been convicted and faces sentencing for his involvement in pipeline action. Leonard was one of five activists, so-called Valve Turners, who turned the valves on pipelines in four northwestern states, and halted the flow of petroleum for one day. Leonard faces a prison term of up to ten years.

About hope, I think I most resonate with Emily, another one of the five valve turners. She says, “to be honest, I’m not sure what I hope for, except that humans can be as loving and sane and brave as possible in the coming decades—to each other, to the world. I look into the future, sometimes to think about how life might start to reestablish something like the abundance and magic that’s here now. “

Hope is the opposite of resignation, of giving up. It is about resolve, about looking for those actions that work to bring about our vision.

To further quote Rebecca Solnit in her book Hope in the Dark:

“Hope means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action. To hope is to give yourself to the future. Anything could happen and whether we act or not has everything to do with it. I want to start over, with an imagination adequate to the possibilities, the strangeness and the dangers on this earth in this moment.”

As long as there are visions, options, and further actions to be done, there is room for action—and hope.

—Rachel Mark

More about the site and history of the pipeline protests in rural Lancaster County here. The Adorers of the Blood of Christ have been leaders, as have Lancaster Against Pipelines, which is led by a Mennonite clergyperson.

Rachel appears in a photo at the Day 5 verse (that’s the Golden Rings one) of a fun 12 Days of Christmas rewrite by Lancaster Against Pipelines.

profile and sermon: Chelsea Jackson — Climate Change, Faith, Challenge, and Transformation

Chelsea Jacksonphoto credit- Nori TadanoWith this post we are pleased to introduce you to Chelsea Jackson, who has begun working with PA IPL as a short-term Project Coordinator, supporting constituents who are raising hopes and concerns about  clean energy, climate change and the health of our Common Home with their legislators at Town Halls during the August Congressional Recess.

Chelsea writes “For the past four years I have served as an assistant pastor at a United Methodist Church in New Jersey, where I worked diligently to center faith-rooted conversation about climate change, and encourage the congregation I was serving to help protect the environment.  Earth care inspired many of the sermons I wrote, trips I planned and the two community Eco-Art Shows I created and curated.  As a person of faith I believe there to be a direct connection to how people view God and how they treat all of Creation, and I continuously tried to help my congregation see and make those connections for themselves.  Therefore, to understand me as a person of faith who clings tightly to Earth care, it may be easiest for you to dive into one of my sermons.  Below are excerpts of a sermon I wrote for the 2015 Interfaith Power & Light Preach-In.  The sermon was met with both thankfulness and angry outbursts.  Still: the most important thing was that it felt like a spirit-gifted message that needed to be said.  Please enjoy:

It’s no secret the Christian and Jewish Scriptures begin with the creation of the world, this ordering of Chaos into water and earth, light and dark, human and non-human creatures, and it is this Creation as a collective whole, that God deems ‘very good.’

The early Genesis story, along with countless other Bible passages, reveals that God is in relationship with the Earth itself, and often cloaks God’s-self with the Earth when interacting with humans.  For example, we see God emerge in fire, in a windstorm, a burning bush, as light or at the top of a mountain.  In these instances, as in so many others, it’s as if the Earth is a form of God’s expression; like a piece of art, and we often look at art as a part of the artist who made it.  We understand a painting isn’t the actual artist, but is rather an extension of who they are.  An imprint of the artist is in the art s/he creates, that is part of what makes it so beautiful and powerful.

What if it was the same with God?  What if we looked at not only humans, but also the Earth, as made in the image of God, as an extension of God’s-self?  How would we treat the Earth differently?

Would it change how often I drive my car?  How I use energy in my house?  Would it change how I interact with politics or how I raise my children?

Would it change how I act as a consumer?  Where I buy from?  How much I buy?  I mean everything we buy was at one time part of the natural Earth in some way; part of the original artwork of God.  And though using the Earth for provision is indeed necessary for our survival, when does production or consumption become empty of purpose, empty of thoughtfulness or meaning?

Eco-Art show installed at (1)If we dig deeper, recognizing God’s imprint on Creation would influence how we eat.  The most intimate way we interact with the Earth is how we use it to nourish ourselves; how we partake in, and literally internalize its provision.  That’s why it is so important to learn where our food comes from, and how both our plant and animal based food is raised.  Is it done in a humane, safe way that recognizes God’s artistry, or is it disrespectful and even damaging to the original work of art?

One of my professors really brought this point home when she talked about Communion and asked what it meant to partake in the body and blood of Christ when the grain was grown with pesticides or the grapes were farmed by someone who did not receive a fair wage?  How does it change the meaning of this sacrament meant to be loving and liberating?

These are all important and very difficult questions.  And when faced with them we can respond in a variety of ways.

1. We can become defensive:
When faced with the reality of climate change and all the ways poor environmental practices permeate our lives, we can automatically list off reasons why we can’t change our interaction with the Earth, including: “changing the way we do things is too hard,” “it would mess up the economy,” “climate change isn’t that serious and won’t affect us much in the U.S.”

All of these claims are not only false, they also ignore the larger issues at hand.  The fact is that real change is not a luxury at this point, we must change if we want to ensure survival for even generations 100 years down the road.

But even if we don’t want to focus on the impact of climate change on the future, another problem remains; treating climate change as a non-pressing issue means denying the reality, humanity, dignity and worth of the individuals and communities being affected right now.   Continue reading

Faith Climate Action Week — your congregation, community, home

All you need and more (including worship and sermon resources, postcards, a discounted film and a leaders’ guide) are over at the Faith Climate Action Week website maintained by the national Interfaith Power & Light.

You can do all the things listed below (and more!) right from that main site site.

If the national week doesn’t work for your faith community, you can still participate!  None of the materials is dated.  Please take photos and share your stories whenever you participate. 

A Baha’i Reflection on the Beauty of God’s Creation

Carol Zandieh offered the following reflection on the glory of God and creation at the Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is of Harrisburg, a PA IPL member congregation.

The Words of God in the Baha’i Holy Scripture as revealed by Baha’u’llah, meaning the Glory of God, teaches that:

peacockGod created the universe and all of its creatures. To every creature, He has given one of His attributes, that is why we see His signs in every created thing. But He has given all of His attributes to humans and has commanded us to be the custodians of the earth. Now I would like to share a passage with you.

“All praise to the unity of God, and all honor to Him, the Sovereign Lord, the Incomparable and All-Glorious Ruler of the universe, Who, out of utter nothingness, has created the reality of all things, Who, from naught, has brought into being the most refined and subtle elements of His creation, and Who, rescuing His creatures from the abasement of remoteness and the pearls of ultimate extinction, has received them into His kingdom of incorruptible glory. Nothing short of His all-encompassing grace, His all-pervading mercy, could have possibly achieved it. How could it, otherwise, have been possible for sheer nothingness to have acquired by itself the worthiness and capacity to emerge from its state of non-existence into the realm of being?

“Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him—a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation…Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing, He has shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He has focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone, of all created things, man has been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.”

Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 64-65

I would like to end with a prayer that was revealed by Baha’u’llah, especially for all parts of the earth, to remind us that we are the custodians and keepers of the earth.

“Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place,
and the city, and the heart, and the mountain,
and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley,
and the land, and the sea, and the island,
and the meadow where mention of God
hath been made and His praise glorified.”

Baha’i Prayers, title page

_______________________________

The reflection was offered in December 2015, and shared here in 2017.

Above image is Copyright © Bahá’í International Community, and is used courtesy of the Bahá’í Media Bank.