I am a staff chaplain at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center in Philadelphia. Prior to that, I was a congregational minister and military chaplain. In 2012 deployed with the U.S. Army to Afghanistan, leaving my congregation, my wife, and our five young children for seven months. For the past decade my ministry has brought me into contact with servicemembers and Veterans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as with the people who live, or used to live, in those countries. I have witnessed some of the tragic
effects of what military historian Andrew Bacevich has called “America’s War for the Greater Middle East.” This has been a difficult journey and I have learned some hard lessons.
My experience has led me to examine the lifestyle many in the U.S. enjoy, a lifestyle that includes reliance on oil. I’m more aware both of what the U.S. is willing to do, and who pays the costs, in order to sustain this lifestyle. As a result, I have changed the way I live. As a minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, I strive to better embody the principles we covenant to affirm and promote. As a parent, I strive to teach my children by my example and do what I can to make the world better for them.
Last year I moved my family to Narberth, in Montgomery County. Now we live less dependent upon cars and oil. I traded in our family van for an electric car. We use the bus and regional rail. I ride my bicycle to work, enjoying the eight-mile trek along the Schuylkill River Trail. My children have found part-time jobs a short walk from our house. Our old home used oil heat. Now we heat with natural gas. This year we are weatherizing our home. Next year we plan to install solar panels.
I’m glad to pedal with purpose in solidarity with people of faith concerned about climate change. I have witnessed some of the tragic pain and losses this War for the Greater Middle East has generated, and I carry burdensome knowledge and the ache of guilt. This ride will help me create meaning out of the pain and make the suffering caused by this War more bearable. I intend to bring a message to our elected officials in Washington: what the world needs from the U.S. is not endless war and expanding authorization for the use of military force; the world needs immediate action on climate change.
I’m carrying in my dry bag 22 letters from my son’s eighth grade class at Welsh Valley Middle School, addressed to Senators and Representatives. I will hand deliver them in Washington.