We began the conference with a water ceremony. In a large circle, on a beautiful late spring day, 70 of us gathered around a copper pot to pay homage to Creator, life-giving water, and to one another. The water each of us poured into the pot carried stories of hope and sometimes pain, but when mixed together they represented resolve to bring healing to our world.
The three days spent during On Water And Faith: Ministry in the Time of Climate Change were transformative. We designed the conference so that Day 1 focused on faith, theology, and the people who are impacted by climate change. The day was capped off by a public lecture featuring former Vice President, Al Gore and CEE’s Catherine Flowers, as they discussed the felt impacts of climate crisis and the reasons why the climate is changing so much.
On Day 2, VP Gore spent the morning digging deeper into the science behind climate change and its global impacts. It provided a strong foundation not only on the science but also on the solutions to climate change, and why there is reason to hope. Yes, the climate is changing and yes, there will be major obstacles to overcome. What we do right now in these next fifteen years will dictate how big those obstacles are. It’s vital we come together now to implement the solutions we know will create positive changes. To that end, we spent the afternoon on our second day learning from experts on religion, science, community organizing, and advocacy.
The final day was spent brainstorming. Each of us came from a different context with challenges all our own. For some, their issues were related to health others, on pipelines and fracking. Even more are dealing with stronger storms and extreme weather events that test the resolve of their communities. No matter the problem, we came together as a group to share the wisdom we came with and the knowledge gained throughout the weekend to imagine solutions.
None of us are alone. It is important to remember that in each city and each town and in each community there are people standing in the breach doing good work for those that they love. If we look at all the issues surrounding water as a whole we are justified in sitting down and saying, “It’s just too much. This problem is too big to overcome.” It is an understandable response. But when we take a step back we realize that around the world good, passionate people are fighting hard for our collective future.
We’ll leave you with a poem from Wendell Berry that brings us comfort and hope:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Andrew Schwartz is the Deputy Director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.