by Rob Mark
When our congregation, Church of the Covenant in Boston, decided to engage the climate change topic in a liturgically intentional way during this Advent season, I spoke to some members who had some concerns.
During discussions and planning for our climate-related special events and liturgies (see this spotlight article for specifics), I heard a number of voices saying thank you for this choice of making the connections between the coming of God and the movement for climate justice. However, I also heard from some of our core leaders who had some fear and apprehension over this choice. They expressed anxiety over hearing more about climate change in worship as they already felt “guilty” enough over U.S. consumption patterns, and they already felt overwhelmed by the facts and figures of climate change that are debated by believers and skeptics. I was grateful for their feedback, and responded that the intention behind this unique Advent focus was not to add to our sense of guilt or burden, but to take an honest look our world and our faith and see where hope may be born anew.
After all, this year Advent coincides with COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change being held in Paris. There will be debates, knowledge-sharing, and discussions among the general public, officials, and the news media. But as I explained, instead of dreading the media coverage, we must also recognize that this particular moment in human history has never before seen so powerful a gathering around the climate justice movement, and as people of faith who follow Jesus we have a mandate to not only join this movement, but to help lead and shape it.
Our open and honest discussions about people’s concerns over this topic actually helped us hone in on our focus: to use this season to help delve into how our faith in Christ inspires us to be leaders in the climate justice movement. And to look out at how things really are here and now, and listen for invitations of the Spirit to pray, gather, nurture each other and our neighbor, and take action. Yes, the numbers can be overwhelming. But that is because climate change is one of most significant moral challenges our entire planet is faced with. Our faith has something to say about this global injustice because it will affect the most vulnerable most significantly as it will make life all the more extreme and challenging for them.
As a church deeply committed to social justice and the liberation social gospel of Jesus, we often can feel depleted by the endless call to “act out” our faith in the world. Therefore it is helpful to find seasons in worship to take a look at the way the world is – to see the violence and fear that shrouds our globe – and reflect deeply by using our scriptures on how our faith in the God of compassion sustains us in this honest examine. By lifting up the radical and deeply nourishing refrain of Emmanuel – God with us – in the light of climate injustice, we stand to find deep spiritual nourishment for the journey.
Using Advent for climate change awareness is a good thing for us to do for it both stands to challenge us and nourish us. We, as people of faith, need to be reminded of a God being born among us as the source of our hope as we together press on in this movement to heal our planet.
Climate Changes Everything, God is With Us.
Climate change is here.
Climate justice is coming.
A movement is born.
Advent is here.
Freedom is coming.
A child is born.
Advent is a season of preparation and longing for light. This year, our world seems to need Advent more than ever – in the face of growing fear over violent extremism, displacement and instability. Our planet and her people cry out. Advent is a perfect time to explore how our faith empowers us to face our fears and work for peace through climate justice. For climate changes everything. But so does Advent.
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