Much of my time and attention this week has gone into preparation for a big event at my church this weekend. The Earth Ministry Team will be leading the Sunday service at First Congregational Church, 165 Main St. in Amherst, beginning with a hymn sing at 10:25 a.m.
I love belonging to this group, working together on projects related to our common passion to restore and care for the Earth and all its creatures. In planning this service, the Earth Ministry Team met several times, and sent many email communications, resulting in fertile collaboration and creativity. I hope what we have put together will be moving, encouraging and inspiring.
Being an active member of First Congregational Church has been an important ingredient of my experience of The Good Life… and has contributed some Adventures as well! I joined this church in 1984, when we moved to Amherst, after a lengthy gap during my 20’s when I distanced myself from the Christianity of my Methodist Sunday School upbringing.
Over the years I have treasured this multi-generational community, which reminds me through the weekly worship services of the bigger reality of which we humans are just a tiny part. During times of difficulty and despair – in the buildup to the Iraq wars, after the 9/11 attacks, after natural or human-caused disasters – the church community and services have given me comfort, hope and the strength to act, often in concert with others. Before I headed off to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Tar Sands pipeline protests and risk arrest in 2011, I asked for and received the blessing and prayers of my church community, which buoyed me up and carried me forward despite my fears.
In fact, it is among people of faith that I have found some of the most determined and persistent environmental activism over the years, and now, as we head into the climate crisis, these voices are leading the way. High-profile leaders like Pope Francis, who has said that climate change is a sin, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa are addressing this issue. The national leaders of both the Episcopal Church and my own UCC spoke at the Climate Revival in the spring of 2013 in Boston. Bill McKibben was the keynote speaker at the spring 2011 conference “Partnering with a Green God,” which I attended with several others from my church. Groups like Religious Witness for the Earth have led a number of events, such as the Interfaith Walk for Climate Rescue across Massachusetts in 2007. Here in the Amherst area, many of our faith communities have active “green” groups and solar panels are popping up on the roofs of church buildings.
Although sometimes I feel discouraged and fear our work is in vain, I find a balm and encouragement in the Earth Ministry Team and in the worship tradition of my church. You are welcome to come and join us this Sunday and any time. You may be surprised!