The Episcopal Church and a new Season of Creation liturgy

Anglican Communion Environmental Network (ACEN) is creating a series of success stories about environmental justice at the parish and diocesan levels, “Action for Change: Mobilizing the Church for Environmental Justice.” ACEN released a webinar in which Rev. Margaret tells the story of how she and Rev. John Eliott Lein created a Season of Creation liturgy in 2023 that was authorized by 27 dioceses in the Episcopal Church. The video was just released and is about 7.5 minutes long.

I particularly commend two other short videos in this series: a video by the Rev. Laurel Dykstra about Salal + Cedar, the extraordinary eco-justice ministry that she founded in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, centered in Vancouver, British Columbia, and a video by the Rev. Rachel Mash (Environmental Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa) on “Greening Your Canons,” a brilliant way, as she puts it, to “change the DNA of the Church.”

An Episcopal Path to Creation Justice launches pilot program!

In this brief video, Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and Rev. Rachel Field introduce An Episcopal Path to Creation Justice and explain how this exciting new program will support congregations to pray, learn, act, and advocate at deepening levels of commitment. The Path launched in October 2023 as a pilot program in eleven parishes in Province One, and we hope to make it available across the Episcopal Church in the summer of 2024. For more information about the Path, please visit the website now under development.
 

I want to tell a story about what it was like to be arrested for the first time. Why tell this story now? Because climate change is accelerating. Because we need to consider every possible tool at our disposal to preserve a habitable world. Because deep social change requires a movement of disciplined, peaceful warriors for life. Because we hear the call to serve something larger than ourselves. Because sometimes that call drags us out of our comfort zone.

Before I tell the story, here come three clusters of reflection questions.

  • Under what conditions would you consider being trained in the principles and practices of peaceful civil disobedience? Under what conditions would you consider supporting people who were risking arrest? Under what conditions would you risk arrest yourself?
  • Who are the people who inspire you to do more than you thought possible? With whom do you hold hands, literally or figuratively, when you step out to make a difference in the world?
  • Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” What is your message?

The background: After years of combining parish ministry and climate activism, in 2001 I decided to head to Washington, DC, to join a brand-new (now defunct) interfaith group, Religious Witness for the Earth, in protesting the Administration’s energy policy and its intention to expand oil production in the Arctic.

On the first day we learned about oil drilling and the Arctic, about climate change and fossil fuels. On the second we lobbied our members of Congress and studied the disciplines of non-violent civil disobedience. On the third, about a hundred of us marched down Independence Avenue in religious vestments, carrying banners and singing. When we reached the Department of Energy, an enormous stone structure surrounded by police, we held a brief worship service. So far, everything was legal. Then came the part that wasn’t.

What follows is an excerpt from an essay1 I wrote about the decision to carry out civil disobedience and the experience of being arrested and spending time in jail.

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The worship service was coming to an end. We sang “Amazing Grace,” and then the twenty-two of us who had decided to risk arrest joined hands and walked slowly to the doors of the Department of Energy.

I felt us cross an invisible boundary. With the others, I stepped over a threshold I could not see. I walked out of my ordinary life.

I am neither a lawbreaker nor a thrill-seeker. More often than not, I follow the rules – even enforce them. I fasten my seat belt, don’t cheat on taxes, write thank you notes, and stand up when the band plays our national anthem. But here I was, intentionally and publicly breaking the law. As if some inner revolution had quietly taken place, the old “me” was no longer in charge. Whatever security I’d felt in operating within the rules was gone. That’s partly why I felt so frightened as I left the safety of the circle and moved toward the door: I hardly recognized myself.  I hardly knew who I was.

Among the protesters were (in back) Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb & Rev. Robert K. Massie, and (in front) Rev. Rich Fournier, Rev. Andrea Ayvazian, Rev. Kate Stevens, Rev. Fred Small, Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas

We stand or kneel in prayer, our backs to the building.

The pavement under my knees is hard.  At home, I often sit on a meditation cushion to pray. Today there is no cushion, just the weight of my body against stone.  I lift up my hands. I’m dressed for Holy Communion. I might as well hold out my arms as I do at Communion.

Instead of pews filled with parishioners, I see ranks of police and a cluster of supporters. I am afraid.  I’ve never been arrested before. Years ago, as a VISTA volunteer in Mayor Rizzo’s Philadelphia I heard countless stories of police brutality. It’s not that I really expect the same thing to happen to me – the punch in the gut, the assault behind closed doors. Still, my body tenses as I place myself against the cops, the Feds, the law.

I close my eyes. One by one we pray aloud, words thrown into space, words hurled against stone.

Is this whole thing ridiculous? I briefly open my eyes and notice a well-dressed man watching us. He strokes his tie, leans over, and says something to a fellow nearby. The two of them chuckle. I have no idea what they’re talking about, but I wonder if they think we look absurd. I suppose we do. Here we are with our jerry-rigged signs, our predictably earnest songs and prayers of protest, a foolhardy band straight out of the ‘60’s.

Defensively, I imagine confronting that mocking man with the arsenal of our credentials. “We’re no rag-tag bunch,” I want to tell him. “We’re people with doctorates and master’s degrees – nurses and ministers, writers, and accountants. Thoughtful people, educated people, professionals.”

I am distracted from prayer by this indignant outburst. “Let it go,” wisdom tells me.  “None of that matters – your degrees, your skills, your status in the world. The privileges of race and class mean nothing now. You’re a woman on your knees, that’s who you are – one human being pleading with God.”

I turn my attention back to prayer and continue to stretch out my arms. Suddenly I realize that beneath the tension, beneath the fear and self-consciousness, something else is welling up. I am jubilant.

“Lift up your hearts,” I might as well be saying to the people before me, beaming as broadly as I do at Communion.

“We lift them to the Lord,” would come the response.

How did I miss it? After years of going to church, after years of celebrating Communion, only now, as I kneel on pavement and face a phalanx of cops, do I understand so clearly that praising God can be an act of political resistance. That worship is an act of human liberation. The twenty-two of us come from different faith traditions, but each of us is rooted in a reality that transcends the rules and structures of this world. Tap into that transcendent truth, let the divine longing for a community of justice and mercy become your own deepest longing, and who knows what energy for life will be released?

I feel as defiant as a maple seedling that pushes up through asphalt.  It is God I love, and God’s green earth.  I want to bear witness to that love even in the face of hatred or indifference, even if the cost is great.

So what if our numbers are small? So what if, in the eyes of the police, in the eyes of the world, we have no power?  I’m beginning to sense the power that is ours to wield, the power of self-offering. We may have nothing else, but we do have this, the power to say, “This is where I stand.  This is what I love.  Here is something for which I’m willing to put my body on the line.”

I never knew that stepping beyond the borders of what I find comfortable could make me so happy. That shifting from self-preservation to self-offering could awaken so much joy.

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  1. Adapted from “When Heaven Happens” by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, in Heaven, ed. Roger Ferlo (NY: Seabury Books, 2007), 74-85.

This article was published on November 2, 2023, in “Going Deep,” one of two newsletters published by Third Act Faith. (You can find the article here.) The other newsletter, Third Acts of Faith, provides members and subscribers with all the latest “News & Views” for the month. To learn more and to join Third Act Faith, visit here.

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (October 15, 2023) by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and posted at Preaching for God’s World Matthew 22:1-14

Your invitation to love’s banquet

Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast has been interpreted in all sorts of ways, some of them helpful – some of them, not so much. Over the years, commentators have interpreted the parable as an angry rebuke of the religious authorities who rejected Jesus; as an allegory to justify the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman soldiers in the year 70 C.E.; and as an account of why early Christian communities opened their doors to Gentiles as well as Jews. At their worst, interpretations of the parable smack of conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism; at their best – well, let’s give it a shot.  What meaning can this parable have for us today?  In particular, can it give us any spiritual guidance in these turbulent times?

Let’s take it from the top.  Once upon a time there was a king – a wise, all-powerful king who decided to hold a wedding banquet for his son.  He got everything ready and prepared a feast of the finest foods.  He sent out invitations to his chosen guests, saying “Everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet” (Matthew 22:4). But the guests refused to come.  Twice they were asked, and twice they turned him down.  They “made light” of the invitation, the story tells us, and some “went away, one to his farm, another to his business” (Matthew 22:5), while the rest attacked and killed the messengers. If we read this through the lens of spiritual experience, what might this part of the story mean?  What comes to my mind are the many times that I refuse those invitations to the feast.  Too often I act like one of those guests who is handed a beautiful, hand-engraved wedding invitation: I cross my arms and say, “Nope; not interested.” Has this ever happened to you? Maybe you’re sitting indoors, and you’ve been inside all day, getting some work done, and you look up and notice that the sun is now low in the sky, casting a marvelous golden light across the purple underbelly of the clouds, and some part of you stares and says Oh! And you want to get up and gaze out the window for a while – or even step outside. But you don’t. Or maybe there’s a man with a loose gray coat and an unshaven face who is standing on the sidewalk where you just parked your car, and as you put a quarter in the meter, he mumbles a request: could you give him money to buy a cup of coffee?  You look across the street and sure enough, there’s a coffee shop right there; even if you don’t want to give the man cash, you could perfectly well walk across the street and get him a cup of coffee. But you don’t. Or maybe you feel stressed and distracted, or maybe sad and discouraged, and you sense a deep tug to prayer. You know that new life will blossom in you only if you get yourself to sit down and pay attention to what is going on inside, only if you let yourself rest for a while in God’s embrace. But do you let yourself pause to take in that nourishment?  You don’t.  You’ve got other things to do – good things, important things. That inner tug can wait.  If you ignore it long enough, maybe it will go away. Invitations to love’s banquet can take many forms, and they come not just once, but every day, and many times a day – maybe as an invitation to gaze at the beauty of the world, or as an invitation to be generous, or as an invitation to pause for a while to give the lover of our souls our full and undivided attention in prayer. Yet how easy it is to say No! I have a million excuses – I’m too busy, too focused on my own agenda, too distracted or overloaded to relinquish my worried, busy mind and to let my awareness open and to drop into my heart. That’s a loss, because deep at the center of our being is an unquenchable thirst for union with the divine. Deep in our guts, our bones, our very DNA, is an irrepressible yearning to move toward the Source of life, the All, the Ultimate, the Holy One.  Call it what you will – human beings the world over, whatever their religion, share a desire for what one writer calls “the union on this earth and in this body of the human with the divine. This is the true spiritual marriage, the consummation of love that in one way or another is the aim of every ritual and every practice in every religion.”1 It’s no wonder that the Bible so often uses wedding imagery to express the complete and intimate union of God and God’s people, or of God and the individual soul. Sometimes the Bible depicts the bridegroom as God; sometimes the bridegroom is Christ. Sometimes, as in this parable, we are invited to be guests at the wedding, and sometimes we ourselves are the bridegroom or we ourselves are the bride. Love poets and mystics know all about the ecstasy of spiritual marriage. Take, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day we recently celebrated.  Francis gazed deeply into the natural world as if into a mirror, and he saw reflected back to him the outpouring love of God. For him, God was not an entity “out there” – God was within him and around him; God infused and sustained and shone out from all things.  Here is a little poem adapted from St. Francis2: Such love does the sky now pour, that whenever I stand in a field, I have to wring out the light when I get home. The human longing for union with God is universal, but how quickly we repress it, ignore it, or push it away! Who knows why? Maybe we don’t want to feel our need and vulnerability; maybe we’re afraid to relinquish control; maybe we’re convinced we’re not good enough and we can’t possibly be loved that much. But if we keep pushing God away, if we keep shutting ourselves off from the invitation to love and to be loved, then before long we will start to experience God as the enemy, and that’s the next part of the parable: some guests mock the messengers and blow them off, and other guests seize, mistreat, and kill them. The passage tells us that “the king was enraged” (Matthew 22:7). He sends in his troops, destroys the murderers, and burns their city down. As a spiritual story, this parable is quite accurate and exact: when we turn ourselves into the enemy of God, eventually we begin to experience God as an enemy. God has not changed, but we have – we have pushed God away and have deliberately alienated ourselves from the divine. Before any spiritual union can possibly take place, maybe that stubborn, resisting part of the self needs to be brought low and to fall away. All of us who, at some point, have made a mess of our lives, who have made terrible mistakes and headed too far down a willful, self-centered, and defiant path, know what that’s like. Sometimes the ego must be crucified before the soul can be born. Yet the invitation to love never ceases.  In fact, it keeps getting wider, deeper, more expansive, and more inclusive. There is no guest list now. The king’s love reaches out to everyone.  The wedding is ready, he says; the feast is about to be served and the food is hot. He sends messengers into the streets to invite everyone to come, both good and bad, and they stream into the wedding hall until it is filled at last. If you read this as a story of the interior life, it seems that only now – after our pride and defiance have been humbled and brought low – only now can we understand that every part of ourselves is being invited to the feast, that everything in us that we have cast away, abandoned, and rejected is being invited into the presence of God to be welcomed and healed and made whole.  Our whole selves are invited to the feast, and everybody else is invited with us.  There is no need now to shrug hopelessly and to say that we must settle for being alienated from each other, that we have keep living driven, restless, distracted lives, that we have to make peace with poverty, with racial injustice and economic injustice, that we have to condone destroying the earth and that we have to tolerate an endless succession of wars. Now we know the truth: we have been invited to feast at the table of divine life. We have been invited into the very heart of God, and in the strength of that divine presence we are sent out into the world to bear witness to God’s justice and mercy and love. The parable ends with the startling little story of the guest who comes to the feast with no wedding robe and is summarily bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness (Matthew 22:11-14). Maybe this is a reminder to stay humble: God loves us completely and invites everyone to the feast, but we have our own work to do: to clothe ourselves day by day with the intention to love.  As St. Paul puts it in Colossians, our job is to “[strip] off the old self with its practices and [to clothe ourselves] with the new self…” The passage continues: “As God’s chosen ones… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and…forgive each other… Above all, clothe yourselves with love” (Colossians 3:9-10, 12-14). In short, we wear the right clothes to the wedding feast of life when we clothe ourselves with love. We are living through a time of extraordinary stress, a time in which each of us must clarify who we are and what we value. So, here is what I want to tell you. When love’s holy invitation comes, I want to say yes. When love calls me to marvel at the sunset, to stop and gape at the beauty of the world, I want to say yes. When love calls me to walk across the street to bring someone a cup of hot coffee and to add some honey to it, and some milk, as well, because that’s the way he says he likes it, I want to say yes. When the divine call comes to sit down in prayer and to give the lover of my soul my full and undivided attention, I want to say yes.  As Mary Oliver writes in her poem, “When Death Comes,”3 When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. I want to say yes to life, yes to God, yes to the One in whose invisible, irresistible Presence we step fully into life, daring to connect deeply with ourselves and each other, refusing to be spectators, refusing to hold back, stepping out to create a world – and to fight for a world – in which everyone has a chance to experience how deeply God loves them. The banquet table is prepared, Jesus says to us. Will we come to the feast? I will give the last word to Rumi, a Sufi poet who ends one of his poems4 like this: On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the love starts.    Today is such a day. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1. Roger Housden, For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, (New York City: Hay House, Inc., 2009), xiii. 2. St. Francis of Assisi, “Wring Out My Clothes,” in Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, translated by Daniel Ladinsky (New York, Penguin Compass, 2002), 48. 3. Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes,” New and Selected Poems (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 10. 4. Jalaludin Rumi, “On a Day When the Wind is Perfect,” in Love Poems from God, 80.  

In a historic moment, on Oct. 4, 29 U.S. denominations and faith organizations joined together to launch One Home One Future, a multifaith campaign to strengthen vitality, relevance, and community connection across generations to care for God’s creation in local congregations nationwide.

This campaign is organized by Blessed Tomorrow, the faith arm of ecoAmerica, a network of major institutions and thought leaders in five sectors — faith, health, communities, higher education and business — who have inspired millions of Americans on climate change in counties and communities nationwide.

The One Home One Future campaign springs from the conviction that people of faith have a moral imperative to safeguard children, communities, and future generations. The holy scriptures of the world’s Abrahamic religions teach that God’s creation — the Earth — is sacred and that we are called to protect each other and the world that God entrusted to our care.

For instance, in Jewish texts we read: “Look at My works! How beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Everything that I have created, I created for you. Take care not to damage and destroy My world, for if you destroy it, there is no one to repair it after you” (Midrash Kohelet, Rabbah 7:13).

In the sacred writings of Islam we read: “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He Exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves” (The Prophet Muhammad, Saheeh Muslim). In my own Christian tradition, we read that Jesus Christ came to reconcile our relationships with each other, with God, and with the land. “Through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

With climate change bringing New England unprecedented bouts of extreme rainfall and flooding, sticky heat, unpredictable seasons, and increased rates of Lyme disease because of the expanded range of ticks, it is painfully clear that climate change is not a threat in a far-off future or a faraway place but is already a here-and-now reality. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has called for the immediate reduction of planetary carbon emissions to levels 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 to avoid climate catastrophe.

We have seven years to meet these IPCC goals. Auspiciously, the number 7 is also prominent and important in sacred texts and faith traditions, representing wholeness, perfection and completion.

We can meet these goals! But more of us are needed to help advance solutions.

Over 70% of people in the United States are concerned about climate change, but many do not think that those around them are concerned or know what to do to make a difference. Thankfully, our local municipalities are beginning to organize an effective response. Northampton has launched a new climate action department and Easthampton is developing a climate action plan.

Local leaders and residents understand that we need to quickly reduce emissions, increase the adoption of clean energy alternatives, and improve our communities’ capacity to withstand climate shocks.

Meanwhile, leaders of many faiths are putting aside past differences and coming together to broaden inclusion for climate action. As Pope Francis wrote in “Laudato Si’,” “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all … We require a new and universal solidarity.”

That is why the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Western Massachusetts are joining over 25 denominations and faith organizations that have come together to create One Home One Future, a seven-year multifaith campaign to strengthen congregations and scale creation care and climate action in congregations and communities across the U.S.

Through One Home One Future, people of faith and spiritual people are answering the call to care for God’s creation and to ensure that our common home is thriving for our children and future generations. I hope you will join me in taking visible action in our homes, congregations, workplaces and communities, and in helping others to do the same.

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The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas is an Episcopal priest who works to advance climate justice for the two Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts and for Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ. She is a member of the Leadership Circle of Blessed Tomorrow and lives with her husband in Northampton.

This essay was published on October 5, 2023, as a guest column in the print edition of Daily Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA).

Rev. Margaret published a guest column in The Daily Hampshire Gazette, “One Home One Future campaign unites faiths on climate” (Oct. 4, 2023). She writes, “Through One Home One Future, people of faith and spiritual people are answering the call to care for God’s creation and to ensure that our common home is thriving for our children and future generations. I hope you will join me in taking visible action in our homes, congregations, workplaces and communities, and in helping others to do the same.”

I was discouraged when I boarded the bus to Manhattan. Over the years, I’ve marched, rallied, lobbied, and protested countless times to advocate for climate action, and I was ready to do it again: to join with friends and strangers to demand that President Biden take swift action to quit our suicidal dependence on fossil fuels. I knew that The March to End Fossil Fuels on September 17 would surely be the biggest march since the pandemic. It was scheduled to take place right before the first-ever U.N. climate ambition summit, and I felt honor-bound to go. But frankly I didn’t feel the high excitement that activists often enjoy before a big public march. Devotion to the cause may run deep, but activists who’ve been at it for a while can get tired. Fatigue sets in when repeated efforts yield only limited success. Why keep speaking up when it seems that few are listening?

Hawk. Photo: Robert A. Jonas

That was my weary mood as I set out on the bus-ride from Northampton to New York City. The bus was filled with fellow activists, and it was a pleasure to sit beside my friend, UCC climate champion Jim Antal. As we sped down the highway, our bus captain reviewed the logistics of the march and taught us the chants we’d use, among them: “Biden, where’s your urgency? This is a climate emergency.” “From Willow to MVP,1 keep our rivers fossil free.”

I quietly repeated the chants, but my heart wasn’t in it. I confessed as much to Jim. Where do we find the energy to keep fighting the good fight? Just then something outside the window caught my eye. I turned to look. A red-tailed hawk was soaring over the traffic. Wings outspread, it cruised to a bluff beside the highway and perched on a tree.

The glimpse of that wild bird passed in a flash but stunned me into silence. It felt like a visitation, an encounter.

Hawks are meaningful to me. I love their wild freedom and their capacity to see across vast distances. They are adaptable, resilient, and fierce. The Holy Spirit is often portrayed in Christian imagination as being like a dove – gentle and tender – but She also has qualities that remind me of a hawk. She is insistent and strong, “driving” Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1:12). She is free (“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” 2 Corinthians:17). As we hear in the story of Pentecost, She comes with the power of a violent wind and sets our souls on fire (Acts 2:1-13). And She is like the word of God, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow,” with a gaze that sees clearly into our depths, into “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Fierce, free, and clear-seeing – that sounds like a hawk to me.

With Fletcher Harper (Executive Director, Greenfaith, one of the organizers of the march) and Jim Antal (Special Advisor on Climate Justice, United Church of Christ)

Hours later, we were marching, thousands of us, pouring through the streets with our banners and chants and signs. The skies were blue, the air was clear, and there wasn’t a hawk in sight. But as I walked, I wondered: what would a red-tailed hawk see if she were circling overhead?

She might see this: a sprawling metropolis that seems at first glance only to suppress the natural world. Except for the green glow of Central Park, living trees are few and far between. Just about everything is built up and paved over. Vehicles move on a grid of straight lines. Canyons are formed of steel, not limestone, and filled not with birdsong but with the clamor of human voices, music, and machines – sirens, motors, horns.

Yet that clear-eyed hawk would see through the illusion that humans care only about themselves. She would have considered the 75,000 people now pouring through the city streets who had set aside the demands and routines of daily life to proclaim their concern for each other, for future generations, and for the wild world on which all life depends.

Many of the people marching wore or carried images of their brother-sister beings. Over here was a woman dressed in a polar bear suit, carrying a sign that said HELP!  Over there was someone lumbering about in a rather hilarious inflatable dinosaur suit, carrying a sign that said “Dinos thought they had time, too.” Meanwhile, a tall person was wandering through the crowd in a gauzy, cancerous, pinkish garment that erupted in bulbous shapes; this alarming creature carried a hand-lettered sign reporting (accurately) that 70% of the world’s wildlife population had vanished since 1970.2 Someone else pulled a wagon that contained a large inflatable Earth, its surface marred by a tangle of orange and yellow slips of paper to show the locations of wildfires, droughts, storms, and floods around the world.

Some symbols of nature proclaimed hope. Several men held aloft a river of thin metal hoops draped in blue paper and dangling rivulets of blue, as if a clear stream were flowing through the crowd. Other people carried trees of brown cardboard, decorated with puffs of green, symbols to remind us that even in this paved-over, built-up cityscape, we were walking in union with the river and the trees.

And how diverse we were! No doubt the hawk would see that.

Young people were marching, fired by anger and grief and the desperate longing for a livable future.

Frontline people were marching, the people whose land, water, and air are being poisoned by the extraction industries that are dismantling the web of life.

Indigenous people were marching, modern warriors in the long battle against an economic system fueled by white supremacy, greed, and the fantasy of endless expansion.

Scientists were marching, representing the inconvenient truths of physics, chemistry, and biology which humanity ignores at its peril.

People of faith were marching, proclaiming the sacredness of God’s green Earth and the dignity of every living being.

Stalwart elders were marching, some of them shuffling or wielding canes and all of them determined to make a meaningful stand for justice while they still had time.

Workers and labor organizers were marching, insisting that the transition to a new energy economy must be carried out fairly and with equity. As U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.-NY) put it in her rousing speech at the rally, climate action requires a democratic restructuring of the economy. “What we’re not gonna do is go from oil barons to solar barons.”

I wondered if the hawk would recognize herself in us.  At our best, we, too, are like hawks: brave, fierce, and inwardly free. I wondered if the hawk’s clear eyes would look into our hearts and see the deep truth that, despite our manifest selfishness and confusion, in fact we humans truly care for each other, for those who come after us, and for our beautiful, threatened world. I wondered if maybe the hawk would glimpse in our march one small moment in the great awakening of humankind – our slow, collective discovery that we are kin to each other and to our brother-sister beings. We belong to each other, and we will rise or fall together.

I know there will again be times when my energy begins to flag. But the March to End Fossil Fuels re-connected me with the love that never ends. When we show up and do the next right thing – when we join hands with other people and with the elements and creatures of the living Earth – I know we will be surprised again by the sacred energy for life that pours through us anew.

I imagine that hawk wheeling over the city, seeing our love and determination, and blessing us with her fierce cry.

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Selected articles about the March to End Fossil Fuels:

Tens of thousands in NYC march against fossil fuels as AOC hails powerful message (The Guardian, Sept. 17, 2023)

Episcopalians march to ‘End Fossil Fuels’ ahead of UN climate summit (Episcopal News Service, Sept. 17, 2023)

Bill McKibben, “Back on the march: A superlative Manhattan day in pictures” (Substack, Sept. 17, 2023)

Tens of thousands of climate activists march in NYC (United Church of Christ, Sept. 19, 2023)

1. In March 2023, the Biden administration approved the Willow Project, a massive operation by ConocoPhillips to drill for oil on the plain of the North Slope of Alaska in the National Petroleum Reserve. Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is a fracked-gas pipeline through Virginia and West Virginia that was fast-tracked in June 2023 through a debt-ceiling agreement. Rose Abramoff, a climate scientist who attended the March to End Fossil Fuels, recently chained herself to a massive drill and helped to temporarily stop construction of the MVP pipeline. She is believed to be the first American climate scientist to risk a felony in an act of climate protest against fossil fuel projects.  #StopWillow, #StopMVP

2. The Living Planet Report issued in 2022 by the World Wildlife Fund reports on what scientists describe as the sixth mass extinction, a biological annihilation.

Why do we need to preach on Creation care?

In April 2023, Rev. Margaret gave the opening presentation for a webinar hosted by Church of England Environment Programme. The webinar, “Preaching for God’s World,” featured an international panel of speakers. Her presentation, “Why do we need to preach on Creation care?” is posted on the Church of England’s YouTube channel and at the top of this webpage: Environment in prayer, worship and teaching | The Church of England. The entire webinar is here: Preaching for God’s World Including the environment in your preaching – YouTube.

*UPDATE (10/19/23) Three additional dioceses have authorized these prayers, for a total of 28 dioceses:
The Rt. Rev. Patrick W. Bell
Diocese of Eastern Oregon

The Rt. Rev. Lucinda Beth Ashby
Diocese of El Camino Real

The Rt. Rev. Susan Haynes
Diocese of Southern Virginia

After a summer of alarming evidence that the global climate is increasingly unstable, with billions of people around the world experiencing heat domes, fires, floods, storms, and deadly drought, many of us feel a deep need to pray. With sober joy we welcome Creation Season this year, the season from September 1 (“Creation Day” or “Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”) through October 4 (the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi) when Christians worldwide are invited to dedicate special prayers, study, and action to honoring and protecting the web of life that God entrusted to our care.

 

Earth Icon, watercolor and gold leaf, copyright 2022 Edith Adams Allison

During Creation Season this year, congregations in at least twenty-five dioceses across The Episcopal Church will be trying out fresh ways of praying with and for the natural world. A few weeks ago, my colleague, the Rev. John Lein (rector of St. Aidan’s and Christ Episcopal Churches, Downeast Maine) and I released Creation Season 2023: A Celebration Guide for Episcopal Parishes. This anthology of liturgical material, drawn from a variety of Anglican and ecumenical sources, is an updated version of a Creation Season guide that we produced last year and that was authorized by the two Episcopal dioceses of Massachusetts.

Before putting final touches on the newly updated resource, which is packed with prayers, hymns, readings, preaching ideas, and reflections on eco-theology, we decided to reach out to several other dioceses to see whether they, too, might like to authorize its use during Creation Season. By the time we published the worship guide on August 9, sixteen bishops representing seventeen dioceses had authorized the material. The list of early adopters is below. Little did I know that this was just the start.

 

 

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Anne Reddall,
Diocese of Arizona

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus,
Diocese of California

The Rt. Rev. Russell Kendrick,
Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

The Rt. Rev. Kymberly Lucas,
Diocese of Colorado

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey W. Mello,
Diocese of Connecticut

The Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving,
Diocese of East Carolina

The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Provisional,
Dioceses of Eastern and Western Michigan

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano,
Diocese of Long Island

The Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Brown,
Diocese of Maine

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates,
Diocese of Massachusetts

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Provisional,
Diocese of Milwaukee

The Rt. Rev. Brian R. Seage,
Diocese of Mississippi

The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson,
Diocese of Missouri

The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld,
Diocese of New Hampshire

The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde,
Diocese of Washington

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Douglas John Fisher,
Diocese of Western Massachusetts

Frankly, it was thrilling to move in one year from two authorizing dioceses to seventeen. But that wasn’t the end of the story. As of this morning, eight additional dioceses have authorized Creation Season 2023: A Celebration Guide for Episcopal Parishes.

The Rt. Rev. Mark D.W. Edington
Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

The Rt. Rev. Cathleen Chittenden Bascom
Diocese of Kansas

The Rev. Carrie Schofield-Broadbent, Bishop Coadjutor-elect
Diocese of Maryland

The Rt. Rev. Samuel S. Rodman
Diocese of North Carolina

The Most Rev. Melissa Skelton, Bishop Provisional
Diocese of Olympia

The Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
Diocese of Rochester

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown
Diocese of Vermont

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Diana D. Akiyama
Diocese of Western Oregon

I find it deeply heartening to know that this worship resource will be used in so many dioceses across the Episcopal Church. If your bishop hasn’t yet authorized these prayers for use in your diocese during Creation Season, please urge your bishop to do so.

The unfolding tragedy (and sin) of human-caused climate change gives us a precious opportunity to re-claim the biblical vision that all of God’s creation – not only human beings – is embraced in the story of salvation. Like so many other faithful Christians, I am eager to ditch the days of praying for just one species and of imagining that the rest of God’s creation is simply “resources” put here for our (literal) disposal. Instead, we want to pray with and for God’s good earth and for all who live here, human and more-than-human, thereby being faithful to the God who creates, redeems, and sustains the whole Creation.

I trust that these prayers will help Episcopalians and all people of conscience and good will to experience the divine love that sustains all things. And, stirred by that love, to take bold action. I will give the last word to the Bishop of Maine, the Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Brown, who expressed hope that this worship guide would “ignite our prayer life (first step) so that we can act for justice (second step).”

 

 

 

Rev. Margaret was quoted in the press release published by Episcopal News Service, “Sixteen Bishops Authorize Use of Liturgical Resource for Creation Season” (August 14, 2023). She wrote, “We are delighted that so many congregations across The Episcopal Church will be exploring faithful new ways of praying with and for God’s good Earth.” Creation Season 2023: Celebration Guide for Episcopal Parishes is now available for those who integrate Creation Season into Sunday worship (Sept. 1- Oct. 4). The resource, updated from a version released last year, now includes the lectionary texts for Year A.