by Madeleine Para
I am praying for the Earth today. Actually, I pray for it and us and all species every day in one way or another, often as I walk by the lake. If prayer is an expression of hope and faith, then I think my work for CCL is a form of prayer. But today I’m praying with almost the entire Christian world.
Today is the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, designated by virtually the entire Christian world. Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew of Orthodox Christianity, the World Evangelical Alliance and the World Council of Churches have all endorsed the Day of Prayer. It is a beautiful example of how wide and deep the concern about climate change has become.
This is also a good day in which to tell you about a conference I attended this summer. I was honored to be invited to attend a conference for evangelical Christians on Caring for Creation. I was one of a very small number of non-evangelicals that were invited to the event. It came about as a result of a relationship I started several years ago with Ed Brown, the executive director of Care of Creation, which is headquartered in my home town although they work globally. I read about his organization in the local paper and sent him an email. A few weeks later we had lunch, along with a young woman from a group called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action.
Fast forward a few years, and there I was, spending 4 days at Gordon College, a small Christian school near Boston, with 100 evangelical Christians. I was a little shy at first, not sure if they would be happy to have me in their midst, but it was soon clear I was very welcome. I shared a dorm quad with 3 other people—a well known theologian and a couple who had been fighting mountain top removal for years, including training students from Christian colleges to do health surveys of the people living near the mining to document how they were being affected by the toxic chemicals released by blowing up mountains. I was more than a little awe-struck.
In fact, it was a most amazing gathering. In addition to theologians and activists, there were missionaries, academics from Christian Colleges, pastors, writers, journalists from the Christian media, and staff from major evangelical organizations. Some of the people were there representing their organization and some were there as individuals. Some were concerned that they could lose their job if it was known they were there. All of them were as passionate about climate change and the environment, and as smart as any gathering of CCLers I’ve been around. Their goal for the conference (and this was one of seven taking place around the world) was to promote stewardship and care of creation as a core gospel message within the evangelical movement. They consider it to be a reformation movement. They understand that this a huge undertaking and they are minorities in many of their institutions, and they were there to do some powerful networking while enjoying the respite of being together with like-minded people.
I was at times humbled by how much more many of them seemed to know about Citizens’ Climate Lobby compared to what I knew about them. Many people there appreciated our work, and I did a small presentation on how we support our volunteers because they wanted to know how to grow fast like we have. Both Congressman Bob Inglis and Dr. Kathryn Hayhoe spoke at the conference. And I spent a lot of time listening and looking at things from new perspectives. I met new people at every meal and I felt uplifted by the music and prayer services. Until being there, I did not realize how many stereotypes about evangelicals I had internalized. But just as I have my own unique story as a Catholic, so everyone there has their own story.
At the closing session I told them that I had learned I have far more allies in far more places than I had ever realized. And I told them that they had an ally in me. I don’t think I will be able to be silent when my liberal friends slip into trashing evangelicals. My view of the evangelical movement has broadened considerably and I have friends there now.
If a common threat is what it takes to unite humanity, then global warming provides an opportunity to come together like never before. Let’s keep reaching for one another.
Madeleine Para is Program Director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.