"For all that is our life" by Rev. Andrew
(Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)
We began our last day at Stony Point with a further discussion about GreenFaith itself, which is currently reorganizing on a global scale in order to more effectively address the climate crisis. Specifically, since we're completing our first year as Fellows, we talked about how GreenFaith can continue to support us and re-engage with previous classes of Fellows and activate environmentalists across the United States and around the world. With eleven years for us to make the systemic changes needed to get climate change under control and avoid catastrophe, there is a sense of urgency that needs to translate into widespread and forceful action.
Before heading our separate ways, we finished with an activity that I have heard of some Unitarian Universalist congregations doing. The Climate Ribbon is an art-based ritual, launched at the conclusion of the 2014 People's Climate March in New York, "to grieve what each of us stands to lose to climate chaos and affirm our solidarity as we unite to fight against it." GreenFaith's organizers had brought a piece of the Climate Ribbon installation from the 2015 UN Climate Summit in Paris, and we were invited to add to it. Each of us wrote on a length of ribbon the name of a place or a people at risk, as well as our own name, and then exchanged it with another ribbon so that we'd carry someone else's hope with us. I wrote "Newport News VA" on my ribbon, both for the health impacts of the coal held in the Southeast Community and for the effects of sea-level rise resulting from global warming thanks to the burning of that coal in Asia.
"For all that is our life" by Rev. Andrew
(Read Part 1 and Part 2.)
After a starting our day outdoors with Surya Namaskār (Salute to the Sun) led by our Hindu Fellows, we continued working on our leadership projects, refining them in small groups so that we can present them clearly and concisely. Many of our projects parallel one another in some way, which isn’t too surprising given that we share in GreenFaith’s larger purpose of working through and across religion to respond to the climate crisis. That was even more pronounced in my small group, with one Fellow developing a process for congregations to evaluate and improve their facilities and another developing a web site as a hub for green building resources and information. My GreenFaith cohort is a great resource for my own project of a Zoom-based green living and congregational sustainability workshop!
This afternoon we broke into pairs for an envisioning exercise. Specifically, we imagined that we were writing a magazine article in the year 2030 regarding some significant difference that GreenFaith has made in response to the climate crisis. Another Fellow and I imagined an article entitled “Last Coal-Fired Power Plant in the World Decommissioned”, building on the successful divestment of all North American religious organizations from fossil fuels and the and the development of GreenFaith India to put pressure on governments and industries world-wide. Since this would be a magazine article, it would include such pictures as a shuttered coal plant, a field of solar panels and the Koch brothers crying.
This evening was focused on GreenFaith’s growing international work. We had heard from an organizer with a partner interfaith organization in Brazil, which is facing new challenges following recent elections, and now had a presentation by a partner from Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country where there as been some success with edicts against the hunting of endangered species and the destruction of natural habitats, as well as a Zoom call from a gathering in Chile where one of this year’s Fellows lives. A Quaker, a member of a Unity Church and I closed the day’s program with an embodied meditation on interdependence, using a Unitarian Universalist youth activity using a ball of thread to build a web that connected us all together.
"For all that is our life" by Rev. Andrew
(Read Part 1 here.)
Today began with a POP — a way of talking about our work that focuses on purpose (the “why” we’re doing something) as the foundation distinct from both outcomes (the “what” we’re doing) and processes (the “how” we’re doing it). When it comes to purpose, the question is, What are we trying to change? There's no purpose in doing a project just for the sake of doing a project. It’s also important to ask, What is our theory of change?
As part of my GreenFaith Fellowship, my project comes from the Fellowship’s action plan to become a Green Sanctuary, originally submitted to the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2013. Namely, we proposed to host a Green Living and Congregational Sustainability Workshop, bringing together congregations and others from across the region. Thanks to today’s technology, we can resolve the contradiction of asking people to spend time in cars in order to drive to a workshop about about green! Using a videoconferencing platform such as Zoom, we can offer a one-day remote-access workshop for congregational groups and individuals, as well as offering an example for other organizers of green events to follow. However, these, as our discussion of POP explained, are outcomes. The purpose is to help congregations and households to reduce their ecological footprints — hence both the focus of the workshop as well as the method of convening it. (Stay tuned for more information about this workshop, which will likely take place in late August.)
Next we heard an update about GreenFaith itself from its Executive Director, the Rev. Fletcher Harper. Founded in 1992, and inspired in part by the Rio Earth Summit, GreenFaith is refocusing on its core purpose in order to more effectively and powerfully respond to the climate crisis from religious and moral perspectives. With a renewed international emphasis, including the launch of a Fellowship program in India, priorities include love, compassion, equity and justice, and concern for the vulnerable: ethnic minorities, women and workers.
We also heard from Martin Kopp, Director of GreenFaith’s Living the Change project. This is a program promoting green living — particularly in the areas of transportation, diet and energy use — that complements other necessary paths to environmental sustainability and renewal such as policy actions and cultural change. Individual action with supporting companionship to embrace climate-friendly lifestyles is a way of leading by example. Look for events this Fall, September 1st through November 3rd, under the banner of “Time for Living the Change”.
Returning to our POP discussion, we considered “The Four Rs” as (complementary) ways of bringing about change:
"For all that is our life" by Rev. Andrew
This week, I am at the second retreat of my GreenFaith Fellowship this year. This time, we are just north of New York City at the Stony Point Center, a conference facility of the Presbyterian Church USA that is home to a multifaith community committed to radical hospitality, and we began by meeting Will and Amara, two of the community members who grow food served in the cafeteria. As well as describing their farming work here, they talked about their efforts to support local Native American communities and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
Next the Fellows and GreenFaith staff took some time to reintroduce ourselves to one another, since, although we meet virtually each month for a Zoom webinar, we have not met in person since November. Fellows arrived here today from the US along the East Coast as well as Texas and Colorado, with international Fellows coming from Rwanda and Zambia. Then we developed a covenant, outlining some of the ways we intend to be with one another this week. Some of the Fellows are Muslim, and they are observing the practices (including fasting) of Ramadan, so we engaged in a helpful cross-cultural conversation around what that means for our community and how we can support one another.
After dinner — for the non-Muslims; our Muslim friends would break their fast with Iftar at sunset — we spent some time in small groups sharing climate change stories. The idea behind such stories is that talking about personal experiences is more impactful than describing events in remote places. (Not everyone can relate to a hungry polar bear on a disintegrating ice floe!) For my story, I spoke of Hurricane Florence last Summer, which had for a while been headed directly for Hampton Roads, resulting in a mandatory evacuation of the first of our flood zones, before it shifted slightly south. As we witnessed the devastation of coastal communities in North Carolina, we realized how that could have been us, and we knew that — this time — we had been lucky.
After breaking for Iftar — including the traditional (and delicious!) dates — and organizing small groups to offer short reflections on faith and nature for each morning and evening of the retreat, we finished up with conversations reflecting on our day together, each of us offering a word that expressed our reflection. I offered “potential”, given my conversation with a Fellow from Colorado who recently testified before the state legislature on a bill to regulate carbon emissions and decided to address his comments to those who still needed to be convinced: “treat your opponents as unlikely allies,” he said!
According to Connie, Ubaka taught her that learning to drum gives people a powerful voice to express to the world. Connie remains inspired by this teacher’s belief that if we could learn cooperation, we would be amazed at what we could accomplish together. Ubaka says, “If the drum is a woman, do not beat your drum, help her find her voice.”
Connie had never done drumming before, but after that weekend, she not only found her voice but also heard the call to help other women find theirs.
Connie started with other UUs as they founded a women’s drumming group in Norfolk. The core group often performed on stage at local events, but Connie realized the value of drumming for non-performers, as well. She learned the power of drumming with women as a way to promote healing from past struggles, abuses and illnesses.
Connie started a Women’s Drumming Circle at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula (UUFP) that meets every month. It is open to those who identify as women, of all ages, and all religious backgrounds.
A former minister at UUFP held a course on Native American Spirituality—that curriculum and her connection to Earthrising (UUFP’s CUUPS group) added to her experiences in her UU faith.
“One of the most UU experiences I ever had was participating in several yearly Peace Vigils at the foot of the Washington Monument in D.C. Each weekend was filled with songs and music and round-the-clock ceremony with folks from the world’s religions.” She signed up to drum to keep the sacred fire going all night long. Being able to speak up for peace in the Nation’s capital and bring water to the Elders were very meaningful ways to walk her faith.
As a child, Connie had polio and spent two long stints hospitalized. Knowing firsthand how powerless patients can feel, she decided to create her own business that brings drums to residents in care facilities. She watches as the simple act of drumming makes them feel empowered. Through her work with the Living Interfaith Network (LINK) LINK of Hampton Roads, she has also drummed with people without homes, people who suffer from mental illnesses, and people going through 12-step programs. Leading rhythms and chants gives people from all different places and stages in life a chance to find their voice again.
Unless otherwise noted, services include sermons preached by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard and take place at 9:30am and 11:15am on Sundays.
May 5th: “Ever Since Baltimore”
On May 5th 1819, the Rev. William Ellery Channing preached a sermon at the ordination of Jared Sparks by the First Independent Church in Baltimore. Though hardly anybody heard the sermon, thanks to the new church’s poor acoustics and Channing’s soft speech, tens of thousands of copies of it were sold, with an impact that forever changed the nature of our religion.
May 12th: “Seeing Mom Through Adult Eyes”
Edification is the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually. One may expect that mothers will work on the edification of their children, but one may find the most edification comes when those children gain enough maturity to begin to critically assess their mothers.
Rev. Cynthia Snavely is a Unitarian Universalist minister who has served congregations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. She currently lives in Hayes with her daughter, son-in-law and four grandsons.
May 19th: “Temperance. Suffrage. Equality?”
One hundred years ago, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Women’s suffrage was part of a longer justice effort in which Universalists and Unitarians were involved, from the temperance movement to the prohibition of racial discrimination in voting in 1965, and it continues in the fight for full equality under the law.
May 26th: “The Memories We Share”
Our faith rightly celebrates “a freedom that reveres the past but trusts the dawning future more”. Last May, we celebrated our sixtieth anniversary as a congregation, sharing with one another the stories of the Fellowship’s journey. A year later, how is our vision of the UUFP’s future taking shape? How do we imagine ourselves living more deeply into our mission to grow in wonder, connect in love, engage in service and inspire generosity?
Special music will be provided by the UUFP’s ChorUUs!