“For all that is our life” by Rev. Andrew
As part of my professional development this year, I am a Fellow with GreenFaith, an international interfaith environmental organization that was founded in 1992 and inspired in part by the Rio Earth Summit. About ten years ago, religious leaders approached GreenFaith for training and support in their own work, and a fellowship program was created. UUFP member Robin van Tine was one of the first GreenFaith Fellows, and I am grateful to Robin for bringing the program to my attention and for supporting my own application for a fellowship.
The GreenFaith Fellowship Program spans one year, and began last month with a webinar for fellows and program staff to introduce themselves to one another. I am one of twenty-five fellows, representing Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker and UU traditions, and we come from across the United States and from Chile, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As well as monthly webinars and small group discussions on-line, we meet in person twice during the year, with the first retreat taking place next month near GreenFaith’s offices in New Jersey. There are a number of reading and writing assignments and a leadership project involving religiously-based environmental work in the community.
I plan to write further articles about my experience of the program as it progresses, and I’ll begin with my reasons for applying for the Fellowship, which was part of our discussion during last month’s webinar.
In preparing my sermon for Earth Day this year, I realized I was feeling a need to rededicate myself to spiritual/environmental efforts. The problem, as I explained in that sermon, is not a lack of scientific knowledge or understanding. Rather, it is a lack of moral motivation and political will, and both institutional religion and individual spirituality have important roles to play in correcting that.
Knowing about the GreenFaith Fellowship Program from Robin when he was a Fellow some years ago, I decided to look into it. What I learned confirmed that this would be a good program for developing my own theology around environmental issues and for helping the UUFP to deepen its environmental responsibility. (We have been working on becoming a Green Sanctuary since before the UUFP called me as minister. Let’s complete that certification process!)
As well as the educational component, I expect that the fellowship program will help me to reflect on my own place in both environmental problems and their solutions, as well as to learn how to lead congregants in similar reflection. I expect that the leadership project in particular will help me to develop significant community relationships, including accountability to the people we’re aiming to help rather than our own agenda, as well as to take public positions on the issues that affect all of us as neighbors and citizens of the Earth.
Finally, I will note that this is timely work, given the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that sets forth in no uncertain terms an imperative for us to act decisively given the short amount of time remaining before the effects of global climate change are irreversible. Religious traditions and faith communities have an essential role to play in making clear that climate change is a moral issue and that we are called more urgently than ever to care for the Earth.