"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!