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July 16 2019

Following the Lamp at Our Feet: Combating Climate Change One Step at a Time

By Anita Fête Crews

The first Bible verse I ever memorized- aside from the Lord’s Prayer- was Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” I meditate on this passage quite often. My understanding of this verse came to be that God is not like a floodlight showing us the entirety of our future, of what’s to come with certainty. Rather, God simply illuminates the path immediately before us and, perhaps more dimly, that which lies just ahead, like a lamp in the night. This dimly-lit path is all we know and all we see. In response, we have faith and trust in God that if we follow this light provided to us in God’s word, we will arrive at God’s intended destination. God calls us to take each step in faith and to know that however often we take a wrong step, God’s lamp will always remain to light our way back.

This scripture has given me great comfort in times when I don’t know which way to go, when I know I have veered off course, or when I am afraid of what lies ahead. When considering climate change, it certainly feels like the path before us is a dangerous one. Furthermore, we are in this predicament because of our own blatant destruction of the Earth, our reliance on fossil fuels, and our consumerist behaviors. Where do we go from here? How do we heal the damage we’ve caused? Is there any hope? It becomes easy to get overwhelmed and feel stuck (read this article if you feel overwhelmed by the climate conversation).

But as another Bible story reminds us, we are all called, even specifically called, to such a time as this. We are on this earth for but a moment, and our responsibility while we are here is to do what we are able with the individual gifts and talents that we were given. This provides me with the incredible freedom to act without fear of the unknown! Over the past two months, I’ve had the joy to visit with, learn from, and share with faith leaders from the American Baptist Churches USA, Sojourners, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church who embrace their calls to do what they can today, trusting that with each step forward, the path will be illuminated further.

The American Baptist Churches USA is investing time and talent into its Creation Justice Network program, an effort to support and guide congregations throughout the country on a path toward loving all of creation, embracing energy efficiency, building community awareness, and engaging in climate advocacy. This year’s ABCUSA biennial summit was the first time that creation justice was central to their program, featuring four workshops and a full plenary segment premiering a new church-wide video produced with Blessed Tomorrow on climate change during Sunday’s communion worship service. You can view that video here.

As Sojourners approaches its 50th anniversary, they are re-imagining what it looks like to put faith into action. SojoAction brings together all of Sojourners efforts to equip, resource, and mobilize supporters to engage in transformational change, and climate justice is a top priority for this work. Blessed Tomorrow was a sponsor of Sojourner’s most recent Summit for Change, which featured a climate justice “track” for summit attendees and powerful sermons and presentations on God’s call to care for creation. See more of the summit here.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church held their annual Council of Bishops meeting this year with a special pre-meeting “Sankofa Symposium” on social justice action. The Sankofa Symposium served as a way to prioritize social action issues for the denomination in the coming year. Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to “go back and get it,” and is associated with the concept of applying past knowledge to the present in order to make positive progress. How similar to Psalm 119:105 this is! Following the Symposium and Blessed Tomorrow’s presentation on the connection to faith and climate change, the group determined they would pursue climate justice as one of their top priorities for 2020. These are just three examples of faith institutions taking steps forward on climate change. This is real, tangible progress which will propel us all forward.

My younger sister has a tattoo on her ankle of a Buddhist proverb, “Be your own light.” She understands this to mean that you reach within yourself to light your path forward when all is dark. I believe that as individuals, as leaders in congregations and institutions, and as a human community we can embrace a path forward on climate change by taking the first step today. We will see progress. We will see actions that lead to solutions. Those solutions will lead to a safe and healthy future for our planet. But, if we do not act today as we are equipped and able to do, if we choose to remain stuck, we may not find hope. As people of faith, we know there is a light to trust and count on. In this, we can be a hope for others who are watching and asking the question, “what can I do about climate change?” Come, follow us!

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