Happy Thanksgiving, all! Despite all the darkness we have experienced recently, the light of Christ does shine through when/if we look for the glimmer. Often I find this takes real intentionality because I can easily get bogged down in the day’s news and begin to fret, missing the opportunities to see Jesus in the world around me. Last New Year’s Eve, a friend of my son’s posted a photo of his journal. Every night since he was a college freshmen in 1997, he has written in his journal five things for which he’s grateful that day – over 7,000 days and over 35,000 occasions of gratitude. Wow! I was impressed with his commitment. So, on New Year’s night, I took out a brand new notebook and started my “book of thanksgiving.” This has been a real blessing this year because it has caused me to be attentive to my days. There are some days when I have to reach back and really hunt to find all five – I’m not writing down the obvious but rather looking for ideas or occasions that make each day special. It’s become very clear to me that, even when things look miserable and I am fearful for the future, I have so much for which to be thankful every day! I hope that this holiday provides each of you a chance to reflect on all the gifts we receive every day through the grace of our God!
The other day I received an email from the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) reminding me that the 21st of November is here so it’s time to #PrayFastAct once again. This month, the focus is on climate resiliency:
The Episcopal Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America continue our united call to Pray, Fast and Act in support of good policies that provide opportunities for and respect the dignity of people struggling with poverty. As the Earth’s climate continues to transition and threaten communities, we answer the call this month by supporting action for federal investment to make our nation, communities, and public services more resilient and better prepared in the face of increasingly common and destructive natural disasters and changing weather patterns.
This month, leaders from government, religious institutions, non-profits, and scientists gather in Bonn, Germany, to highlight the importance of international commitments to work together to address environmental challenges. As Episcopalians, we must ensure that we advocate not only for ourselves, but for our fellow Anglicans, Christians, and humans, like those who see their island and coastal homes threatened by increasingly severe flooding and possible destruction.
On October 21, Join the EPPN and the presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and the ELCA as we #PrayFastAct.
Pray for our nation’s elected leaders to invest in sustainable recovery and preparednesss infrastructure designed for an uncertain and dangerous future.
Fast to remember the damage wrought for so many around the world by environmental degradation and natural disaster. Share on social media using #PrayFastAct and @TheEPPN. On the 21st, post a picture of a dinner place setting with the reason you are fasting this month.
Act by urging our elected leaders to support strong policy solutions that address the increasingly urgent preparation and reconstruction needs of communities threatened by extreme and unpredictable weather.
The Office of Government Relations of The Episcopal Church published an information sheet that give a little more background:
Christians have a long history of working to preserve the natural beauty and sustainability of God’s creation. This concern reflects God’s mandate to care for the earth, other species placed under our care and influence, and to utilize natural and living resources in a sustainable and unselfish manner.
As the annual and long-term climate patterns shift, the world’s oceans are expected to rise by 1 to 4 feet by 2100, with the high end of these estimates warning that seas could rise up to six and a half feet. This change will have catastrophic impacts on island nations, coastal communities, and those who will eventually host these climate refugees. In addition, as oceans warm they have been found to cause an increase in precipitation during storms, an affect noted this hurricane season with the record breaking rainfall of Hurricane Harvey, or with the storm surge of non-hurricane strength Sandy in New York and New Jersey. The result is that coastal communities are facing more devastation from even lower level storms. The combined effect is a situation which requires immediate action to safeguard communities, particularly since the 2020 Census is expected to reveal that 47% if the U.S. population lives in coastal counties.
Programs that help communities prepare for natural disasters are spread across the federal government. Many funding programs are reactive, seeking to rebuild communities to be stronger and better prepared after a disaster. These programs are critically important, but Congress must also act to proactively invest to help communities before recovery is necessary. We urge Congress to fully fund the suite of programs that help ensure a comprehensive approach to resiliency, preparedness, and recovery including:
• The National Institute for Standards and Technology: Disaster Resilience Research Grants Program funds projects to conduct research aimed at advancing the principles of resilience in building design and building codes and standards. Research supports the overall effort of developing science-based building codes by evaluating potential technologies and architectural design criteria to improve disaster resilience.
• The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program at FEMA, or HMGP, aims to help communities implement hazard mitigation measures following a disaster. The key purpose of this grant program is to enact mitigation measures that reduce the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters.
• The Community Resilience Program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development invests in evidence-based approaches that take into account our best understanding of future risk. Doing so will increase the resilience of communities to natural hazards such as tropical storms, tornadoes, and wildfires.
• The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tree Assistance Program (TAP) provides payments to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers after a natural disaster. The funds may help farmers replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines damaged by the disaster.
The Episcopal Church (TEC) also shared some resources that can provide additional information:
• The National Disaster Recovery Framework
• Disaster Resilience Study, National Academies of Science
• The US Climate Resilience Toolkit
• The Bipartisan Climate Solution Caucus
At this season when most congregations are discussing stewardship of our time, talents, and treasures, this topic seems especially timely. What greater treasure do we have than this beautiful planet that sustains us?! Going back to my thoughts on thankfulness, I often find that one gift for which I am thankful frequently relates to the natural beauty of this earth and her creatures. As I considered our Gospel reading from Matthew on Sunday, we must not only protect what we have been given to care for, we must also invest our energies in proactive means of supporting life here for all of earth’s dwellers.
Join me on Tuesday giving thanks for the blessings of our Earth and committing to #PrayFastAct with Christians around the world. We can make a difference together.
Let us pray –
Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on Earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (For the Conservation of Natural Resources, The Book of Common Prayer)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council