The past 18 months have been more than challenging. We have been through countless trials and tribulations as we have endured and still are enduring three pandemics: the pandemic of COVID-19, with the more dangerous Delta variant now the predominant strain; the pandemic of racism, which degrades the image of God in the victims as well as the active and inactive perpetrators; and the pandemic of lies and conspiracy theories, which undermines facts with malevolent alternate realities fomenting anger and violence as we witnessed on Jan. 6 this year.
The English word “pandemic” came into use in the mid-17th century, originating in Greek: “pan” meaning “all” and “demos” meaning “people.” A pandemic crosses boundaries, and affects a myriad of people. In the case of the three pandemics we face now, unnumbered lives have been affected and changed forever. We are in a worldwide crisis.
And our planet itself is facing the global crisis of climate change. The shifting climate, to which human activity is a large contributing factor, does affect all people, all creatures. This crisis is exacerbated by those three pandemics: The COVID contagion saps our resources, attention and energy, and racism continues the exploitation and pollution of land home to people of color. And perhaps of greatest concern is how the pandemic of lies and misinformation leads people to denial or indifference concerning the environment--denial or indifference based in misinformation but also in self-serving interests and desires. Then there is the interpretation that some hold that God has given us “dominance” over the earth even if that means disaster, rather than the fullness of the meaning of “dominion” in that passage from Genesis: to be responsible stewards and caretakers of what God has created. In giving humanity dominion in creation, God says to be fruitful, or productive, not destructive or to cause ruin. To be indifferent to climate change is to be indifferent to what God has given us.
God's creation within this diocese is experiencing increased flooding, excessive heat, invasive species and other results of climate change. Elsewhere on this planet the effects are even more devastating, causing severe and ongoing droughts, lower food production, soil erosion, rising coastlines, political tensions over water resources and the displacement of countless people.
I, like so many people I have spoken with over the past 18 months, feel fatigue. The fatigue from living in crisis, with anxiety, isolation, financial instability, family issues and ongoing demands bombarding us from social media. So often I have heard people say “I just don’t have the bandwidth” to address one more thing. I have also said the same thing. But "Terra,” the Planet Earth, doesn’t have the bandwidth to support life if we continue our unabated use and treatment of air, water and natural resources. Earth, a gift of and from God, is reacting to our abuse, our indifference and our inaction.
If we are to be fruitful--that is, productive--we must engage the science of climate change with the commitment and fortitude of faith. Faith means we know that we are responsible to God, and responsible to and for all life which God has created.
There are many actions we can each take to address climate change and bring stability and greater sustainability of our environment. Some are small, even daily acts of caring for creation. Other actions we must engage with each other on a larger scale. But to increase our individual bandwidth to address this crisis and the pandemics now raging among us, we must engage and embrace the faith that is in us. Now. This is our hope for our future. This we can do, with the help of God and each other. Faith gives hope. It also gives us the wisdom and energy to act. We do this as the people of God for the creation given from God.
Now to God whose power working in us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than what we can ask or imagine, be glory from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris
Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts
The Season of Creation, Sept. 1 through Oct. 4, is celebrated by Christians around the world as a time for renewing, repairing and restoring our relationship to God, one another and all of creation. In the Diocese of Massachusetts, the Creation Care Justice Network has compiled resources for the season under the theme "Hope Beyond the Heat" that are focused on ways to pray, learn, act and advocate. Find them at www.diomass.org/creation-care. Additionally, Episcopal Church Season of Creation and St. Francis Day resource materials are available here.