Climate Spirituality speach to Environment Maine

The "Why" of caring for creation

Address to Allagash Climate Summit – Environment Maine - December 8, 2016

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise. At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home. By your will they were created and have their being.

Good evening, my name is Ben Shambaugh. I am an Episcopal Priest and serve as the Dean of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. I am here to talk about the spirituality of climate action

The words I just read are from a Eucharistic prayer used in many Episcopal Churches in their Sunday worship. For Episcopalians care for creation is at the core of who we are as people of faith. The 75 million member world-wide Anglican Communion has made safeguarding the integrity of creation and sustaining and renewing life of the earth one of its five marks of mission and, as I am sure you know, the Pope recently published an encyclical on the environment. In its catechism of creation and its actions at its General Convention, the Episcopal Church stands with science, respects reason, and encourages action and activism. The courage of the Native American people of Standing Rock, the support of faith communities, the involvement of clergy in the protests, and the emphasis on non-violence, prayer, and the sacredness of water are wonderful examples of how spirituality, activism and the environment are intertwined.

One of the best places to start a conversation about spirituality and the environment is with Matthew Fox, a theologian who believes not in Original Sin but in Original Blessing. He taught that the universe is a blessing and that we experience the divine in all things and all things in the divine. Fox points out that creation spirituality is not a newly invented path, but for 20th century westerners is a newly discovered path. It is a path nurtured by people such as Teilhard de Chardin, Thomas Berry and more recent leaders such as Thich Nhat Hanh, as well as documents such as the “Rabbinic Letter on Climate Crisis,” the “Hindu Declaration on Climate Change” In the words of Pope Francis, the “ecological crisis is essentially a spiritual problem.” In the words of the Dalai Lama, “Saving the planet is not just a political duty but also a moral one.”

Pope Francis’s Encyclical “Laudato Si” offers significant wisdom, regardless of religious background. He first calls for a new dialogue on the environment. He rejects the old Christian ideas (still held by many in the United States) that nature is here for us to subdue. He calls all people to recognize the reality of global warming and make the changes in lifestyle needed to cause it to stop. He reminds us that caring for the environment is not just about preserving animals but that there is a human cost, that those most affected by climate change are the poor. The Pope is talking about places like Bangladesh but think about that right here. What part of Portland floods in astronomical high tides? Bayside. The poor are already suffering from global warming. The Pope reminds us that “all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising about themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.

Like many of you, I came to Maine because of the environment. Spending time in the woods and on the water feeds my soul. Regardless of your background, I think you know what I mean. Tonight, I ask you to think not only about ways to cut pollution and invest in renewable energy, but to remember why you are doing these things, to remember the sacredness of all creation, the care of the poor, and the legacy we leave for generations yet to come as we continue to care for this fragile earth, our island home. Thank you.

Posted in: Dean's Message  E-pistle 
Post Date: Friday, December 09, 2016 10:41 AM