In the darkness, hope awaits

Reposted from: Episcopal News Service: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/80050_126199_ENG_HTM.htm

By Stephen Blackmer, December 14, 2010

[Episcopal News Service] Last week’s gathering in the Dominican Republic of Episcopalians and Anglicans from Latin American, the Caribbean and the United States — bishops, clergy, staff, seminarians and lay leaders — was a tangible sign that a new world is waiting to be born — and that we are called in Christ to serve as midwives of new life.

As participants from Panama, Brazil, Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic told us, the effects of climate change are being felt right now. People are being hurt and killed. Other forms of life are being extinguished. The planet we will pass on to our children tomorrow is being impoverished today. Whether we are ready or not, whether we want to believe it or not, a changing climate is bringing social and ecological challenges to every person on this earth.

While we were gathered, Bishop Julio Murray of Panama gave us breaking news of devastating rainfall in Panama. Ten people, at least, died. So much water fell from the sky that the Panama Canal — that great manmade river linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans — had to be closed.

Such violent storms are becoming increasingly common all around the world, signs that a previously stable global climate is becoming volatile and increasingly dangerous. Even the wealthy of the world, including many of us who use money, education, and privilege to keep hardship at bay, will feel the effects. Others with less security will seek escape through migration. Too many will turn to drugs, alcohol and violence. Many will suffer. For this, those of us who consume the vast amounts of oil, coal, and gas that are the primary cause of a changing climate bear responsibility.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you…

Through our consumption and destruction of the riches of the world, through accumulating the benefits for ourselves and requiring people in other places and times to bear the costs, through ignorance and closing our eyes to the harm we cause, those of us in the United States and other wealthy countries are bringing great harm upon the world that God created for all life.

And yet, in this very loss, in this very sin, new life and a new way is starting to take form. As with all new life, this one is taking shape in darkness and will be born in pain. We are called not only to witness but also to participate in this pain. These are eternal truths we cannot change. There is no other way.

By virtue of our life in Christ, we know it is only by our passage through the darkness that we may find new life. Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio of Cuba movingly told participants about the renewal of her church through not only restoring a lovely building but establishing gardens of abundance to feed hungry people. The church gathering in the Dominican Republic is itself another sign. It is our task to share all this news — news of death, pain, and darkness as well as news of life, joy and new light. All of us in the church have a choice to help this birth or to hold it back.

Alone, God brought the world into being out of darkness. Since then, it is through human beings that God has brought new light into the world. Through Noah after the flood, through Moses seeking liberation from Egypt’s empire, through Jeremiah and the prophets, through Miriam, Ruth, and Esther, finally through the conceiving of Jesus Christ born in the darkness of the Virgin Mary’s womb. It is in human form and through human action — passing through the darkness of both womb and tomb — that hope in human form comes again.

So it may be once more as, through climate change, we learn anew the lessons of the flood and as we cry to be freed from our self-created slavery of consumption. In days ahead, as we celebrate the great liturgy of new birth, those who gathered in the Dominican Republic bear a message for the church and the world to rejoice that hope awaits in the darkest hour — and that our task is to bring new life into the world.

To follow discussion on next steps from the gathering, click here.

— Stephen Blackmer is a student from the Diocese of New Hampshire at Berkeley Divinity School. Prior to going to seminary, he worked for 30 years in forest conservation and rural community development in northern New England and New York.

 

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