By Rev. Emily Brewer, Executive Director of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
When I heard those words yesterday, they reminded me not only of the finitude of my own life, but also of the fragility of all life and Creation—of the fragility and interconnectedness. It’s not something we usually take time to pause and ponder in our culture: each of us will die and return to the Earth and the Creator from which we come.
It is part of the reason why the climate change that is destroying that Creation is so hard to wrap our minds and hearts around? Climate change forces us to face not only our own finitude, but also the finitude and fragility of the whole of creation. It’s devastating and overwhelming when we really stop to think about rising sea levels and super storms and droughts and the ensuing armed conflicts that so frequently follow these “natural” disasters as people fight for scarcer and scarcer resources.
People will die.
People are already dying.
We will all return to dust, of course, but if some are dying sooner and more terribly because of the greed and actions of others, it’s an injustice. We will all die, and that does not negate the right we all have to live full lives free from the ravages of climate change.
It is, of course, terrifying when we truly grasp our personal and collective finitude. It is doubly devastating to know that the terror of climate change is one that we have caused. It’s probably why we usually don’t try to grasp it. Ash Wednesday calls us to remember that we are dust, we are finite, but this is not a reason to despair.
Instead, this is a reason to work together. t will take all of us working together to mitigate climate change and bring justice to the parts of creation that are already suffering.
This Lent, as I ponder both my finitude and my belonging to this interconnection of Creation– and as I seek to repent for the brokenness I cause in this world–I will walk daily in prayer for those who are most directly and urgently affected by climate change. Climate change is a result of our corporate sin;our greed that is more voracious than the Earth can keep up with. Working for climate justice does not change or negate the fact that we are finite and fragile.
This prayer-walking and our movements that call for moral revival do so because we are finite and we are interconnected and no one should die an unjust death.
No one should die from climate change that is driven by greed.
No one should die from wars fought over fossil fuels.
No one should die because we think profit is more important than people.
So I will walk each day of this Lent in spiritual and physical preparation for the PCUSA Walk for a Fossil Free World in June. I will walk and pray for the people who are already dying and losing their homes and livelihoods because of climate change—people in Puerto Rico and Vanuatu and Miami and Houston and Syria and so many other places.
I will walk and pray as one act of repentance for my responsibility in this corporate sin of ecological destruction.
I would love fellow companions on this prayer-walking journey over the next 40 days. I hope that the Walk for a Fossil Free PCUSA event on Facebook can serve as a place to talk about and support each other in this discipline.
Yesterday and today I went for a walk around my urban neighborhood and thought about people I know in Puerto Rico and the stories I’ve heard from friends who went home to visit their families there over the holidays. I walked and thought and prayed for them. Tomorrow I will walk and pray and think about the communities we met in Iraqi Kurdistan in May 2016 whose lands are being destroyed by Exxon and the communities’ resistance to that destruction. I don’t have a set time limit that I walk or a particular prayer I do. Maybe you will. One person in the Facebook event hopes to incorporate a Dignity Practice with each walk to ground in the Earth and moment in order to embody our full dignity and be ready to speak and act with integrity.
I am not sure how prayer works, but I do know this: praying for people, whether we know them or not, helps remind us that we are connected, and it is this connection that is more powerful than greed. It is this connection that moves us to action. It is a first step in a new way of being that centers the interconnectedness of all creation and people. It is a first step of a moral revival. It is a first step in repentance.