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ASH WEDNESDAYScherschligt: Ash Wednesday shows a new way of living together
Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 10:00 pm
By Sarah Scherschligt
Every year in the final weeks of winter, I fast.
For me, fasting during Lent — the 40 days on the Christian calendar between Ash Wednesday and Easter — has meant different things over the years. In some years, I have fasted from solid food for several days. In others, looking to reflect on my impact on the environment, I “fasted” from using my car to get around, or “fasted” from using the dryer to dry my laundry.
No matter how I fast, the practice puts me in touch with a spiritual lesson the natural world and the Christian tradition offer this time of year: Something has to die so that something else can be born.
And nothing dies harder than the desire we have to live without limits.
Starting with Adam and Eve, humans have challenged the parameters of our relationship with the natural world with disastrous consequences.
I believe that our ecological problems present each of us with a spiritual challenge: Given the reality of climate change, how will we respond?
The crisis of global warming testifies to the limits on how many tons of heat-trapping climate pollution our atmosphere can hold. Right now, for example, the Unitarian Church of Norfolk already has to cancel services when the rising sea floods its building at high tide.
As we have flouted limits on how much we use and how much we waste, the consequences harm our neighbors and the natural world. At this time of year, I fast with my church community as a way to take responsibility for the impact of our choices, to repent for the pollution our choices have caused, and to accept new limits on our consumption of resources. Only through this practice can we make way in our hearts for the birth of something new.
This year, I’ve been thinking that some of our state legislators could benefit from a bit of Lenten discipline, too. I invite our leaders to join me and other people of faith in taking responsibility and accepting some limits when considering climate and energy policy.
Earlier this month, when asked to vote on an amendment affirming the dangers of climate change, delegates — including Del. Richard L. Morris (R-64) and Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-13) — dodged responsibility by denying climate science entirely, suggesting that the “so-called global warming” already flooding Norfolk couldn’t possibly be caused “by anything humans have done.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Frank Wagner has championed legislation that would excuse Dominion Virginia Power from the regular every-other-year review of the rates it charges us. Dominion executives have claimed that they need to be excused from accountability in rate-setting because they’re being asked to implement the most reasonable of pollution limits: the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, the first national safeguard concerning carbon pollution from power plants.
On this Ash Wednesday, my prayer is that all of us in Virginia, including our General Assembly, embrace the coming days as an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of our choices, including the way that our energy use is damaging our climate.
If we wish to live together as neighbors, we will need to accept that our desire to live without limits must meet its end. That way, come Easter, a new way of living together — a new way of living well together — can be born.
The Rev. Sarah Scherschligt is the senior pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Alexandria, and works with area congregations on climate initiatives through Interfaith Power & Light. Contact her at email@example.com.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Happy Birthday Michelle! We celebrate your 30th birthday with this beautiful picture of your dogwood at the Intervale.
Remembering Michelle Gardner-Quinn
by JOYCE on JANUARY 28, 2015
Each year, we reprint Michelle Gardner-Quinn’s beautiful “This I Believe” essay on her birthday, January 28, in honor of her life, work and love of our planet. Michelle interned at the Intervale Center, working on the initial feasibility study for what would become our highly-successful Intervale Food Hub.
To learn more about Michelle’s ongoing legacy, inspiring young people to care for nature and each other, please visit Michelle’s Earth Foundation. You can also watch a beautiful video featuring Goldie Hawn, Tipper Gore, Sheryl Crow, Meg Ryan, and other celebrities inspired by Michelle’s passion for our planet.
This I Believe
I believe in upholding reverence for all life. I believe that humanity has a responsibility to the earth and to the life that we share our experience with.
As a child, I found joy digging in the dirt, examining the miracle of life. Everything creepy-crawly was fascinating to me, and I spent countless hours in my backyard exploring what wonders lay beneath. Although some people might be repulsed by this notion, these creatures did not represent slimy pests to me. Rather, such experiences in the natural world taught me about the diversity of life that could be found in any microcosm. I felt attuned with the cycles of life, my favorite being the spring.
During these budding months, I could watch the egg sacs of praying mantises as they opened or collect robin-blue egg shells that had fallen from the nests. This was where I felt a strong connection to the natural cycles of creation. This connection has inspired awe in me that I feel strongly to this day. It is a feeling deep within me that has inspired my passions and pursuits as an environmentalist.
As I grew older, I discovered that this reverence for life was not shared by all of humanity. Rather than respecting the natural world as a community of life, the environment has been valued in terms of the resources that could be exploited. Industrialization has turned life into an industry, and systematically destroys the essential diversity that provides richness to the human experience. Our self-inflicted ecological crisis has reached such a point that we no longer endanger isolated bioregions. So many toxins have been spewed into the atmosphere as a result of our industrial greed that the climate of our planet is changing at an alarming rate. Climate change threatens all life forms by altering fundamental natural cycles, giving little time for evolutionary responses.
These detrimental impacts are visible today as polar bears lose their habitat of sea ice, the sex of sea turtle eggs is skewed, whales have less krill to feed on, and coral reefs are bleached, to cite just a few examples. Climate change also has a detrimental impact on cultures and humanity’s well-being as more people are becoming environmental refugees. Little is being done to curb this crisis and, within our lifetime the ecological functioning of planet earth will be forever altered.
I believe that my connection to all life forms prevents me from sitting back and watching this catastrophe. I believe that we should understand our place in our regional ecosystems and communities, as well as pledge our allegiance to the earth as a whole. I believe that all creatures, whether they are found in my backyard or halfway around the globe, should not suffer as a result of human greed. The reality of climate change is here and now; it is the environmental battle of our generation and generations to come. In honor of all life, I am dedicating myself to preventing this worldwide ecological crisis.
Michelle Gardner-Quinn, October 2006
This essay was reprinted with permission from Michelle’s Earth Foundation.