The election of our new President has been forefront in our minds in these recent days. For those who had been waiting for Tuesday to come and for the campaigning, the rancor, and the vitriol to end, there’s been, perhaps, some disappointment as instead, there has been a new wave of violence and unrest through public protests, incidents in schools, and social media blowing up with every individual on Facebook offering their own response to the election results (including me). There are those who are feeling very vulnerable, disconnected from their communities, fearful and sad. And, safe to say, there are those who are rejoicing that their candidate prevailed and that it is time to get on with reforming the country.
My work is not primarily in the political realm, though the things that I care about- and, more importantly, that Jesus cares about- bring me there, by virtue of my office. As I said in my Facebook post on Wednesday morning:
And so this morning, our call as Christians to participate in God’s mission has not changed: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor. Reach out to the margins and welcome in the stranger, lift up the downtrodden, make free the oppressed. This includes women, LGBTQI brothers and sisters, Muslims, refugees and all those subject to the sin of racism. Pray for peace, strive to end gun violence, bind up the wounds of those who ache. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what matters.
As the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, I am committed to caring deeply for the marginalized and to work to empower others in our diocese to care, in the name of Jesus for the least of these. This is work that started, for me, more than a year ago in this place and continues no matter who is sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.
And so. Let me tell you what I did on Monday.
On Monday, the day before the election, when the nation seemed to be about as tense as a two-inch rubber band stretched to ten feet, I attended the LARC Day of Dialogue. LARC stands for Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholics in our Commonwealth who have come together in Covenant Agreement. The LARC agreement was signed in 1993 to commemorate a movement for “spiritual understanding, cooperation and unity among Christians and their churches. Four local church bodies signed the document with a goal of more visible Christian unity in Central Pennsylvania. The terms of the covenant included prayer said for the other denominations during worship services; joint retreats for clergy and parish leadership; pulpit exchanges in non- Eucharistic liturgies; joint efforts for evangelization and social justice concerns and study of the common traditions of the churches.”(from a 2007 press release issued by the Archdiocese of Harrisburg )
These days, the LARC action in Harrisburg has lagged some, but the LARC Day of Dialogue remains of some interest. On Monday, the topic was Creation Care. Our guest speaker was Mrs. Stephanie Cleary of the Archdiocese of Vermont. The title of her lecture and discussion was “Rooted in Common Ground.”
She spoke eloquently, sharing a recent paper that she had written responding to the Pope Francis’ second encyclical Laudato Si (trans. “Praise be to You”) : On Care for Our Common Home which was released on 24 May, 2015. Stephanie lifted salient parts of the text to share with us, discussing Creation Care, Climate Change and our call to participate in healing the earth weaving together the areas of Cosmology (our beliefs about Creation), Anthropology (our beliefs about humankind), and Christology (our beliefs about Jesus Christ). She talked about the fallout of global warming and climate change and how those who contribute most to the problem (that’s us) are the ones least affected. We saw a video of an island culture whose entire cluster of islands is being compromised and their subsequent immigration to New Zealand where they face the eventual loss of their cultural identity altogether. See http://blogs.worldbank.org/peoplemove/climate-change-and-the-migration-fallout for an excellent article on the topic.
The same video showed the loss of land mass in Louisiana and the effect on the people there. We learned about “Differentiated Responsibility” in which those with more resources must lead the change to effect healing. Stephanie quoted Roman Catholic Eco-theologian Elizabeth Johnson who writes, “Ecological integrity and socioeconomic justice intertwine in a tight embrace.”
It was a stimulating lecture which invited us, then, to share in small groups about our own efforts as Christians- corporately and individually- in Eco-Justice.
I want to know who, in our diocese, is working in the area of Environmental Justice.
This is an area which needs our efforts of education, advocacy and action.
In a Commonwealth marked by such striking physical beauty and natural resources, who, among us, is working with an eye towards justice and the Common Good? Who, among us, has grasped the idea of Differentiated Responsibility and is working to heal our earth- not just for our own selves, but for people far away whose very homes are disappearing, being engulfed by the sea?
Fill me in if you’re on this already.
Let me know if you want to start something. We have a Council of Trustees and a Social Justice committee who want to support your efforts.
I am proud of the work that we do, as Episcopalians and as Christians in this place to bring healing and reconciliation in so many ways. There is no end to the work before us- until the Last Day- when we will all be redeemed. Until then, we are led by Jesus into the vineyard to do the work, into our churches to be nourished, nurtured and fed, and always, to give praise to our great Creator who fashioned this amazing place that we call home.