Shared Planet. Shared Faith. Reflection #2.

Rev. Meredith Garmon
All-Westchester Worship Service
2019 Mar 17

I'm mindful that as we gather to worship and reflect together on our Earth and our faith, our hearts are also carrying the fresh wound of Friday’s shootings at mosques in New Zealand. Fifty are dead; another dozen are in critical condition. While Australia has tight gun control policies, New Zealand is at the other end of the spectrum, similar to the U.S.

Our own country has been under a scourge of gun violence for some time – a shadow that will not lift. On the occasions of such shootings we hear people say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families.” We may also hear, “What good are your thoughts and prayers?”

Indeed, it’s tempting to be cynical about public statements of prayers being with. While we can pass no judgments on the sincerity of anyone’s prayers, we may suspect that many of these prayers are doing nothing to transform, deepen, or even connect the pray-er. We don’t know -- though it has occurred to me to wonder -- how much prayer actually happens. The prayers we are told are with the victims and families, in some cases, perhaps, are never prayed. If they were, we might see greater commitment to the holy tasks of building beloved community: reducing violence, fostering respect, ending injustice, making peace, strengthening institutions, developing practices of neighborliness, joy, and sustainability.
Our Earth needs our prayers.

Our Earth and all its peoples, all its inhabitants, all its life – need our prayers – because our daily lives push and pull at us with a constant flow of concerns, issue, matters to be dealt with, meals to fix, dishes to wash, jobs to do. If we do not pause, step back for a few minutes every day, to remind ourselves of what we want to our lives to be beyond to-do list, reconnect with the big picture beyond the minutiae of each day, reorient ourselves to the love that we are here for, then our spirits are not sustainable.

You can make your house fully solar powered – get rid of your car and walk, bicycle, carpool or use public transportation to get around – eat vegetarian because 15% of greenhouse gases come from the meat industry – plant a tree every day, grow your food, remove plastic from your life.
You can reduce your carbon footprint and your net resource consumption and pollution to zero. You can do all that and still not be living sustainably if you aren’t taking times for quiet reconnection to, and reaffirmation of, what’s the meaning of your life and the joy of existence.

Our energies will flag if our spirits are not sustained. Worse, we may be driven by anger and frustration and fear and set back the very causes to which we vociferously declare our allegiance if we do not maintain the spiritual work of keeping ourselves grounded. It’s not that anger and fear don’t have roles to play. The wholeness of our humanity makes a place at the table for the voice of every emotion to be heard. But the beloved community is not constructed where the loudest voices are fear or anger.

The Earth needs us, and it needs our spirits sustained for the long work, and so, it needs our prayers. It needs not the claim of prayers that substitute for action but actual prayers enabling and energizing action: strengthening our resolve, deepening our grounding, and bringing cheer to the work. So let us pray.

Shared Planet. Shared Faith. Reflection #1

Cindy Davidson
All-Westchester Worship Service
2019 Mar 17

As Unitarian Universalists, we are often called to minister to a weary and unjust world…. And we do rise to the call for justice!

Over the years, we have learned we do our best justice work when we leave behind any tendencies to swoop in as experts and try to fix things, and instead, we build relationships and partner with impacted communities.

We do this, in part, by centering the voices of those most marginalized and by flanking their leadership. We become allies, even accomplices, at times, for the good of all. The same is true as we work together to create climate justice.

Among the many on the frontlines of climate change and injustice are our children, youth and young adults. Because their physical presence, feelings, and energies are absent in today’s line-up of speakers and musicians,

I want to at the least lift up the words of two young climate activists.

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish fifteen-year old who began in August 2018 to skip school on Fridays and sit outside the Swedish Parliament protesting their inaction on reducing carbon emissions. You may have heard she was nominated last week for the Nobel Peace Prize. She addressed leaders of the 2018 United Nations Climate Talks last December and the World Economic Forum in January. There, she said,
“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic....I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act...I want you to act as if your house is on fire. Because it is.”
What began as her solitary action spawned a global movement: Fridays for the Future.
This past Friday, an estimated 1.4 million students skipped classes to attend 2,052 organized protests in 123 countries.

Columnist Rebecca Solnit, writing in The Guardian, recognized these climate strikers as “the force of possibility that runs through the present like a river through the desert.”

Thirteen-year-old Alexandria Villasenor is part of that force. She is a native of California whose family relocated to New York City so she could breathe more easily. She has followed in Greta’s footsteps and spent every Friday since December outside the UN headquarters protesting their inaction on climate change.

In a recent interview for The Nation, she said,
“It’s important to take action now, because we don’t have time left. By the time the youth are in positions of power, it’ll be too late to reverse climate change. We have to force politicians to start acting on climate change.”
When asked why she wasn’t in school, she replied,
“Why go to school if we won’t have a future? Why go to school if we’re going to be too busy running from the next hurricane or fire?”
She is one of three organizers of the US Youth Climate Strike and was, I imagine, among the many students in New York City on Friday protesting at schools, City Hall, and Columbus Circle, before staging a mass die-in on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History.

Would you, could you, do the same? How might you amplify this force of possibility, and step into the “present like a river through the (parched) desert?”

I encourage you to take more than just this moment and our time together today to reflect upon the fears and courage demanded of those whose future unfolds amidst such unimaginable change and uncertainty. We do owe them and all beings a livable climate.

As Greta Thunberg reminds us, “The one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.” So then, tell me, and tell the children, tell the youth, and tell the young adults, and tell each other – what actions do you intend to take in your one life to help build today’s movement and create climate justice?

For your acts are their hope today and for tomorrow’s tomorrow.


Greta Thunberg, TEDx Stockholm, Nov 24, 2018

Greta Thunberg, COP24, UN Climate Talks in Krakov, Poland, Dec 12, 2108

Greta Thunberg, World Economic Council in Davos, Switzerland, Jan 23, 2019

Rebecca Solnit: “Thank you, climate strikers. Your action matters and your power will be felt.”

“Why Go to School When You Have No Future?” A Q&A With a 13-year Old Climate Striker


Justice on Earth: Chapter 10

The 2018-19 UUA Common Read is:

This week, I’m looking at Chapter 10:
Peggy Clarke, "Eating the Earth.”

Rev. Clarke begins with the story of what rewarding fun she found when she joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – the party with friends who came over to celebrate and partake of the bounty; and learning to can with her neighbors.

Then she got involved with a project to bring people together across generational lines. A community garden seemed just the ticket. “In light of consistent reports of isolation from every corner of American culture, participating in life-sustaining, communal, multigenerational activities that deepen our connection to Earth could become a healing balm” (110).

She co-founded InterGenerate, “a small food-justice organization” for establishing community gardens for which participant neighbors pay $50 a year and commit to “shared work and communal engagement.” A couple years in they were up to four gardens and an “experiment of communal caretaking for about 45 chickens with 25 households.”

Bananas, for instance, from a New York grocery store come to us from Latin American plantations created from deforestation and habitat destruction. They come to us from farm workers who pick them, earning less than a living wage; women who drop them into vats of a carcinogenic solution that slows ripening, at risk of illness and early death from exposure to those chemicals; workers who box them and others who truck them, driving diesel trucks that burn fossil fuels and produce pollutants.

“I am accountable,” says Clarke, “for how food gets to my plate” (112). I’d say, rather, that we are responsible, but, unfortuntately, not accountable. Our spirits want and need to be accountable. We yearn for relationships of accountability. The meaning of our lives flows from embeddedness in relationships that compel us to account for ourselves. That we aren’t accountable to the food supply-chain is a part of the problematic modern condition which engenders lives deracinated (literally, “uprooted,” appropriately enough) and alienated. We desperately need relationships that hold us accountable. In the cooperative labor and the sharing of neighborhood gardens, along with the sustaining food, participants are fed by accountings they give and receive, in word and in body -- accountings much more robust and hearty than the wan, abstracted, depersonalized accounting given by the credit card swipe with which we buy bananas.

Neighborhood gardens build relationships and build community. They reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to saving the planet. They offer an alternative to the food system in which labor is exploited and polluting effects are felt mostly by the poor and communities of color.

These gardens transform participants from isolated and disconnected lonely individuals into people connected to their neighbors and to the good earth. It’s about the food, “but it’s also about harvesting a deeper way of living. It’s about planting and watering and weeding and harvesting community. It’s about deeper life, better life, shared life. It’s about being transformed” (116)

1. “Food deserts” are places where affordable access to fresh produce and other healthy food options is limited. What food deserts are in and around Westchester?
2. How much do you know about the food supply-chain that brings food to your table? How might knowing more change what you do, and change you?

For my reflection/summary on previous chapters, click the title:
  1. Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
  2. Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
  3. Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
  4. Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
  5. Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
  6. Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age
  7. Kathleen McTigue, "Drawing on the Deep Waters: Contemplative Practice in Justice-Making
  8. Pamela Sparr, "Transforming Unitarian Universalist Culture: Stepping Out of Our Silos and Selves
  9. Kathleen McTigue, “Learning to Change: Immersion Learning and Climate Justice