I’m returning from a trip to Washington, D.C. The primary reason for this trip was to spend a day at a White House briefing for community leaders. We spent the morning together learning about things of interest to people working in a variety of areas. Among them were information about web-based resources that allow us to access information and to have some input as citizens. In the afternoon, I was part of a conversation with a smaller group with interests in energy and the environment, and we learned about further resources from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality to help us do the work we are doing in our communities. Here is a sampling of things that might be useful to people involved in environmental stewardship in parishes and communities:
The EPA home page – epa.gov – has a box in the left hand column labeled 'Info Where You Live'. In the there’s a space called ‘MyEnvironment’, where you can enter a ZIP code or address and access a variety of reports and statistics about air and water quality, pollutants, and so forth. It’s an easy way to find out the environmental strengths and challenges of a community.
The same box contains links to several types of resources, including one for grants. Under grants, the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program is especially interesting, as it gives grants to partnerships within a community. A parish could join with other churches or community organizations to reduce levels of toxic pollutants and build a self-sustaining coalition to help keep the environment safer.
The White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships forms partnerships between government and non-profit organizations, including churches, to serve the needs of communities.
Loving our neighbors
While in Washington, I discovered a multimedia exhibition, “Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change”, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The stories it tells are very moving. The exhibition is part of a much larger project by the same name. The resources from the Conversations with the Earth website, especially the photo essays and videos created by people in indigenous communities, give a good picture of how climate change (and sometimes misguided attempts at mitigating climate change) is threatening communities and peoples. This project is an excellent resource to help us understand the connection between Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbors and environmental stewardship. The photo essay from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea was one of those featured at the museum; this story of people trying to hold on to their homes and their culture despite the huge challenges presented by the rising ocean is especially poignant.
The Richest Resource
Sunday morning we were at Eucharist at Washington National Cathedral. Because I was going to witness the Tar Sands Action later in the morning, we were at the earlier service that followed the same service leaflet as this service. The sights and sounds and spirit of this space are a great source of spiritual nourishment. Dean Lloyd’s sermon on the Gospel lesson (Matthew 16:13-20) asked us to think about our own answers to the questions “Who is Jesus?”. Thinking about this in light of the work I was doing in Washington, it seems that answering the question of who Jesus is helps us better understand who we are because we know ourselves best in relation to Christ. And when we know who we are in relation to Christ, we not only have a sense of the unique work and way of life to which God calls each one of us, but we gain the strength and energy to do that work. That is the deepest and richest resource of all!