From dust to dust

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I went to an Interfaith Breakfast Workshop on ‘Caring for Creation: How to Build a Sustainable Future’ yesterday, sponsored by the Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light. It was very interesting. Here are a few things I learned:

Imam Yahya Hendi, Secretary General and Founder of Imams for Human Rights and Dialogue, spoke of the need for the Abrahamic faiths to realize our origins, as people of dust, as he implored us to work together on caring for creation.

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, President of the Washington Board of Rabbis spoke about Jonah, and the notion of “other.” He pointed out God’s concern for the people of Ninevah and the animals of Ninevah.

The Rt. Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, UK, was the keynote. He was deep and insightful. He spoke about themes for preaching the environment, ones that I had never thought about. He spoke of Jesus as the Son of Man, and traced the etymology of the word “man” to “Adam” and to “earth.”

Jones spoke of Jonah as well, and how the earth responded to Jonah’s disobedience. He compared that with the Jesus’ resurrection, and the “violent earthquake” that resulted.

I learned a great deal from the other clergy around me as well. At a mosque in Northern Virginia, they are working hard to get parishioners to carpool. So, in their parking lot, they have parking spots reserved for carpoolers.

Imagine this. It would not only be good for the environment, but we could begin thinking more communally this way. It might be a way for us to survey our congregations or our church directories and think, “Who might need a ride? Who lives in my neighborhood?”

The Imam says they focus their most of their environmental training on the children. “We let the children teach their parents,” he explained.

The most poignant thing for me was a new way to think about fasting. I grew up on the beaches of Florida (a.k.a.–the land of eating disorders for a teenage girl), and I have a huge host of issues with fasting, as a result.

But each participant introduced a important way of fasting for the environment, within their religious tradition. For instance, the Imam explained Ramadan as a time of rest for the environment. He broke down the gallons of water that Muslims save each time they fast. It was astonishing.

The Rabbi spoke about Sabbath and our consumption. He talked about how important it is to have a day when we don’t consume and to allow the earth to rest (not something new, but certainly something that I need to be reminded of).

The Bishop recommended a carbon fast for Lent, which encouraged a congregation to use alternative forms of transportation or to turn down the thermostat as a spiritual discipline. He asked, “Why give up chocolate? Why not give up something that will make a difference?”

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4 thoughts on “From dust to dust

  1. Yep. Carpooling. Jimmy Carter made it cool, HOV lanes made it even cooler. I think churches could put the idea over the top.

    reverendmother, I love the carbon fast as well. It makes me want to join in the Orthodox tradition of fasting during Advent, just so that I can get a jump on it… The Bishop found that when people committed to doing it during Lent, they ended up not wanting to break the fast. It became a part of their lifestyle.

    Another concurrent theme was on the meaning of sacrifice…. It wasn’t fully formed in the workshop, but it’s been muddling about in my head.

  2. Serving at a church with a parking lot full of huge cars normally parked in huge garages of huge homes, I think the idea of focusing on children and letting them teach parents is key.

    It doesn’t get to the sense of urgency, but may have more than a passing impact.

  3. I really like the carpooling spaces myself. By the way, Imam Hendi and I did a wedding together at Western. He is one of the coolest individuals I know – he convinced the Muslim groom that Muhammad did not want women to be known as men’s property, and therefore the couple should not be introduced as “Mr. and Mrs. So-and so.” If you ever have another chance to get together with him, or need someone conversant in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism to come talk to a group, he’s a great person.

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