More than 600 people from multiple faiths returned to their communities this week, charged and ready to bring about change for the environment. The group came together in Boston from all over New England for "Climate Revival," joined by a common cause — the church, and people of faith must lead the mission to save the earth. The energizing event occurred at the midpoint of Mission 4/1 Earth, the UCC's 50-day earth care initiative.
The Rev. Jim Antal, general minister and president of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ, said he's been told by several denominational leaders who attended the one-day event on April 27 that they'd never been to a gathering with so many other high-level religious leaders.
"I see this event as the beginning for a 'trans-denominational' church," Antal said. "Just as we have come together as multiple denominations, I asked people that when they return home they must go town by town to compel your congregations to cooperate and to help your town become the most resourceful kind of unit, if you will, in terms of resilience relative to massive changes that are underway."
For the 600-plus attendees, the five hours they gathered learning and speaking about earth care contributed 3,000 hours towards the UCC's goal of 1 million earth-care hours as part of Mission 4/1 Earth.
The event also brought a spirit of revival to the area, since it was held near the site of the Boston Marathon bombings. Given that the UCC's Old South Church, where some of the discussions of the day took place, remained closed for more than a week after the bombings, there was a "sobering feeling" that everyone shared, said Old South Church's pastor, the Rev. Nancy Taylor.
"The opportunity to come together as religious faiths, to hold together the groaning of creation and the groaning of people, helped to focus the sense of urgency about it that was important," Taylor said.
During a procession from Old South Church – just past the marathon's finish line where the two bombs exploded April 15 -- to Trinity Church across the street, the crowd walked by a shrine for the three people killed and the more than 200 people who were injured in the blast.
"Each of us had a daffodil, and we each left one there, one by one by one," Antal said.
Taylor said the morning worship service was "a really significant and worship service. There was this quite intense, profound forum with the leaders talking in the Q and A and was quite moving and challenging."
UCC General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black preached during the service at Old South Church. He also took part in a roundtable discussion on the role faith plays in environmentalism. During his sermon, which was about Jesus' grief after the death of his friend, Lazarus, and raising him from the dead, Black expressed the importance of revival in the aftermath of sorrow.
"I cannot end on the note of grieving," he said. "This is a revival, and we are people of hope. We take our cue from Jesus, and move from grief to action."
About two dozen regional and national denominational leaders were in attendance. Almost all of them signed a statement declaring that churches must play a role in compelling humanity to reverse the trends of climate change because humanity is responsible for stewardship of the earth.
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and 350.org leader, author and environmental activist Bill McKibben also addressed those who gathered with recorded messages.
"[McKibben] talked candidly about the scientific realities of climate change," Antal said. "He did lift up his belief, and mine, that the church can have the greatest potential impact in bringing about change, pressuring Washington to change laws and encouraging change through divestment.
Tutu's message was a word of hope, and an expression of gratitude and solidarity. "He really realizes that we are all connected through God's creation and he understands the extent to which it's in jeopardy," Antal said.
To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written, report in as often as you like here.
Share the goals of Mission 4/1 Earth with your family and friends and invite them to join the movement.