This past year my congregation went through a process of deepening and enriching our understanding of faith as we intentionally reflected upon our relationship to God’s creation. Living and worshipping in St. Petersburg, Florida makes us keenly aware of the very real dangers that threaten not only our global home, but our coastal community here in the Tampa Bay area.
After Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys in 2017 as a Category 4 Hurricane, causing over $50 billion in damages statewide, many of us were jarred into the reality that our risks were escalating due to rising seas and more extreme storms caused by climate change. According to data from Climate Central in 2017, St. Petersburg ranked 6 out of the top 25 cities in the susceptible to sea level rise by 2050. By 2100, NOAA predictions run from a rise in sea level here in St. Petersburg from approximately 2 – 7 feet. By all indicators, we need to act now to protect our environment, both built, human, and natural.
As part of quest to take action rooted in our faith, our church undertook the United Church of Christ’s Creation Justice Church program which works to help local churches better care for our interconnected world, all living creatures, and every economically or racially marginalized community that suffers from environmental harm. The program lead to our church adopting a Creation Justice Covenant that captures and articulates our core commitments.
Our covenant affirms “that all beings in the Sacred Web of life are ecologically interconnected and interdependent.” It further declares, “Our goal is not only to cherish creation, the land, and the earth itself, but also to restore living in balance with all of Creation and the Sacred.” Our work has really just begun. We shall continue to discern our higher calling to care for creation and seek justice for the oppressed. May we move forward together to fulfill our covenant and make a positive difference in our church, community, and world.
Claire Stiles is the Coordinator for the Creation Justice Task Force at Lakewood United Church of Christ in St. Petersburg, Florida.