I was speaking with some of my dearest brothers I have in ministry. I was complementing them on their success in ministry. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Man, y'all boys really doing it big out here. I love your hustle.
Pastor M: Man, you're out here doing major work too and, I don't even understand what you're doing.
Pastor B: Yeah bro, you're doing major work!
What truly was an authentic moment of pure admiration, affection, and love, left me feeling concerned. When my friend and colleague in ministry said that he didn’t understand my work, he was referring to my organizing work on issues like climate justice. His comment left me concerned that we are missing a truly prophetic moment. In the gospels Jesus tells us to watch, as well as, pray. Somehow, we have theologically defaulted to the latter, and dismissed the former in losing touch with the key issues of our time. We are also admonished to love our neighbor. Are we loving our neighbor when we tell them to just pray about it without also undertaking on a ministry of action born of love? The equation that Jesus gives offers us balance. It is a weaving of practical and spiritual. They are not divorced from one another.
The watching is, seeing that we have more carbon in the air than ever in human history. The watching is allowing science (facts and data) to inform our preaching/teaching. It is providing our houses of worship with practical tools to live sustainably and in harmony with the earth. Also, it is encouraging them spiritually to seek the Creator to maintain their harmony with Creation.
I'm concerned that we get too caught up on the accolades and miss the point that we are missing the mark in our own small circles. There is no way that one of my dearest brothers should tell me that he doesn't understand what I'm doing. That means that I am not practicing what I'm preaching. It also says that our religious institutions are not hearing and relaying the message. Further, it is an indictment on us leaders of faith communities that we have not modeled our tenants of faith (love and care for Creation) loud enough and plain enough for others to fully understand what we're doing. I must do better; we must do better.
I'm challenging every faith leader to stretch their preaching/teaching/talking about climate change from their pulpit on May 22nd. This is that serious! If you need any resources, please don't hesitate to reach out.
The Rev. Michael Malcom is the Executive Director of Alabama Interfaith Power & Light and the Senior Pastor of Rush Memorial Congregational UCC in Atlanta, Georgia.