Connect with the Earth

Connect with the Earth

Rev. Fiona Heath       Presented October 3rd, 2021

The world is in crisis, the way it is now is not the way it will be soon, build an ark to survive. Bring not just your family but the birds and bees, plants and trees, and the animals. As many as you can. Everyone is having the dream, everyone is hearing the call to build the ark, but few are moved to action.

Noah’s Ark is just a myth, an echo of older flood stories from older Mediterranean cultures, which may or may not arise from actual experiences of sudden flooding.  Noah’s Ark is just a myth, but myths have meaning. And this myth feels more and more relevant today.

A man in Scotland thinks so too.

David Blair has built a giant boat frame in a farmer’s field. Huge, the timbers stand as a symbol of strength and urgency as we head towards another international climate conference happening in Glasgow this November.

David expected to have to put up signs explaining the symbolism, but it turns out the people stopping and visiting understand full well the ark is speaking to the climate crisis.

We need to build arks to survive. Arks that bring on board neighbours and strangers, birds and animals and plants, that protect them against the coming changes. Noah and his family created a vessel of interdependence within which all lived together, sailing over the turbulent seas into a new world.

Build an Ark.

The waters of crisis are rising.

Build an Ark.

Many people are hearing this call, and some are heeding it. There is no singular ark or one right path. People all over the world are responding. Many arks are needed to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible, to protect the biodiversity of life on earth as temperatures rise.

Good change is happening, but it is a challenge, so much of this work needs to be done by governments, corporations and banks. And they will only do it if people make them.

Ark thinking requires a mindset of interdependence.

As Unitarian Universalists we have our seventh principle:  Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. This seventh principle is, for me, the essence of being a person of the chalice in this century.  This acceptance that we all belong to the earth, that we are part of a much greater, grander life enriching whole.

It’s so key to Canadian Unitarian Universalism that it is echoed in our national vision which says we seek a world in which our interdependence calls us to love and justice.

Our interdependence calls us to love and justice.

This theology of connection is the gateway to the future. It is in itself, an ark – a container which can carry us as we ride the stormy seas to come. It’s a theology that tells us everything is connected, which is both a profound spiritual truth and a completely mundane and obvious fact.

We are all connected. COVID-19 has shown this painfully and at times, beautifully, as people care for each other.

So we live knowing we are interdependent, but how do we live it in a way that encourages healthy connections and supports the vulnerable, the most fragile parts of the living web?

It’s a challenge.

There are practical individual choices we might make – from choosing organic or local foods to LED lighting to electric cars – which help lighten our footprint on the planet.

The choices we make as a community matter too – from low flow faucets in the bathrooms to the reusable dishes for coffee hour.  I am proud of the work we did to become a Green Sanctuary so we could better live the seventh principle.

We are a sanctuary.  It shows in the beauty of the Great Hall and in the beauty of the gardens and in the care of this community for one another.

And there is more to do. We continue to learn how to live into this theology, of how to begin from a stance of connection.

One path is mindfulness. As my colleague Julie Stoneberg notes:

“ To become more mindful is to live with the awareness that we are constantly being influenced by all that interacts with us. And that simultaneously, we are influencing and affecting all with which we interact. There is a give-and-take to existence, constantly. What happens next…tomorrow, next year, next millennium…depends on the ways in which we interact with all things and beings. And so it matters, and matters greatly, that we practice compassionate and accountable interdependence.”

So as people of the chalice we might be mindful – pay attention to the ways in which we influence and affect not just other people but the environment.

Mindfulness takes time. Time to observe, ask questions, pay attention to the answers, to understand the impact of all that we do. It is very intentional. I believe the seventh principle is asking us to slow down to the speed of relationships. To slow down and consider the impacts of what we do now for the generations to come.

How would this chalice community act if our decisions were based not only our current need but the needs of the planet and the next generations?

It feels strange to me to suggest one way to live our seventh principle is to slow down while we are living in a climate crisis that needed to be addressed thirty years ago.

Climate change is happening faster than expected, urgent action is needed urgently.  Arks are needed.

As Greta Thunberg so wisely said this week to the world leaders: “Of course we need constructive dialogue… But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah and where has that led us? “We can still turn this around – it is entirely possible. It will take immediate, drastic annual emission reductions. But not if things go on like today.”

Drastic action is needed to reduce carbon emissions. It’s needed right now.

So we slow down and make mindful decisions based on the needs of the planet and future generations while at the same time advocating for drastic and immediate actions by governments.

It’s a shift in thinking: to go slow to go fast.

To put our attention less on ourselves and more on others. To let community be about more than our own needs. To set aside minor concerns and focus on the big ones.

This of course is hard to do, and we will often feel like hypocrites, trying to live as best we can in this moment crisis.

But I think UCM is a place to figure it out, to learn together how to make decisions for the long term, to make mistakes and get it wrong and try again.

We have our seventh principle to guide us, we have the spiritual discipline of mindfulness to slow us down, we have the community to learn together. And we have the power to help not just ourselves but the web of all life.

In a little while Susan is going to talk about the good work of Mississauga Climate Action, which advocates at the municipal and regional levels for concrete local carbon emission reductions.  As UU minister Tim deChristopher says: “principled action is the salvation of the soul.”

When we live by our values, when we live the theology of interdependence embedded in the seventh principle, we help heal the web of life. We are already an ark, a green sanctuary of hope. That matters.

As the climate crisis continues people will need the chalice. Will need UCM to be a place of restoration: a place where people can come in despair and find a way back to hope, a place where people can remember their values and find a way to hold fast to them, a place where new stories can be told, stories of the web of life where each creature and plant have a role to play.

UCM is a green sanctuary, an ark to help people survive. Many arks will be needed to save as much as we can.

Let us cherish this place of restoration for hurting souls, including our own. And when we are rested and returned to our principles, we can go out into the world to help build the necessary arks.

The good thing about being part of the web of life is that none of us is responsible for saving all of it. As Clarissa Estes puts it “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

What can you do to mend the world within your reach? What part of the ark can you build?

May we choose the way of interdependence.

May we find ways to be mindful, to go slow and restore connections.

May we help build the arks we need to carry us into the future.


So Say We All.


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