Do we have a responsibility for our environment?
Our Covenant continues to impress me. Each time we recite it together, I try to concentrate on one of the phrases and think about what it means and what commitment we are making together. We “walk together…” We “give ourselves…” We “celebrate…” We “take up your mission…” We “care for all people…” And finally we acknowledge that all humans have God-given grace.
Our Covenant was adopted 40 years ago. It has been amended and reaffirmed twice since then, the last time in 1987. So it has evolved over the years, and I appreciate that careful thought has gone into it. For instance, I imagine some language was added or modified when we wanted to emphasize that we are an “Open and Affirming Congregation”.
Carla Bailey, as a law student, must be getting used to dealing with legal documents. Our son is a lawyer, and I kid him sometimes about those dry, humorless documents that we try to read. They are long and detailed and try to cover every possibility. The effort is to be all-inclusive. It is not long before my eyes glaze over and I wonder what I have just finished reading.
Obviously and thankfully our Covenant doesn’t try to be all-inclusive. Yet perhaps you can think of topics that might be incorporated in it. How about a statement that says we look back and honor our parents and our ancestors just as we look forward and gratefully accept the responsibility we have for our children and the coming generations? The latter idea is actually in the congregational responses we recite at each baptism. Or how about a statement that says we are thankful for uplifting music and poetry and other art forms that enrich our spiritual lives?
One topic that has been especially on my mind recently is the idea that we all have a responsibility to be good stewards of this small blue planet that we live on. I know one person who thinks this should be in our Covenant. However he presented the idea rather awkwardly a few years ago, and it got no response.
Last month in News and Views I wrote about what I called religious “wow” experiences that some people have had. And now I’m reminded of Albert Schweitzer. It was in 1915. Dr. Schweitzer describes how he was on a small steamer going slowly up a river in West Africa. For some time he had been struggling to find an ethical concept that felt right to him. Then he said: “there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase, “Reverence for Life”. (Another person said a more accurate translation of the German might read: “to be in awe of the mystery of life.”) One of Schweitzer’s biographers, James Brabazon, amplifies this concept. He says “Reverence for Life…is something we share with everything else that lives…We are brothers and sisters to all living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect that we wish for ourselves.”
Think of how the environmental movement has grown since Schweitzer’s “wow” moment. Rachael Carson published her famous book, Silent Spring, in 1962. She dedicated it to Albert Schweitzer. So that seminal book is almost 50 years old, and we now know much more about how humanity’s activities affect our world.