Comments by Diane Chakalis, Columbus Ohio, Interview with Fr Christopher Bender, about climate change
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral
November 17, 2021
Thank you, Fr. Christopher, for inviting me to share some ideas and concerns about climate change and caring for God’s creation.
When we look at the abuses in today’s world, we must ask ourselves if we are acting on behalf of God. Are we acting to preserve what belongs to God? I think most of us would say no.
When we look at the toxic chemicals being dumped into our rivers, our oceans, our air, on our soil that are now destroying the very home that God gave us to care for, it is clear that we have failed. The amount of CO2 and methane being emitted into the air by the fossil fuel industry and the agricultural industries is shocking. Deforestation and the lack of care for endangered species and the indigenous people who live in these forests is another example.
When we look at the way we blindly ignore the billions of animals we force to live and die in the U.S. alone in the most insidious and inhumane conditions so that we can have meat whenever we want, we should feel great shame for their suffering. For us to ignore the Orthodox fasts because we don’t want to deprive ourselves from filling our stomachs whenever we want. To assume that we have a “right” to do whatever pleases us (or what we think we deserve) regardless of the impact on our neighbor is a sin. To pollute our planet with single-use plastics for our convenience is hurting every living creature. To ignore scientist who are providing us with accurate information on the effects of climate change due to human behavior is misguided. To ignore the most vulnerable who will be the most affected by climate change is a tragedy. Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual issue for all Orthodox Christians and Christians alike. This is a matter of our faith. Christ said “if you are not for me, you are against me.”
In our everyday lifestyle decisions, we must begin by asking ourselves the basic question about our Orthodox faith. Are we being good stewards over God’s creation? We need to be honest with ourselves and be willing to embrace sacrifice so that the next generations will have a planet that is livable. Our shared vocation is to serve and preserve creation. Pray always, Lord help me to keep the vocation given me by God. So, what can we do to make a difference in our homes and parishes? What
meaningful actions can we take?
Create a Space for Conversation
These ideas are meant to create a space for conversation that may help people of faith to understand the biblical and scientific facts about climate change and creation care in general.
1. Obtain support from parish priest
Ask your parish priest if you can organize a creation care ministry. Be prepared to provide examples of what your ministry can do for the parish.
2. Create new ministry for Creation Care
Find like-minded people in your community who are passionate about creation care and can support one another. The formation of a recognized creation care ministry within the church provides a level of credibility to creation care. In other words, you are speaking on behalf of and with the authority of our church leaders.
3. Start an adult class on Sunday after the liturgy or whenever it makes sense (with the support of the priest)
An adult class is a platform in which many topics are available for discussion—everything from our faith-based understanding of creation care to current issues and potential solutions relative to creation care. But, in order to change the mind-set of the Orthodox faithful, we must first study the biblical understanding of the relationship between God and His creation. This may seem unimportant, but we cannot assume that the faithful truly understand their own faith tradition. We live
in a culture that believes in the flawed teaching that the material world belongs to man and not God.
4. Collaborate with other church ministries on projects such as Sunday school, Philoptochos, Greek Festival Committee, church bookstore, Vacation Bible School,
Working with other ministry leaders is a great way to expand the conversation. It usually revolves around a need, such as working with the facilities lead about
replacing light bulbs to LEDs. It promotes a conversation about why the need. And, of course, money often plays a major role in those decisions. Fundraising for Sunday school books that focus on creation care teaches our children about God’s creation and why we need to care. These are just a few examples of projects that might be useful.
Specific activities that might be helpful:
· Develop a creation care website (allows for a broader range of articles and videos)
· Submit notices/articles in church bulletins and newsletters
· Bulletin board display (try focusing on pollinators in the spring and fall—the discussion about pollinators is far reaching and a good topic to start a conversation
about food and food choices, agriculture, chemicals, warming climate, etc.
· Replace Styrofoam cups with ceramic cups at coffee hour and other events
· Use LED lights
· Electronic shredding event
· Compostables and recycling
· Flower or vegetable garden
· Zoom presentation from a master gardener on pollinators and organic gardening
· Fundraiser for animal shelters
· Vegan options at special events
· Vespers service for the protection of the environment on August 31 (invite local churches)
· Blessing of the Animals (very popular event)
There are many more ideas that can work in your own parish. But remember, it’s easy to become discouraged when parishes are politically divided and there are strong opinions that seem to be firmly entrenched. The tribalism is real and not everyone can be reached. Nevertheless, there is a motivated group of people within your parish ready to address climate change and the injustices that continue to damage God’s planet. Seek out these people and start working for the healing of God’s earth!