Church reconstruction = Climate Change

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My home church is going through a construction process. I often see the removing of bricks and beams within a church as a metaphor for the spiritual bricks and beams God is removing from within us as we enter a new social climate. Through reconstruction, our relationship with God is energized–our faith is poured through a new grounding process. This summer the whole country watched as 7 African American churches were intentionally burned within one week. Not only must each of these churches commit to the process of reconstruction, the whole country must commit to the process of reconstruction in order to thrive as a nation. Rev. William Barber speaks of this time period as the country’s third reconstruction.

Even when reconstruction occurs within a war dynamic, we are most effective when we dig deep to first find the pool of peace within. And let’s not be selfish as we draw from this pool. As  living spiritual water swells within us, we must become full and then overflow into the lives of our neighbors around us.

My home church has not been forced to reconstruct its building because of arson or an external hate crime. For 20 years, the members have been trying to figure out how to connect those who enter the sanctuary with those who enter the fellowship hall without going up and down several flights of stairs. When we rebuild for beauty or accessibility reasons, we may think the main goal of this construction is to integrate OUR worship experience and OUR fellowship experience. I can guarantee that God is not opening us up just to fulfill our ritual duties and to have easier fellowship within the church. God is opening us up to also fulfill our mission of being good neighbors, of feeding God’s people physically& spiritually; and of spreading God’s light in the world around us.

How much better neighbors we will be when we connect worship with mission, and do what Mary Mary sing about when they say “go get your blessing.” (Matthew 9:37) We’ll be financially and spiritually blessed as we go outside of these four walls, meet new people, make new friends and bring back these new friends to grow up in Christ with us. As the pools of living spiritual water swell within us, we will be a home base for children after school; a cool haven on hot days for our elders; a hot spot for young adults to shape their ideas and programs that will in turn shape new realities in all of our lives.

As we connect with the economic and environmental climate changes going on in the world around us, we will discover new ways of feeding ourselves. Many churches are now feeding people in ways that create jobs and produce healthy food that is accessible to all of us. Our understanding of justice based mission will shift from charity for “them” to empowerment for us all. Social justice will expand from only focusing on ways to petition others to also transferring privileged knowledge and becoming self-sufficient as well.

Educating ourselves about such justice based missions is the purpose of Nature’s Friends mission education tour to Cuba. Over the course of 8 days, we will learn from the sustainability experts in the world. We will learn permaculture from those who not only survived, but those who learned to thrive during a 50 year blockade from the United States. This blockade reminds me of sieges mentioned in the Old Testament—where an enemy does not attack you outright, but instead surrounds a town, and prevents workers from gathering their harvest.

From a spiritual point of view, Tom Hill warns us that the enemy takes delight in besieging the church, containing it, and separating the church from its harvest by selfish, preservation bound attitudes…”The longer a church exists, the more concerned members become with self-preservation…and the less concerned with the church’s original reason for being.”

Mission not only tests our Christian education and personal piety, mission makes our churches siege resistant. Only in the crucible of mission does our personal knowledge begin to mix with “the other” and become a light to the world. The Swiss theologian Emil Brunner has written that the Church exists by mission as fire exists by burning.” Interactions with new people and new ideas become the fuel for our own growth.

In Cuba, our international conversations will include social analysis and the role of the faith community in restructuring food systems for local people and local profit. We intend to bring back climate resilience knowledge to a community opened up and ready to act. Stanzas from one of my Lenten prayers intercede in this regard: Open our hearts! to pour out our service as a sacrifice of praise…Open our hearts! to the satisfaction of softness that our work in Your kingdom may be complete…Deepen the soil of love in our souls that we may nurture our co-laborers in Your vineyard with joy.

 

Rev. Dele is available to brief pastor’s associations in climate resilience, share eco-theology at church conferences and conduct environmental stewardship workshops for youth and adults. Please email rev@revdele.com for further information and to make arrangements.

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