Today over 200 people representing at least 22 congregations of the Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist faith traditions walked two miles through NW and Downtown Portland in an interfaith pilgrimage to call for a just treaty as climate negotiations continue at the COP 21 meeting in Paris, France.
We began at Havurah Shalom, Reconstructionist Jewish Community, by singing “Don’t Let the Light Go Out” and prayer led by Rabbi Joey. Meg Ruby and Peter Sergienko from St. Michael & All Angel’s Episcopal Church read a prayer for our local and national leaders and the negotiators at Paris to act for climate justice. Michael Midghall presented the Pilgrimage with a book of statements by the leaders of the world’s religions calling for climate justice.
Spotted Earth Woman, a First Nation elder, led the pilgrims south to Couch Park followed by Peter Sergienko and Meg Ruby, as lead organizers, who carried the Book of Religious Leaders Calls for Climate Justice.
It was a fine day and singing and chanting and drumming by Pilgrimage Participants kept it lively. At Couch park, the pilgrims listened as Fr. Bill, a Roman Catholic Priest and Jess Ingman, a pastoral assistant leader of St. Catholic Ignatius Church, read from scripture and Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the Environment.
Our next stop was Congregation Beth Israel, a Jewish Reform Congregation, where Rabbi Cahana welcomed the pilgrims with a call to fight for climate justice.
Walkers continued south on 19th Avenue to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral where Rev. Jim Bethel shared some climate change reflections of Catherine Jefferts Schori, the newly retired Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, who was an Oregon State University oceanographer in her previous career.
The pilgrimage continued south across Burnside Street and turned east down Alder Street. Many pilgrims wore green ribbons to highlight the Climate Negotiations in Paris, carrying signs that read “Climate Justice = Cap on warming to 1.5 C”, and “UN Leaders the Time is NOW! Vote for Climate Action!”
After crossing over HWY 405 at First Presbyterian Church the pilgrims gathered in the beautiful Plaza Garden where First Presbyterian lay leaders Roberta Badger and Jenny Holmes addressed us. Robert Beatty of Portland Insight Meditation Center spoke to us next.
We continued north to the First Baptist Church, an American Baptist Church, where we assembled on the great stone steps of the 160 year old congregation to hear the Rev. Dr. David Wheeler, a scholar and preacher from Kentucky who quoted Genesis and Job to explain aspects of Baptist eco-theology. One of God’s most important messages to us: “everything God made is important…regardless if it is useful to us (humans) or not!” Rev. Wheeler concluded: “We Baptists are simple people. Our roots are rural. We love the simple complexity and the complex simplicity of God’s Creation. We need simple justice for the Earth’s climate and her people.”
First Unitarian was the last stop of the Pilgrimage. Walkers were welcomed by Rev. Kate Lore to rest with tea and coffee and native american flute music.
For the Pilgrimage’s ceremonial closing celebration, Rev. Jayna Gieber, Director of People of the Heart and representing the Earth Holder Sangha of Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, founder of Engaged Buddhism, read from his book, “The World We Have”:
The bells of mindfulness are sounding. All over the Earth, we are experiencing floods, droughts, and massive wildfires. Sea ice is melting in the Arctic and hurricanes and heat waves are killing thousands. The forests are fast disappearing, the deserts are growing, species are becoming extinct every day, and yet we may continue to consume, ignoring the ringing bells. All of us know that our beautiful green planet is in danger. Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. Yet we may act as if our daily lives have nothing to do with the condition of the world. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps. We have to hear the bells of mindfulness that are sounding all across our planet. We have to start learning how to live and act in compassionately so that a future will be possible for our children and our grandchildren. Can you hear the bells ringing?
A brief meditation followed with a Temple Bell made of melted bomb casings and bronze metal from Viet Nam. The meditation closed with an adaptation of a traditional Buddhist Chant: “May the merits of this day benefit Mother Earth and all beings and bring peace…”
Gloria Brooks, Spotted Earth Woman, a Native American elder, great-grandmother to future generations, and a spiritual leader, then offered teachings on the four directions and how we all are connected regardless of being different colors. “We must remember we are all related”, she said and invited us to join her in saying, “All my relatives!”. She closed with a Moon Song for the healing of Mother Earth and all beings.
The pilgrimage organizers, spiritual leaders and visionaries were invited to stand in the center of the circle holding hands, with participants stepping forward, placing a hand on the shoulders of the inner circle, forming a web of connection as this prayer was offered by Rev. Jayna: “We feel our feet upon Mother Earth, asking for your guidance in our efforts on your behalf… We call upon the ancestors and the future generations, we open our ears to hear your words of wisdom… We breathe in and send out the energy we have raised together on this day, holding it all in the light, in prayer, that the Climate Negotiators in Paris at the UN Summit, may make a just decision for all people, all beings and Planet Earth.”
Rev. Kate Lore offered a closing blessing for the pilgrimage, the pilgrims, and the climate summit, sending us all out in loving action!