We certainly were’t prepared for COP last year, when we heard it had been pushed forward, though in the meantime our awareness of the urgency of change has grown sharply, covid or no covid. But now it’s coming. A runaway train. Like the crisis itself, no escape or excuses. After the UN’s “Code Red” in August, every would-be green preacher or prayer leader has now to ask themselves – when we have softened or played down the severity – “have we really shared the Truth in Love?”.
And for every piously environmental messaging, every prayer for salvation and liberation for the Earth or the poor, from now on, climate change calls our bluff.
In one way – and especially as we approach the “end-of-world ministry” of Advent in the weeks immediately following COP – we’ve been saying the right thing for centuries. We have been prepared for an age like this one, though sometimes setting aside the scary stuff in our scriptures, that deals with scary times. Or diverting it with ornamental approaches. November’s question is: “given the games we play as Church, do we really mean it?”
In the meantime, the age-old tasks of hospitality beckon: the Dear Green Place, and indeed Scotland as a whole can rise to the call to be welcoming to visitors of a dazzling diversity. Who was it Sarah and Abram met under that Oak Tree in Mamre? Whom will we welcome with the pilgrims politicians paparazzi and protestors . As the lark says in her song, ‘often often often goes the Christ in the stranger’s guise!’ [‘Celtic rune of hospitality, Iona Community Welcome Service ].
In the same way, we have already grown closer than ever before to people of faith and goodwill. The significance of interfaith work has grown beyond the marginal meeting of cuddly Christians with cuddly Muslims, Hindus and others, to an unassailably necessary way of life for the road ahead. Those who are not against us – yes really- turn out to be for us, if we are for the planet.
It would be so nice to be able to sit back and encourage churches just to include the whole thing in their prayer intentions for a week or two and just carry on, though that’s not the nature of the gift of such a gathering of the nations on our doorstep. How can we be “the church, but different”, when the circus has come and gone? How can we bring the bad news about the planet into our sacred spaces and activate the spiritual resources of our scripture and tradition to engage with it?
And just as every claim to ’stop the climate crisis’ in its tracks is dishonest or self-deluding, so too, of course, is the suggestion that we can directly dictate what goes on in the blue zone ‘outside holiness’ and behind the razor wire where ” soldiers gamble, thieves curse, and the nations clash at the cross-roads of the world [George MacLeod, ‘Only One Way Left’]…
This is COP, and this is where again we raise the Cross, offering our way of hope beyond hope; of courage faith and a cheerfulness that sustains. Humbly, eagerly, and trusting that God can use whatever imperfection or encouragement will emerge from this gathering which will do good, but maybe not enough, maybe now, as diaries, events, locations finally slot into place, we are as ready as we’re going to be. COP is not an ‘event’ but a spiritual journey of transformation. That’s what’s on offer, by the grace of God. And a congregation that prays along, takes part as surely as the superpower delegate on the conference floor.
Look out for: the interfaith vigil in George Square on 31st OctoberThe great Peoples’ Action – a march of hope and protest on November 6thEcumenical Service from Glasgow Cathedral on November 7th, streamed live from 4pmMany venues around the city centre, and elsewhere in Scotland….