By Lily Gutterman, New Media Coordinator, Team Vermont
On Sunday morning, I went to my last church service of the summer… admittedly, probably my last ever. Before Climate Summer, I had never been to church. I was raised Jewish, and the idea of attending services made me nervous when I first started this program. It wasn’t a rational anxiety, but some unsettling emotion lingered when I learned we were staying primarily in houses of worship.
At every church we’ve stayed at, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The church is a cornerstone of local charity, whether its mission groups passing through or food banks that run year round. I didn’t realize how important these institutions are to the community, to churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike.
Most Sundays, to support these churches, we attend worship service. Although we don’t necessarily sing along, or take communion, I like to think that a few new young faces in the pews is appreciated.
After a week in every church, I’ve found myself looking forward to some services. It is the moment where the church shines, the reverend or pastor is in their element, and you get a sense of the congregation. Sometimes, it surprises you that the church you’ve lived in all week feels so different during worship time.
Usually, the pastor or reverend will take a moment to tell the congregation about our group, to explain the bicycles in the hallway and sleeping bags in the fellowship halls. Sometimes one of us will stand up and tell a bit about what we do in the community. Always, the pastor or reverend invites people to speak with us after services during coffee hour. It is a great opportunity to get individuals thinking about climate issues, and generally they are very supportive and kind.
This past Sunday, my last service, we were at the Grace Congregational Church in Rutland. The sanctuary is beautiful, with an ornate wrap-around balcony, organ, and choir space. I was looking forward to services because the reverend, John Weatherhogg, had told us earlier in the week that the sermon was going to be about environmental issues. I expected it to be interesting, but was completely blown away once he began. The reverend did not shy away from terms like “global warming”. He urged people to look into 350.org to learn about grassroots organizing in their communities, and he quoted Bill McKibben. He outlined for the congregation why big corporations want them to think global warming isn’t real. He spoke openly about corporate greed, why it needs to be stopped, and our collective responsibility to future generations.
I was deeply moved. To hear all of the things we have been talking about for the past few months contextualized in this church setting was inspirational. In an earlier blog post, I touched upon how crazy it is that climate change can be such a “taboo” subject, because it’s not always pleasant to hear (let alone experience). The reverend at Grace Congregational took that risk, in front of a congregation of people who may not necessarily agree with him.
To me, this 15 minute sermon was a clear example of the climate movement taking shape. It brought the faith community aspect of this trip and our Climate Summer mission together. It was the best last church service I could have asked for, and leaves me hopeful about the power of faith communities in this movement.