Happy New Year! Welcome to Southwest Michigan's Dr. Zhivago movie set! I find myself staring out the window often in awe! After a very nice holiday vacation, I was ready to reenter my work schedule on Monday, when a Arctic Vortex dipped south. It was -9 degrees this morning, Tuesday, January 7, as I drove to the office. Wind Chill temperature was forecast to as low as -35 today, the coldest day on record since 1994! We've experience an ice storm, lots of snow, now this deep freeze, which hopefully will let up today.
My years of service (1990-1994) with the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, New York, prepared me well for Michigan weather. The blizzard of '93 dumped 27 inches on us. I was introduced to the snow blowers the NYDofT mounted on the front of their trucks when plows were rendered useless. One January, the temperature on the manse thermometer registered -14 degrees for four Sundays in a row. Worship was moved from the sanctuary into the smaller fellowship hall.
Days such as this remind us of our limits! My schedule for this week was packed. Well... so much for that. We surrender to the elements of nature. They said to me when I moved to upstate New York that the pace of life would slow down in winter....Well, it didn't...we just had a lot more work to do moving snow, thawing frozen water pipes.... We press on today with virtual offices. Four of us in Kalamazoo, Jackson, Grand Rapids and Brooklyn still participated in a Cisco Webex meeting with Polarity Partners support persons in California for our Thriving Congregations project on Monday afternoon. My office phone calls are forwarded to my mobile phone. My work files are on google drive accessible at home. So work goes on.
We are slow to surrender the life we have built. But it is good for the soul to admit that we are not in charge. We are but a small spec in the universe. It does not revolve around us. We must live within its rhythms. For some time, scientists, like old testament prophets, have been warning us that our carbon foot print is altering the climate. I read Bill McKibben's book, "Eaarth" over the holiday. The title is not miss spelled. His point is that the earth people my age were born on, is no longer the same earth. The greenhouse effect of our fossil fuel use has already altered our world with extreme storms of all kinds. We now can only work to minimize what we have done. Agree or disagree...super storms of all kinds seem to be increasing causing people around the world to alter their schedules and their plans.
Meet our new neighbors! The newest worshiping fellowship in the Presbytery of Lake Michigan is a fellowship of refugees from Bangladesh, who now live in Niles. This Sunday, January 12th, I will preach at First, Niles, who has opened their facilities to these new neighbors. One Bengali neighbor will be ordained as a ruling elder, who plans to prepare to become a Commissioned Ruling Elder leader for this new worshiping fellowship. The Presbyterian Mission Agency has awarded this Bengali group in Niles a 1001 New Worshiping Communities of Faith seed grant of $7,500 to help with his education. Why are Bengalis living in Niles, Michigan? Because Bangladesh is one of the lowest lying countries in the world, a canary in the mines for global warning sea rise watch, and vulnerable now to extreme cyclone storms. Welcome to life on eaarth!
So on this week of extreme weather, as I prepare to preach at the ordination of this new neighbor, I'm pondering the message of the long dismissed prophets crying in the wilderness, and the lectionary gospel text for January 26th, where Jesus says, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 4:17) We have fashioned a life style, which is not sustainable. We need to stop denying the impact our lifestyle is having on the earth. Our collective task in 2014 and beyond is to reduce our carbon foot print on the earth.
New to our Presbytery E-bulletin this year will be ideas, suggestions, prods and encouragement of how we might be better stewards of the earth, led by Rev. Cathy Johnson. Thank you, Cathy!