parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

Double-sided but not Discouraged

Sometimes it is easy to feel overwhelmed by it all – a breathtaking sunset that is too beautiful for words or piles and piles of snow with no place to put them. At this point, I am guessing that most of you can identify with the mounds of snow but you would prefer to ponder the most recent sunset or an exquisite flower that you saw the other day.

By mid-March of this year, God had blessed our lovely city with more than our fair share of snow, but we Parkdalers were not easily deterred from our desire to go out and worship. We/I wanted to hear on that Lenten Wednesday evening what the Bible had to say to us about stewarding the environment and honouring all of God's creation.

Having worked at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, I noted with glee that the worship bulletin was appropriately printed on green paper. More importantly for the environment, it was double-sided to save trees.

Now that I think about it, ‘double-sided’ is a good way to describe that entire worship experience. On the one hand, we were inspired by a beautiful hymn played so capably by Hazel Bowen and we were reassured by a wonderful prayer entitled ‘Another World is Possible’. However, the other side (aspect) of the service was more challenging than manoeuvring through the mounds of snow that awaited us outdoors. We watched a video that was produced by members of two of the New Monastic Christian communities with whom Anthony lived while on sabbatical last year.

The video concerned a terribly polluted city, Camden, New Jersey, which is known as the sewer of America. The statistics and the scenes were not pretty – 235,000 diesel trucks per year bringing waste to the dumps, land that was too toxic to build on and PCB-laden waters. Even more shocking was the effect that the air pollution has had on the city's children –61% of them have asthma.

What to do? We sat there overwhelmed until Anthony broke the silence. Anthony helped us to focus on the hopeful aspects of the video - as a Christian community in Camden, the New Monastic members have organized community gardens, tree plantings and the growing of specific plants for medicinal use by the poor.

We wondered collectively what it would take, short of divine intervention, to change the way that governments and ordinary citizens respond to our obligation to steward the environment in service to God. It is true that the state of the environment is sobering and it is obvious that we cannot fix it all, but we should not let that stop us from doing what we can. Suddenly, my memories of working at the Agency flooded my mind and I refused to be discouraged that evening.

What if each one of us is God's intervention? What if each one of us has been put here to inspire others by our actions? Will we respond to the call? We can’t do everything, but surely we can each do one environmentally conscious thing at work, adopt one eco-friendly practice at home, one action in our worship, one in our social life and modify one aspect of our spending.

Some suggestions include: taking the bus to work; using scrap paper for notes; approaching the cafeteria manager and proposing a ‘bring your own cup’ option; using cold water for your laundry; buying classic long-lasting clothes from companies that do not employ child labourers; purchasing fewer, durable toys that have lasting play value; considering a hybrid vehicle when you replace the current one; modeling recycling behaviours to your children; choosing environmentally friendly materials (such as hardwood and washable fabrics) when renovating or redecorating your home; purchasing fair trade coffee; and carpooling to church. The possibilities are almost endless!

In some ways, it would seem that our entire faith is ‘double-sided’ just like a sheet of paper. God has hard-wired us to be troubled by injustices and environmental abuse, but we will not be discouraged for long if we take seriously the words of Scripture and remember that another world is indeed possible.

Respectfully submitted,

Barbara Hennessy, Chair

Stewardship Group