Only recently have I become aware of the Conference of Parties, known as the COP. This is the decision-making body responsible for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The COP brings together the 197 nations and territories – called Parties – that have signed on to be a part of the Framework Convention.
In the midst of our current concern about the effect of climate change in our world, the Conference of Parties has met annually since 1995 (hence COP-26), with the first international climate agreement to decrease greenhouse gas emissions approved in December 2015. This agreement urged the Parties to the Convention to decrease greenhouse gas emissions with an agreed-upon goal of staying below a global average temperature increase of 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
My attention was particularly drawn to the COP this year because Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, was invited to be the preacher for the COP-26 gathering. The worship service was designed to remind all of us of the times when we cause our world harm.
The opening worship service was held on November 7 in Glasgow, Scotland, and was introduced by a bell. These words were in the bulletin, “Before the service the Cathedral bell is rung. To ring a bell is to abandon detachment. The clanky bells of the Celtic Saints expressed their confrontation of injustice and evil, in their vulnerable dependence on the strength of God. A bell disturbs the easy peace of injustice. Sounds an alarm. Calls for action. Gathers friends for urgent help. A bell makes the connections. When we ring bells, we know the sleeping dogs will lie no more and we call on God to sustain us in our commitments, come what may.
“We gather to worship God as friends of Jesus and fellow creatures on the earth which God made and loves. We gather to listen for God’s Word in Scripture and to own our responsibility as guardians of Creation. We rely on God’s grace to enable us to witness, in Jesus’ name, for global justice as we worship with gratitude, hope and joy. Amen.”
Prayers for the world preceded Dr. Henry-Crowe’s sermon:
“For the times we cause the world harm; for the times our way of life affects our neighbours.
(all sing) Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison. (Lord, have mercy)
“Inspire us to care for the environment; to help rebuild lives and communities;
(all sing) Christe eleison, Christe eleison, Christe eleison. (Christ, have mercy)
“To share in the griefs and anxieties, joys and hopes of all your people, so that all your creation may flourish.
(all sing) Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison. (Lord, have mercy)”
Referencing Psalm 23, Dr. Henry-Crowe cited wandering and homecoming as the substance of life. Psalm 23 is our heart song for transformation, as we pray for the world to turn from selfishness, greed, and corruption that destroys oceans, first lands, and indigenous peoples who have already been abused because of our domination. We mourn together ravaged forests and desolation caused by the sun; hurricanes and typhoons wreaking havoc; oil spills and garbage killing ocean life; and fishermen and farmers suffering as they live along coastlines.
We also recognize that communities living in poverty are most vulnerable, with the Pandemic magnifying the effect of climate change. Indeed, we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, as our hearts break for the world that our children and grandchildren will inherit, a world where the people with the fewest resources are the most devastated.
Dr. Crowe said, “This Psalm reminds us that God has already prepared this table in the very presence of our enemies. The enemies of life/shared power/creation/ justice and equity. Jesus is always at the table reaching out to those at the far end or under the table. Jesus invites and privileges those on the margins, the most vulnerable. There is always a place for everyone. Those walking in the way of faith which leads to justice and equity for all to be heard at the table of negotiation – for remembering – Creator, creation returned (transformed) and the future. The COP is a great table – for listening – attending – arguing – negotiating – not for ourselves but for creation. For the way it once was. When God said – It was good.”
In a November 13 press release, COP-26 announced consensus on three critical Adaption, Finance, and Mitigation.
“Adaption was the object of particular emphasis during the deliberations. Parties established a work programme to define the global goal on adaptation, which will identify collective needs and solutions to the climate crisis already affecting many countries.”
“Finance was extensively discussed throughout the session and there was consensus in the need to continue increasing support to developing countries. The call to at least double finance for adaptation was welcomed by the Parties. The duty to fulfill the pledge of providing 100 billion dollars annually from developed to developing countries was also reaffirmed. And a process to define the new global goal in finance was launched.”
“On mitigation, the persistent gap in emissions has been clearly identified and Parties collectively agreed to work to reduce that gap and to ensure that the world continues to advance during the present decade, so that the rise in the average temperature is limited to 1.5 degrees. Parties are encouraged to strengthen their emissions reductions and to align their national climate action pledges with the Paris Agreement.”
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in August 2021, we are in the midst of a CODE RED for humanity. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is ‘irrefutable’”. He also issued words of hope. “Inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air and better health are possible for all, if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage.”
Can creation show us the way? Might animals, birds, and fish be our guides? At the end of her sermon Dr. Henry-Crowe issued a challenge, “Disruption and surprise are integral to transformation… Our song does not die in the valley of the shadow of death but beckons, calls, teases, and cajoles us onward. To do better – to do the very best we can for creation and to continuously promise to care for it. And then we return to our dwelling place….
“As a Christian, I believe – God is preparing a table – hovering and welcoming us into new life. It may be 11:59 and we gather to prepare, negotiate and make promises for the new day that is dawning. And we do return and into your arms – to dwell in the home of God forever.”
May the blessing sung at the end of the worship service strengthen and encourage you to recognize when you are causing the world harm and seek climate justice for all.
A Gaelic Blessing by John Rutter
Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you
Deep peace of Christ the light of the world to you
Deep peace of Christ to you