Back here in Canada we hear a lot about youth and young adults finding their voice at COP-26 which is marvellous news. I have written elsewhere about the conundrum of “who is listening” so will not repeat my jaded comments here. Today’s post is optimistic and celebratory! In addition to those marching through the streets, chasing the news makers, monitoring media, tweeting, posting and publishing, there are groups, some in-person, most online who are watching, waiting and in terms of faith communities, witnessing to the hopeful presence of God in these dire and at times distressing (oh dear, I have lapsed already – did I tell you about my Auntie Mary?) conversations.
I have previously been part of such in-person groups. As we gathered in Montreal in 2005 under the auspices of the World Council of Churches led by United Church staff person, the late David Hallman, we certainly felt like a small wave breaking onto a pebbled seashore, but we learned a lot, ran around a lot, worshipped multi-media in the cavernous St. Joseph’s Oratory, and watched a complicated global process unfold, sometimes with successes to celebrate, but at other times disconsolate at a lack of creative ambition amongst negotiators.
In preparing notes about Anglican representatives for a list I publish I stumbled across two people you should meet. The Rev. Alecia Greenfield is a clergy colleague who chairs the British Columbia and Yukon Ecclesiastical Provincial Social and Ecological Justice Working Group, a group which I also assist. She is also part of the For the Love of Creation Virtual Ecumenical Delegation to COP-26 (she seems destined for service in groups with very long and complex names). She recently published a marvellous guide to following and engaging with the COP from afar. Speaking to discouragement she encourages good and Godly self-care. Highly recommended.
My research also introduced me to Lowell Bliss from the Diocese of Niagara. I have not met her personally (she may be shocked I am writing about her and her group) but the group, Christian Climate Observers’ Program (CCOP) is to me a model deserving our attention and applause. In their recent daily post I read:
Over the two weeks of COP26, 40 people aged between 19 and 79 (median age around 25) from USA, Canada, UK, France, India, Macedonia, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Hong Kong will spend a week at “Base Camp”, a Christian conference center on the outskirts of Glasgow. We are here with the specific intention of bearing witness to the COP process and communicating that back to our networks.
Their daily routine reminds me of Montreal in 2005:
The CCOP day starts with a gathering over breakfast that includes COVID tests and practical instructions about bus timetables, opportunities to meet key people, and top tips for interesting sessions with delegations. Lowell Bliss leads a morning devotion, often with the New York Times in one hand and the Bible in another, helping the group reflect on thoughts and perspectives on what we have seen and heard the previous day, and reflecting on a Bible passage.
Riffing on Karl Barth, I love “the New York Times in one hand and the Bible in another.” Discussion of the transportation challenges reminds me of Johannesburg in 2002. At one point an Irish colleague and I were totally lost in that vast and in some parts, dangerous city. So we hired a cab with only a dim memory of where we were staying and a limited amount of cab fare. The driver was totally lost, but accidentally (please note! I am legally blind!) I spotted a familiar row of shops, and we arrived safely at out lodgings.
The CCOP update continues, speaking to the purpose of their gathering: to witness! I would often push this theme in my Anglican Communion Environmental Network work especially here in Canada. While the Church often understands and supports the witness to human rights, to economic injustices, to LGBTQ2S+ inclusion, to Indigenous Justice—all very, very important, witness to what we used to call the stewardship of creation but now the climate crisis or climate emergency puzzled many. It was always harder to find space, voice and funding for ecological justice projects and issues. I hope this is now changing.
For CCOP the witness speaks to hope, a conviction which needs exploration in the context of a large global gathering, where such meetings are often more concerned with hanging on to the experience of history rather than departing on the transformational though unpredictable path into a truly new future. CCOP rightly delves into Catherine Hayhoe’s new book, Saving Us, where she described the twin dangers of false hope and fatalism.
The group also had the opportunity to meet with Bill McKibben, himself a Methodist who still teaches weekly Sunday School classes, and draws upon both the Gospel according to Matthew and the writings of C. S. Lewis. In his activism he draws upon his Christian values, especially the cross, which speaks of the power of non-violence and self-sacrifice, embodied in Jesus.”
The CCOP update concludes:
We don’t know what the outcome of COP26 will be, but we know that God holds the future. Our role as Christians is to exercise robust hope.
I certainly join all these folks as the witness at COP continues, hopefully and carefully.
Coming soon – Indigenous voices and the World Council of Churches