Midweek Blog: MennoCon Reflection

The MCUSA Convention last week was full of lots of different experiences: worship services, keynote speakers, reunions, seminars, panels, group discussion and yes, some good barbecue and fellowship. There was too much to give a full account here, though we invite you to join us in worship on August 13 where multiple participants will have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. 

For this blog, I wanted to focus on one of the keynote speakers that most grabbed my attention.  The final full day of the convention included a Youth and Young Adult Climate Summit, which aimed to give space to young people to process, reflect, and conspire together about the climate crisis we are facing.  The keynote speaker for the day was Talitha Amadea Aho, author of the book In Deep Waters: Spiritual Care for Young People in a Climate Crisis.  A former youth pastor now serving as a hospital chaplain, Aho brought a wealth of both knowledge and experience about how to care for each other and ourselves during such a challenging time. 

Within her keynote sermon, I felt like she walked a fine line that I continue to think about. On the one hand, she sought to address the climate anxiety many of us face when we think about all the things we “should” be doing like recycling, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, refusing straws, etc. She invited us to let go of the idea that those things matter in the grand scheme of things because real, lasting change is going to have to come at the systemic level, through grand societal and legislative changes. She was not saying that those individual things are bad to do but simply wanted us all to release any anxiety we experience over thinking that it is up to us alone to fix the crisis.

On the other hand, when I think about the grand societal and legislative changes that are needed for mitigating the danger we face, I think it is easy to feel completely overwhelmed and left wondering if anything we can do truly matters. We know that recycling isn’t going to stop the climate crisis, but I think many young people (and all people) wonder where we should put our time and energy.  Different ideas were thrown around during the summit, but I have to admit that many of them left me still feeling powerless.

Which brought me back to our 12 Step Spirituality worship series and what I’m learning about the value of the 12 Steps. The first step invites us all to admit our own powerlessness, and the climate crisis surely fits that bill. But that is only the first step. Further steps invite us into hope and into taking responsibility and action for what we can while releasing what is outside our power. And even though we aren’t there yet in the series, I find myself thinking about Step 12, which begins: “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps…” The point of the steps, regardless of how you fill in the blank in Step 1, is to move toward a spiritual awakening. 

When I think about the climate crisis, I feel powerless over it, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing I can do. And over time, as I take responsibility for what is mine, make amends and take action where I can, and continue to work the steps by leaning into hope, I believe that caring for Creation becomes not just steps or actions I take to “fix” the crisis, but a new way of living rooted in a spiritual awakening.