Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Christine V. Hides
The Galapagos Penguin
Wednesday, February 21, 2024

“Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”
Meister Eckhart

AJN Preschool children's painted penguins
A Galapagos Penguin standing on a rock in front of the sea

When you imagine penguins, as the preschoolers at A Joyful Noise have the last few weeks, you imagine snow and ice. But Galapagos Penguins make their home near the equator where they pant from the heat and lose their feathers twice a year. They rely on the cool ocean currents to bring the sardines and anchovies their small bodies need to bulk up, molt, and mate. But the same El Niño pattern that is creating our mild, winter weather here in Chicago also disrupts the cool ocean current that supplies the seafood buffet the Galapagos Penguins rely on.

According to Gayle Boss’ Lenten devotional, Wild Hope, these tuxedo clad birdsare “Sentinels.” Their diminishing population numbers signal that we have “greatly disrupted the winds and the oceans.”

In response to increasing climate anxiety, the distress caused by climate change and its effect on living things,  The Science of Happiness podcast created a series suited for these uncertain times. Psychologist Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet shared her research-based practice for cultivating hope:

Step One: write in detail about a hope you have for the environment.

Step Two:  write about an environmental hope you have that has been fulfilled, the gratitude you felt, and how you contributed, even in a small way.

According to vanOyen-Witvliet, this writing practice helps find a middle space where we “avoid this overwhelming kind of helpless despair on the one hand, but also not this sort of naive optimism that leads to presumption and passivity on the other.” During Advent a small group of Kenilworth Union Church members tried this practice and found gritty, but real hope.

That’s why, for the penguins’ sake, I am praying the meteorologists are right and soon there will be a change from El Niño to a more neutral pattern. We are not praying alone. A friend of mine just took a position at Interfaith Power and Light whose mission is “to inspire and mobilize people of faith and conscience to take bold and just action on climate change.” This prayer comes from their website:

O Holy one Who Is Love, Hope, Grace and Breath,
transform our sadness and doubt into songs for Life.
We pray for our beloved planet and all brothers and sisters.
May healing waters bathe the rivers and oceans.
May small, deliberate actions grow seeds of Earth justice.
May one prophetic note of the smallest birdsong courageously sung
on a busy street at dawn inspire leaders to free their voices to speak
for the Common Good and future generations.
O God of All Names and Beyond All Names, Whose Face is Love
May I and we collectively
Be the face of Transforming Love
In this moment, In this day, In these times. Amen.
From “Full Circle” by Howard Shapiro

More ways to take action on climate change, written by Kenilworth Union children and adults:

Eat vegan more often. Every meal matters, Sue L.

Use less gas, Jay R.

Let people know about community solar—solar without panels, Carol B.

February 21, 2024

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