By The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

Maybe summer during COVID-19 has been a sign of hope, a way to move out from the confines of quarantine into some semblance of reengaging with the places in nature you love, especially the muddied hiking trails, the long sandy beaches, the mountain air, the intimate wooded terraces. Being close to the earth always keeps me in tuned to the presence of God.

Terry Tempest Williams is an environmental activist, most famous for her essays and poetry about the fragile, tender, strong, and enduring beauty of the earth. She hears clearly God’s call to care for creation. For her the pain of the earth caused by human destruction is something she cannot turn away from. In fact her lifelong focus on the realities of climate change are at the core of her prayer life.

While admitting that it is heartbreaking to look at and turn toward and focus in on the suffering of people, animals, plants, rivers, lakes, and even the soil due to environmental destruction, Williams says “I choose not to look away.” She says “For me that is contemplative prayer. It is praying without ceasing.” In other words her attentiveness to the suffering of the world is the way she prays. Her seeking out the pain of the earth leads her toward advocating for the earth, and in listening to the pain of creation, she is connected with God. Her choice to not look away is the way she prays.

What suffering are you paying attention to these days? What pain are you drawing near? How might “choosing not to look away” become for you a prayer?

Let us pray:

O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things,
our brothers the animals to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty
so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee,
and that they love the sweetness of life.
—St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea 329–379

Click through to hear Bill Evertsberg’s Wednesday Garden Side Chat. Bill recognizes the wonderful togetherness and collaboration that is apparent in this otherwise dark and challenging time.