Good Evening. I’m Gary Hall, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you all tonight to “Coming Together in Faith on Climate: Religious Leaders Support and Extend the Pope’s Call to Action”. This event would not be possible were it not for a real spirit of collaboration between and among all the sponsoring organizations. I want to extend my personal thanks to Ruth Frey, the cathedral’s director of programs, for the work she has done on our behalf to work with our partners to bring this important symposium together.
The poet Gary Snyder says, “When you find your place where you are, practice starts.” Those of us who follow Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, and the Buddha inhabit not just a tradition. We also dwell in a place, and our shared place is the planet. Speaking for the Christian tradition, in our early attempts to differentiate ourselves from nature religions, the church often built a false dichotomy between valuing human beings and honoring the creation. The environmental crises of the late 20th and early 21st century have demanded that theologians from all our traditions reassess our historic teachings and reassert our core beliefs about the sacredness of the world we share. The looming calamity of climate change (which has already begun) has not only intensified our need, as people of faith, to speak out on creation’s behalf; it has galvanized our determination to do so.
In his encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis has issued a powerful challenge both to religious and secular leaders to see climate change as the theological issue it is and to mobilize to reverse it on all our behalf. All of us who gather tonight are deeply grateful for the pope’s leadership, and we have taken the occasion of his visit to America as the opportunity to come together to think, pray, organize and act to reverse global warming here and now.
“When you find your place where you are, practice starts.” The planet is our place, and we are the people. Tonight our practice starts. Welcome to this work, and welcome to the cathedral.