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The Second Baptist Church 100 NORTH MAIN STREET SUFFIELD, CONNECTICUT 06078 THE REV. THOMAS G. CARR, PASTOR TEL: (860) 668-1661 FAX: (860) 668-6126 [email protected] [email protected] http://www.SecondBaptistSuffield.org Washington Week Report September 11 – 15, 2016 Reverend Thomas Carr Nearly every year since 1999, I have traveled to Washington DC for three or four days to meet with colleagues of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (NRCCC), a national interfaith coalition from around the country representing a variety of faith traditions, though we are mostly Christians and Jews. Each year we hold a Prayer Breakfast at which we award one person from the United States (or internationally) with the Steward of God’s Creation award for his or her work in eco-justice from a faith-based perspective. During these weeks, we have also met with Senators and Representatives on various creation care “issues” such as climate change, ending logging on National Forests, oceans and environmental justice for the poor and vulnerable. On many occasions, we have met with members of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, people in the State Department, the EPA, the World Bank and one year, actually met at the home of then Senator John Kerry and Teresa Heinz Kerry. We also work in collaboration with other faith groups (such as the National Council of Churches, the Friends/Quakers, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, etc.) which are centered in DC and often meet for strategy sessions. We bring the voice of faith to the legislative issues facing the natural environment and the impacts on humans, speaking primarily from our moral and spiritual perspective. There have been years when parallel events have been happening such as last year’s gathering when Pope Francis visited Washington (we had already planned to be in DC when the Pope decided to come to DC – the nerve!), conferences on national forests, oceans and when the State Department and Georgetown University co-sponsored an interfaith gathering on climate change and faith. This year there was a two-fold purpose to my visit. One, to gather with the NRCCC for the annual prayer breakfast, lobbying and to visit with the President’s Council on Environmental Quality which, this year, included President Obama’s chief environmental advisor, Rohan Patel. Secondly, I was invited to attend the American Climate Leadership Summit sponsored by eco-America on Wednesday and Thursday morning. This was followed by a meeting with the Founder and President of eco-America, and the director of their faithbased unit, Blessed Tomorrow, to discuss our newly formed American Baptist Creation Justice Network and how their organization can assist this new, national initiative of our denomination. Monday morning was the Prayer Breakfast held at a Lutheran Church close to the Supreme Court building; the Reverend Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, an Episcopal priest, received the Steward of God’s Creation award. After the two hour breakfast, whose theme was logging in the National Forests, climate change and the massive, rapid changes happening to the oceans, I met with two people from northern Virginia who recently founded an interfaith environmental group who were seeking ideas about how we in Connecticut have organized and run the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network for the past 15 years. In the afternoon, six of us met with the environmental advisors of three senators and a member of the House to discuss particular legislation related to fire policy and logging in the National Forests. Tuesday morning we met with more legislative aides around the National Forests and at Noon, 20 of our group met in the White House with three people from the President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and were joined by the President’s top environmental advisor. The meeting focused on three items: the crisis that is climate change and the need to act decisively and rapidly to address it; ending logging in the National Forests; and, the health of and dangerous situation our oceans are now in. We had an honest conversation for over an hour asking that the President do all that he can in the last months of his presidency to lead strongly on climate change action, both mitigation and adaptation. For my part, I asked that the President give an Oval Office speech on climate change telling the public of the most recent scientific consensus concerning the threats and realities we are facing today, and the need for strong climate action. It was a lively discussion, sharing ideas about how faith communities and government can work together to address the multiple environmental and human crises we are facing today. The American Climate Leadership Summit, sponsored by eco-America (www.ecoamerica.org) on Wednesday and Thursday was attended by about 250 people from around the country from a variety of sectors of society. There were presentations from leaders in business, government, science, faith communities, education, health professionals, environment and those engaged in social justice work. The purpose of ecoAmerica is to grow a base of support for a strong movement for solutions to climate change. ecoAmerica partners include the McArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers, Defenders of Wildlife, Disney, the Nature Conservancy, Duke Energy and many others who fund this non-profit for the purpose of resourcing a variety of groups and programs in American society. On Wednesday, we spent much time sharing programs and ideas that work in our respective communities moving the public to action related to climate change. On Thursday, we divided into the sub-groups Eco-America assists and I attended the faith-based area called “Blessed Tomorrow” (www.blessedtomorrow.org). Blessed Tomorrow supports faith leaders in engaging people in their communities and implements climate change solutions in their congregations. The conversations were rich, as was the powerful interfaith prayer that began the morning. In the afternoon, I met with the President of ecoAmerica and the coordinator of Blessed Tomorrow discussing our just forming American Baptist Creation Justice Network and how their organization might assist us with resources and expertise as we launch this national effort within our denomination. The meeting was very productive and I will continue to remain in contact with ecoAmerica following the first steering committee meeting of the Network on September 22nd and 23rd. We are facing unprecedented global environmental and human crises. Both science and what is happening all over the planet make this very clear. Though some deny this reality and others throw up their hands in hopelessness, gatherings like these give me hope that people of good will, generous spirit, trust in God and determination to act for the common good, will help make a positive impact for the health and well-being of all.