Rev. Fred Small wrote a chapter called “Praised be the Flood” for Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, co-edited by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas and me. In this excerpt, Rev. Small invites us to imagine the child affected by the climate crisis and how we might act now to create a better future for all children.
For Christians in Advent preparing to receive the Christ Child, his words compel us to consider the impact of our actions on ALL children, especially those most threatened by climate and environmental pollution.
Imagine the Child
I invite you to imagine in your mind’s eye a four-year-old child. It doesn’t matter who it is. Maybe it’s a girl in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Maybe it’s a boy in an urban neighborhood in Sudan. Maybe the child lives here in the United States on the Gulf Coast or Long Island. Maybe she looks a little like your granddaughter. Maybe he reminds you of your best friend when you were a child. Imagine the shy smile on this child’s face. Imagine this child playing with friends. Imagine this child in the tender embrace of parents.
Now imagine that it’s up to you whether this child suffers, whether this child is in pain, whether this child dies—from famine or drought or storm. From a flood that sweeps away her house. From water poisoned by contamination. From starvation in a refugee camp.
And now imagine this same child in a different future –
Growing up happy and well nourished. Sustained by family and community. Her world powered by renewable energy. Her path laid out with equal opportunity. Her voice being heard in a truly democratic government. These are the two futures before this child, before us all. Which future becomes real is up to us.
Is it too late to prevent climate change?
Of course it is. The damage has already begun. Some of it may be irreversible. Many will die. Many have died already.
But it is never too late to save the next life or the next species. It is never too late to offer love to our neighbor or even our enemy, never too late to feed the hungry, to welcome the stranger, to heal the sick, to visit the prisoner. It is never too late to repair the world. It is never too late to change.
Rev. Fred Small …
is a Unitarian Universalist parish minister for nearly two decades. He is also a singer-songwriter and environmental lawyer. In 2015, he left parish ministry to devote his energies to climate advocacy, serving as Minister for Climate Justice at Arlington Street Church, Boston. One of the first to engage in civil disobedience to draw attention to climate change, he was arrested with twenty-one others in prayer outside the US Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., in May 2001. In March 2007, he was a lead organizer of the Interfaith Walk for Climate Rescue from Northampton to Boston. Grist Magazine named him one of 15 Green Religious Leaders worldwide. Bill McKibben has called him “one of the key figures in the religious environmental surge.”
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015).