ST. JOSEPH, Mich. – More than 60 people of many traditions gathered at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph in Southwest Michigan on September 23. They came together to participate in a Multi-Faith Climate Justice Vigil on the night before Pope Francis addressed a Joint Session of Congress.
The service included prayers and readings from the Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist traditions, along with passages from authors Naomi Klein and Wendell Berry.
Episcopal Bishop Whayne M. Hougland, Jr. was the featured guest and speaker. In his address, he answered the question why he was supporting the Pope, even though he isn’t Roman Catholic. “The care for our common home is not just a Roman Catholic issue. It’s not just a Christian issue…. The care for our common home concerns us all-all humanity and all of creation.”
Bishop Hougland also issued a prophetic critique of neoliberalism along the line followed by Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si.” “We’ve sold our souls to the gods of capitalism and consumerism, making us shallow and unreflective. We worship profits and comfort. We strive for ourselves only. We have neglected the poor. We chastise the poor and the least and the last and the losers…. We have made ourselves God.”
Before concluding with the song “We Shall Overcome Someday,” the participants took the five-point Saint Francis pledge. The final point was to advocate for the earth and the poor. Together the participants pledged to insist:
“We will insist that our elected and appointed officials act on behalf of us, our common home and the poor. We will use our power. We will make our voices heard. We will insist! This we pledge!”
As the gathering dispersed, the feeling was one of unity, of gratitude for an opportunity to participate in the kind of event that people in smaller cities often only read about. Everyone who turned out left with a strong determination to let that night’s vigil be the beginning, and not the end, of a struggle for climate justice in Southwestern Michigan.
Photo: St. Joseph workers blogspot