Monday, June 8, 2009

What Makes You Say Yes?

By Meighan Pritchard

What makes you say Yes at the core of your being? That’s the question I’ve been wrestling with and continue to ponder at Pacific School of Religion, where I just finished my second year (of three) in the master’s of divinity program. The answer to that question changes from person to person and even for one person at different times, but I think it’s a good guide to figuring out our calling.

By Yes I’m talking about the response at a deep, spiritual level when you recognize that something is true or meaningful for you. For some of us Yes comes from a good sermon, calling out what is best in us, reminding us of God’s abiding love and grace, urging us on to do God’s work in the world. Yes helps us figure out where we fit in God’s plan, who and what we are called to be in life.

Music consistently elicits a deep Yes from me. Listening to a symphony or a church choir, I can find myself weeping, raw, grateful, barely able to breathe and yet breathing hungrily at some unfathomable spiritual level. A friend calls this “being cracked wide open.” It is exhausting and exhilarating.

Climbers experience Yes at the top of a mountain, gazing over their 360-degree view and feeling fully aware of being tiny, mortal, and part of all this awe-inspiring creation. A painter may be guided by a sense of Yes in determining what colors to use and how to proceed to make the painting match some inner image. There are infinite ways to experience Yes.

In recent years, I have felt Yes around studying global warming. It feels not only like the right thing to do but like the most compelling way to spend my time. Climate change is the issue of this century, and I want to understand it better in order to figure out how to minimize my carbon footprint, how to live my life, and how to be part of community strategies that will help to mitigate the effects of climate change. This spring I took an environmental ethics class in which we read Sallie McFague, James Gustave Speth, James Garvey, and others. We discussed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, calculated our carbon footprints, and planted drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly plants in a community garden. This summer I am an intern at Earth Ministry, where I hope to learn more about the intersection between faith and the environment. What better place to explore a sense of Yes around issues of global warming?

Studying climate change specifically in a theological context is an enormous Yes for me. We humans have used creation to our advantage, for very understandable reasons but with dire consequences. How can faith communities help us to shift from anthropocentrism to biocentrism, to recenter our focus not just on our species but on all of creation? Genesis 1 tells us that God gave humans dominion over creation. We may be at the top of the heap in some ways—top of the food chain, for example—but that means we need to ensure that the rest of the food chain is healthy and in balance if we want to keep eating.

What makes you say Yes? How are you called to be a positive force in the world? I hope to have that conversation with some of you as part of this internship this summer.

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