The Sacramental Gift of Time
How do I treat the sacramental gift of time? – K.J. Ingram
Those words are situated above my desk, written on a small scrap of paper, greeting me multiple times daily. They shaped my thoughts as I prepared for a sabbatical this summer (thanks to the GIPL Board and staff!). They have given me pause as I celebrated a “big” birthday this year. They have stopped me in my tracks in the wake of personal loss and grief this year, inviting me to reflect further on life’s meaning. And, these words surely are important as we are bombarded with the dire news of climate change, with drought and intense heat plaguing Georgia, and our coastal neighbors pummeled by monster hurricanes.
This seemingly simple question regarding the sacramental gift of time first requires me to reflect on my privilege – that my life is afforded space to consider even this gift of time, and then, to take the time to chart a sustainable course that is more healthy for me, my family, and our community. Too many of our neighbors run out of time in the daily struggle to just make ends meet. So, my first answer I give to this important question is gratitude. I am extremely grateful to have been afforded time to rest and rejuvenate through new adventures this past summer.
One summer adventure included leading a youth trip to the Georgia coast to explore what it means to care for neighbor while caring for God’s Creation. The BRIDGE mission program, hosted by Saint Simons Presbyterian Church, launched this initiative a couple of years ago to intentionally engage youth and college students in mission experiences that expand their minds and actions to include coastal conservation as well as compassion for coastal neighbors. For many of the youth on my trip, it was their first time to explore the wonders of the Georgia coast. I was surprised by that and even more grateful that we could experience the beauty and importance of our state’s shoreline.
As BRIDGE participants, our “work” included being playmates with youth experiencing homelessness in Brunswick and creating outdoor recreation space for adults also experiencing homelessness. This opened our eyes to see that all God’s people deserve places of rest, beauty, and recreation regardless of their circumstances. We also cleaned up stretches of marsh and shoreline littered with trash and learned about ongoing efforts to protect marine life.
These spaces and activities remind us of our purpose on this earth: to enjoy and prosper among Creation while being good stewards. But truthfully, coastal clean ups reminded us just how trashy we humans are, too, and need to do our part to ensure our waterways stay cleared of trash for our enjoyment and for the health of marine life.
The sacramental gift of time this summer also afforded me time in Puerto Rico with a group of clergy, sponsored by Fossil Free PCUSA. It became apparent there that our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters are not afforded such time as they struggle with diminished access to clean water and lack of consistent power generation. Their lives are too frequently disrupted by a significant lack of resources as result of climate change impacts and political corruption.
Our clergy group witnessed the devastating impacts of Hurricane Maria and the lingering PTSD that is a result of such catastrophes. The emotional toil of these super-charged storms has become the silent stressor of climate change in the 21st century. But thankfully, I saw more than just struggle.
I also saw immense Puerto Rican pride as well as hope in action, and that is what I carried with me back to my work at GIPL. As we saw during last week’s climate strikes across the globe, the sacramental gift of time means that climate action can no longer wait. For certain, climate change is not waiting for us. The hopeful reality is that people of faith know how to respond. We have the tools. We just need to apply them here.
Faith communities provide 80% of the aid delivered when disaster strikes in this country. It’s religious relief efforts that are on the frontlines and who remain there meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It is our faith communities serving on the frontlines who witness the long lasting social impacts of climate change. Sometimes the sacramental gift of time means we wake up to see what’s really going on around us. And we are granted the gift of community to work together to bring about healing to a hurting people and planet.
Upon my return to the GIPL office last month, plans were underway for several inspiring programs. Make sure to check out GIPL’s new website for this fall’s offerings. On October 15 GIPL friends will be able to first tour the Kendeda Living Building at Georgia Tech and then hear a special presentation by Dr. Matthew Sleeth of Blessed Earth. This newly-opened facility is on the cutting-edge of sustainable design and construction. In this awesome space we’ll hear an inspiring lecture about how trees infuse our faith and religious convictions. I think this is a a wonderful way to treat the sacramental gift of time! Make sure to get your tickets here!
I look forward to reconnecting with you in person at these events now that I’ve returned from sabbatical. I’d love to hear more about how you have embraced the sacramental gift of time. In the meantime, L’shana Tovah to our Jewish friends on this special celebration of Rosh Hashanah! May blessings and peace abound throughout the land in the new year!
Rev. Kate McGregor Mosley