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by Daniel Meeter
As you read this, the Lord willing, I am on a bus to Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March.
I feel awkward when I do this kind of thing. The other people on the bus made posters and signs and all kind of creative things, and I’m jealous of their easy enthusiasm, and I’m conscious of being self-conscious, but at least I’m on the bus.
I’m on the bus with a couple people from my church, but the other riders I don’t know. The bus is sponsored by the owners of a cool and funky Brooklyn restaurant, The Habana Outpost, where I’ve eaten before. I have no idea if they’re religious, but they asked me to pray a blessing as we left, and I gladly did so.
I am also praying for myself. God have mercy on me and my constant doubt and second thoughts. I am always more excited about these marches beforehand than when I am on them. I don’t doubt the value of the march, and I believe in the cause. But I am always tempted to be sober and somber compared to other marchers. I am critical of myself and, worse, I’m critical of everybody else. But at least I’m on the bus.
I’m praying for the joy of the Spirit to join in the chants and cheers. I am not wearing my clergy collar, as other pastors did on the Women’s March. I am not wearing a stole, as other clergy did in the Climate March in Manhattan a couple years ago. I don’t want to stand out. But I do want to join in.
I’d like for once not to feel the reluctance that comes over me when I’m on these things. I felt it a couple months ago when I took the bus to Washington for the Women’s March. I felt it fifteen years ago when I marched in Manhattan against the invasion of Iraq. I feel it at the amplified worship services at General Synod in that whipped-up manipulated style with jumbotrons and people cheering God. I have no problem doing this for the Mets at Citifield, so I’m praying to let go and join in. But at least I’m on the bus.
When I prayed for the bus this morning, I also thanked God for the young woman whose influence in my life is why I’m marching. I thanked God for May Boeve, who worships in my church. May is the Executive Director (and one of the founders) of the climate action group 350.org, of which I’m a small donor. I’m her pastor, but in many ways she is my leader. She’s just ten years out of college, and already she’s had more impact in the world than anyone else I know, and her quiet and steadfast leadership is why I’m on the bus.
May grew up in a Reformed church parsonage, and I worked with her father on the ecumenical commission of the Reformed Church in America. Years ago we worked together for the Belhar Confession, and against apartheid, and for full communion with the Lutherans. Four years ago his daughter showed up in church. And began to teach me, and gently challenge us. But also encourage us. She became a Catechumen, and I was honored to confirm her. She reports that she gets a lot back from our congregation. I shared her weeping after worship a few Sundays ago, when she was exhausted by having to stand up to the new levels of hatred and violence spewing out of Washington. I have come to love her very much. But it’s not just to please her that I am on the bus.
If other people on this bus have no religion I don’t judge them. I’m not with them to convert them. (They probably need to convert me.) But it is for religion that I am riding with them—for serving the Lord Jesus. It’s because of Our Lord that I take this climate witness seriously. Psalm 8 and all that, our stewardship of Creation, Noah’s Ark, St. Paul’s “all creation groans,” etc. I am on the bus for Jesus’s sake.
Tomorrow, God willing, after church, I will be on another trip, but in my car. I will be driving to Ontario for a retreat with other pastors. We do this twice a year at my cottage in the Canadian Shield. My wife and I have been going there for twenty-eight years, and in three decades the change in the climate of our lake is observable and incontrovertible. It’s warmer even though the colds are more extreme. The winter snow is less dependable and some summers now the lake is very low. The lake is getting weedier, the fish population is changing, and we’re getting more largemouth bass. That’s why I’m on the bus.
What difference does one marcher make? Well, what difference does one voter make in a democracy. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. I’m on the bus because my leader on these issues asked me to march. May Boeve sees the larger strategy, and my marching is my small part of her larger work. I am remembering her tears. The climate campaign is a spiritual struggle, so I am on the bus.
Tomorrow, God willing, before I leave for Canada I will be preaching about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were discouraged. But the Lord Jesus met them on the road. He challenged them as “foolish and slow of heart to believe.” I know all about being slow-of-heart—it’s me in the bus. Dear Jesus, meet us on the road today. Give us the joy of your resurrection.
It’s because the Lord Jesus has risen in his body, to walk upon the planet and breathe its air and eat its fish that I am on the bus.
Daniel Meeter is pastor of the Old First Reformed Church of Brooklyn, New York, and hardly an activist.