Jeffry Korgen: Why I’m Praying with Pope Francis in New York, 24-25 September

By Jeffry Odell Korgen, Campaign Coordinator, GreenFaith

Last week, I walked on the rapids. Visiting a childhood friend in Sacramento, California, Kathleen and I brought our two children, confirmed East Coasters, to see the far West for the first time. Big Sur, 900 year-old redwood trees in Santa Cruz, and the formerly mighty American River.

The America River

The dry, drought stricken bed of the American River

Ever since Superstorm Sandy roared through my neighborhood, knocking out power for eleven days, I have believed that climate change is here, not in the far future, but there is nothing like hiking though the middle of a river known for its challenging whitewater rapids to drive the point home: too much water here, too little there, and life as we know it upended—with often devastating consequences for human, plant, and animal life.

As we hiked the twists and turns of this trickle of water, I reviewed the exposed riverbank. My friend indicated where the typical high and low points were—well above our heads. We continued on and I thought of Pope Francis and the urgent tone of his ecology encyclical Laudato Si. God calls each of us to be a protector of creation, he writes. I ask myself, What am I doing to protect the beautiful gift of this river?”

To some degree, that’s why I’ll be joining Pope Francis in New York, praying for the success of his speech to the UN, that delegates to the COP21 climate talks – the crucial Paris summit in December – will be persuaded to act to protect creation, to protect human life—especially the poorest of the poor, who bear the greatest burden of too much/too little water throughout the world. They have contributed so modestly to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and climate change, yet they face the greatest burdens.

I won’t be alone. On 24 September, as darkness begins to shadow Manhattan, a few thousand people of faith will join for a multi-faith prayer service at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, adjacent to the UN, in support of Pope Francis and his message of climate care, sustainable development, and peace. We will #LightTheWay with solar lamps and other forms of illumination, joined later by civil society groups for a joint rally for action on climate change and the UN’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals.

This will be the culmination of a night of actions in more than 100 countries, drawing together tens or even hundreds of thousands of people to shine a light to pave the way for the new, global goals. From Nairobi to Toronto, Sydney to Moscow, Tokyo to Cape Town, and from Auckland to Paris, people will gather in their homes and communities, in a wave of light following the dusk around our world. If you want to join them, or to host your own vigil, just click here.

As New York’s #LightTheWay event concludes, we will process to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese’s Church of Our Savior, keeping vigil all night with prayers led by various faith groups. In the morning we will present a symbol of our commitment to prayer and action for a strong climate treaty at the UN before Pope Francis speaks.

Throughout the service and vigil, I will keep the people of California in prayer, asking God to move the hearts of heads of state and negotiators to come to consensus on a strong agreement to protect the climate. Anything less would be an abdication of our God-given role as protectors of Creation.