It was not your every day church service at First United Methodist Church in Baraboo Sunday as worshipers were presented with “Stories of hope: how will you respond to climate change?”
Pastor Marianne Cotter presented the service after leading a climate change discussion group that was held at the church in Aug. and Sept. The group met in cooperation with the Baraboo Range Preservation Association and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. Cotter facilitated the discussions with BRPA Executive Director Todd Persche based on the book “Eaarth” by Bill McKibben.
Cotter said part of the reason she had a discussion group was she wanted people to take action with cleaning our environment.
“I really felt the congregation would benefit from what we had learned in the class,” she said.
In Eaarth, McKibben writes Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Broman rolled his spacecraft away from the moon revealing for the first time an “earthrise.” McKibben said it revealed “a planet we no longer live on” adding “for ten thousand years human civilization has existed in a ‘sweet spot’ with temperatures barely budging. Cities grew, agriculture developed. Occasionally there were disruptions — hurricane, drought and freeze. But for the most part we had a secure and stable planet.”
Climate change and whether it is man-made or part of earth’s natural cycle has been a political hot spot for several decades. Cotter said a good pastor always has to be conscientious with what they preach and recognized her congregation may not necessarily agree with her stance that global warming is a man-made occurrence.
“It was a little bit of a risk but one I thought that was worth taking,” she said. “My sense of the congregation made me confident that this is an issue of concern. I felt that the way we were going to present it would allow for anyone that climate change is not real there would be opportunities for them to respond.”
Cotter added, “I got no negative feedback and of course it’s possible that there are some people that would not care to be exposed to that and perhaps they chose to not come on that Sunday.”
Church member Judy Ellington delivered the main Sunday morning message which featured stories of past and present Sauk County residents who have taken action to preserve and protect the environment. “We have come to the edge of the cliff” was her primary message with climate change. She said, “the only thing we can do is turn around and walk forward and find hope in the midst of chaos.”
Ellington said, “In the face of massive climate change we look to the stories of our heroes and change-makers. We look to the Jesus story and how he said drop everything — follow me. We look to the stories of people right here in our midst on how to preserve and protect our environment.”
She recounted the works of Aldo Leopold and George Archibald — co-founder of the International Crane Foundation. Ellington said “these individuals speak to the power of one and their ability to make a difference — people who have walked to the edge of the cliff and turned around and walked forward.”
Ellington also spoke of an ICF representative’s trip to Japan where she questioned “how could they have so little garbage when we have so much.”
Carl Rosenstock also gave a “message of hope” — inspiring the congregation that we as humans can move in a direction to better protect our planet and clean our atmosphere. “We can do something simple as turn off lights when we leave a room. It seems like little things but when you multiply it by millions and millions of people, it becomes a movement. It becomes a revolution of using less. We don’t have to give up our life-style.”
He also emphasized there are many renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro, bio-fuels and wind — noting that one hour of converted sunlight would take care of the energy needs of every human on earth for a year.
Rosenstock said Scandinavian countries are phasing out fossil fuels in place of renewable energy sources and believes we’re in the midst of a “renewable energy renaissance.”
He added if anyone is interested in joining his environmental group with the Baraboo Range Preservation Association and Pastor Cotter that “small groups multiplied by the millions is what can really make this work.”