Then the LORD will create…a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over
all the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. (Isaiah 4:5-6)
God led the Israelites out of slavery. On the journey God sheltered them by day and gave them refuge by night. I think about the many places in our world needing and longing for of shelter and protection, and safety. Through this Lent we focus on how we offer refuge and shelter to human and non-human life from the effects of our human greenhouse gases and pollution.
In Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth, Debra Rienstra writes refugia are “tiny coverts where plants and creatures hide from destruction, hidden shelters where life persists and out of which new life emerges.” She sees this scientific concept as a spiritual metaphor for our relationship with the earth and describes nurturing spaces of refuge in both the biological world and in our cultures and spirits. “The refugia model calls us to look for the seed of life where we are, concentrate on protecting and nurturing a few good things, let what is good and beautiful grow and connect and spread. Trust God’s work.”
How can people of faith become people of refugia. How can we find and create refugia, not only in the ecosystems of the earth, but simultaneously in our human cultural systems and in our spirits? The future is uncertain; it always is. We do not know exactly what’s coming. But the earth teaches that extreme disturbance can be survived and even bring renewal – and one way this happens is though refugia.
Refugia answers this question with the promise that small work, "micro countercultures,” pockets of restoration and renewal, can make a real difference. And when we realize we’re not doing this work alone, we see these pockets grow and flourish. Rienstra writes, “We begin small, where we are. We dig out and repair, we plant seeds, we nurture what we can. We seek joy and give thanks, give thanks and find joy. Everywhere I look, people – and creatures – are doing this resurrection work.”
This, I think, is what makes refugia seem possible and kindles hope for me. While global action and massive-scale change are necessary, the greatness of this need can leave me frozen. What difference is it ultimately going to make for me to sort recyclables or plant a tree when the giant machines of industry roar on without a care?
Refugia need not be expansive, immediate and perfect. It happens on the small scale of individuals and communities. It can be “good enough,” and failures are just stepping stones and opportunities to learn. It is realized in small acts and patchwork construction.
Through this Lent St. Stephen’s invites you to join a Carbon Fast. It can be downloaded here: https://www.kairoscanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/SUS-CJ-KAIROS_CarbonFast_SingleSheets_WEB.pdf
This week we are encouraged to reduce our energy consumption and increase energy efficiency, at home, school, work, in transportation. Advocate for the environment: write a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to redirect subsidies to fossil fuel industries to programs promoting energy conservation and development of renewable forms of energy.
As people of faith, we believe in a loving God who is always calling us through the wonders and suffering of this world to transform our ways, relentlessly drawing us toward the divine purpose of flourishing for the whole earth and all its creatures. Lent is a time to restore our natural communion with all creation, understanding our limits and the limits of God’s creation.
- LAUDATO SI, POPE FRANCIS