Church chimes in on climate change

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Rome and New York are separated by many things — thousands of miles, different languages and different customs, to name a few.

Yet on Sunday, at Christ Church in Riverdale, congregants were united as one with hundreds who gathered in Rome to rally for action on climate change. 

The Episcopal Church rang its bells and prayed in support of “One Earth, One Human Family,” a march held that day from Piazza Farnese in Rome to St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City — in honor of Pope Francis’ “Praised Be” encyclical, calling for climate action from world leaders.

For the Rev. Andrew Butler, Christ Church’s rector, the decision to support the march was a no-brainer. 

“Climate change is a social justice issue,” he said. “It’s a moral issue, although some would like to say it’s not. Some people think the Church shouldn’t get involved in things like this, but we have enough people here that we feel like we should get involved.” 

It was a welcome surprise for Rev. Butler and many members of Christ Church to see Pope Francis take such a strong stance on climate change. The Catholic Church had never had a pope speak out about the issue. 

“We’re all waiting for leadership, and that it would be a man of religion, of faith and such stature to step up to the plate is just overwhelming,” said Joanne Kraus, a member of Green Strides, Christ Church’s Earth Ministry group. 

Green Strides, which includes Ms. Kraus and seven other members, speaks about climate change and strives to preserve the environment. When the group brought up the bell-ringing idea to Rev. Butler, he accepted it as “a no-brainer.”

“My job as a rector here is to not get in the way,” Rev. Butler said. “My job is to be their cheerleader… It’s a matter of helping people find what their calling is to make a difference.”

Green Strides has been in existence for less than a year. Last October, Ms. Kraus and Anita Dutt, another member of the group, went to a Diocesan workshop and came back convinced they had to make a change.

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