Making the turn

The Fourth of the Conversations 

Washington Fire Hall, Sunday May 15th.  At last we are out from under the rain and we gather on this lovely afternoon — some thirty-four of us — for the fourth in the series of conversations inspired by Pope Francis’ On Care Of Our Common Home.

[A summary of the previous Conversations can be found here.]

We form into three circles, nearly knee-to-knee, as we have done each month since the first of the Conversations this past February.  You see in the room a cross-section of Rappahannock’s population: young and old, women and men, liberals and conservatives, those of deeply religious feeling and those who are not religious at all, and a large number of folks in between.

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On this day the people are working from a papal paragraph that calls for “combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”

How did people around here respond to Francis?  With a whole bunch of ideas.

Raise the gasoline tax to pay for repairs to bridges and highways and other infrastructure.

Encourage healthy eating by converting food stamps to debit cards and “if you want a hamburger, you pay cash; if you have broccoli, you get to use the debit card” that we give you.

Still more ideas.  And a warning about the climate.  “The planet is fighting back.  Rising seas.  The growth of deserts.  The rise in exotic diseases.”  And, as another participant put it, “nature does not negotiate.”

Some thoughts on population. “I’ve read that it will even out, worldwide, at ten billion.”

Overpopulation is a problem, some say.  But one young man says it is the opposite: it is good to have more population, he opines, “because when you have more people you have more ideas.”

How about we start growing food at the Food Pantry itself? Turning out our own crops?

Judy Reidinger sings "Mother Earth", a song she composed.

Judy Reidinger sings “Mother Earth”, a song she composed.

Still more comments: “Everyone in the world should have equal access to resources.”  And another: “It is very difficult to be conscious of the environment of you are poor.”  And one about remodeling government itself: “Can’t we have democratic socialism?”

As in each of the Conversations that has come before, there is the observation that “the Pope has touched many,” and the comment from another that “the Pope has to talk to the world, not just to the church.”

A poster depicts the six main sections of the Pope Francis encyclical letter, titled “Laudato Si”, and “Care for Our Common Home.”

A poster depicts the six main sections of the Pope Francis encyclical letter, titled “Laudato Si”, and “Care for Our Common Home.”

Across the three working groups, folks generally spoke with ease.  Politeness was the rule even when, as one of the moderators noted, “we have some tension here, some very real tension.”  That was between some who are devout, and some whose faith lies more in the constitution that governs us all.  Any disagreements were firm, but civil — as they have been throughout the Conversations.

County Supervisor Chris Parrish takes his turn to speak.

County Supervisor Chris Parrish takes his turn to speak.

Making the Turn

With this Conversation on the Sunday just past, May 15th, the organizers now make the turn from talk to action.  In what they all Next Steps, Tuck Grinnell of St. Peter Church, Russ Savage of the Unitarian Universalists, Bev Hunter of RappFLOW and the Green Team of St. James Episcopal in Warrenton give you, the reader, your “opportunity to share with the group your idea or project or organization.”

The fifth and final Conversation is scheduled for Sunday, June 12 — again at the fire hall in Washington.  “Your endeavor,” reads the notice handed out this past Sunday, “could take one of several forms: recruiting volunteers for an existing organization; forming and leading a new group; leading a group on a field trip; hosting a one-time activity.”

At the June 12th Conversation, the organizers will give you the chance to set up a display, and/or give a brief presentation about your project.

Deadline: Whatever you would propose, get your name and email address and your telephone number plus the name of your initiative, its purpose and your role in it. Add what commitment you are looking for, and describe why it is important in helping the earth and its creatures. Note whether you would like a table, or other display space.

Get all this together and email it to all three of the following:

Thus the Conversation series ends and is followed by a new beginning.  The last of the talk and the start of the action.  All because a man from Argentina is popular enough and persuasive enough to have charmed (and enlisted) many folks within his church, and many more from outside any church to the idea of helping the poor and the planet at the same time.

You can find a summary of all the Conversation meetings here.

by Jed Duvall, Amissville