By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle
There is a period in the life of infants when they seem to believe that anything they cannot see no longer exists.
This creates a fun opportunity to play ‘peek-a-boo’ with them and listen to their laughter as you seemingly pop in and out of their lives. Eventually, however, they learn that you remain present when you are not visible, and we shift to other games.
As adults, we know that people exist beyond our immediate perceptions. This knowledge allows us to maintain relationships with individuals we don’t see on a regular basis. Indeed, we can go for years without seeing someone and, when we do get back together, pick up where we left off.
Interestingly, however, our behaviours suggest that, perhaps, we aren’t as cognisant of other aspects of our lives continuing to exist beyond our perception of them. Consider our attitudes when we ‘throw something away’. It goes into a bin. The bin is put out at the curb on our designated day. It gets picked up and we cease to think about it. It is beyond our perception and our concern. Except that it isn’t or, rather, it shouldn’t be.
Everything we ‘throw away’ must go somewhere. Often it is to the dump where it is left to decay, creating gases, and run off that pollute the environment. Sometimes garbage is shipped elsewhere – to places and countries that store it on our behalf or try to recycle what they can of the refuse. At times garbage falls into waterways and contributes to pollution along beaches and the ever growing ‘garbage patches’ in the oceans. While, for us, it may be ‘out of sight, out of mind’, in reality, everything we ‘throw away’ has the potential to undermine our ability to sustain and renew the life of the earth.
Indeed, our ability to live out the Marks of Mission depends, to some extent, on our willingness to contemplate, learn about, and reflect upon the consequences of our actions which are often beyond our perception. Consequently, it is essential that we take the time to educate ourselves in ways that invite us to see beyond the hands held up to our mother’s eyes as she hides and then reveals herself with a ‘peek-a-boo’.
This deeper look at the implications of our actions invites us to not only cut the strings of disposable masks to prevent wildlife from being caught in them. It should also invite us to contemplate why these masks are in reach of wildlife and what we can do to reduce this growing waste. We can and should be asking far more complex questions about what is happening in our world and the implications for the ability to sustain and renew it.
The motion at Synod 2019 challenging churches to eliminate single use plastics by 2023 provides a concrete way to engage in such reflection. Following the example of the Church of England, Bishop Townshend has also asked that we explore what it would take for our Diocese to become carbon neutral. Research has begun. Some churches have already taken bold steps to explore ways to reduce their carbon footprint. We celebrate and hope to learn from these.
As we engage in this journey, we are all encouraged to continually reflect upon the implications of the choices we make. What can we do to educate ourselves about that which we often take for granted? How can we make sure that ‘out of sight’ is not really ‘out of mind’ but rather we make intentional choices about what we purchase with an understanding of the consequences of what will happen when we no longer need it? What information do we need to help us better decide what we can do to safeguard the integrity of God’s Creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth?
The time when we can play ‘peek-a-boo’ with God’s Creation is passed. It is time to embrace our experiences of the world in new and significant ways. How will this understanding help transform our relationship to the world? The choice is ours to make.
Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is the Social and Ecological Justice Huron chair.