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When things gets hot, how will places of worship respond?

Despite the frigid weather in some parts of the USA this winter, the global temperature is rising. You may have heard that the Iditarod, Alaska’s famed dog sled race, was moved 225 miles north from its traditional starting place because of the heat. It is no fun to drag a sled across gravel. Of course folks in California and Australia know about the growing extreme heat. Also, recent studies point out that heat and drought are some of the causes of the current conflict in Syria. The planet is changing, and we need to adapt to these changes.

Image from The Conversation. Want to Keep Cool on hot summer days? Here's how.

Image from The Conversation. Want to Keep Cool on hot summer days? Here’s how.

Scientists are now urging communities to begin preparing for an expected leap in temperatures over the next 10 years. The oceans have been absorbing a great deal of heat, but because of the natural ocean cycles, that protection on land is about to be lifted. Heat waves are coming very soon. Some officials see the handwriting on the wall and are beginning to respond:

Cities and communities around the world are already taking steps to protect their citizens from the rising threats of extreme heat waves, which often take the heaviest tolls in cities, where concrete urban landscapes produce islands of intense heat. Steps taken by public health departments in places such as Milwaukee, for example, include better planning for heat emergencies, such as providing places where vulnerable residents can cool down. Steps being taken in other American cities, such as Louisville, Ky., aim to reimagine the built environment in ways that can reduce the heat island effect.

-from Looming Warming Spurt Could Reshape Climate Debate by John Upton writing for Climate Central

I think of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. After Pharaoh has troubling dreams, Joseph, a young person of faith, gets hauled out of prison to interpret the dreams. Joseph informs the court that seven years of excellent growing seasons are coming to Egypt followed by seven years of the worse drought ever. Joseph then suggests a plan of action.

Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint overseers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven years of plenty. And let them gather all the food of these good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. And the food shall be for a store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.’ (from Genesis Chapter 41, JPS Tanakh version 1917)

Egyptian workers harvesting grain and carrying it away to be threshed. Tomb of Mena, Thebes, ca. 1420 B.C. ABR File photo.

Egyptian workers harvesting grain and carrying it away to be threshed. Tomb of Mena, Thebes, ca. 1420 B.C. ABR File photo.

Joseph’s plan works. It maintains political stability and more importantly saves many lives. There is a downside to the plan in that it ultimately places all the property in Pharaoh’s hands, turning the ruler into the ultimate 1%, but I will write about that in a future post.

We hear that the heat waves are on the horizon. Some cities are taking this seriously. But what about places of worships? Churches, Synagogues, Temples, Mosques, Meeting Houses, and other places of worship can and should take a role on a changing planet.

In addition to providing pastoral care to those grieving over a changing planet, uncertain about the future, and needing comfort, these places of worship can step up and develop plans for the very hot days that are coming. People will need actual sanctuary from the extreme heat. What role might your place of worship take in providing shelter?

To give you an idea, here is a radio transmission from the year 2164. Take a listen to this broadcast of That Day in Climate History and discover how a group of clergy faced the heat and provided sanctuary.


Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

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