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A pilgrimage of environmental repair and rebirth on the Hudson River

Hudson River Presbytery engages community in awareness, engagement

by Noelle Damico | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Hudson River looking north from the Bear Mountain Bridge. (Photo by Rolf Müller via Wikimedia Commons)

SCARBOROUGH, N.Y. — On a chilly Saturday morning in April, 30 people from six congregations in Hudson River Presbytery embarked on a Holy Week journey of education, advocacy and worship called Healing Sacred Sites: From Death to Resurrection.

The pilgrimage was organized by HRPGreen, a partnership of individuals and congregations in the Hudson River Presbytery that is dedicated to raising awareness and securing engagement around environmental and climate change issues. Participants blew on their hands to keep warm as they bustled onto a trolley in downtown Peekskill, a city on the scenic Hudson River that is undergoing a revitalization due to its proximity to New York City and its vibrant artistic community.

As Peekskill Councilwoman Kathleen Talbot explains, “The city faces challenges to the environment that every town and city must deal with. But it also must acknowledge the potential impact of its proximity to an aging nuclear power plant and the current expanding Spectra pipeline running within a few hundred feet of it. Recent environmental challenges have sharpened focus on an undeniable truth: we will only thrive if we can ensure a safe environment with sustainable resources.”

These challenges are real but there are hopeful ways forward. Kathy Dean, chair of HRPGreen explains, “We created this experience so we could learn about environmental destruction and how we can work together to repair the damage. An essential part of the program was liturgy that focused on environmental rebirth.”

The pilgrimage made its way around the city, visiting environmental sites that need healing including the waste to energy incinerator, Indian Point nuclear facility and a Superfund site. And the pilgrimage also wound its way to places that are being resurrected through people’s careful efforts such as the recently restored waterfront, the rejuvenated walkable downtown and a pond whose damaged waters were healed by natural means by a Peekskill high school science teacher and his class. The cohort of Presbyterians and several members of the wider community heard from experts, prayed together and brought home new models for healing their local land and water.

HRPGreen has both tapped and inspired energy within the presbytery that has been put to concrete use – providing educational forums on solarizing congregations’ buildings, working within and beyond the church for an end to dependence on fossil fuels, stimulating the sharing of best practices in earth care among congregations and within the wider community.

 


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