“Preaching to the Choir” Meets 'The Power of Community'

A frequent comment at the end of climate change presentations is, “We are only preaching to the choir.” The implication is that somehow this is a failing in that participants already agree with the findings and projections of the Science of Climate Change. No hearts and minds have been changed. Those who do not accept these findings do not attend the gatherings and are not exposed to the data that demonstrate that we have a serious problem on a planetary scale. But, for a moment, let's put aside the objective of persuading others to our point of view.
If the preaching is valid, it should inspire the choir ('energize the base') to sing more sweetly and, in turn, inspire the parishioners to join in or hum along. The preacher(s), choir and parishioners, together, being energized, can take their song (read: conversation or concern) to the broader community and thereby encourage their participation in the dialogue. Imagine a community allowed to talk about the biggest elephant in the biggest room; people feeling comfortable in talking about climate-instability and its ramifications: in the family, social gatherings, town meetings, school activities, community meetings, events planning, churches, etc. It doesn't take much to expand a conversation, which is already taking place in an inspired smaller group, into a larger one. Just a simple statement of an aspect of the problem that you find of interest, coupled with a willingness to listen to the 'other,' can create a constructive dialogue. So if “preaching to the choir” contributes to expanding the climate change conversation in the broader community and raising its ecological and climate change awareness, then the preaching has a value.
For realists, the question then becomes, how significant is such an effort? How great an impact will an aware community have? It's quite possible that logic may be less helpful than imagination and intuition in making this assessment. In the last week of October, 2015, a group of 60+ volunteers began the local WindowDressers project of fabricating 300 insulated window inserts (reducing CO2 emissions) as part of the 5,000 which were produced state-wide. During that same time, I attended a study group on Climate Change with 20 or so folks. The participants included doctors, life scientists, academics, conservationists, a local food proponent, leaders in social organizations and other well informed citizens. As we talked about the 'sky falling' and parsed the rate and aspects of this process, as related to a great deal of scientific data, I reflected on the volunteers back at the WindowDresser Community Build, cooperatively engaged in a task and had a “what if” moment. I tried to imagine what impact this study group of individuals, with their incredible array of talents, would have if as a community we went beyond understanding earth's withering and engaged in an action.
Last Sunday (2/21), when sitting with a group of 50+ participants at RFS's second Lenten session, Native-American Wisdom and Caring for the Earth with Sherri Mitchell, I again tried to imagine this group's potential. And further, what if these two groups and others coming together to understand earth's plight, became action groups as well. Could such groups work together to help create the synergy and generativity for the Great Turning? What could we accomplish if we were able to Communicate, Cooperate and Coordinate and work toward the Common Good? Joanna Macy believes the answer can only be found in the doing: in that the outcome is shaped by our actions or inactions.
Feedback always welcome,
Tony Ferrara
February 25, 2016