Prayer: The Missing Ingredient in a Fight for the Environment

Prayer: The Missing Ingredient in a Fight for the Environment

In the fight against a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth, environmental activists thought they had tried everything.

But one thing they were missing - prayer - may just have been the missing ingredient.

Gretchen Elmendorf, Pastor of the East Weymouth Congregational Church, says the story began two and half years ago, when Massachusetts Conference Climate Justice Intern Patrick Cage called her office and asked if she might be interested in joining with other churches to work against a compressor in Weymouth.

"I said that sounds great, I sent out an email, and I forgot about it," she said. "But you know how God doesn't knock on your door only once?"

Fast forward six months, and Gretchen and Tina Walker-Morin, Pastor of the Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC, Weymouth, were marching together with other residents against the compressor station. Since that time, they have been going to town hall meetings and marches, making calls and writing letters, and Elmendorf spent time sitting in the Governor's office with a woman doing a sit-in there. And at the State of the Town Meeting, she heard Mayor Robert Hedlund say that no where else in the nation was there a compressor station proposed for such a densely populated area - and no where else were town leaders so passionately working against one.

Then Elmendorf heard the Rev. Paul Nickerson say that vital churches are the ones that fall in love with their communities. 

"As a pastor, I fell in love with Weymouth," she said. "I am awed by the civic and political leadership in this town. I asked God in prayer: what else would you have me do to help?  And the answer that came to me was to start an open prayer group for the community - not in the church but at the dirty, industrial site of the proposed compressor station."

So, in partnership with Walker-Morin and a local Baptist pastor, Betsy Sowers, Elmendorf tonight will lead the first of a weekly prayer circle at the site. Activists gather at the site every Wednesday evening at 5 PM and hold signs; now at 6 PM they will have a chance to join in prayer.

Elmendorf said when she went to a Fore River Citizen's Action Against the Compression Station meeting to propose the idea, it was embraced.

"To my amazement, in this secular meeting, they were unanimously for this," she said.  "They said 'we've tried everything' and I thought to myself, ah yeah, but then there is the spiritual." 

"I tilled the land of the prayer site by going and offering prayers during the day and at night and creating prayer videos that I posted on social media," Elmendorf said. The first prayer, which you can see here, was viewed over 2,000 times in 24 hours.
Youth work on a prayer wall at the site

"I wanted to involve the children and youth of the church in this movement, so they developed a prayer wall and said some prayers as well at the site," she said.

"What's stunning now is how the awareness about this multi-layered movement is growing exponentially and every day seems to be filled with serendipity, or divine Providence," Elmendorf said "The Boston Globe is turning its attention to the issues, and Governor Baker said he would get involved."

"It's like there is that last ingredient needed to make the soufflé rise – adding the Holy Spirit to the mix is just right," she said.



tiffany vail cropped.jpg
Tiffany Vail

Tiffany Vail is the Director of Media & Communications for the Southern New England Conference.

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