COP26 is happening in your backyard. How does it feel to be a church in the middle of all that? Do you feel part of the global conversation happening in Glasgow?
Rev. Machado: Of course, everyone is talking about COP26 here. I think the agenda of the summit became the agenda of the city and also of the churches during this time. During these two weeks, we had many prayer services with the theme of caring for God’s creation, for example. However, the overwhelming number of events and initiatives taking place at the same time in such a short period also creates a feeling of confusion and lack of understanding of the big picture. We are always looking and getting involved in small parts of it. The biggest challenge will be how we deal with the legacy of COP26. How will the churches that have seen and hosted so many things involving so many people from around the world keep the climate protection agenda as part of their lives?
Can you share a few concrete examples on how people in your congregation are engaging in the debate on climate change—and even engaging in a change of lifestyle in order to protect the planet?
Rev. Machado: We have a very committed small group in the congregation that is connected to ecological matters. This group is strongly engaged in the Eco Congregation Scotland initiative. Through our group, we tend to follow the Eco Congregation ideas and plans, and try to develop them at the level of our congregation’s life. It involves the organization of services inspired by the care for creation theme over the year, special offerings and other related activities. During COP26, we are hosting two delegates from Africa. We also joined the vigils and marches that took place in Glasgow during the climate summit. Also in the church building, we have been implementing adjustments to make it more eco-friendly.
How do these initiatives also involve children in the congregation?
Rev. Machado: Together with the Jewish Synagogue nearby, we are planning an initiative with children and youth to collect garbage in our neighborhood. Our church garden, which was once awarded for its eco-friendly format, is also a space for community building and to raise awareness about the importance of caring for God’s creation.
Do you believe that local initiatives such as the ones you promote in your congregation have the potential to inspire the national church in its policies and positions on climate change?
Rev. Machado: On the one hand, the national church’s position on climate inspires many congregations to engage in this work, but, on the other hand, groups in our congregations challenge and stimulate the conversations and decision-making processes at the national level of the church. The small groups of many congregations have a strong potential for inspiration and triggering action of the whole church. This exchange creates a wave of inspiration for stronger involvement on climate issues that hits congregations that were not exactly involved with the agenda yet.
Looking back to your years of ministry in the church, how do you see the climate-related themes becoming an important part of the life of the congregation?
Rev. Machado: Some 30 years ago, when I was a student of theology, I went to listen to several lectures from Frey Leonardo Boff. And every time I was expecting him to tackle the key points of the social political analysis that the liberation theology elaborated so well and that inspired so many of my generation. But instead of talking about that, Boff presented a reflection completely focused on God’s creation, ecology and the interconnectivity of all living beings. I was disappointed when I heard that from him at that time. Yes, nature is important, but it was time to talk about the system that oppresses people and is the root of all injustice! However, after all these years, I realize that Boff was a visionary by showing the way of how the climate protection issues are integral and fundamental on the theological analysis of the structures of injustice in our world. We can’t disconnect the reality of suffering of people from the reality of suffering of nature. We will not have social justice without climate justice.