North Carolina Vigil Raises Awareness for Climate-Threatened Birds

On Earth Day, Audubon chapter leaders and employees connected birds to faith.

The setting differed from the typical Audubon chapter meeting: pews instead of folding chairs, scripture instead of a PowerPoint full of bird photos. And instead of birds singing, people sang.

But the message was the same: birds matter, and they are part of the story of stewardship in the face of climate change.

For Earth Day this year, 90 people joined a vigil hosted by the Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina, along with Audubon North Carolina’s bird-friendly communities coordinator Kim Brand and Tom Tribble, chapter president for the Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society of Asheville, NC.

“They invited us to bring birds into a very reverent space,” says Brand, who set the stage by sharing with the group how birds fit into her spirituality. “Every day, birds make me halt my hectic pace and stop and look and listen. They anchor me in the present moment. They open my heart to joy and inspire my gratitude for their song and for our beautiful earth,” she told the audience.

She and her 9- and 12-year-old daughters joined Tribble and Aimee Tomcho, a conservation biologist with Audubon North Carolina, to speak aloud the names of climate-threatened birds from the pulpit. The songs of beloved, threatened species—Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch​, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Wood Thrush—followed, along with a moment of silence.

Spreading the word about Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report with people of faith is a part of Audubon North Carolina’s climate initiative plan. Working with funding provided from Audubon’s Toyota TogetherGreen Innovation Grant program, Audubon North Carolina is partnering with Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina and North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light to integrate birds into the larger conversation of creation care, heeding the moral and spiritual call to honor the integrity of God’s creation. Creation care advocates are among the growing choir of voices pushing for action on climate change. And although the connection to faith is a new one for many Audubon chapters, Brand says the synergies became obvious very quickly.

“This a way for us to reach people who might not be Audubon-engaged but who are primed to help,” she says.

Along with Brand and congregants from All Souls Episcopal Church and at least eight other congregations, the vigil included the Green Grannies and students from Warren Wilson College, who shared spoken poetry interwoven with stories of their on-campus sustainability activities.

“Birds give me joy every day,” Brand told those worshipping with her. “Sharing my bird joy connects me more deeply with my children, my parents, my friends, my neighbors, even innocent bystanders when I detect a bird and suddenly exclaim about it: OMIGOSH did you hear that? That’s the first Great Crested Flycatcher of the year! They compel me to do all I can to help our Earth.”

Amen to that.