Despite the challenges and the heartbreak of current and potential disaster due to climate change, God has graced us with ability to seek and know comfort in the gift of the beauty of creation. This edition of EARTH will help share that gift.
In this EARTH news, we bring the August EARTH-Keeper, shared by our Southwest Regional Representative, David Sholin, and offer a report from Nancy Corson Carter about her delightful visit to the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies Center at Oberlin College. We introduce an “Emerging Leader" column, with an article by Eco-Steward, Kathleen Murphy. We invite you to share and use the worship resources including prayers, liturgy and music for the September 1 World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation.
PEC is transitioning from one EARTH editor to another. We have been so grateful for the gifts shared by Abby Mohaupt, who has been our editor for the last several years, and will continue to format EARTH. We wish her Godspeed as she pursues her PhD at Drew University. And simultaneously, we give many thanks to Sue Smith who has agreed to serve as editor of EARTH beginning next month!
In upcoming editions, the EARTH team will be sharing a diverse selection of submissions on advocacy; spiritual, theological, and worship resources; poetry and other art-related works; our "Emerging Leader" column and much more including book reviews, eco-justice concerns, and EARTH-Keeper of the month!
Thanks to all for being a part of our wider PEC Team!! We need you and EARTH needs you!
Around 1998, Sarah King issued an announcement calling together all interested in an ecology and justice focus within the (then) Arizona Ecumenical Council. As a result of that call, today, Sarah is the long-standing chair of the (now) Arizona Faith Network’s (AFN) Earth Care Commission.
Through her commitment and leadership, the Earth Care Commission (ECC) has been and is involved in featuring a number of Earth Care events, gatherings and projects. These include Earth Day celebrations and conferences, calling attention to crucial environmental problems and concerns, such as water, soil and food. Her involvement continues to find Sarah organizing any number of outings and explorations in her beloved Southwest, leading many of us to better understand and challenge the degradation of our interconnected eco-systems and importantly connected sacred spaces and natural places.
Here’s a partial list: Co-sponsor of Environmental Day at the Legislature for the past 6 years; hikes and outings to public lands in southwest part of the state in need of protection from rapid development, especially Great Bend of the Gila; delivering messages and sermons at churches in various parts of the state on behalf of Public Lands protection; working with groups of public and private stakeholders to develop a plan of action for the Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage Act; hosting a number of Earth Care Conferences in partnership with other environmental organizations; writing op-eds and LTE's on behalf of public lands and national monuments; working with Arizona Coalition for Mining Reform and San Carlos Apache in appeals to legislators to save Oak Flat Recreation Area from mining interests.
To quote Sarah, “As part of the GreenFaith Fellow Class of 2016, I am upping my game as a leader in the religion-based environmental movement. It's a challenging curriculum, and I've had to do some deep soul-searching as to my reasons for choosing this unique path of environmental stewardship. I feel very blessed to have the support of an extraordinary mentor, Rev. Fletcher Harper, and have developed a wonderful network of other leaders who believe--as I do--that the created world is a gift that we squander at our own peril. Our collective wisdom traditions tell us that we are part of this wonderful and mysterious web of life, and the harm we do to one part of it, we do to all of it.”
A related aspect of Sarah’s eco-energy, is her being instrumentally involved in the creation and on-going activity of the Arizona chapter of Interfaith Power and Light (AzIPL). Much of today’s important collaborations found at work between ECC and AzIPL are a tribute to Sarah’s direction dedication.
Sarah lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, and worships at Flagstaff Federated Church. She has been married 39 years to her “supportive and long-suffering” spouse, Charlie. They have two children and two grandchildren, who, according to Sarah, “are my real motivation for everything I do through ECC and AzIPL. Leaving them a sustainable world is the greatest gift I can give.”
And just to stay busy, Sarah is the founder, director and lead player of the all-female, all-acoustic, all-volunteer steel drum band, Steelin’ the Night Away – often heard enhancing many Southwest environmental and church events.
In 2010 Oberlin College celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center (AJLC) for Environmental Studies. Architect Magazine recognized it then as the most important green building constructed in the last 30 years.
This July, I joined the thousands of visitors who have toured and learned firsthand about this special building. I’d hoped to see it since I met David Orr, the plenary science speaker at PRC/PEC’s 2002 national conference at Linfield College, in Oregon. Orr oversaw the process of creating the AJLC as then-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin; it manifests his belief that “Our job as people of faith is to build a world that reconnects,” a world with “architecture as a form of theology.”
Besides such sustainable choices as solar and geothermal energy provisions and recycled and biodegradable materials, the building features a “Living Machine.” This is an ecologically engineered system that combines elements of conventional wastewater technology with the purification processes of wetland ecosystems—plants with roots supporting living bio-filters like snails and bacteria— to treat and recycle the building’s wastewater. A weather station monitors real-time conditions and trends for a variety of environmental variables.
The landcape is an integral part of the AJLC; it includes an orchard and permaculture garden, paths, and benches.
Colin Koffel, an Oberlin graduate, portrays the building’s wide educational reach: “The Lewis Center isn’t just home to environmental studies. I also took classes in economics and cinema studies there, and it helped bring discussions of sustainability into those fields.” The building, true to its inclusion of community input since the beginning, has become a center for many local events. Clearly the design team led by William McDonough + Partners created a building that will adapt and change as more sustainable, hopeful solutions unfold.
below, clockwise from top left: the group at the Lewis Center; the hand-printed notice was posted inside the bathroom stalls of the bldg; the group's guide, Benjamin Hobbs, AJLC Facilities Manager and Community Outreach Coordinator; the Lewis Center.
Kathleen Murphy is one of the newest Eco-Stewards having participated this summer in the Seattle trip. When she returned home, she kept the momentum going by rallying against a corporate pipeline (Mountain Valley Pipeline) to be constructed in her home state of Virginia.
It’s easy to get bogged down by the enormity of it all. The doomsday predictions, the destruction of our natural resources, conflicting interests furthering stereotypes of supporters on each side, and most of all - the feeling of being so small that you, one individual, cannot make a difference and your voice will be drowned out by all the noise.
When we feel overwhelmed it’s easier to retreat, simply throw up our hands and say the problem is too big. The noise is deafening. Who will hear me, even if I yell?
During my time with the other eco-focused young adults on our Eco-Stewards trip to Seattle, I learned many things that continue to shape my perspective and daily habits. We met with members from the Lummi Nation, a Native tribe living in the far northwest portion of Washington State. The Lummi have been in this area of Washington for generations and are very connected to the waterways in the area, mainly the Salish Sea. These waters are sacred fishing grounds for the Lummi. The immense respect their people have for the water influences the life of the tribe and the life of each individual. This respect, sadly, is not a part of the culture in corporate oil and coal export. Corporate interests have pillaged the Lummi’s sacred waterways for oil and coal. Luckily, the Lummi were courageous enough to fight, and defeat, plans to install another massive export facility.
Corporate interests plan to do similar things here, in Virginia, by building a natural gas pipeline that runs through some of Virginia’s most pristine mountainous landscapes. Our governor has decided to support the pipeline to the shock and disappointment of many citizens. Our disappointment turned into action.
A number of community groups and non-profits organized a “March on the Mansion” to show our opposition to the pipeline. Even on a 98-degree day, with the heat index well over 100, we took to the streets of Richmond in a physical manifestation of resistance. Conservative estimates say the crowd was 600 strong. I think it was more. We marched from the James River, which is being polluted by the region’s electric utility monopoly, past the electric utility’s headquarters, through Capital Square to the Governor’s Mansion. We were loud, we had signs, we had community.
When you think that the noise is too loud for you to be heard, do not retreat. This is too great an issue to retreat. God’s Creation is at stake. So, when you feel like you will be drowned out, join others and yell together. The sum of all of our voices can, and will, overcome the noise.
PEC is grateful for our colleagues in creation care, Revs. Bruce & Carolyn Gillette, co-pastors of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. They are consistently generous in sharing the fruits of their creative ministry both through liturgical resourcing, contributing and supporting overtures - including On Amending “The Ministry of Members,” by adding “Caring for God’s Creation - and through hymnody in eco-justice.
Bruce reminds us that the PC(USA) joined Pope Francis’ call for all Christians to support an ecumenical day of prayer for the Care of Creation on September 1 annually at the 222nd General Assembly. This day was first proposed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The September 1st World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is to be included in the PC(USA) Program Calendars and resources are to be made available online on the PC(USA) website. Thanks also to the Presbytery of Sante Fe who submitted the overture “ On Communicating Gratitude for and Study of the Encyclical “Laudato Si.”
Bruce and Carolyn have compiled resources that include a reflection from Dr. Bill Brown and a beautiful litany they have written that blends the Lord’s Prayer with concern for God's creation.
Leader: Loving God, we remember that Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Our Father…” People: You created us, you made this world, and you called your creation very good. Yet often we forget that you are our loving Parent who continues to bless your world.
Leader: Jesus told us that you are “…in heaven…” People: Yet we fail to live in awe of you. We take you for granted, and we don’t see the awesome beauty of the world you have made.
Leader: We pray, “Hallowed be your name…” People: We confess that our reverence for you does not always lead us to care reverently for your earth, sky and sea.
Leader: We pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” People: We confess that we often put our own interests first—exploiting your creation, and living for our own convenience and self-interest.
Leader: We pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” People: We confess that we consume more than our share of the world’s resources, while billions go hungry every day and your whole creation suffers.
Leader: We pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” People: We confess that we see these words only in spiritual terms, while the Bible is filled with teachings about economic justice and creation care.
Leader: We pray, “Save us from the time of trial.” People: Help us to resist the temptations of spending more, using more, acquiring more, and wasting more.
Leader: We pray, “Deliver us from evil…” People: Free us from greed and self-centeredness that separate us from you and others.
Leader: We pray, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever.” People: Help us to know that in caring for your wonderful world, we are working for your kingdom, being good stewards of your creative power, and giving you glory.
Leader: We pray, “Amen.” People: We end our prayers with “Amen,” a word that means “let it be so.” We know we can be faithful disciples by your grace. Amen!
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