Loving God's Creation
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Earth Action, Reflection, Theology and Hope
Dear Friends in Earth Care,

Happy Earth Month! This wonderful “holiday,” originated in 1970 with the creation of Earth Day, gives us a touch point in the calendar to remember our connection with the earth. And we are delighted that this year on Earth Day, the Paris Agreement is scheduled to be signed, signaling an important crux in our work to create meaningful action in response to the climate crisis. Please take time to thank those that have worked tirelessly to see this action come to fruition and consider how you might make Earth Day a yearlong event. Blessings on you and yours! 

Katie Preston, EARTH Committee member
Presbyterians for Earth Care
Left to right:
Cassandra Carmichael of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment,
Diane Waddell,
PEC Moderator,
Rabbi Doug Alpert from Kansas City, MO,
and the Reverend Dr. Dee Cooper, of the PC(USA), advocating on the Hill for the Endangered  Species Act in Washington, DC
Eco-Justice on Earth Day     Veronica Kyle
Veronica Kyle works at Faith in Place, an interfaith environmental organization  that works throughout the state of Illinois. She collected images and phrases from her colleagues about Earth Day.

Earth Day is a time for us faithful workers – clergy and lay – to pause together in prayer and praise, educating, connecting, and advocating on behalf of our common home. Rev.  Brian Sauder, Executive Director
Earth Day is a time of reflection and self-examination regarding our care of Creation. It’s a time to remind ourselves that we been given this precious gift to sustain us and to take appropriate action to show our gratitude.  Each day is “Earth Day” as long we have the blessing of her life source. Veronica Kyle, Chicago Outreach Director
Earth Day is great as it raises awareness and big events this time of year can draw more people into taking action for Earth care. It seems there has been more action the last several years as people think of "Earth care" as taking actions that have healthy results for the environment and especially for each other.
I'm excited to see many people taking action every day, and not just on Earth day, as people know we need ongoing action to bring about big healthy changes for everyone. We're seeing results and great things can happen if more people continue to join us in taking action! Dan Huntsha, Outreach Support for Energy Programs

I always think of Earth Day as both a celebration of what has already been accomplished in the environmental movement and a reminder that there is so much more to be done. Callie Mabry, Outreach Coordinator for Farmer’s Markets and Communications
Earth Day is a time to restore right relationship with the planet. Marcia Nelson, Outreach Intern for Farmer’s Markets
Love one another – by taking care of our air, water, & land, we take care of our neighbors. Ginnie Judd, Office Administrator

Earth Day, is the opportunity to take long lasting action in care for the Earth, to learn about ways in which we can make changes in our daily lives to protect the environment in a more sustainable and responsible way.  Earth Day is a vital opportunity to bring awareness, connection, and engagement within people in your own communities to take real active roles to become more energy efficient, implementation of recycling and waste reduction strategies, and improvement of our public transportation infrastructure so we can all have access to public transportation to reduce carbon foot print daily.  It is the opportunity for real and meaningful discussions on how we can all make a positive change to protect our Planet Earth. Susana Figueroa, Outreach Director, Waukegan, Illinois
Since my family and I have an “every day is Earth Day” mentality, we’re frequently looking at ways to consume less, reuse, and take better care of the land, air, and water around us. Earth Day is a chance for us to reflect upon what we’ve accomplished and celebrate, while also dreaming of more ways to show our care for creation. Christina Krost, Outreach support for Energy Program
I think of Earth Day as a chance to get all of our voices heard and people counted to let the Legislators know that we care about our Planet and its common land, air & waters and they should too by passing the correct laws that are needed. And its also a time to EDUCATE ourselves on how to get a bill signed into Law, CONNECT with others of like-mind & ADVOCATE for the good stewardship of OUR Earth.  "Hey Family, Friends, Co-workers, Partners, we only have this one planet so we had better get this right the 1st time!" Samantha Miller, Outreach Support for Energy Program
The very first Earth Day, my seventh grade self collected wastewater for testing from the power utility's run off.  I was with a couple of classmates and an idealistic science young teacher.  It was exciting to think that we were part of a vast and growing network of friends of the Earth.  46 years older (and wiser?) Earth Day is a reminder to remain hopeful and active with those who love Earth and want to protect her future. Rev. Cindy Shepherd, Outreach Director for Central Illinois
Earth Day – is a day to refocus on my participation in preserving the environment for our children’s future.  Luke 10:25-37- There is no way that you can love God without loving and caring for the Earth he created.  Also, to love your neighbor as you love yourself you must care about the issues that affect your neighbor even if those issues don’t affect you. Ray Bell, Outreach Coordinator for Water Program
April EARTH-Keeper: Dave Grace
by Tama Eller

Each month in EARTH, we're featuring individuals who inspire us to care for creation. This month, we hear from PEC's Steering Committee At-Large Representative.

Dave is a member of Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church in N.C. and a student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Divinity School. Dave writes a blog as  “a bridge between the academic study of ecology and theology and communities of faith so that students, practitioners, and people of faith increasingly recognize shared ground and opportunities for contributing to the common good of the environment.”  He organizes the Youth Faith Conservation Network (YFCN), made up of  “high school youth of faith communities enacting sustainable habitat and energy projects within faith communities.” It is a partnership between NC Interfaith Power and Light and New Hope Audubon Society and supported by Toyota TogetherGreen.

The YFCN was launched by inviting youth to an ice-cream party to explore how to connect faith with environmental restoration through hands-on conservation.  As students developed ideas, they were provided with:  a peer network; fundraising opportunities; mentors from 1. their congregation and 2. the community (in energy, ecology, and information science/technology); and training (Brown-headed Nuthatch conservation, landscaping with native plants for wildlife habitat, and utilizing social media and art for conservation). They participated in “Witnessing Best Practices in Habitat and Energy: A Tour of Raleigh Faith Communities via Biodiesel Bus,” including an example of wetlands restoration.  Four youth projects resulted:  1. purchase and distribution of 50 Nuthatch birdhouses, 2. rain garden/native landscaping for wildlife on church grounds, 3. writing a church curriculum resource on wildlife conservation, and 4. promotion of solar panel installation.

A group that participated in Faith Conservation Network (YFCN)

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”  2 Corinthians 9:12 (NIV)

For more information about Dave’s work, feel free to contact him at david.grace@duke.edu and read at http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/author/davegrace/.
A Story of the Trees                                                             Rev. Jay Banasiak
Rev. Jay Banasiak lives in Chattanooga, TN, where he woodworks, composes/arranges sacred music, and cares for his mother who has ALS. His woodwork can be viewed on his Facebook and Etsy pages for Jay Ban Works.

I inherited a stack of wood. A stack of wood is not one's typical item of inheritance, but this stack of wood possesses a story that began for my family well over a century ago. My grandfather grew up on a farm in Durham County, North Carolina, during the early 20th Century. His family was one of many merchants and farmers in that area of central North Carolina. A large black walnut tree provided walnuts and shade in the front yard of their farmhouse for two generations and possibly more. In the early 1940s, the aged tree fell over and remained recumbent in the front yard for a handful of years, before my grandfather had the tree milled and stacked in the basement of his and my grandmothers' first home in Durham. The stack of wood traveled to their second home in the mid-1960s, which by then included some oak and cedar sprinkled in, where my grandfather began to work the wood into toys, small accessories, and beautiful furniture, and where the rest of the stack remained until 2007...when I inherited it.
My love of woodworking stems from both grandfathers and my father, who were all hobbyist woodworkers. I have been a hobbyist woodworker for several years and only recently increased my work output and began selling it. This stack of beautiful black walnut lumber that has lived through several generations of my family supplied my woodworking starting point and is worth more to me than the monetary value. Through careful refinement of three generations, the stack of wood has yielded practical accessories of lamps, candlesticks, bowls, toys, and more; a stunning baby cradle that I slept in; and now all these years later, it graces the homes of fellow Presbyterians as cutouts of the Montreat Gate, Christmas ornaments, and the Seal of the PCUSA. The story the wood tells lives on in the works of art created from it and inspires me to continue the family tradition of woodworking.

Reclaimed wood, such as this black walnut tree, is not my only source of wood for my woodworking, but it is certainly my preferred choice. In caring for God's creation, I am drawn towards reclaiming (or salvaging) wood that has either fallen due to natural causes, was intentionally felled for other reasons, or removed from old buildings. The same principles of reclaim/recycle/reuse that we apply to the goods of our daily waste can be applied to the goods of creation. If I had the storage space, I would grab all the salvaged wood I could. (Although, if I had an old, wooden barn that could hold additional stock of wood, my personal dilemma would be choosing between using it to store the wood, or carefully taking it apart and reclaiming the wood for new use!) Such wood has a story of its own that begs to be remembered and told. In addition to the black walnut, I have reclaimed logs, planks, and chunks of wood from several places which are a part of my story: white pine I planted as a 6th grader but removed for safety, maple I pruned from the front yard, and white oak removed by TVA from the woods behind my childhood home; red oak from my grandparent's yard removed after a storm; maple taken down at my former congregation during a recent building expansion; red oak & pine felled for safety at Massanetta Springs Presbyterian Conference Center; as well as poplar lumber salvaged from recent renovations in the Anderson Auditorium at Montreat Conference Center. My friends know enough of my love of reclaiming wood that several have offered me additional logs and planks as well.
God's story is not only told in the stories of God's people, but in the story of God's creation. Isaiah tells us,

“For you shall go out in joy,
            and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
            shall burst into song,
            and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:12)

The elements of creation that watch over us all have a story to tell as they burst into song and clap their hands. Though they cannot use words, the stories that these trees know keep us connected to creation, if we take the opportunity to listen. Every piece of wood that is salvaged reclaims a story that God intends to be shared. When we reclaim the trees felled as the results of natural causes, laid waste by urban cutting, or removed for safety or other intentional reasons, we are giving grace to God's creation and salvation to the stories held within. The tree itself may die, but the wood left behind becomes a book of stories that acts as the next vessel to carry the tree's knowledge. Many people share stories about the trees in their lives: trees they climbed, trees that provided shade, trees that were beautiful to look at, and more. Someone may say, “That's a pretty piece of woodworking,” but when the owner/artist can respond, “Thanks...it is made from wood that comes from a tree that once stood in the yard of my grandfather's childhood home,” the piece becomes all the more historical, special, and theological.
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