Loving God's Creation


Earth Action, Reflection, Theology and Hope

One of my favorite Bible passages is Mary’s Magnificat:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…He has brought down the powerful from their throne, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 2:46-47, 52-53)

As Mary anticipated the birth of Jesus, there is an expectation of justice. Those who are hungry, those who live lightly on the earth, are filled with good things. Those who are rich are not.

As we approach the coming Advent season which has become identified with wanting it all, EARTH addresses consumption from a perspective of less. Kennedy Blackwell-Lewis and Mary Beene reflect on how we fill the voids in our life with convenient consumption; Colleen Earp relates on how Camp Hanover teaches children about simplicity through food; Nancy Corson Carter reminds us of the problems of bottled water; and we feature some work of environmental artist, Bryant Holsenbeck. Jane Laping highlights our EARTH-Keeper of the Month: Penny Hooper.

As always, if you wish to contribute to EARTH, we want to hear from you.

May you all experience a blessed Advent and Christmas season, with enough,

Sue Smith, Co-Editor, EARTH

My Spiritual Thoughts…..
Consumption…Bottled Water…

by Kennedy Blackwell-Lewis

Have you ever thought about how what you consume affects your relationship with God?  Kennedy Blackwell-Lewis, a high school senior in Dublin, Georgia has.

Most people, Christians included, struggle daily with the desire to fulfill their worldly wants. They go to church on Sunday, they go to bible study on Wednesday, and they say their prayers at night, but what about the other hours left in their weeks? The definition of consumption is the act of consuming, as by use, decay, or destruction. Instead of fulfilling our simple bodily needs, we often over consume, eating more food, using more materials, or taking more aid than necessary. In doing this, we attempt to fill some type of void, but what is that void?
We go to church, lifting our voices to sing, telling Him that He is all we need and desire, but in reality, we fail to act in this way. What void are we trying to fill? What do we find in food or drinks that could possibly be better than the many blessings God can bestow upon us? The most simplistic answer to this question would be convenience. By nature, humans desire matters of the flesh because they can easily be executed. We can call on God all the time, but waiting for an answer often repels people and pushes them toward what they can receive quickly and simply on earth. For example, we often run towards bottled water for the simple reason that it is convenient. We don't have to obtain a cup, filter the water, and wash the cup later; however, constantly seeking convenience destroys the environment, creating more pollution, using up valuable resources. In the same manner, when we seek convenience in our spiritual life, we destroy our relationship with God. Every action possesses an equal and opposite reaction, and seeking convenience may benefit an individual immediately, but the long term effects prove to be unfavorable.
Reflection Questions and Prayer by the Rev. Mary Beene: 
Convenience is usually a positive, powerful word in our society.  After all, there is never enough time for everything.  How do you seek convenience in your everyday life?  Do you see ways your personal searches for convenience negatively affect God’s creation? 
What about convenience when it comes to God?  Do you take time for a relationship with God through prayer and study, worship and fellowship?  Or do you look for convenient ways to fit God around the other parts of your life?  Do you know the term “church-shopping?” Have you ever thought that we might make “God” and the church of Jesus Christ just more things to try to consume? 
Consider this prayer, inspired by Kennedy’s words:
God, who provides all we need and can fill every void in our hearts.  Forgive us when we try to consume you instead of worship and trust you.  Forgive us when we eat more food, use more materials and take more aid than is necessary, trying to fill a void that can only be filled with real love for you and from you.  Let us not value convenience over the well-being of your people and your creation.  And help us spend time with you, not seeking convenience, but seeking your will and a deeper relationship with your Son, Jesus, in whom we now pray.  Amen.

Kennedy Blackwell-Lewis is a senior at Dublin High School in Dublin, GA. Her aspirations are Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Just to mention some of Kennedy’s most recent accomplishments: She’s 1st in Her Class throughout High School Years, 1st Vice President Student Council, a Lauren’s Youth Leadership Graduate, and a Georgia Merit Scholar. Her mother, Cherise Blackwell, is a leader in Dublin R.I.S.I.N.G., a grant recipient for the M.K. Pentecost Ecology Fund, an environmental grant making program of Savannah Presbytery, for their work to restore an urban park in downtown Dublin.

Reflection questions and prayer by the Rev. Mary Beene, a member of the EARTH team and pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Rincon, GA.  She also coordinates the M.K. Pentecost Ecology Fund for Savannah Presbytery.

Teaching our Kids - Meals of Simplicity
by Colleen Earp

The bell rings. It’s an old cowbell, but it does the trick: the campers come running into the dining hall for another meal together. That bell clanking means something warm and delicious is waiting inside for each camper group to share: macaroni and cheese; chicken with mashed potatoes and greens; stromboli brimming with sausage and veggies; … rice and beans?
During the summer at Camp Hanover, we have rice and beans every Tuesday for lunch. We call it our Meal of Simplicity. Just rice and beans—no salad bar, no sides, not even our usual lemonade to drink, just water. Camp Hanover is the outdoor ministry of the Presbytery of the James in central Virginia, a place apart where hundreds of campers come to spend a week or two or more reveling in God’s creation and building relationships. We do everything we can to make campers feel welcome and comfortable, but we do not cheat on Tuesday afternoons.
The Meal of Simplicity is an opportunity for this community to reflect on what it means to have enough. We learn about different places around the world where people may only have access to rice and beans, if even that much. Counselors help guide campers through hard conversations about why people are hungry all over, from the farthest reaches of the planet to our own back yard in Virginia. We talk about agriculture, climate change, and justice. The conversations tend to continue throughout the day following the major impact of such a simple meal.
This is one small way we address our personal consumption habits in relation to the earth, not just the physical environment, but the people who dwell within it, too. These ideas permeate all that we do at camp as we live, play, learn, talk, and rest on retreat together.

Colleen Earp serves Camp Hanover and the Presbytery of the James as the Director of Youth, Environment, and Service Ministries. She is a YAV alum, a geographer, and an M.Div. student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Caveat Emptor: Bottled Water Notes 
by Nancy Corson Carter

Americans spend over $13 billion yearly on bottled water, yet it’s free from our taps. Some 40% of it is tap water. Plus the US EPA sets more stringent standards for tap water than the FDA does for bottled beverages.
Why be wary of bottled water: Is it really safe? Is it being privatized, i.e. stolen for private profit? There have already been “water wars”: read the Cochabama Declaration (December 2000, Bolivia) declaring the people’s hard-won rights over sales of water by government to foreign companies.
Big Water is trying, with Congress’s help, to force our national parks to keep selling bottled water despite the Park Service Director’s enacted policy to halt it.  Overflowing garbage cans and growing recycling and landfill costs prompted him to ban bottled water sales as long as refilling stations and reusable bottles replaced the disposable plastic bottles. Why not, unless parks lack their own water?

Buying your own reusable container and filling it at home is generally a good consumer’s choice. Although in emergency and special health circumstances bottled water may be the only safe water available. And we must be vigilant that our municipal water is safe to avoid more Flints.
We cannot live without clean water. As consumers we have an obligation to care for this sacred gift.

Nancy Corson Carter is a member of the EARTH Team. She lives in Chapel Hill, NC, where she facilitates an Earth Care Committee at the Church of Reconciliation (PCUSA).

The “Stuff” of Our Society as Art
by Bryant Holsenbeck

I was in my twenties when I began my professional career as a basketmaker, hunting and gathering for materials in my local natural environment.  I learned what materials indigenous people used, found in their environment, to make baskets to hold and carry their goods. As I learned about my natural environment and what could be made out of it I began to notice what was in it now.  Throwaway disposable stuff made to last forever.
I see my journey to becoming the environmentalist I am today in retrospect.  It is clear that for many years, I have been documenting the “stuff” of our society that we use once and throw away. In America we create more garbage per capita but are blind to our waste. I believe this is a function of our wealth, and the vastness of our country.  We have the room to hide our waste, and the money to make more.  As we rush around in our daily lives, stopping to think about the waste we are creating takes time we do not think we have.  What we do to take care of our environment is up to each person personally. The only accountability comes from our curiosity and a willingness to pay attention.
I have had the great pleasure to be a founding member of a group in Durham, NC called “Don’t Waste Durham” where I have been working with a group of like-minded citizens on issues of environmental responsibility especially around matters of consumer waste.

I am thrilled to say that we have developed a “greenbox” program for citizens of Durham and participating restaurants! Wish us luck and join us if you can. https://www.durhamgreenbox.com.

Bryant Holsenbeck is an environmental artist living in North Carolina, who makes large-scale installations that document the waste stream of our society. You can view more of her work at www.bryantholsenbeck.com.
All art conceived and created by Bryant Holsenbeck. In article: Plastic bottle waterfall—community project, Reynolds House Winston-Salem, NC. Above (clockwise from top left): Australian “chook” out of studio scraps; faun out of wire, plastic bags and found and recycled materials; bottle cap mandala out of over 50,000 caps and lids as a community installation at College of Charleston in Auddlestone Library; Australian fruit bat out of studio scraps.

EARTH Keeper: Penny Hooper: Environmental Activist for the
Coast of North Carolina
by Jane Laping

Penny Hooper is not one to sit idly by while oil rigs threaten to despoil her cherished home and source of livelihood on the coast of North Carolina. Even while recovering from hip surgery, she endured the pain and hobbled on one leg to testify against offshore oil drilling in the Mid-Atlantic. She and others in her area organized and convinced seven towns that would be affected by a spill to sign resolutions against drilling. With support from 130 other towns on the Eastern Seaboard and the North Carolina Council of Churches, the federal government removed the mid-Atlantic from the oil drilling leasing program for at least the next five years.

Penny first became involved in faith and environmental work in 1997, when the Reverend Bob Murphy at the Unitarian Universalist Church that she attends suggested their congregation could become a Green Sanctuary with her leadership. This gave her a community to work for and with and although she claims an independent spirit, she says that she works better with a faith community. With such a supportive group Penny became an activist and transitioned to the Steering Committee of North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light (www.ncipl.org) in 2008. She now serves on the Executive Committee and as the Leadership Council Chair. Penny is also the Sierra Club Conservation Chair of the Croatan Group and a Board Member of the Carteret County Local Food Network.

Calmness and gentleness mark Penny’s leadership style and she has an energy and upbeat attitude that contradict the feelings of hopelessness and depression that sometimes wash over her as they do to many in this field. Hope, faith and a like-minded community help her through those hard times. She believes that it is easier to be upbeat and positive and that it is non-productive to belabor a point before it happens. Her advice? “You need to have a good sense of humor and you can’t let it get you down. Then get to work and do what you have to do to change it.”

Jane Laping is the Coordinator for Presbyterians for Earth Care. She lives in Asheville, NC.
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