Loving God's Creation


Earth Action, Reflection, Theology and Hope
Dear Friends in Earth Care,
Blessings to you this October! Presbyterians for Earth Care continues its focus on issues of water. This month's edition of EARTH features a piece on the flooding in West Virginia this summer – ironically suffered during the same days as the floor discussion and negative vote at General Assembly on the overture recommending that the PCUSA divest from fossil fuels. Our monthly EARTH-Keeper article features a trio from Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, KS.
We are always looking for new and diverse voices to add to our monthly collection of reflection and action. Please do let us know if you want to join us. We would love to feature your reflections, poetry, and artwork!
In faith,
Sue Smith, EARTH Co-Editor


by Bobbie McGarey

Bobbie McGarey serves as pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque, NM.

I think clouds love the prairie
Even small clouds
With the sun behind you 
You can cast a shadow to be seen for miles and miles. 
I think clouds love the prairie
If they are part of a storm they can be watched for hours or minutes as they come closer and closer 
And when they do 
They can drop their rain in sheets
Sometimes not even making it from the high sky to the ground 
That in its dryness 
Reaches up for the rain....

And the Floods Came…
by Robin Blakeman

Rev. Robin Blakeman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Organizer, WV Presbytery Stewardship of Creation Ministry Team leader & WV Interfaith Power and Light Steering Committee member.

In late June of this past year, clouds settled over the mountains of West Virginia (WV), and rain began.  At first, this seemed like a normal summer storm system, but quickly reports of flooded communities were heard across the state news channels. Some communities got over 10 inches of rain in less than a day!

Photo courtesy of Vivian Stockman, OVEC (Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition)

Anyone who knows anything about WV topography knows that many of our communities are located in narrow river or creek valleys – in between the lush and beautiful mountains that interconnect across the Appalachian mountain chain. We are located in what is referred to as a “temperate rainforest region” – the second most diverse such region on the planet. Our intact mountains, forests and streams can actually serve as a sponge during normal summer storms, absorbing and filtering a lot of water.

This, however, was no “normal” rain event. This was especially true in the community of White Sulphur Springs, WV – where normally small and tranquil trout streams quickly swelled and converged into a torrent that looked more like the muddy Mississippi River! Unfortunately, many homes were in the flooded valleys and many people lost everything, including 23 people state-wide who lost their lives. There were multiple other communities in which homes, businesses and schools were heavily affected; the infrastructure in many communities was decimated. White Sulphur Springs, for example, lost its water main, and the town water tank was subsequently drained; there was no public water service available to the town for at least the first month following the catastrophic flood. 


Photo courtesy of the author

West Virginia is still in recovery mode; there will be rebuilding going on for years, and some communities will not recover well. Our state leaders are extending state of emergency declarations and appealing to the Obama administration for more federal aid, even as I write this article. This is ironic, considering the budget cuts and delays in establishing a budget that have happened in recent years in our state government. There are many people who want to call this past summer’s floods “1000 year floods," but that number is misleading.

If you knew that a flood event like this was ONLY going to happen once per 1000 years, a community could plan to cope, rebuild, plan for the next one WAY down the road. But, the fact is that climate science has been predicting an increased frequency of these type of catastrophic rain events for decades, and it is now happening. Some experts refer to these localized heavy rain events as “water bombs”! Floods from unprecedentedly high rainfall amounts are happening on a more frequent basis.  The link between Climate Change, economic cuts to infrastructure, decreased environmental regulations and disaster preparedness funding, and our recent floods is not a mysterious coincidence.

So, what role can churches and faith communities play in the midst of these literal and political storms? Some insights on this came from the Rev. Jeff Allen – a United Methodist, and Director of the West Virginia Council of Churches. Although he cautions against self-deploying during times of natural disasters, he says: “Local churches… in a very real sense… are our first responders…” (Hear more from Rev. Allen here.)


Photo courtesy of Vivian Stockman, OVEC (Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition)

In my opinion, it would be wonderful if our churches and faith communities could become advocates for Disaster Preparedness and Disaster Prevention, not to mention sustainable Climate Action. Many faith leaders sadly see this type of discussion and activity as “too political.”  

Yet, it is almost a certainty that churches and faith communities will be increasingly called upon to help deal with these kind of tragic events – either in “first responder,” clean-up, rebuilding, or gap-filling (i.e. food pantry, utility bill assistance, etc.) roles. So, is it “too political” to speak out about the need to meaningfully address Climate Change at the state and national levels, in order to alleviate the suffering of those around us who are increasingly caught up in “natural” disasters? This is a question to which I believe we should use the formula “What would Jesus Do?” to inform our answer.

For more information on the 2016 West Virginia flooding, follow these links:
If you would like to support the work that Robin and others are doing to raise awareness about Climate Change and the need to prepare for more frequent disasters like this summer's floods, please contribute to OVEC at www.ohvec.org; including a note that your support is due to this article would be helpful.

Watershed Discipleship
by Vickie Machado

Vickie Machado is a member of the EARTH team and the EcoStewards Program. She lives in Gainesville, FL.
Be on the lookout! Activist theologian and biblical scholar Ched Myers announced the upcoming debut of his edited anthology, “Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Ethic.” The book includes more than 15 different authors and is set to be published by Cascade Books. “Watershed Discipleship” ventures beyond Creation Care as it takes into account education, advocacy and organizing to “learn, love and save real places.” It recognizes we are in a watershed moment and that we as Christians must “choose between denial and discipleship.” This book explores the grassroots initiatives people of faith are enacting and engaging in with regards to watershed discipleship in their areas.
More information about "Watershed Discipleship” can be found at here.

Book Art by Char Myers

EARTHkeeper  October 2016
Environmental Action Committee (EAC)
by Diane Waddell, Moderator of PEC


Village Presbyterian Church

Represented by Jerry Rees, Al Pugsley, Chuck Gillam


I'm delighted to write about three EARTHkeepers! Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, has long been known for community mission engagement and social justice work.  The congregation is well respected both locally and nationally for their leadership.  PEC would particularly like to recognize the work of their Environmental Action Committee, which has served as a model for education, action, and community partnership in eco-justice advocacy.  They list their work as being a "bold witness by advocating environmental Justice for all creation."  They are a 6th year Earth Care Congregation and spearhead year-round programming in their advocacy. 

Their work has included organizing electronics recycling, and leading congregational education and action on climate change, water as sacred resource, and fossil fuel divestment.

Image: Al Pugsley, Chuck Gillam, Jerry Rees

The committee maintains a prominent permanent bulletin board highlighting environmental issues. Since 2009 they have granted Earth Stewards Awards, sharing 21 awards to couples, individuals, and one family who model Creation care in the congregation.  They have also gifted Green Bibles to all staff, sharing 30 to date.

Jerry Rees is currently chair of the Environmental Action Committee. He is a very active member of Earthkeepers of Heartland Presbytery and the Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition of Kansas City, an ecumenical, faith based eco-Justice organization which meets at Village.  Jerry is also a member of the Advocacy committee of PEC and was previously a Regional Rep for the Midwest Region. Jerry has worked tirelessly in encouraging people to be aware of environmental needs in the nation and region and helped organize and send environmental overtures through the Presbytery to GA.  Jerry does an excellent job of sending emails about eco-happenings and has been politically active in the Kansas capital in the area of environment. 

Al Pugsley has initiated a funding of many church solar installations in the Kansas City area and around the US.  He has very generously purchased multiple solar panels for Heartland Presbyterian Center in Parkville, MO; Mosier, Oregon; Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii, among other sites.  He has also tirelessly promoted electric transportation (connected to solar energy) and regularly organizes and hosts an Electric Car Expo at Village. Al enjoys weatherizing his home and encourages others to do the same. Al is also a member of the EAC, Heartland Earthkeepers and Sustainable Sanctuary.

Chuck Gillam is an active member of Village EAC, Earthkeepers and Sustainable Sanctuary.  Chuck, along with Jerry and Al, has also taught Sunday School classes and arranged for classes, Through "Village U", evening continuing Ed classes, in eco-Justice.  He has connected us with his daughter, Carey Gillam, a brilliant journalist who has been a true leader in sharing enlightening articles on environmental concerns such as GMOs.

I am very grateful for Jerry, Al, and Chuck, as members of Village and for being faithful supporters of Earthkeepers of Heartland Presbytery, our presbytery eco-justice team.  They have helped arrange for monthly meetings of Earthkeepers and, as founding members, have faithfully supported and attended meetings ever since. They are truly EARTHkeepers!

want to join the newsletter committee and help PEC reflect on God's creation?
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