Monday, May 16, 2016

Weaving Christianity with Environmentalism

Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God
Book Review
by Vickie Machado
Todd Wynward‘s Rewilding the Way: Break Free to Follow an Untamed God, does an incredible job of weaving Christianity with environmentalism. Tackling issues like affluenza, over-consumption and climate change, Wynward goes beyond the notions of a collective creation care and takes a look at individual practices and underlying themes in relation to faith. How does one follow Jesus Christ? More so—how do we as children, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers live in the world but not of the world? How does one negotiate the realm of work, family life and spirituality? Drawing from his wilderness experience, Wynward advocates a return to the wild. He asks his readers to go cimarron, “a Spanish term for a slave or domesticated animal gone free.” He pushes his readers to re-evaluate not just life but the paths Christians embark on as he re-invigorates scripture stories and parables.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this book is that Wynward provides readers with conviction. This is not the fire and brimstone conviction but rather a grace-filled understanding of life. As Christians, we must continue to strive to love God and love our neighbors. With our rapidly expanding world, this means looking at our choices and evaluating our lifestyles, while still considering how to live in the world. Wynward does not condemn the sinner or the over-consumer, but rather recognizes we all fall a bit short in this world. At the end of the day, God’s love is delivered to us all.

Vickie Machado is a member of EARTH committee and on the leadership team of Eco-Stewards.

What will happen to this place?


Poem for Creation 
by Laurie Fisher

In the vastness of the Universe there is a place.
A place with immense oceans teaming with life.
A place with forests alive with untold numbers of species of insects, animals, birds, trees, and plants.
A place with vast open spaces to grow grains and other food.
A place with rain to provide water for all living things.
A place with a nearby star to warm the air, the soil, and the water.
An amazing place, it is.
Billions of years in the making.
A place human beings call home.
Humans have done amazing things with the resources of this gifted place.
Some things have been beneficial, but others have not.
The sustainable level of fossil fuel use was exceeded years ago.
The place’s climate is losing its equilibrium. Creation is suffering.
Humans have a choice to make every effort to restore equilibrium.
If this choice is not made, what will happen to this place?

Laurie Fisher is a Ruling Elder from Heartland Presbytery. She has been very active in gathering momentum for a Fossil Free PC(USA).

May's EARTH-Keeper is Rob Mark of Eco-Stewards


EARTH-Keeper: Rob Mark
by Dana Eglinton, member of PEC Steering Committee
 

In June, eight young adults will gather in Seattle, where they will engage with faith communities that are taking action to combat climate change. The eight will also consider Pope France' encyclical, Laudato Si',  and its directive to care for our common home.  And they will reflect on the connection between their faith journeys and the call to steward God's earth. They will be participants in the 2016 Eco-Stewards Program. 

From their website: "The Eco-Stewards Program is a grassroots community that shapes young adult leaders through place-based experiences that connect faith and the environment."

The community is led by the leadership team of Rev Liz Leavitt, Vickie Machado, Brian Frick, Colleen Earp, Becky Evans, and coordinator Rev Rob Mark.

Rob Mark has been the driving force behind Eco-Stewards from its inception in 2006. He tells about the beginnings like this, "At a Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center Association conference in 2006, I was deeply moved by then moderator of the PCUSA, Rick Ufford-Chase who served up an inspired challenge to the PCCCA and PEC (then PRC) to get together in a more intentional way to inspire young people in the ways of eco-stewardship. Rick then sat with me at lunch and after talking, said, 'Rob I think you may be uniquely suited to help lead and coordinate this emerging idea.' And that was all the inspiration I needed to work with others to help birth the Eco-Stewards Program under our first label the Presbyterian Conservation Corps. Our first week-long experiential program began in 2007 at Westminster Woods in CA, and I have not looked back since and continue to be deeply inspired by the growing community of Eco-Stewards that continues to build." Following that first program in California, Rob has coordinated Eco-Stewards Programs in New York/Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Montana, Massachusetts/Vermont, Oregon, and Florida.

Rob is also the pastor of the Church of the Covenant in Boston, a PC(USA) Earth Care Congregation. Under Rob's leadership the congregation has divested from fossil fuels, greatly increased the energy efficiency of their historic building, and continued to provide daily lunch and breakfast to some of Boston's most vulnerable women.

Rob and his wife Becky Evans (of the Eco-Stewards leadership team) are the parents of two-year-old Rowan. Rob says, "Our motivation to do all we possibly can to better steward this wild gift of nature has grown one hundred fold since becoming parents." Thanks to those like Rob and Becky there is hope for Rowan's future and the future of God's earth.

Friday, April 29, 2016

PEC will be at General Assembly in Portland, Oregon

Friends of PEC and Celebrators of Creation!

I have enjoyed the special energy of Earth Day week!  Creation sings!!!

And General Assembly is coming to Portland, Oregon!!!! PEC is excited to host a double booth with Fossil Free PCUSA! And just off the press – it is booth 208-210!!  PEC and FFPCUSA have invited special guests to join us at the booth to share their amazing work – including Abby Brockway, Environmental Advocate Extraordinaire, as well our strong ally, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship represented by the incomparable Rick Ufford-Chase and Emily Brewer. Wow! Please come by the booth to see us!!
Oregon Convention Center
Our luncheon on Tuesday, June 21, at noon will be at the First Presbyterian Church, near the convention center.  We are excited to share our award winners of the William Gibson Eco-justice, Restoring Creation, and the NEW Emerging Earth Care Leader Awards.  Winners will be presented with a certificate and free registration to our 2017 PEC Conference at Menucha Conference Center in September 2017. 

The presentation at the luncheon, “Beyond Paris: Rising Waters Yet Rising Hope”, will be led by our colleagues in ministry– Rebecca Barnes, Bill Somplatsky-Jarman (current GA staff) and Gary Payton, previous GA staff, who all attended the Paris Climate Change talks. The luncheon food will be excellent as well, including local, sustainable foods.  

PEC is grateful for Cascades Presbytery and has been supportive of the Environmental Mission tours, including:
   Environmental Stewardship at Willamette Valley Wineries and Farms (June 20)
   Fossil Fuel Exports and Environmental Justice in the Pacific Northwest (June 22)
   Earth Care Congregations Tour: A Resource for Action and Recognition Forum (June 23).

Columbia River Gorge just outside Portland
We ask for your prayers during GA for our presence in support of eco-justice.  We ask for special prayers and advocacy for overtures which PEC members have written and supported and are being brought to two committees…both Immigration and Environment AND Social Justice Issues. Check these out (see links in the sidebar), along with other overtures, at www.pc-biz.org.

In this very difficult time of so much degradation of people and planet (including all living beings, and water, soil, and all the elements…) we are grateful for those of you who hold Creation at the center of their heart and soul.  Let us continue to surround the Earth with our VERY best efforts to nurture and heal our Home, now and in all times and places.

Amen.

In Christ,

Diane Waddell, Moderator

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Story of the Trees by Rev. Jay Banasiak

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.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dave Grace: Youth Faith Conservation Network

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.eduand read at http://blogs.nicholas.duke.edu/author/davegrace/.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Time to Join or Renew Your PEC Membership

Dear Friends of Earth Care,

Christ has risen!!! Alleluia!!!
Spring has arrived! What a blessing!
We are grateful for this time to be refreshed and rejoice!!

 
It is also a time to observe Earth Care (on Earth Day, April 22). It’s a great time to join or renew your membership in Presbyterians for Earth Care – and is our annual membership renewal month!
 


We are also rejoicing as we introduce our NEW website with a fresh look, easier navigation, and a redesigned membership page. Please take a look, tell us what you think! (And while you are there, you could renew your membership!!!)
 
New members can join for just $25.

As a member of Presbyterians for Earth Care, you are part of
    A network of Presbyterians and friends around the US and beyond with similar eco-justice concerns.
    A national group that addresses eco-justice concerns in the congregation and larger community.
    A nurturing network that connects, equips and inspires Presbyterians through our biennial conference, Lent and Advent Devotionals, and bi-weekly e-newsletters that include alternating issues of “Earth, Action, Reflection, Theology and Hope" (EARTH) and PEC news.
    One of six PEC regions with your own Regional Representative who can connect you to others in your area, answer questions about PEC, and help you find the resources you need to advocate and care for Earth.
Presbyterians for Earth Care will represent you at the 222nd General Assembly this summer in Portland, Oregon. We have been working with our members and partner groups to bring several eco-justice overtures to GA and will share more about them in the coming weeks. Please drop by the PEC booth and introduce yourself if you happen to be at General Assembly this year.
 


Thank you for your previous commitment to and continuing support of PEC!  Please renew your membership, or join if you are not already a member, on our redesigned membership page by April 22!!

Yours in Christ,
 


Diane Waddell, Moderator


Monday, March 21, 2016

Devotional for Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday
by J Herbert Nelson

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 
(Psalm 33:8, NRSV)


The bible reminds us through the words of the Psalmist that we who inhabit the earth are to stand in awe of the Lord God. These words place a significant responsibility upon each one of us to be observant of God’s creation, including people, plants, animals and every living creeping and crawling thing. (Genesis 1)  This dominion over God’s creation does not mean domination. We are given the authority to act on God’s behalf as stewards or caretakers of the earth and all that dwells therein. This understanding makes domination of people, plant life, or animals a sin towards God. It is sinful, because we are led to believe that we are “gods” who control rather than acting on behalf of the one who gives us life, health and strength.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, former Director of the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice and Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), coined the phrase “Environmental Racism” in 1982 while engaged in activist work in Warren County, North Carolina. He used it to describe the way the powerful profited from toxic waste dumping by intentionally locating waste facilities in poor neighborhoods of color. The majority of those negatively affected by toxic waste sites in 1982 were African Americans.

In 2016, we witnessed a significant breach in our covenant with God when the headlines broke regarding the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Children, adults, and people of various races (the majority African American) were adversely impacted by a deal made with the enemies of God’s good graces who chose profits over people. As people in high places told documented lies regarding the cleanliness of the water in Flint, this community is still assessing the negative health toll. Flint represents one of the largest African American populations in the State of Michigan.

There are many faith questions that must be answered about this breach in care for the earth and its people. However, there is an accountability question that must be answered by those of us who claim to know the Lord, our God. Are we truly acting as stewards in our own communities on God’s behalf? Are we protecting our babies from toxic carbon emissions that prevent so many of them from attending school due to asthma and other respiratory problems? Are we relentless in our efforts to stop toxic waste dumping by private companies and government agencies that view such dumping as a means of revenue rather than a long-term health hazard? Are we building interracial coalitions to gain political traction to avoid the fallout we now see in Flint? Is your Church/Ministry engaged in preserving the planet and challenging climate change deniers with facts and the Gospel? It is our duty to be on God’s side as stewards of the earth and its people, for “the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.” 
(I Corinthians 10:26)

Prayer: Creator of life’s beauty, majesty, and mystery, we thank you for the gift of life – ours and those of all your creation. Teach us what it means to be human and to treat one another with dignity and respect. Show us our role in the stewardship of Earth. Grant that we might embrace our role with both conviction and humility. Amen.
___________________________________________________________________




Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson is the Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC.