Saturday, February 9, 2019

Eco-Palms

Eco-Palms for Palm Sunday

“Everybody thought it was really great the way that Eco-Palms benefited everyone all around.”
—Carla Schmidt, wife of Rev. Dr. Sergio Schmidt, former pastor, Cristo Salvador Latino Ministry, 
Presbytery of Charlotte

Pastor Schmidt (l) and 
Guatemalan Eco-Palms Representative Juan Trujillo

Against the backdrop of Palm Sunday 2019 is an ongoing national debate about immigration across the southern border of the United States, including an outcry against the detention of children who were separated from their parents upon their arrival in the United States from Central America. These immigrants include asylum seekers who are fleeing violence and fear death if they are forced to return to Guatemala and other Central American countries. 
This fear is real for too many indigenous people in a region that is the heart of the former Mayan Empire. During a 2018 visit to promote Eco-palms in North Carolina churches, Rainforest Alliance representative Juan Trujillo told how a colleague was assassinated as they sat next to each other in a meeting in their home country of Guatemala. Environmental activists are putting their lives on the line in Guatemala. 
Eco-Palms are harvested in the globally-significant Maya Biosphere Reserve, which includes official concession areas where forest products can be sustainably harvested, providing livelihoods that support indigenous communities. These forest “concessions” are the result of local struggles for land rights.
Twenty-five percent of the cost of each Eco-Palm goes back to harvesting communities in Guatemala, providing jobs, education, health care and improved nutrition. Women have assumed valuable leadership roles associated with Eco-Palm processing.  Join over 1,000 PCUSA congregations who ordered Eco-Palms in 2018 and order yours now until March 22 at www.pcusa.org/ecopalms or by calling 651-487-7189. With your support, this could be the year that over 1 million Eco-Palms are waved on Palm Sunday!

-- Presbyterians for Earth Care Moderator Dennis Testerman, hosted visits to North Carolina by an Eco-Palms delegation from Guatemala in 2018, 11 years after he, former PEC Steering Committee member Barbara Hipple and former Presbyterian Hunger Program staffer Melanie Hardison travelled to Guatemala to visit communities sustainably harvesting Eco-Palms. PEC has played a key role in the Presbyterian Church USA promotion and marketing of Eco-Palms. 


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Barber Chair Environmentalism

Barber Chair Environmentalism
They fanned out across the neighborhood, knocking on doors and stepping politely through living rooms and kitchens that hadn’t been updated since their grandparents were children. They were African American youth from mostly low-income neighborhoods, spending their weekends applying caulk, weather stripping, and plastic to keep out the Chicago winter.


The youth’s work is one of many green initiatives that rose out of a small but remarkably active south side church. Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church usually has less than 100 worshipers on Sunday morning, but their Green Team is empowered by a passion for environmental stewardship that would put mega churches to shame.


It all started when Sharon Lewis returned to Chicago from a stint in Texas and met Veronica Kyle in the neighborhood. She discovered Veronica’s husband had interned at Sixth Grace, the church she’d grown up in.


Kyle is Chicago Outreach Director for Faith in Place, an organization that empowers people of all faiths to be leaders in caring for the earth. Faith in Place creates dynamic partnerships that help churches, synagogues, and mosques put their faith and commitment environment stewardship into action.


Barbershop Raps youth learn to weatherize a door.
Back at Sixth Grace, Lewis recruited Cliff Wilkes founder of Barbershop Raps, a mentoring program for young men in the Bronzeville community. The church created the ministry in response to violence in the community. The barbershop is sometimes called the black man’s country club. Barbershop Raps is a place for young men to get a haircut and talk about issues in their lives.


Lewis and Wilkes recognized the importance of giving these youth a plan and direction for their future and saw a green team as a way to teach them practical skills and connect them more fully with the community. In an interview for the web program Different Drummers, former Sixth Grace pastor Rev. Patrick Damon said, “How you respond to the world is often dedicated by the environment you’re in. We wanted to get youth connected to how they could help make their surrounding environment a little bit better. Then they can help themselves feel better about their own lives.”


On the same program Kyle called Barbershop Raps “a wonderful marriage for us because we’re cultivating young environmental leaders.”


The young men of Barbershop Raps, some fifty strong, learned how to weatherize homes, track energy bills, and do simple things like turning off the water when brushing their teeth and turning off lights when they left the room. The youth spent many Saturdays going out into neighborhoods they often had never visited before, turning their environmental knowledge into action. An energy efficiency expert determined what each home needed, from insulation and caulking to an upgraded refrigerator, stove or furnace. The youth applied plastic and chalk to drafty windows. Thanks to generous grants and subsidies from ComEd, the local utility, residents were able to replace their aging appliances. As an added benefit, the residents, many of them elderly, were able to meet youth they might have been afraid of out on the streets.


Through the partnership with Faith and Place, Barbershop Raps youth have become eco-ambassadors, staffing information tables at special events like a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Mandrak Park, making presentations to churches, and taking field trips to energy efficient homes. Some of them have even gone on to careers connected with the environment.


Lewis sees the Green Team as a way to serve the youth, her community, and God. “God has entrusted the earth to us,” she says. “To be faithful citizens, we need to realize we have a responsibility to the Earth.”


The Sixth Grace Green Team is embracing that responsibility, starting close to home.

A Land Forgotten

A Land Forgotten

The Tenth Ward on Chicago’s far southeast side—generations of immigrants have worked, prayed, lived, and died here. The fumes from the slaughterhouses, steel mills, and oil refineries were the price residents willingly paid for solid blue-collar jobs.


But over the last thirty years, most of the jobs left and this industrial corridor along the Grand Calumet River became home to even dirtier companies like S.H. Bell, a manganese storage facility, and two Koch brother-owned facilities that store petcoke, a byproduct of oil refining. The new businesses have few employees, but the fine dust that blows from their yards coats windows and lawns and has a major impact on the community. Manganese is a potent pollutant. In children, it’s linked to lower IQ scores and learning disabilities. When petcoke is inhaled, it can lodge in the lungs and cause serious health problems.


The Tenth Ward is now predominately Latino, recent immigrants drawn by affordable housing and the proximity to jobs in Chicago. It’s the largest but least populated ward in Chicago. The families who live here bide their time and pray they can one day move to a healthier neighborhood.


But not everyone in the community is willing to accept the status quo. Peggy Salazar is Director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force. She and a group of dedicated volunteers are pressing the city and federal governments to protect residents in this environmental disaster area.


Salazar grew up on the southeast side and understands the resignation many residents feel. “People think it’s always been this way and there’s nothing they can do,” Salazar says. “They don’t want to live next to dirty industry if they can choose to live elsewhere, and those that can, eventually leave.” But Salazar feels a moral responsibility to the people who take their place. “When you sell your home, it just passes the problem along to the next person,” she says.


Rev. Zaki speaking at an environmental rally at The Zone.
Rev. Zaki Labib Zaki is of Egyptian descent and grew up in Sudan, where his parents were missionaries. He served as pastor of East Side United Methodist Church from 1997 to 2012. Passionate about his belief that Christians must be stewards of God’s creation and stand up for marginalized communities, he didn’t let his congregation’s small size deter him. “I saw East Side Church as a hub for a larger alliance,” Zaki says, “to bring together like-minded organizations in our community and surrounding neighborhoods.”


One of the coalition’s first battles was with Waste Management of Illinois, which wanted to greatly expand its CID landfill that already sprawled across nearly 400 acres on the southeast side and northwest Indiana. “We created alliances with groups that had never worked together before,” Zaki says. “When Waste Management made a counter proposal, we stood strong.”


When Zaki found that parents were too burdened making a living to get involved, he turned to the youth. The church established the Southeast United Methodist Youth and Community Center, also known as The Zone, in 2002. It attracts scores of youth many of whom were eager to help their community.


The coalition of community groups convinced the city not to issue a permit for the dump and the project died, but like a multi-headed hydra, polluters continued to be attracted to this vast, mostly empty industrial area. Leucadia National Corporation wanted to build a gasification plant across from a local high school to convert refinery waste and coal into synthetic natural gas. The process would release vast amounts of greenhouse gas and heavy metals. The community once again rallied against it. “We sponsored community information meetings and used grassroots organizing tactics,” says Zaki. Some 50,000 letters, many written by children, were sent to then Governor Pat Quinn. In 2012, the governor vetoed a bill to provide Leucadia subsidies to build the plant.


The environmental battles on the southeast side will continue. In 2018, thanks to the work of Salazar and other activists, the EPA required S.H. Bell to install more air monitors to track manganese levels. But while looking for one toxic pollutant, they discovered lead in residential soil, where almost 6,000 children live.


Salazar refuses to be deterred. She has a longer view of how to save her community. “There’s a lot of open space here,” she says, “the only large natural areas in Chicago.” Salazar would like to eventually see the Grand Calumet River and its tributaries restored to a more natural state. She imagines the Tenth Ward as a place where tourists stop and enjoy the scenery and wildlife instead of rushing by on the expressway.


“Things move slowly on the southeast side,” Salazar admits. But when people come together to work for change, there is always hope.

Greening the Black Church

Greening the Black Church

For Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon, Senior Pastor at C. N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, healing the mind, body, and spirit is an essential part of healing the earth.


Rev. Dr. Jerry Cannon
Rev. Cannon believes that, while members of his predominately African American congregation might be unfamiliar with some of the green movement’s terminology, they can immediately embrace the connection between environmental stewardship and needs they see in their own community. “People understand the impact of food deserts and the need for green space to plant vegetable gardens,” says Rev. Cannon. “You have to connect with those practical concerns to create a compelling message.”


In 2016, Rev. Cannon attended a summit in Baltimore sponsored by Green the Church, an initiative designed to tap into the power and purpose of the African American church community. After hearing other black church leaders talk about the role of churches as centers for environmental and economic resilience, he invited Rev. Ambrose Carroll, Green the Church’s founder, to bring the next summit to Charlotte.


“We held the summit in conjunction with our annual preaching revival,” Cannon shares. The theme became “Revive us Again: The Black Church Response to Climate Change and Global Renewal.” Participants spent the morning finding spiritual renewal and the afternoon talking about renewal of the earth.


For Rev. Cannon and Jenkins Presbyterian, the commitment to improving lives while saving the planet didn’t end with the conference. The church partnered with the Mecklenbury County Health Department to create a program focused on improving diet and exercise in the community. They are also encouraging their members to join the upcoming Ecobible Study and Mission Enterprise at Mayfield Missionary Baptist Church in Charlotte, led by Dr. Covia Boyd from Union Institute & University. The study focuses on how economic opportunity connects with environmental stewardship. Participants will learn how to save money by growing healthy food, and how to earn money by starting a healthy food business.


For Rev. Cannon, connecting economic enterprise with green living is essential to reaching the African American community. “What if a community garden has a purpose?” he asks. “If we encourage people to take the food they grow to a farmers market, then it becomes a source of income and it brings healthy food to a community.”


Asked how he would encourage more African American churches to join the green movement, Rev. Cannon says, “You have to invite people to come and see.” C. N. Jenkins Church is offering that invitation, one garden plot and one healthy lifestyle at a time.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Day Devotional

Booking it to Nain
Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” 15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:11
Each morning of this summer’s PCUSA Walk for a Fossil Free World began with liturgy. We moved from song into story into prayer, grounding ourselves in the testimonies of frontline communities before each day on the road. In Vincennes, Indiana, we read about the arduous task of fetching water during the dry season of the West African Sahel, and about Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama’s Three Mile an Hour God. Koyama’s thesis became one of the most enduring theological frames for our walk. As we trekked across Indiana and Illinois, we found ourselves covering three miles every hour, knowing that Jesus of Nazareth walked in ancient Palestine at that same slow-and-steady pace.
There are nevertheless moments where Jesus seems gripped by urgency. After healing a centurion’s servant in Capernaum, Jesus heads to a small town called Nain. Some manuscripts indicate Jesus went to Nain “the next day”—all the more impressive when we realize Nain is 23 miles southwest of Capernaum, and uphill. In our journey from Louisville to St. Louis, our daily hikes never exceeded 17 miles. Moreover, in first-century Palestine most Jewish burials did not include embalming. The son’s funeral would have occurred the day after he died. The implicit scandal is significant. The God-who-moves-three-miles-an-hour heals the servant of a Gentile centurion while a working-class Jewish widow loses her only son. The messiah is too late.
That’s how Advent feels. God comes to live among us too late; if there was a time when things could have changed, that time has passed. That’s how it feels in the fight against climate change. While some at this summer’s General Assembly insisted that we still have time to get oil companies to change course, the Trump Administration acknowledged in a 500-page report that our planet will be a catastrophic 7 degrees hotter by 2100. For the Administration, this is nota call to action; we’re too late, and should carry on as we are. How quickly the powerful turn from climate denial to unrepentant capitalist nihilism. 
Jesus doesn’t go three miles an hour to Nain; he books it. When Jesus arrives, he raises the widow’s son and gives him back to his mother. Just when the messiah is too late, when the widow has been cut off from her only son, Jesus arrives and does the impossible. Likewise, Advent is not the delay of a complacent God waiting for the appropriate time to intervene; Advent is God booking itto get to us and to bring healing to all creation. 
It is easy to look at the devastation of Florence and Maria and think that we’re too late. We very well might be. But Advent ought to remind us that God is booking it to North Carolina and Puerto Rico and the Florida panhandle and the Philippines and Standing Rock, and that what appears to us as “too late” is in fact an opportunity to get right with creation and to proclaim the good news of a God who is booking it to be with us.
Prayer: God, when some of us fetch water in the desert, and when others of us march against fossil fuels in the Midwest, you walk alongside us at our meager three-mile-an-hour pace. But remind us, Creator God, that during Advent you were not taking your precious time; rather, you have always been booking it to be with us. Strengthen us in our hope for and anticipation of your healing presence, and empower us that we might participate in your love for all creation until you come again. Amen.

Casey Aldridge is a middler MDiv candidate at Princeton Theological Seminary, a youth ministry intern at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, an inquirer with the Presbytery of Charlotte, and a member of the Walk for a Fossil Free World. Casey grew up in Concord, North Carolina, and he attended UNC Charlotte from 2013 to 2017 as a Levine Scholar, studying Religious Studies, History, and Political Science. Casey hopes to pursue a PhD in Religious Studies as well as PC(USA) ordination, and these days his interests lie in what Christian theories of time and history have to offer our struggles against capitalism, fascism, and climate change.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Eve Devotional

Christmas Eve
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 
20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 
23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 
24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   Romans 8:18-25

This has been the year of groaning in my life. Perhaps you can relate. It has been a year of tension, navigating a shift in vocation, strained relationships, politically-induced stress every week, the heartbreak caused when our beloved denomination chose not to divest from fossil fuels, and action steps in the face of the catastrophic ecological crisis. I’m not sure if the groans of my body and soul feel more like labor pains or the pangs of death. In this season of Advent, I struggle to find the light in the midst of darkness. 
In this deep darkness, God is with us. Creation groans with us. Creation has been subjected to futility, not by its own will but by the will of all of us who have dominated all of the resources of Mother Earth, who have not been good stewards of her gifts to us. 
But we worship a God of creation, a God of life and death and resurrection. We know what comes at the end of this season. God comes to us as the light of the world, enfleshed in the body of a baby. This season of Advent is a season of the groans of labor pains. While we groan with Mother God and Mother Earth, may we also act as midwives, bringing new life and hope where we see suffering. May we give, act, and pray when the traumatic effects of climate change strike frontline communities around the world. May we refuse to profit from the destruction of Mother Earth and divest from fossil fuels. May we deepen our relationship with creation by learning about the watershed where we live and the Indigenous Peoples who have traditionally survived on the land we occupy. May we dream up new ways of living in community with God, humans, and creation. May we support those working to heal creation through the development of renewable energy. May we breathe in energy from Mother Earth and breathe out gratitude for all the ways she supports life.
We know that this Christmas light will set creation and all of the world free from its bondage to decay. We hope for that which is not yet seen, and we work to transform the pangs of death into the groans of labor. Through this hope for creation, we find our bodies redeemed and transformed, and we see glimpses of God’s glory revealed to us. 
Prayer: Mother God, comfort us in our suffering and challenge us in our complacency. We are so eager to see your glory revealed to us. Hold our hands as we breathe and push to create spaces where your new life may flourish. Liberate us from the bondage of decay we see in our lives, our systems, and in your creation. Sustain our hope and anticipation for you to break into our world once again. Amen.

Angela Williams is a senior student, training to be a community organizer and a pastor, at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin, TX. She is a candidate for ordination under the care of Providence Presbytery. She finds life in experiencing music, listening to podcasts, and exploring creation.




Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Call of the Ocean

Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth.  He will judge the world with righteousness; and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98:8-9 (NRSV)
I was first introduced to the ocean at 11 years old when my siblings and I spent the summers with our father in Miami, Florida. Sundays were beach days.  Playing in the ocean, getting used to the saltiness of the water, learning that Black skin does sunburn, and finding out that grains of sand could work themselves into every nook and cranny of our bodies were integral to our summer education.  Those beach days were good days with the ocean as the backdrop for lasting sibling memories, while the ocean covertly birthed a yearning within me to go to the water as a place of respite whenever I could.  
During those youthful times, the ocean also broke cultural barriers.  The ocean was the place of exploration and discovery.  We noticed the varying skin colors, eye shapes, and linguistic accents of people that were different than ours.  This broadened our awareness that the world was bigger than our zip code. Conversely, beach days were also spent explaining to Floridian youth why we ‘talked funny’, and that, ‘Yes, we do wear shoes in Kentucky’, thus adding spice to their ‘gumbo-lives’ of diversity that we did not have at home.
However, over the years, the ocean became a menace to me.  As I experienced the call of the ocean in family vacations and chaperoned Spring Break trips for our sons and their friends, the water was a clear and present danger for the frolicking antics of reckless youths.  In parenthood, I constantly counted heads to make sure that everyone was present and accounted for.  I also began to wonder if my ancestors had dreaded the sounds that the ocean made as slave ships sliced through the water, pirating countless Black peoples away from the motherland to foreign places of oppression.  How could this be that the ever faithful ocean that had been the joy of summer visits with Dad had become such a threat to those I loved and to those who had come before me?  Yet, the ocean continued to call me.  
One night during our last pre-college family vacation, I remember standing on the balcony of our hotel room listening to the ocean ebb and flow under the brightness of a full moon.  It was there that the ocean again called, acting as the place of discovery and reconciliation.  Gone were the threat of danger to my loved ones, and the dread of my ancestors.  This time, the ocean called and introduced me to the greatness of God.  On that balcony, my spirit was overwhelmed by the glory of our loving and victorious God.  The God that Psalm 98 proclaims, ‘…will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.’  Therefore, as God’s people, we have a promise and a blessed hope!  One day, we, along with the seas will clap our hands, and sing together with the hills for joy at the presence of the Lord.  
Prayer:  During this Advent Season, listen for the call of the Holy Spirit as God’s Spirit whispers in ways that are particular for your hearing. Discover that place in Creation where you hear God’s voice most clearly.  Spend time there, drawing strength, courage and wisdom as the Body of Christ prepares for the coming of our Lord.  

Rev. Angela Johnson is Pastor of the 120 year-old Grace Hope Presbyterian Church, a predominately African American urban congregation located in the Smoketown Community of Louisville, KY.  Rev. Johnson received a Master of Divinity degree and a Certificate in Black Church Studies from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree from Louisville Seminary.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Third Sunday of Advent

Jubilee and Hope
Isaiah 40:1-11 and Luke 3:1-6

As we celebrate the coming of the Savior to the world let us take time to pause and think about the opportunities we have in this restorative season of Advent. Seldom do we consider the connections of our economic priorities with the stresses of our planet’s biosphere, even less how those same priorities affect our homes and health. Those decisions were not made in the homes of everyday people, but rather in spheres and palaces of power and privilege. Gradually they moved away from sabbath and jubilee practices, to an economy controlled by their monarchies and the exploitation of their land. The jubilee practices, particularly those promoted in the Levitical laws, understood the intricate connections between labor, health and land. Yet as the world moved towards a centralizing power, they created a privileged nobility, and their economy became one of mining, particularly extracting labor and land. John the Baptizer audaciously proclaimed a message of repentance to awaken the agency of the covenant people to be actors in the redemptive plan that their God had set out for the covenant people, from an enslaved nation to a jubilee community. 

What would it take to be a jubilee people? Interestingly in Luke’s Gospel we find that people from all walks of life, profoundly moved perhaps of John’s stirring message, asked questions of what needed to be done in order to demonstrate the repentance he demanded from the masses. To some he expected to share their goods with one another. To others who possessed taxing authority (publicans) they were to respect the just wages of themselves and especially of others. Even to those of foreign birth (soldiers), they were to behave as citizens of the Promised Land. The Jubilee Community was also established to bring blessings to the Earth itself. In the same manner that “crooked places” were to be set straight, society’s healing also meant healing for the land: property was not to be hoarded and farmland was allowed to rejuvenate itself periodically. It was akin to turning on a giant reset switch for the people and the Earth. All were to be set free from debt and extraction, so that the true potential of all can be celebrated in harvest and sabbath.

The celebration of Advent is for us to stop, meditate, prepare and work towards a new age of Jubilee. Winter is the time required for seeds to be sorted and prepared, just as we must read the signs to see when it is ripe to plant and reap anew. The opportunity will come to till, plant, nurture, wait, pray and care with hope that our efforts produces food and health to our bodies, to strive for an economy that restores the land that the Lord gave us, together with a willing vulnerability to share God’s blessings and bounty with love and joy. John’s challenge to repent is an opportunity for us to be agents of hope in times of debt and hurricanes.

Prayer: God of Jubilee.
As we suffer the mighty winds and storms of this world, we live in hope for the sun to shine, the rains that give life and the marvel of all things coming to life again. Gather in us through your renewing power, to forgive beyond what we think is owed to us so that we may strive to live in oneness with our neighbor. May we reconcile with the land that sustains us and with all of Creation. Give us love for the Earth which you have deemed good, and through the coming of your Son may we become the covenant people, the Jubilee people, the beloved community you expect us to be. Amen.

José González-Colón currently is pastor of the Iglesia Presbiteriana en Hato Rey, San Juan, Puerto Rico.  A Brooklyn, New York native of Puerto Rican parents, he ministers with rural and urban communities as teacher and pastor with an emphasis on economic justice, environmental advocacy and food sovereignty. He is the current Moderator of the Synod of Boriquén, Puerto Rico.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

You still have time to support PEC in 2018

Presbyterians for Earth Care Members and Friends,

Wildfires in the west and flooding in the east are devastating to all of God’s creation. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October states that the effects of damage to the climate are happening now, and we have only 12 years to respond to avoid catastrophic changes. Presbyterians for Earth Care has been working to protect God’s creation for over 20 years. We are up to the challenge to be a faith-based leader for congregations and individuals to address climate change and be better stewards of God’s creation. Please help us continue our efforts by making a generous donation today.

At the 2018 PC(USA) General Assembly in Saint Louis, Missouri, PEC members and leaders
  • advocated for the church to divest from fossil fuels and care for God’s creation.  
  • focused on the reduction and elimination of petroleum-based single use plastics at our booth.
  • presented three annual awards at the PEC Luncheon with Rev. Jimmy Hawkins, Director of the Office of Public Witness, as our guest speaker

Actions to protect all of God’s creation will continue in 2019. Issues of our climate, our waters, the earth and all of its inhabitants will be our focus. PEC’s 2019 conference, Peace for the Earth: from the Bible to the Front Lines, will be August 6-9 at Stony Point Center in New York. Rev. Dr. William Brown will be our keynote speaker. We will recommit ourselves to protect our waters and the earth, work for environmental justice, and spur our church to actions on these issues. Your donation can help us to defray costs for students and lower income attendees.

As a non-profit organization, PEC depends on your support to make our work possible. You may also give a gift membership and we will let your loved one know of your generosity.

In the Care of God’s Creation,

Dennis Testerman
PEC Moderator

P.S.  Please support our eco-justice work in 2019 with a generous year-end contribution so that we can continue to work for peace and justice for the earth and its peoples. All donations are tax-deductible.


Second Sunday of Advent

But Ask the Animals and They Will Teach You
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.  Job 12:7-10(NRSV)

In March of 2014, I embarked upon my first trip to the Grand Canyon in Phoenix Arizona with a dear friend. As I approached the mouth of the canyon, I was struck with awe at the beautiful sight that lay before me and I gasped for breath. The pictures of the canyon that I had seen previously could not adequately capture the spectacle of it and I imagined that God had chiseled this amazing work of art in earth and stone for all to see. The wonder of the experience was best captured by a little boy who had simultaneously arrived at the canyon with his family. “Oh Wow,” he exclaimed! “I know, right,” I responded with equal excitement.
In the hours that followed, as my friend and I trekked through nature's wonder, we encountered a tree that had not yet received its spring foliage. Lighted upon the tree was a beautiful black bird whose fanned tuff of feathers around its head, and beautiful singing voice caught our attention. We stopped to listen to it sing and I couldn’t resist the urge to sing along so I launched into the song Simple Gifts.The black bird immediately stopped singing and cocked its head as if listening to me. Fearing that I had disturbed its song, I fell silent. The black bird began to warble again. Intrigued, I began to sing again too. The bird stopped its song, cocked its head curiously; so this time, I just kept right on singing
for a while. As soon as I stopped, the bird resumed its musical discourse. Pretty soon a crowd formed around that tree as the bird and I sang our little duet. Eventually, I had to move on but that moment felt divine. For just a moment, I felt one with nature and with God. I said goodbye to the bird as I moved along, and thanked it for sharing such a wonderful gift with me. As an afterthought, I wondered what would happen to that bird, and then, I thought about all of the birds, and animals, and plants, and nature’s wonders that we humans carelessly attend and realized that nature was not just put here for us to use and enjoy; but that, we…that I was put here to care for nature.


Prayer: God of the trees and forests, rivers and seas, hills and vales, and the creatures that walk the earth, during this season of Advent help us to remember the earth in all of its fullness is yours, and that we are stewards of the abundant life you have given. And just as the star that shown over Bethlehem lit the way to the place where the Christ child lay, giving hope to a world in need, help us to be the lights that guide others to see that all you have created is truly precious.

Donna R. Phillips is a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She has served in the Music Department of Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky for over 20 years, formerly as Children’s Choir Director and currently as Adult Handbell Choir Director. Donna was also the Music Programs Coordinator at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky from 2000 to 2015. In addition, Donna is a Singer, Composer, and Playwright.