Saturday, December 16, 2017

Third Sunday in Advent Reflection

Threatened Foods and Churches

Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened.  God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.   Genesis 1:29-31a  CEB

Water is the first food needed for life. Salmon is a major source of food for native people of the Columbia River Gorge and its tributaries. When the US Government moved Native People from their usual lands to reservations, less healthy foods (wheat flour, lard and salt) were the staples supplied/ introduced to tribes who were accustomed to a diet of salmon, deer, root vegetables and berries. Today, there is a growing movement to restore Native American health by reclaiming traditional diets and food-ways and increasing access to nutritious food.

Rev. Irvin Porter is Associate for Native American Congregational Support in the PC(USA). He is cultivating health in the 95 churches and chapels of Native American Presbyterians, which are part of the Presbyterian Church (USA). These congregations need sustainable resources to bring spiritual food to their communities.

Irv focuses prayers and his energy to the Native American Youth Conference and its Youth Council to form young leaders. Of the four adult advisors to the last conference, three were participants as youth and the fourth was the conference organizer! Most Native churches are served by older commissioned ruling elders (lay pastors) and retired part-time clergy. Irv is raising funds for an endowment to support the Youth Conference.

Prayer: God of all life, may our relationship with you recognize how closely our wellbeing is tied to that of all creation. May we honor the inextricable connection between nutrition, food, health, the land and the relationship of Indigenous People to the land and water. Amen.

Rev. Irvin Porter is descended from three Native American tribes: T’hono O’odham, Pima, and Nez Perce. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and has also lived on the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. He serves part-time for the PC(USA) as the Associate for Native American Congregational Support. Irv is also pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Indian Fellowship, an urban Native PC(USA) congregation in Tacoma, Washington. He is their first Native American pastor in the 141 years since the church was founded among the Puyallup Indians. Irv and his wife live in Puyallup, Washington.

Friday, December 15, 2017

PEC welcomes your support

Dear PEC member or friend,

“This lived up to the potential to be a Christ-centered experience in which we see Earth Care as part of our commission as Christians and Presbyterians.”

This comment was made about Presbyterians for Earth Care’s 2017 Conference held in September near Portland, Oregon and is similar to what we hear after every PEC Conference.

Donations from people like you have made these face-to-face experiences possible every two years or so for the last 20 years. As a non-profit we depend on your year-end donation so we can continue to prepare and present more “Christ-centered experiences.” The steering committee has committed to give $9000 to PEC and challenges you and your congregation to match it.

Your gift will also help us offer you more enriching experiences through our Advent and Lenten Devotionals, our new "Earth Action Reflection Theology and Hope" (EARTH) e-newsletter, the many Earth Care resources on our website, and conversations with your Regional Representative.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation of $25, $50, $100 or more so PEC can spread the word about caring for God’s creation to more Presbyterians and congregations. No gift is too small.

Your interest and your efforts at protecting God’s creation are appreciated and honored. Thank you for walking gently on this planet that we all share.

With hope for our future,

Dennis Testerman, Moderator

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Second Sunday of Advent Reflection

Water is Sacred! That’s the Lord’s refrigerator!

Mary praises God – The Magnificat                                                                    
Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”   Luke 1:46-56  CEB

People came from throughout the country in solidarity with those who live in the Columbia Watershed declaring, “Water is Sacred!” It feels encouraging to learn that someone else cares to better your circumstances; that someone cares about your water. When your family fishing grounds have been flooded over. When the temperature of the river water is rising, so that fish are hiding in deep holes instead of swimming in their usual riffs. When anglers find parasites on the outside and worms curled up in the meat of the fish. When chemicals are causing mutations. When few salmon make it past dams to the spawning ground.
Mary sings with joy and amazement about the grace of God who chooses a Hebrew teenager to bear the Son of God into the world. She isn’t royalty or upper class, yet she is chosen over those women and men. Mary’s song infers that by choosing her, God’s justice has turned the tables on the rich and powerful. Embodied in her is a gift of the continuing mercy that God promised generations ago to her ancestors.
Corbett Wheeler, Clerk of Session at NorthforkPresbyterian Church on the Nez Perce Reservation in North-Central Idaho provided leadership for this fall’s Spirit of the Salmon – Water, Culture, and Justice in the Columbia Watershed, an eco-justice immersion and its successor, Blessing the Waters of Life: Justice and Healing for our Watersheds. He remarked, “It is good knowing that others are concerned about the dams and water and the salmon. That has always been something with us (the Nez Perce). That is the Lord’s refrigerator, you know.”

Prayer: God of sacred water and just living, hear our prayer for the healing of the lakes, rivers and streams. Restore the health of the fish and creatures that live in your waters. Lead us to live with care for your creation. Amen.

Corbett Wheeler serves on the Native American Consulting Committee for the PC(USA). He was raised in a strict Presbyterian family on the Nez Perce Reservation. His dad’s grandfather was a minister, and the family have all been leaders in Presbyterian Churches.

Pictured to the right is Corbett Wheeler.

Pictured above are: Jeannie (Wheeler) Strong, Kathy Keener, Sam Davis, Ida Ann (Wheeler) Pinkham and Corbett Wheeler.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Intro and back story to PEC's 2017 Advent Devotional

In Advent, we awaken to the deep 

needs of the world

for justice, peace and restoration.

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 
Amos 5:24 CEB

Ginger is in the upper left
At 87 years old, Ginger Harlow Allen attended PEC’s 2017 Conference, Blessing the Waters of Life,” that was held September 25-29 in the Columbia Watershed near Portland, Oregon.  She reflects on how her participation in this conference shifted her worldview on injustices. “No matter how many resources I could have read, nothing would have prepared me for the impact of the Presbyterian Earth Care Conference subjects concerning our Indigenous Peoples, the salmon and the issue of water access. One has only to become nominally immersed in the culture of Native American injustices, and to be made aware of the threat to our use of unpolluted water, to be alarmed. I’ve glimpsed the future, and even in this year of crazy political unrest, and what seems a lowering of moral standards on every side, I feel HOPE for the future.”

To continue our learning about and from the indigenous begun at the conference, PEC asked the Reverend Kathy Keener to coordinate our Advent devotional this year and to ask our new Native American friends to write the reflections.  Kathy was very involved with the indigenous at the conference and rode in the car with four members of the Nez Perce tribe from Eastern Oregon to the conference.

The Reverend Kathy Keener
The process of coordinating the writers was much more challenging than Kathy thought. “I learned that the idea of writing devotions for Advent is an unknown concept for our indigenous friends. The modern creative writing of American church celebrations doesn't match with their experience… their liturgy is formulaic and pre-scripted; they do not write their own devotions. I learned that my ideas for possible points of connection between the experience of our Native participants and Advent were my white, western-educated theological and environmental ideas. When I asked about the deep needs that they see in their world, I got answers that were not earth-care relevant.”

Undaunted by the challenges, Kathy called and interviewed Jeannie Strong, Corbett Wheeler and Irvin Porter over the phone and transcribed those calls.  She went back to her video footage of Sam Davis, and made a transcript of his presentation at the conference and excerpted it for the devotion in his name. Kathy also collected photos, wrote bios and wrote about her own experiences being drawn into Standing Rock’s Water Protector movement for the Christmas Day reflection. 

Our deepest gratitude goes to Kathy Keener for her persistence and commitment to allowing the voices of Native Americans to be heard. May your understanding of and compassion for our indigenous neighbors become broader as you reflect on their lives and wisdom in this year’s Advent Devotional. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

First Sunday in Advent Reflection

First Sunday in Advent

Wherever the river flows, everything will live

Wherever the river flows, every living thing that moves will thrive. There will be great schools of fish, because when these waters enter the sea, it will be fresh. Wherever the river flows, everything will live.  Ezekiel 47:9 CEB

Each spring and fall, Jeannie Strong’s father fished salmon at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River to provide food for his family and community. Nez Perce fishermen from Idaho joined those from other tribes netting fish from platforms suspended above the falls while their families cleaned, smoked and dried the fish to preserve it. They were part of a 9,000 year-old ritual of Native people meeting at Celilo Falls to fish, trade and feast.

In 1957, the Corps of Engineers completed The Dalles Dam (12 miles downstream from Celilo Falls) to generate hydropower and to simplify barge navigation on this stretch of the Columbia River. When the Fall’s cliffs were submerged under the dam’s reservoir, native people lost access to sacred sites including Celilo’s village, cemetery and fishing grounds. At the time of the damming, fishers annually caught 2.5 million pounds of fish for subsistence and commercial purposes. 
The inundation of Celilo Falls was a devastating cultural loss for Columbia River tribes. The cycle of their lives brought them to Celilo for fellowship and ritual in addition to sustenance.
“We took my father down for the 50th anniversary of when Celilo was flooded. He lived to 96, and outlived a lot of people. It was good to have the different tribes together again for ceremony and the reunion. He was an elder at Northfork Presbyterian Church where my brother is now an elder.”
In 2017, many Native fishers live in substandard trailers and families’ homes still haven’t been replaced as promised by the US Government. Resentment over the loss of sacred waters and land still simmers among Native People. 
At the new Celilo Long House, participants from the Spirit of the Salmon pre-conference immersion enjoyed a salmon feast hosted by Celilo-Wyam fishing families. Elders told stories of Celilo Falls and its import to their lives. Children and young adults explained how their canoe family prepares for an annual spiritual journey. Hosted by a tribe in the US or Canada, canoe families paddle and camp, sharing traditional songs, language, dance and celebrations along Pacific Northwest waterways. The real journey is an internal, personal experience for each member of the canoe family. “What we do out there is we heal. We heal the land, the water, the people,” explained Shannon Comenot, who compared time on the water to a constant, and conscious, state of prayer. “It’s a way of life. Going out on the water is the only thing unchanged since our ancestors.”

Meditation: Do you have home waters to which you return or long to see again? Pause and imagine that you are by your home water. Are you alone or with others? What are you doing? Do you touch the water or cause a splash? Does the sound of the water affect the rhythm of your breath? Are there children to whom you want to introduce these home waters? In the Advent time of preparation, may our memory of the waters of our lives refocus us to see what is sacred and holy in and around us. Amen.

Jeannie Strong is an elder in First Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah, Idaho - a church founded by her grandfather on the Nez Perce Reservation. She describes herself as “three part Nez Perce; one part French. Dad was a Nez Perce speaker.” She traveled from Lapwai, Idaho to participate in the Presbyterians for Earth Care conference on the Columbia. She said, “I felt really good about the conference; Celilo and Standing Rock are so important.”
Jeannie’s father is wearing a white t-shirt in the foreground of this historic photo of native fishermen at Celilo Falls prior to its inundation in 1957. (Corps of Engineers photo, public domain)

Advent is a time to recognize that the world needs Jesus and God’s healing restoration of the world. It is about looking for Jesus’ return as much as it is about the birth of a baby. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

PEC supports Divestment Overture #006

PEC Supports
 FossilFree PCUSA Overture
by Katie Preston

WHOOHOO!! We are on our way to General Assembly 2018, and we have a strong overture that Fossil Free PCUSA (FFPCUSA) will be supporting this year. The Hudson River Overture (OVT-006) was passed on July 25 and since then four additional presbyteries have concurred. Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) and FFPCUSA are in agreement in supporting this overture, and encourage you to bring it to your presbyteries as well. 

The Hudson River Overture relies on the previous work of FFPCUSA to bring a divestment overture to the General Assembly (GA). It takes into account the recommendations of the committees at the past two GAs, but continues to press for the immediate divestment of those companies on the Carbon Underground 200 list and for the Board of Pensions (BOP) and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation to support the investment in renewables and energy efficiency.

The Overture recognizes the steps we as a denomination have already taken to be socially responsible in our investment strategy, and the specific options now available to the BOP and Foundation investors along these guidelines. But it also outlines that it is not enough in the face of increasing threats due to climate change. Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria devastated communities and reminded us once again that we are falling short on the immediate need to take action to reduce our carbon footprint in the world. As inhabitants of the USA, one of the world’s largest emitters, it is our moral obligation as people of faith to support divestment and the need for a clean energy strategy for the future. Our past decisions on how our denomination uses its funds demonstrates our responsibility to be better stewards of not only our financial resources, but our natural resources as well. By supporting a divestment overture, PEC and FFPCUSA call on the denomination to use our moral authority to end our dependence on fossil fuels and move us into a more sustainable future.

Katie Preston is an M.Div from Columbia Theological Seminary, currently flying the friendly skies with Delta Air Lines. She is a member of the board of Fossil Free PCUSA.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pre-conference Immersion Summary

Reflections on the Spirit of Salmon
 by Karen Kudebeh

A newsletter headline caught my attention.  It announced an upcoming “Spirit of the Salmon Immersion,” the PEC pre-conference organized with the tribes of the Columbia River.   My eyes filled with tears.  I immediately booked a flight to Portland, and I trusted that family, friends and finances would support a decision that was already made.  Tears have always reflected the longings of my heart and I have learned to follow their flow.

A month has now passed since the conference took place.  I’ve been grateful for the space to reflect and integrate the Immersion experience before writing this article.  Highlights included presentations by indigenous wisdom-keepers and scientists, field trips up the Gorge through forests still smoldering from the recent mega-fire, dining and dancing in the longhouse at Celilo village, ceremonies and celebrations at the River’s edge.  

I want to offer some inner reflections, triggered by the Spirit of the Salmon Immersion.  These are offered as a counterpoint to the “Yang” of our western culture generally, and that of our Presbyterian tradition specifically, which honors plans and agendas, facts and figures, decisions and actions.  We Presbyterians come to these retreats bearing a moniker “the Frozen Chosen.”  But when exposed to teachings and experiences that touch our hearts, awaken our bodies, and satisfy our minds’ need to know, something in us begins to thaw.  Maybe it’s the 2/3 of our bodies that are made up of water.  In any case, two days of Immersion contributed to our feeling the flow of the River.

Flowing waters aren’t sufficient to wash away the toxic legacy of the 500 year-old Doctrine of Discovery however.  The Doctrine continues to perpetuate structural evil throughout the social, economic, and legal systems in our country.  Broken treaties with the First Peoples of this land are just one manifestation of an insidious system of entitlement within our colonial/imperialist mentality and “settler consciousness.”  The Doctrine is embedded at a subconscious level and thus pervades everything we do.

In addition to gross inequities created by the Doctrine of Discovery, there are also vast differences in worldviews between First Peoples and those of us from a settler lineage.  These differences help explain many cultural misunderstandings.  They also explain why Earth’s natural systems are breaking down.  Three worldviews presented by indigenous people at the Immersion will illustrate the point: Time, Place and Words.  All these are foundational in describing Reality, and each one is key to understanding the crises Earth faces today. 

Let’s begin with Time.  Indigenous wisdom says “Now” is the only access we have to our hearts, that all negative feelings are due to our focus on the past or the future, that “addiction” is a strategy to escape the present moment, and that we must not act from fear but instead stay in the heart-centered present moment.  By contrast, we westerners live in a culture that is either mired in the past -- “Make America Great Again”-- or in the Future.  We are obsessed by Time.  “Time” is the most frequently used noun in the English language.  Where can we start, immersed as we are in a powerful and time-obsessed culture that avoids the present moment?

What about Words, the very foundation of faith for so many in our western tradition (the Bible, our heralded intellectual discourses, the endless discussions on what we believe, etc.)?   To paraphrase Ilarion Merculeiff  who so eloquently articulated the indigenous perspective for us: first-hand knowledge makes beliefs irrelevant.  Words dumb us down and diminish the experience of reality. Once we let go of thoughts, we can begin to access a Field of Awareness that takes in the entire environment, making use of all the senses and thus capable of what we westerners might otherwise label clairvoyance or ESP.  (Cognitive dissonance, anyone?)

Finally, what about the indigenous perspective of Place, where the natural world is infused with significance, sentience and spirit; where every mountain in sight of your home has a story and you know your place in the center of things; where Mitakuya Oyasin – an acknowledgement of “All My Relations” is the way of greeting the whole community of life; the focus is on relationship, equity, respect, inclusion with all creation?   In contrast, Western perspective is dominated by a colonial/imperial mindset that puts humans at the top of a tree of life, separate and special, having power over all else.  As for the natural world? -- just “resources” to be used by us humans.  (“You’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all.”)  No sentience ascribed to God’s creation, save in human form.  What a set-up for a truncated existence, leading inevitably to an utterly devastated planet.

But also: what a challenge for a community of people who call themselves “Presbyterians for Earth Care!”  By incorporating deep wisdom shared by indigenous peoples, we can broaden our own worldviews and support one another in challenging the structures within our communities that enable the planet’s devastation to continue. 

Who can we look to as a model for action?  Who else swims upstream in spite of impossible obstacles in order to return home to ensure the continuation of its own species and to give its body over to the whole community of life?

We can turn to the Spirit of Salmon for inspiration!   Although the instinct for self-preservation runs strong in both our lineages, it’s the salmon who knows that its gifts must be returned to its home river.  This is also the Hero’s Journey.  And for those of us in the dominant culture responsible for Earth’s unraveling, returning home with our gifts may be the only hope we have.

Amen and Aho.

Karen Kudebeh’s passion is to communicate We All Belong.  She demonstrates – through presentations and visual materials-- that we can choose to inhabit the Center of both Time and Place, thereby removing the illusion of separation and inviting us to reside in the Here and Now.