Thursday, April 16, 2015

Springing into Spring with a Fresh Update

Strength and Hope
by Diane Waddell

Dear Friends seeking Earth-Justice,

Blessed be! Springtime, Resurrection and Renewal are upon us, with the opportunity for hope and for strengthening our reserve for Eco-Earth-Caring!

In that vein, Presbyterians for Earth Care has been gathering hope and assembling resources for another opportunity for renewal and strengthening: “Down-to-Earth Advocacy and Action” at the beautiful Montreat Conference Center, September 15 - 18, 2015. Please do put us on your calendar!

We begin with a selection of fascinating choices for September 15: pre-conference tours near Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains (with a reminder to arrive on September 14 for overnight accommodations).

We welcome the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Patricia K. Tull, author of Inhabiting Eden, who will keynote for us, beginning with biblical and scientific groundings, moving forward in creating social movements for change, and then empower us as we shift to a flourishing future!

We are equally thrilled to announce that the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, will join us to challenge us in areas of prophetic ministry and public witness, as we carry the banner of Eco-Justice.

We are honored to host Earth Care Congregations as they gather with Rebecca Barnes for their Earth Summit. We heartily welcome Hunger Action Enablers (a part of the Presbyteran Hunger Program). And you will want to keep an eye out for bright orange -- the Fossil Free PCUSA folk, as they gather momentum for General Assembly in 2016 and beyond!

Come for refreshment in worship, joy in celebrating our 20 years of Earth Caring as Presbyterians for Restoring Creation/Presbyterians for Earth Care, fellowship with others who have deep passion for eco-justice, and workshops on many current and provocative environmental, economic and social justice issues of our times.

May you be blessed, and continue to bless the Creation every season of the year through Hope, Renewal and Resurrection. Amen.

Diane Waddell

PEC Moderator

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Reflection for Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday Reflection
by Abby Mohaupt

11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.                                                                                                    John 20:11-18

Everything has been in darkness,
covered over in dirt and refuse:
these thrown away flower stems and coffee grounds
            all used up and broken.
These fruit rinds and slimy leaves,
These egg shells and half-eaten remains of meals,
            tossed out of our home and into the world.
The heat has been building in the stillness of our garden,
            witnessed only by the bird that has nested in the tree,
            and the snails who are carrying their lives on their backs,
                        and the cat who lurks on the fence.
Foodstuff gives way to the dirt, as my fingers crumble the death in the pile,
            turning the tomato leaves into the molding strawberries I forgot to eat,
            mixing the scraps of yesterday with the leftovers from last month.
                        The smell lingers under my nails long after I’ve scrubbed the dirt from my skin.
There is an ache in my heart and arms as I reach into the pile, measuring the heat against my own body.
            These memories of meals and moments stick in my brain,
             and the weight of the decay resists the turning.
                        There is so much to mourn in this movement:
Childhood trips to our family compost pile, a sacred place in our family to which in winter we cut a path and our late beloved dog wore down to mud and matted grass.
Carrying eighty pounds of compost from its winter home on our Chicago back porch to the garden to surround the urban corn rows, letting the juice splash at our feet and legs as the wind changed from biting to loving.
Elbow-deep measuring with my grandmother, inhaling the tomato plants as my knees pressed into the ground, to be imprinted by mulch, another vestige of dying earth around me.
Beautiful, sacred moments, long lost to the turning of the earth around the hot, glowing sun.
I cannot get them back, I can only trust them to the God who is making something new in the darkness, calling forth life from all that has been strewn from our kitchens and lives:
bone upon bone, breath upon breath, heartbeat upon heartbeat.
Sweet, sacred earth. Somehow, you are made new—God always finding a way to make life out of the death that we so quickly accept as the end of the peel, stem, grounds of our being.
These artifacts of our waste gestate and re-incarnate, resurrecting into what they have always been—from stardust to stardust, ashes to ashes, topsoil to topsoil.
We mistake this miracle as just a process of earth, instead of seeing it the building of a just world, where death turns into life, again and again.
            Instead of seeing God making a new way:
                        Claiming life.
                        Naming life.
                        Giving life.
My palms are grimy as they scoop out the hot, dark earth that has been waiting for the light to be invited in.
Stardust into topsoil, the earth fills the empty waiting vessel, making space to welcome the fledging plant in its midst, making space in this death-into-life soil for more life, making space for miracles to birth more miracles.
            It is a new day. Christ is risen.

Contributor: Abby Mohaupt works at Puente de la Costa Sur in Pescadero, CA, where she divides her time between coordinating volunteers, meeting with faith communities, and nurturing learning in children. Abby holds a M.Div. and a Th.M. in eco-feminist theology from McCormick Theological Seminary. She is the At-Large Representative for the PEC Steering Committee.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday Reflection

A Reflection for Good Friday
by Ashley Goff

In 2012, the world generated 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage with over half of that amount going into landfills around the planet.

Those landfills are home to 1% of the global population. Children and their families who are the poorest of the poor live on the outskirts of landfills. Many use these landfills as a place of work—trading garbage for cash or consuming salvageable waste in order to survive. What was food for the dogs and flies becomes food for a family.

   La Chureca is the largest garbage dump in Central America, located on the edge of Managua. One thousand people live and work on the “City of Trash” every day. There is even an elementary school located on the dump with six classrooms.
   More than 2,000 families live on the Bantar Gebang landfill that lies outside Jakarta, Indonesia.   
   Thousands of families call the Tultitlan garbage dump in Mexico City home while spending 12 hours a day, in scorching hot sun, looking for recyclable materials to sell and make less than a dollar a day.
   The Veolia landfill 100 miles south of Atlanta, Georgia, known to locals as “Trash Mountain,” received toxic coal ash from a massive spill that occurred in December 2008 at a Kingston, TN power plant. Taylor County, where Veolia landfill is located, is 41% African-American and more than 24% of its residents live in poverty.  

In the time of Jesus, Gehenna was the landfill located just south of Jerusalem. This was the city dump of Jesus’ time. When Jesus would speak of hell, it is thought he was speaking of Gehenna which was filled with the household trash, Empire’s leftovers, and bodies of the dead. With no sanitation or plumbing systems in Jerusalem, people would toss their urine and feces into the streets. Imagine this: the streets of Jerusalem steaming with human shit and pee as Jesus was taken to the Imperial cross of execution. The Roman Empire closed in on Jesus and his followers, and Jesus’ final footsteps on the planet were pressing upon the garbage ridden streets of Jerusalem.

As a small child in La Chureca landfill picks through garbage, as birds and dogs and flies hover over the “what is left,” there, too, is Jesus’ body, naked, broken resting upon the planet’s garbage. It is with the poorest of the poor, the poor who make a home and eat dinner in garbage dumps, where Jesus rests his body each and every day, pushing us to see garbage as sacred.

It’s all sacred. All of it. The plastic water bottles. The rotting meat. The Styrofoam. Ripped Clothing. Banana peels. Broken bicycles. Flies. Rats. Dogs. The poop of the rats and dogs. Seagulls. Children of the garbage dumps. Their school. Every bit of the “what’s left” is sacred and holy.

There is no division of the sacred and the profane. In fact there is no profane. On this Good Friday, we sit at the foot of the cross, an Imperial cross that might have been possibly littered with trash and human feces from Gehenna and Jerusalem, a cross soaked with blood and dripping flesh. Without mercy, Jesus was nailed to a cross with those viewed as human garbage hanging next to him. It is in the nailing that Jesus nails us to each other.

From my garbage in Arlington, VA, to the sanitation workers of Arlington County who pick it up, to the garbage ridden waters of the Anacostia River which borders Washington D.C., to the the poor living near the Veolia landfill to the families of Bantar Gebang; to Gehenna and the human waste of Jerusalem, the nails on the cross today pierce together what is seen and treated as the waste of the planet.

Ecofeminism stretches us to embrace it all as sacred, to see how each and every bit of what’s treated as garbage, the human and the material, are nailed together.

On this Good Friday, we sit and wait. Together. Nailed together as the planet continues to be pierced, broken, torn, and rendered. As your hands and arms stretch out today to toss away a piece of garbage, as your hands and arms extend to pick-up garbage, we remember the ones who live, eat, live, learn and are family on a garbage dump. Today we remember Jesus and his outstretched arms, executed in a city that looked and smelled and was a garbage dump. 

Prayer: Holy One. Holy One of garbage and landfills. We are nailed together. Garbage and all. May we never, ever forget it.
Contributor: Ashley Goff is Minister for Spiritual Formation at Church of the Pilgrims (PCUSA) and ordained in the United Church of Christ. Ashley graduated from Union Theological Seminary in NYC where she fell in love with the art of liturgy.  She lives with deep gratitude for several communities which have formed her along the way: Denison University, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, the Open Door Community, and Rikers Island NYC Jail. Ashley also finds life in Springsteen music, beekeeping, urban farming, vinyasa yoga, and her three kids, loveable spouse and their furry black lab.  Ashley blogs at

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday Reflection

Reflection for Maundy Thursday
by Rev. Susan Phillips

In these holy days, we can so quickly jump from the celebration of Palm Sunday
to the resurrection of Easter Sunday. But there is brokenness in between—a brokenness that cuts us off from each other and from creation—a brokenness that is so evident at the cross. If we only focus on what is lovely, we miss all the brokenness.

At the cross, God takes on all the hurt, hate, and destructiveness we dish out and loves us anyway. At the cross, we remember that God redeems all of creation.

See and hear Rev. Susan Phillips unpack this redemption a little more.

Prayer: G-d of love, hold us—all parts of creation--in these days. Amen.

Contributor: Susan Phillips attended Grinnell College, Candler School of Theology - Emory University, Hebrew University and served UMC and PCUSA churches in Iowa. She has pastored First Presbyterian Church in Shawano, WI since 1999. She is a worship designer and workshop leader for emergent church conversations, sacred dance and worship media. Her daily spiritual disciplines include parenting two daughters, interfaith dialogue with her spouse, Simon Levin, and talking to strangers. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Palm Sunday Reflection

A Reflection for Palm Sunday
by Abby Mohaupt

Matthew 21:1-11 Common English Bible (CEB)  
When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task. He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away. Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion, “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring.” The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them.

Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. “Who is this?” they asked. The crowds answered, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” 

I'm standing in the courtyard in front of Memorial Chapel at Stanford University. I've just asked my students in the course I've been co-teaching in Liberation Theology to leave the classroom and come outside. I'm going to ask them to make a web out of rope, a web made out of the things that connect us and things that define us. This is an activity that I've used with people of all ages: older and wiser members of congregations, third graders, seminary students, and--now--Stanford University students.

We stand in a circle. One student holds the end of the rope and she names something about herself--something that makes her, her. Together we find someone else in the circle that shares that part of her story. Together we build a web of our identities. Together we recognize that each of these pieces about ourselves matter. Standing in this circle, on this campus, I look at the faces of these students, and I am surprised.
•  I am too young to be teaching a class at Stanford, so I wear my clergy collar to class, to remind everyone that I'm supposed to be there.
•  I am educated at a Midwestern Liberal Arts university, and I didn't even think about applying to a school like Stanford when I was their age.
•  I am the female member of the teaching team and I've spent a lot of time loving on these two older male colleagues who invited me to challenge them.
Who am I to be asking these students to get out of their familiar classroom?

These surprises give way to the moment at hand and push away the fluttering in my belly. Instead I feel the solid rock under foot and the warm sun overhead.

I know these rocks and this sun. They are unsurprising because they are familiar.

Our connections are born out in this web of rope and the students look each other in the eye and they stand together. They see each other. They begin to know each other. They are not really strangers to each other. This is week six and they've been learning from each other, challenging each other, and teaching each other. But this is the first time they see each other.

I think about what it would have been like to see Jesus for the first time--to really see him in all his earthy glory. Having walked with him for years, listening to his stories, watching his healings, growing comfortable with this man named Jesus. He would have become so familiar.

And then he gets on a donkey and rides into the center of the city and he is so surprising. All of creation celebrates his entry and yet he is not what they expect.
•  He’s too peaceful to be the coming King.
•  He’s not educated or born into the ruling class.
•  He’s spent too much time loving on the peasants and the people in the fields.
Who is this who comes in the name of the Lord?

I know this story, this donkey, this singing.

There’s a familiarity to this story about Jesus, this leader who has come to us, humble and riding on a donkey. He is not what we expect, but he is exactly what we need, connecting us as we are, to each other, to creation, to God. Each part matters, even when it celebrates the arrival of this surprising Jesus, even when it groans with anticipation.

There’s something comforting in knowing that while I have internalized so many parts of me that just seem like not enough, I matter—I belong to this web, not to the insecurities of the world.

Too much of creation groans, too much of creation suffers because we forget that the web of creation includes us all. As we celebrate the recognition of Jesus in our lives, as we look toward this Holy Week, how will we see the web that connects us? How will we welcome Jesus with hosannas and joy?

Contributor: Abby Mohaupt works at Puente de la Costa Sur in Pescadero, CA, where she divides her time between coordinating volunteers, meeting with faith communities, and nurturing learning in children. Abby holds a M.Div. and a Th.M. in eco-feminist theology from McCormick Theological Seminary. She is the At-Large Representative for the PEC Steering Committee.