Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Different Take on the "Praise Be" Encyclical

Laudato Si’ in the Midst of the Day
by Sue Smith

June 18, 2015 was a date marked on the calendars of many in the environmental movement, particularly those who do this work from a perspective of faith. Pope Francis was releasing his encyclical, Laudato Si’ (Praise Be!) on Care for our Common Home. I fully expected to wake up and see the release as one of the lead stories on the morning news shows. Instead I woke up to news reporting on the aftermath of the racist terrorist attack in Charleston, SC. Nine people died, nine images of God.

When I agreed to write something about the encyclical, I anticipated writing about key points in the document: climate change and environmental justice are moral issues; protecting creation and protecting people who are poor are interconnected virtues; we are part of creation and kin to it, greed is the greatest threat – to the poor and to the earth itself; the time to act on climate change is now. All of these points are present and well supported. Francis is blunt about what we are doing to our environment, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” (21) But I was now reading the document through the lens of what happened in Charleston. This document speaks to that situation as well.

Francis writes about the interconnectedness of all creation, and reminds us that the Genesis creation narratives “suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” (66)* We have to be right with each other as well as with the earth. But we are not; when we locate toxic waste dumps, we harm the earth in that place, and we intimate that we do not value the lives of the people who live there as much as we value other lives. Francis writes that “A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings…Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (91)

Some may find parts of the encyclical difficult to read. The language about God is very patriarchal, and in places, the language is male dominant. The encyclical talks a good deal about those with power and privilege not wanting to give up their behaviors, and how that negatively affects others. For me, this use of male dominant language is an example of those with power and privilege (in this case the authors of this encyclical) not understanding how their language is heard by the other (those of us who believe we also are in the image of God, but can never be patriarchs). Yet it is still a critically important document. Pope Francis has invited everyone into a dialog on the pressing ecological issues facing humanity. He has moved the climate conversation forward and emphasized that our response needs to be a moral response. He calls for us to act now.

Francis asks a question: “What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?” (57). It is a question we can ask about work on issues of race, gender, class and the environment.

Praise be!
Sue Smith

A prayer for our earth from Laudato Si’
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.

*numbers refer to paragraphs in the encyclical


Sue Smith is PEC Treasurer, member of the First Presbyterian Church of Rumson (NJ), GreenFaith Fellow, and recent M. Div. graduate of New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

PRC/PEC: Our First 20 Years

Presbyterians for Restoring Creation/
Presbyterians for Earth Care: 
Our First 20 Years
by Nancy Corson Carter

PEC is excited about celebrating a proud history at our national conference, September15-18 at Montreat Conference Center! A special feature will be an evening of worship, recognition, and reception focused on our 20th anniversary. Our theme for that evening, Thursday, September 17, is “Inheriting a Sacred Trust for the Future.”

A little background: in mid-September, 1994, about 40 persons gathered at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville for an “Environmental Consultation” called by the Environmental Justice Office of the national church. One item on their to-do list was to “Help create an environmental justice fellowship, an outside group, to impact the PCUSA.” By the 1995 General Assembly, in Cincinnati, Ohio, a Steering Committee had prepared bylaws and organized the first of our regular General Assembly luncheons, with Dr. John Fife as speaker. Membership Secretary, Bill Knox, sent out a call for support: “We INVITE Presbyterians who hear the cry of creation, human and nonhuman, as God’s call for stewards for an endangered planet. JOIN US in this fellowship to restore creation, as we seek to be faithful to Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.”

With gratitude we remember these founders who were called to support the new mission initiative, RESTORING CREATION FOR ECOLOGY AND JUSTICE, adopted by the 1990 General Assembly (the story goes that it was passed by a 97% vote and greeted by all present rising and singing the Doxology!). And our gratitude extends to all who have served, leaders and members too, since that time.

We’d appreciate your help in collecting photos and stories to share. So we hope you will visit our 20th celebration special website, www.PECmemories.com. We invite you to write down special stories and memories you have about the life and times of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation (PRC) and Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC).

We look forward to your joining us in this festive thanksgiving for the sacred trust we’ve inherited to carry into the future.

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Nancy Corson Carter, Ph.D., is a publishing poet and writer, facilitates an Earth Care Congregation in Chapel Hill NC, and is active in the Shalem Society for Contemplative Leadership. She is Professor Emerita (of Humanities) at Eckerd College, and was Moderator of PRC from 1999-2005.





Thursday, May 28, 2015

Treading Lightly

Holy One, cleave our hearts and open them to the prophetic, earth changing words of Bryce Wiebe.

Treading Lightly
by Bryce Wiebe

“The Earth quakes before them”  Joel 2:10

Sixteen hours before technological magic caused these words to move from my fingers to the tiny specs of light via rafts of “1’s” and “0’s” on rivers of metalloids cutting through sand-turned-silicon, there was an earthquake in Langston, Oklahoma.  The red dirt of central Oklahoma was where my grandmother moved after remarrying in her 70s.  Our family used to drive there to visit each New Year, through mesas and wheat fields and parched pastures specked with oil derricks and gas well.  With few trees dotting that garden of dust and wispy grass God planted there, the whole landscape seemed heavy and fixed, then pressed down by such a big sky.  Or maybe it was the sky being supported by such a sturdy clay pedestal.

And now it shakes.  Everyday.  Perhaps 16 hours before you read these words.  Perhaps as you read them.

The experts say that hydraulic fracturing cannot be definitively blamed.  The now poisoned water formed by the process; a resource destroyed for the sake of a resource extracted, must be shot back down into Earth as a slicing, high-speed vertical river of techno-industrial creativity.  And this must not be a problem since no one ever bothered to see if it was a problem.  Could it be this river has pried loose the base of the pedestal and now it wobbles under the pressure of all that sky? The energy and economic needs of America require that we not look into it.  For the sake of un-flickering electricity, ever-fattening homes, complete with fixed temperatures and pressed down by as much cheap stuff as can fit in them, we cannot look.  Perhaps we can move fast enough to not notice Earth shaking.  Perhaps bigger homes and more things will finally hold Earth still again; press her back into control. 

Or maybe we, having already pried the pedestal free, must tread lightly.  Shut off our lights and slim down our homes and use those things we already have.  Perhaps Earth can be restored when we move tip-toe slow.  We can, for the first time, float on new visions and dreams down a Spirit stream, poured out among a people made of the same clay that we now see steadied and still.

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The PEC Steering Committee appreciates the work of Bryce Wiebe who served as Associate for the Enough for Everyone Program with the Presbyterian Hunger Program for 18 months up through March 1.  Bryce now serves as manager of Special Offerings for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.  Special Offerings include One Great Hour of Sharing, which largely funds the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Environmental Ministries, as well as Self-Development of People and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.  We congratulate Bryce!!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Register for PEC's conference in September


September 15-18, 2015
Montreat Conference Center, NC

Join Presbyterians for Earth Care to be enriched and empowered in an ethic of creation care for three days at our 2015 Conference at beautiful Montreat near Asheville, North Carolina. 

   Hear from theological leaders in the denomination: Rev. Dr. Patricia K. Tull, A. B. Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament, Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson II, Director, PC(USA) Office of Public Witness

   Comingle with Presbyterians engaged in social justice programs such as Earth Care Congregations and Hunger Action Enablers.

   Experience nature in the biodiverse region of the Western North Carolina mountains through a variety of pre- and post-conference field trips.
                     Explore the plant diversity on the Blue Ridge Parkway and walk to the top of the highest peak east of the Mississippi.
                     See both manicured and natural plantings at the NC Arboretum and learn from the experts at the National Climatic Data Center.
                     Learn about sustainability operations at the Biltmore Estate, including a solar farm and canola oil production, and tour the house.
                     Choose from more adventurous trips such as a float trip, a waterfall tour and an old growth hike.

   Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Presbyterians for Earth Care/Presbyterians for Restoring Creation at an evening of worship, recognition, and reception. Record your stories and memories of PEC/PRC before the conference at www.PECmemories.com.

   Purchase Patricia Tull’s book, Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis, the Leader’s Guide and A Reader’s and Writer’s Workbook that goes with it from the author.

Find out everything you need to know about the conference and register by July 15 to receive the early bird discount. Young adults, ages 18 – 30 years, receive a special discounted registration of $100 for the entire conference.

We look forward to seeing you there! If you have any questions, contact us at presbyearthcare@gmail.com.

For God's Earth,

Jane Laping
PEC Coordinator


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Did You Remember to Renew?

Dear Friends of Earth Care,

With your support, Presbyterians for Earthcare will remain committed to Caring for God's earth and its people in 2015. We will continue to honor and worship God by working within the PC(USA), our communities, our country, and around the world seeking justice for the oppressed peoples and ecosystems of the earth.

Are you a Presbyterians for Earth Care member or do you want to become a part of the flourishing faith and environment connection? PEC membership renewals are due every year on Earth Day, April 22. If you aren't yet a member, you can join now. First year memberships start at $25.

In 2014, PEC members along with the PEC Steering Committee accomplished the following:
  • Maintained an active earth care presence at the 2014 General Assembly.
  • Worked with Fossil Free PC(USA) to bring a fossil fuels divestment overture before the General Assembly of the PC(USA).
  • Advocated for 3 more environmental overtures before the GA.
  • Worked to support indigenous fishing rights in the Pacific NW and to stop the development of the largest coal exporting terminal in the US.
  • Marched in the Peoples Climate March in New York City.
  • Supported a regional PEC conference in Alaska focused on climate change.
  • Maintained contact with our members via regional representatives.

And there is more to come! 2015 will see continuing work in environmental education, advocacy, and spirituality. Highlights will include:  
  • Down-to-Earth Advocacy and Action, PEC's 2015 national conference, September 15-18 at Montreat Conference Center, Montreat, NC.
  • A visioning retreat for young adults, led by Eco-Stewards leaders, to be held in Montana in June.
  • Support for Fossil Free PC(USA) on another divestment overture.
  • Help with writing a Fossil Free PC(USA) curriculum on fossil fuel divestment for churches.
  • Advocacy for clean water (Fracking, Clean Water Bill, etc.).
  • Countless other educational events and actions to protect the earth.

Thank you for your prayers and works on behalf of the earth and its peoples.  Thank you for your support of PEC. 

Yours in Christ,


Diane Waddell, Moderator