Monday, October 9, 2017

PEC Annual Award Winners

PEC Presents 2017 Caring for Creation Awards 

Presbyterians for Earth Care presented three annual awards to two individuals and a faith-based environmental organization in late September at its national conference, “Blessing the Waters of Life,” in the Columbia River Watershed near Portland, Oregon. The William Gibson Eco-Justice Award was presented to Dennis Testerman, long time Presbyterian and conservationist. Lauren Wright Pittman, received the Emerging Earth Care Leader Award for a young adult, and Earth Ministry received the Restoring Creation Award for an organization. Read more about each of the award winners below.

Dennis Testerman
William Gibson Eco-Justice Award

Dennis’ ministry of environmental stewardship has spanned more than three decades of chaplaincy, global and student missions and public service. He was a consultant to the Eco-justice Task Force of the PC(USA), whose report, "Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice," was adopted by the General Assembly in 1990. (The report was written by William Gibson, for whom this award is named.) Since 2004, Dennis has served as the Stewardship of Creation Enabler with the Presbytery of Charlotte. Currently, Dennis is a novice with the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans. He is a fellow with both GreenFaith and the Natural Resources Leadership Institute at North Carolina State University and is certified as an environmental educator by the State of North Carolina. 

Lauren Wright Pittman
Emerging Earth Care Leader Award 

Lauren interprets the Word with art and creativity. The inspiration for some of her art comes from the time she spent serving as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in the wetlands of south Louisiana. Lauren is also an EcoSteward and a 2016 graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary. Her ministry is borne out in an art collective of liturgical arts for worship and creation where she “invites people into a creative process to tell us who we are and who God is by being present and paying attention to creation.” 

Earth Ministry
Restoring Creation Award

In the Seattle area, Earth Ministry (EM) engages people of faith in environmental advocacy, grounded in religious values. Now in its 25th year with 10 years of advocacy, EM trained 25,000 advocates over 7 years. EM has been a force for toxics legislation; a constant moral voice against coal and oil extraction, transport and storage on the West Coast; and a listening, caring connection with tribal efforts. EM developed and administers its Greening Congregations program and hosts the Washington State Chapter of Interfaith Power and Light (IPL). Executive Director LeeAnn Berens is seen as a national leader in IPL and is frequently called upon to lead workshops at their national conferences.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Songs for Creation

Songs for Creation
John Pitney

We Resist. We Build. We Rise. (Words & music by John Pitney)
I composed this song for the 2nd People’s Climate March in Washington DC, April 29, 2017.  Its title was the March theme. The March date was our current Administration’s 100th day.  Walking the route past the Capitol, the Washington and Lincoln Monuments and the White House, with 200,000 resistors, I was surrounded by people of faith from across our good country, including close friends from our church in Eugene, Oregon.  As I read the signs of our partners in the struggle I was filled with new courage.  The signs read:  I Stand With Jesus/A Brown-skinned Radical Who Condemned Greed And Taught Unconditional Love, Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Presbyterians for Creation, Evangelicals for Climate, Catholics 4 Solar!  A woman near me had a sign painted with Noah’s Ark and a quote from Noah’s neighbor: “Sea level rise is a hoax!”  I took a photo of a woman standing with our nation’s capital building in the background.  She’s holding a sign reading: If You Love the Creator, Take Care of Creation!  Marching in resistance together, we always make new friends and receive new messages.
Psalm 104: Will Earth be satisfied? (Words & music by John Pitney)
Reflections on Psalm 104: Water Song
            I created this song for the national Presbyterians for Earth Care conference in the Rockies a few summers back (“Too Big to Fail?”).  We were drawing our liturgical life from Psalm 104.  Actress-dancer-prophet Tevyn East and I were asked to take the water references in the psalm and create morning worship, which we led one wondrous morning as the turning of the earth made the sun appear from beneath the plains to illumine the watersheds of the majestic Rockies to the rear of our open-sky sanctuary.
         In biblical truth and physical reality, we are water, beginning to end to beginning.  In one creation story it all begins with Wind-Spirit moving on the waters; in the other, the theologians tell us, the breath that enlivens humanity from our source in humus is a moistened aspiration.  Is it any wonder the ancients knew earth was satisfied (vs. 13)?
         Songs emerge from mystery and the collaboration of community.  As Tevyn and I, strangers at the time, e-talked and planned worship across the miles, she asked me to consider changing my original lyrics.  At the time, the final chorus line was “Earth is satisfied, Earth is satisfied.”  Given the status of water in our world, she was asking, is that line really true?  Witness the Cochabamba campesino, rising in protest at the privatization of their Bolivian waters so that they, living on the margins, would now be forced to pay for what is Earth’s gift.   Witness the greed of lawns and golf courses, the weeping of Himalayan glaciers and the thirsting of Bangladeshi masses downstream.  Witness the dry bed of the mighty Yangtze and Somali mothers raped and murdered on their way home from the well, carrying a precious few drops for their babies.  Witness the lyrical change for yourselves.
         This song is for the parched masses: endangered creatures who have no voice and human beings with deserts in their throats.  And it is for those who speak for them.  Orthodox priests and their Alaska Native congregants carve crosses in the ice of Bristol Bay and say mass for the salmon.  Google it and learn.  Bill McKibben and friends of the 350 movement are arrested in D.C. in protest of tar sand exploits.  The U.N. tries to make watercourse treaties with no teeth, bound only by conscience.  Gathered with PEC in Colorado was our friend Carolyn Raffensperger, director of theScience and Environmental Health Network, who reminded us it’s not enough to project our caring seven generations to the future.  The half-life of the nuclear waste we would hide in the salt mines beneath the desert Southwest would suggest it will take 10,000 generations for us to really care.     
         Last summer, backlit by the setting sun sinking behind the Pacific, my wife Debbie and I witnessed a humpback whale breaching.  As we watched her elegant, gargantuan body flee the deep not once, but again and again, each time body-slamming the watery surface of Earth with seeming delight, I thought, “This is ‘Leviathan at play (vs. 26).’”  It will forever remind me that one of the fundamental yearnings of Earth is to rejoice!  So what will our vocations be?  How will we live?  Let us stand together, up to our armpits in the cool deep waters of resistance.  Willearth be satisfied?
            My partners in this song are Chelsea Young with her haunting voice parts and Keenan Hansen with his wicked bass!  Thanks friends.

John is a U. Methodist minister, songwriter & teacher, working in retirement to energize churches for Climate Justice.  His song, We Resist,We Build,We Rise, was composed for the Climate March in Wash. DC, this spring. He & wife, Debbie, live in a Net Zero home in W. Oregon. He vows not to be one who has to explain to his grandchildren why he didn’t do everything he could to respond to climate injustice while there was time.  Follow his music at and blog Our Net Zero Life.

Chanting the Psalms

Chanting the Psalms
Mary Beene

“For God is the ruler of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.”  - Psalm 47: 7

We know that the Divine trinity “spoke” the world into being – but I wonder sometimes if this glorious world wasn’t really sung into existence. The way it all works together, the melodies and harmonies and counter-melodies and counterpoint of our natural world all seem the work of a glorious musical composer, as much as great poetry and prose almost sing off the page.

In fact, our greatest Biblical poetry, the psalms, are meant to be sung. The word “psalm” means song. And I was never more convinced of this than when I read Cynthia Bourgeault’s Chanting the Psalms as part of my coursework for the Shalem Institute’s Nurturing the Presence program this past year. This wasn’t a mandatory reading – it was just sitting on the bookshelf next to another book I had to read. But the voices of thousands of years called to me from that shelf – and I now sense the song of Creation more strongly than ever before.

Bourgeault walks Christians – even Presbyterians – through a simple process to integrate chanting the psalms into our regular prayer life. As I have begun this practice, I have been amazed how her words have come to life for me. She relates a story where monks mysteriously fell ill after the Gregorian chanting was scrapped in their monastery. When the chanting was restored so were the monks, a result of the chapel as “a perfectly tuned reverberating bowl, allowing the monks to receive energy – actual physical sustenance – directly from the vibrations of the chant. (p. 30)” I do not have a fancy chapel in which to practice, but I have sensed the healing energy from the vibrations of my very simple chanting.

There are probably other books on chanting out there, but I have not yet needed to move beyond Chanting the Psalms. The included CD helps even beginning singers begin chanting immediately with simple monotone chanting and singing more complicated chants “by ear.” No complicated notation needed. Now even sitting in my hotel room in the storm I can feel the vibrancy of creation with my simple chanting of Psalm 104: “From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.”

You will be happy to know that our Presbyterian Mission Agency has offered an online “How To Chant the Psalms” with audio files so that you can follow along.  I encourage you to add chanting to your spiritual practices and tune in to the vibrations of God’s amazing creation.

Mary Beene is a spiritual director and pastor in the Savannah Presbytery.  Her business, Openings: Let the Spirit In, helps individuals and groups touch their spiritual center with retreats, workshops and one-on-one spiritual guidance.  She is a participant in the Shalem Institute’s Nurturing the Presence program and member of Spiritual Directors International.

All images in this article © Eric Beene and may not be copied or used without permission. Prints of all photos are available; for information about ordering, go to


Jiyoung Kim

Jiyoung Kim lives with her four fabulous boys, a husband, and a boy cat in Chicago. She loves making artwork with clay, various papers, and natural objects. She wants to share God's love with many children.

Psalms for Sustenance

Psalms for Sustenance
Charles Pettee

"[God] drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure."   PS 40:2 (NRSV)

When natural and un-natural disasters occur that are beyond my experience, it is helpful to turn to prayers and poems derived from beyond my experience. The Psalms are a perfect example, and are such a resource, for me. Of course, our Hebrew forbears sung these. So I attempt, by grace, to find melodies to sing them as well. Here's an example from a live performance of "Psalm 142, Brought Very Low"
Charles Pettee & Folk Psalm - Psalm 142
The desperate sense of abandonment that drove the poet to write Ps 142, Eugene Peterson points out, gives way, after "crying out to the Lord," to a centering in community. "The righteous will surround me" (PS 142:7c)

("Psalm 142, Brought Very Low" lyric adaptation and music by Charles Pettee, copyright, published by FolkPsalm Music/BMI -- from the album by Charles Pettee & FolkPsalm, "True Wealth" -- more info. @

Charles Pettee is a talented singer, instrumentalist, arranger, and songwriter who began his career with traditional flat picking and folksinging on guitar and mandolin in his childhood in Asheville, NC. Charles Pettee & FolkPsalm, founded in 2004, brings the 3,000 year old sacred poems of the Hebrews—the Psalms—into fresh contemporary performances that blend traditional bluegrass with original compositions. Charles has hosted workshops on guitar and mandolin technique at some of the most prestigious music festivals in the US and Europe. Either solo or with groups he’s helped found, he has performed over 5,000 shows in his 32 years as a professional musician.

Art from Kathleen Murphy

Kathleen Murphy

Kathleen lives in Richmond, VA where her day job is fighting hunger at Virginia Poverty Law Center but you can usually find her taking advantage of Richmond's many outdoor recreation opportunities, milling about town, or creating art. She likes to travel and is an active member of Second Presbyterian. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

PEC Has a New Moderator

PEC Welcomes New Moderator

The results of the Presbyterians for Earth Care Steering Committee election are in and the membership has elected two new members and two continuing members. After six faithful years as PEC Moderator, Diane Waddell has completed the maximum of three 2-year terms and is adeptly handing the reins of directing PEC to the new Moderator, Dennis Testerman who comes to us well-qualified.

 Dennis’ ministry of environmental stewardship has spanned three decades of chaplaincy, global and student missions and public service. He was a consultant to the PCUSA Eco-justice Task Force that produced the report, "Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice," adopted by General Assembly in 1990 that gave rise to the group that started PEC. Currently, Dennis serves as the Stewardship of Creation Enabler with the Presbytery of Charlotte, is a novice with the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, a fellow with both GreenFaith and the Natural Resources Leadership Institute at North Carolina State University, and is certified as an environmental educator by the State of North Carolina.

We also welcome our new Southwest Regional Representative, Jill Slade. Jill is a multi-generational Presbyterian and Texan and is active in her church, Trinity Presbyterian in Denton, Texas, where she serves on the Mission Committee and is Clerk of Session. Jill is an educator and has been involved in environmental issues since college. For Jill, earth care is part of becoming closer to our creator and protecting our earth and helping it nurture all God’s creatures is an act of worship. 

Continuing as PEC’s Treasurer is Sue Regier who was elected for a second term. Sue has been a member of PEC since 2004 and has many years of experience managing finances. Sue has been vital to the functioning of PEC by preparing reports, paying bills and writing dozens of checks. We are glad to have her expertise for another 2 years.

Nancy Fayer is PEC’s current Southeast Regional Representative and was elected for a third term. Nancy has a very large region and she interacts with its many PEC members. Nancy is also a member of and active in PEC’s Advocacy Committee. We are fortunate to have a person as dedicated and passionate as Nancy serving PEC.

There are two open positions on the Steering Committee, Northwest and Pacific Regional Representatives. If you live in one of those regions or know of someone who might be interested in this position, please reply to this email.

We offer our gratitude and best wishes for a job well done to Diane Waddell who will begin her "life post-moderatorship" on Sept 29. Our thanks also go to Holly Hallman, David Sholin, and Kathleen Dove for a job well done completing their terms. Dennis Testerman and Jill Slade will begin their terms at the PEC Steering Committee Retreat, Sept 29 – Oct 1.

Stay tuned for more from our new Moderator, Dennis Testerman.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Indigenous Struggles over Rights to their Land

Our PEC conference and pre-conference seeks to connect with tribes, particularly of the Northwest, related to how their lives have been affected by environmental, governmental and social changesChuck Sams will be sharing on the history and current issues of US government treaties with the Columbia River tribes at PEC’s "Spirit of the Salmon" pre-conference near Portland, Oregon. 

We're Prepared to
Buy Back Our Own Land
by Chuck Sams, “High Country News”

On June 9, 1855, the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla people agreed to a treaty that ceded 6.4 million acres of land to the United States, in what would become northeast Oregon and southwest Washington. In return for that lavish gift, 250,000 acres were reserved for the tribes, "all of which tract shall be set apart and, so far as necessary, surveyed and marked out for (the tribes') exclusive use."

But as the years passed, American settlers who had moved West realized that some of the sections of land reserved for our tribes had great potential value, and the new people decided they wanted that land for themselves. In particular, the Western area, which included major sections of the town of Pendleton, Oregon, as well as the northern part of the reservation, had prime agricultural potential. Although a treaty is meant to confer absolute rights, the non-Indian settlers of the area petitioned the U.S. Congress to reduce the tribal land holdings guaranteed by that treaty.

In 1885, Congress helped out the settlers by passing the Slater Allotment Act, a model for the sale of "surplus" Indian allotments, and specifically written for the Umatilla as well as the Sac and Fox peoples of Iowa. By 1887, the Dawes Allotment Act also became law, further reducing Indian land holdings across most of Indian Country. The Dawes Act authorized the president of the United States to survey American Indian tribal land and divide it into allotments for individual Indians, thus putting an end to communal ownership of the tribal land base and allowing individuals to sell off bits and pieces.

Thanks to the Dawes Act, approximately 100,000 acres of the Umatilla Indian Reservation were allotted specifically to non-Indians, and an additional 30,000 acres were put up for sale. The goal of both the Slater and Dawes acts was to assimilate Native Americans into the dominant non-Indian culture. The assumption was that once whites moved among our people, our Indian culture, religion, tradition, leadership and government would be eroded and soon phased out altogether. Indians would then vanish into the American melting pot.

The loss of our lands through sale to non-Indians and allotment to individual tribal members had enormous consequences. Though the Indian Reorganization Act's power to allot lands to individual tribal members ended in 1934, in less than 50 years our reservation had gone from being whole to looking like a checkerboard. The majority of the allotted lands sold were inevitably used for agriculture – growing wheat and raising livestock – while those lands retained by tribal members, which were of less desirable quality, were mostly used for small farms. On the Umatilla Reservation, for instance, many of those lands were on steep hillsides.

One of the tragic results of splitting tribal lands into ever-smaller parts was that they soon became "fractionated." Whenever an allottee died, his or her heirs received equal and undivided interest in that allottee's land. As the decades went by, with each new generation the land became further divided, so that what would have been an allotment of 40 acres in 1885 might today be splintered among as many as 100 or more owners. With so many interests involved and so many small parcels of land still available, it became impossible for anyone to build a house, farm, raise livestock or grow a business.

Today, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation have nearly 3,000 enrolled members. About 400 parcels of land that originally belonged to the tribes have more than 5,000 individual interests. The federal government created this mess, but there is a way out of it.

Elouise Cobell was the lead plaintiff in a precedent-making lawsuit against the Department of Interior over the United States' mismanagement of Indian trust funds. As a result of the lawsuit's settlement in 2009, $2 billion was set aside for tribes to repurchase land that had been allotted and distributed under the Slater and Dawes allotment acts.

Now, the Confederated Tribes have signed an agreement with the Interior Department to begin buying back these fractional pieces of property, so that the land can once again be owned in common by the people. There are many challenges that come with doing this, but the Confederated Tribes are well positioned to work with the landowners, many of whom are not tribal members, by offering a fair market payment.

Once the land is back in our hands, we believe there will be greater economic opportunity and better ways to protect and enhance the environment, while using the land in a communal way.

It seems strange that we have to buy back our own land. We did not create this problem. Our ancestors signed the Treaty of 1855 in good faith, convinced that "exclusive use" meant the land was ours forever.

Though it is true we were dealt a poor hand by history, we can make a new start today. We now have a chance to restore our land base, and with proper oversight and use, we will begin to make ourselves whole again.

Chuck Sams III is the acting Deputy Director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and grew up on the Reservation, where he is enrolled Walla Walla and Cayuse with family ties to the Yankton Sioux and Cocopah tribes. His lengthy career includes numerous positions in the environmental profession and leadership roles with Northwest conservation groups. His honors include the 2000 U.S. President’s Service Medal for Service in the environmental field. 

This story was originally published at High Country News ( on July 21, 2014.
The photo of Chuck Sams is from the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Book Review: GreenFaith

Book Review:
GreenFaith by Fletcher Harper

Fletcher Harper’s GreenFaith: Mobilizing God’s People to Save the Earth provides a wonderful resource for understanding the importance of caring for God’s creation, and our common home, that God has both made and proclaimed “good.” Through powerful biblical exegesis, awe-filled personal experience, environmental teachings from various religious traditions, and groundbreaking science, this much-needed and diverse text presents a valuable tool for faithful-living in this time of ecological crisis. We have all had experiences in God’s world that shook us—experiences that were sublime, moving, or indescribable. Harper draws on these universal experiences, allowing their power and significance to form the foundation for a much deeper conversation about the future of our world and our moral commitment to its holistic health.

 In addition, readers learn through GreenFaith that there is a strong theological foundation to support the care of God’s earth. Through thoughtful readings of the creation stories in Genesis, Harper provides readers with a new and biblically sound understanding of their ancient beginning—rooted in the care of the earth and a reverence for its creatures. Harper then moves to other passages from the Old Testament, illuminating moments in various books that contribute to our theological environmental ethic. Finally, he examines the life of Jesus and the many ways in which Christ’s actions and words speak to his care for all of God’s world.

The ecological teachings of other religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism, are also considered in GreenFaith. We have much to learn and share when it comes to the care of God’s creation, and in a time when division and fear are so palpable, we must come together with our brothers and sisters to do this important work.  Harper’s hopeful voice throughout GreenFaith provides a tone that encourages the reader not to be dismayed, but to embark on the journey of loving both people and place. Perfect for Sunday School classes, book studies, or personal reading, GreenFaith has something to offer each of us—from the environmental novice to the climate scientist.

Sarah Ogletree is a second year Divinity Student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and a graduate of the the Sustainable Development program at Appalachian State University. She has worked closely with organizations like the United Methodist Women and the Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina to establish relationships between communities of faith and movements of environmental justice. Sarah hopes to become a resource to both the church and her community regarding faith-based climate action and social justice advocacy. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Earth is the Lord's--Not Ours to Wreck

A Biblical, Bold and Beautiful New Imperative 
from a Sister Denomination

On July 3, the United Church of Christ (UCC) passed A Resolution of Witness,“The Earth is the Lord's--Not Ours to Wreck: Imperatives for a New Moral Era,” calling on clergy to preach and congregations and persons of faith to set a moral example to protect God’s creation. Presbyterians for Earth Care affirms the concept of this UCC statement and emphasizes it as a model.  

Photo taken by Dan Hazard, at the United
Church of Christ General Synod 31 in Baltimore. 
The statement of the UCC notes that "God's great gift of in crisis... The scale of Creation's demise is dramatically expanding beyond our comprehension. Never has the earth and the climate changed so quickly. While the leaders of every country in the world recognize this reality, our current Administration ignores science, defunds the Environmental Protection Agency, and withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord." The UCC  is sending out a call for "a new moral era."

They note that leaders of over 190 countries have signed the Paris Climate Accord and that "mayors of 30 American cities, the governors of numerous states and leaders of hundreds of American companies have publicly committed the institutions they lead to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in compliance with the Paris Climate Accord..."

They then resolve to initiate their "new moral era" and 
1.    "Let our clergy accept the mantle of moral leadership...
2.    Let all of us incarnate the changes we long for...[and] 
3.    Let us proclaim truth in the public square"

Truly bold is their statement that we must hold to the truth, recognizing that truth can and is being compromised. They call for commitment "to resist all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and demand new sources of renewable energy that are accessible to all communities."

Let us truly have ears to hear and courage to join with our sisters and brothers in this Resolution of Witness. Let us pray, join hands and stand resolute in the truth we know that creation is a sacred gift, this earth is our home, and God is leading us to care for and stand in Faithful Resistance in this new Moral Era. 

Diane Waddell
PEC Moderator

(The PEC Advocacy Committee and Steering Committee feel this is a very important document and are currently discerning ways to create a similar statement. We all need each other's prayers.)