Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Resurrection – A Miracle is Waiting to Unfold

A Devotional for Easter Sunday
By Rev. Dr. Randy Bush

The data about how human actions affect the world in which we live is overwhelmingly negative. Sadly we read regular reports about global climate change, soil erosion, water pollution, persistent national addictions to fossil fuels, damage done to the ozone layer, and much more. Film documentaries show us the depletion of the vital polar ice caps. Meteorological statistics weary us by noting how current weather patterns are the worst in recorded history. And our mailboxes overflow with donation requests from overworked conservancy and advocacy groups, desperately fighting for eco-justice.

But all this cannot be the final word we offer on this subject. To give up or accept a defeatist position runs counter to other scientific evidence as well as our Christian faith. Other data points to how the earth can heal many of its ecological wounds, once we stop the worst forms of damage and environmental abuse. Nature does adapt, re-group, and re-claim what we have wrongly usurped. Air, water, and soil can come back through rejuvenating wonders built into God’s essential design of this world.

To make this happen requires an “Easter perspective” on nature. In between the time on the cross and the sunrise on Easter morning, the earth waited. The followers of Jesus mourned and stopped what they had been doing. The violence of the cross was over for a spell. Then came the third day – a time of life reborn, of hope renewed, and of resurrection in every sense of the word. To step away from ecological violence means we have to be still, waiting and watching and praying and believing. For to our longing eyes, a miracle is anxious to unfold.

Resurrection is not just a one-time event. It is a way of life – real life – and a walk of faith – this day and for all time. For that good news, let us say: Thanks be to God!

Rev. Dr. Randy Bush has had the privilege to serve as an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) since February 1989. Currently he is Senior Pastor at East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.  He also serves as Adjunct Faculty at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, teaching courses in Pastoral Care, Preaching & Ethics, and Pastoral Theology. He has served congregations in Africa, and the Midwest.  He gave the keynote address for the PEC luncheon at the 2012 General Assembly.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

One Great Hour of Sharing

Dear Friends,

In mid-March I was given the opportunity to visit agencies in New York City which are providing ministry after Hurricane Sandy and were affected directly or indirectly by that storm.   Our group heard first-hand from pastors and agency staff who have dedicated themselves to providing shelter, even weeks after the storm. They will be providing this shelter for months to come, as the need is great. I am hoping that you would also see this as a vital ministry and give generously to One Great Hour of Sharing

I was a part of a team representing the Presbyterian Hunger Program Advisory committee, meeting in collaboration with the Advisory committees and staff from the other partner agencies of the PC(USA) which received essentially all their funding through One Great Hour of Sharing. The other groups who met were Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Self Development of People. PHP, PDA and SDOP provide truly miraculous ministries in areas of social and environmental need and devastation.

We heard that there were four times as many people displaced by Hurricane Sandy as Katrina.  There are 100,000 households in New Jersey alone who have needed help.  Many of those affected have few resources to deal with the devastation.  They are dealing with trying to get their homes gutted because of the mold, which is a problem after the water receded.  Some have waited 3 months to get hot water and heat back.

We visited Red Hook in Brooklyn, which is a community of 79% poverty and was hard-hit by Sandy. A  beautiful community garden was devastated.  The Red Hook Initiative ( is a mission agency in the community which was there to help empower citizens to regroup and restore their neighborhood. 

We also visited “Just Food” ( and the New York City Coalition Against Hunger  ( which help bring about and support just food economies that are sustainable and resilient. NYCCAG has a huge program focusing on the long-term, root causes of hunger and seeks innovative solutions for food self-sufficiency.  

The need for providing shelter and wings of protection for sisters and brothers on this planet is huge.  One way to help is through the ministry that One Great Hour of Sharing provides. You can click here to give now. This offering is a way to provide the love and compassion of Christ through our financial gifts.

Presbyterian Hunger Program is now the agency which provides funding for our partner, the Environmental Ministries Program. They are both largely dependent on OGHS funds in order to do their vital work.  Both work for sustainable and just means of eating and lifestyle management for those who are most vulnerable.  

Environmental Ministries has been supportive of PEC, assisting us in many ways including with financial resources for many years.  We are so grateful for their partnership.  

We are all in this work and world together as partners in ministry. In recognition of this, I am hoping that you will share generously through the One Great Hour of Sharing, not only now but throughout the year. Please spread the news.

You are needed and appreciated.  

Deep blessings to you during this very Holy Week,
 Diane Waddell
 Presbyterians for Earth Care

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tell Us, What is Going to Happen?

A Devotional for Palm Sunday
By Karen Turney
It was tough times for Jesus and the disciples before they made their scripted way into Jerusalem to the upper room. The high priests and religious scholars were looking for a way that they could seize Jesus and kill him. They agreed it should not be done during Passover week - we don't want the crowds up in arms, they said. (The Message, Mark 14:2)

The disciples questioned Jesus before his return to Jerusalem - tell us, what is going to happen? Was his answer just for them or for our ears too?

Tell us, what is going to happen with our earth? Will we be able to stop the XL Tar Sands project once and for all? Will we be able to end mountaintop coal mining and heal the deep scars it has left behind? Can we curb the export of coal to China and prevail on that country to clear the air? Will we wake up the people to the dangers of fracking? Or find the courage to divest ourselves from partnering in oil company business? What if the degradation to the environment continues to get worse despite all our efforts?


Back in those days before the Passover feast, Jesus told the disciples it was going to be hard. He even warned the disciples that fake messiahs and lying preachers were going to pop up everywhere. So Jesus said, staying with it - that's what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry and you'll be saved. All during this time, the good news - the message of the kingdom, will be preached all over the world, a witness staked out in every country. And then the end will come. (The Message - Matthew 24:13-14)

PEC friends, you are walking through the pain of not knowing all the answers or knowing some of the answers and seeing them ignored or ridiculed.  It is painful to our environment and hurtful to our souls. We most likely will not witness the end - we don't know, but evidently, staying with it...keep on keeping-on...that's what God requires.

Karen Turney is a Presbyterian Elder and member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, where she is currently Clerk of Session. She has been active in Peacemaking groups in Atlanta and Kansas City and has been a member of PEC for several years. She has previously served on the nominating committee for PEC.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

A Devotional for the Fifth Week of Lent
By Rev. David A. Dolan

A statement often attributed to the great theologian Karl Barth goes something like this: “One should read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other."  In order to understand the contemporary culture, a modern version of this statement could say: “One should read the Bible in one hand, and the Rolling Stone magazine in the other."  In the August 2, 2012 edition of Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben, a Methodist Sunday School teacher and author of numerous books on climate change, published an essay titled "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math" on the issue of climate change and the impact that the fossil fuel industry has had on the rapid increase of global warming. Bill McKibben argues that if the fossil fuel industry were to produce and sell all the fossil fuel that they currently have rights for, the Earth’s temperature would dramatically increase to the point where all of Earth’s inhabitants would not survive. He then lays out the strategy for influencing the fossil fuel industry by calling for the divestment of this industry by universities and other institutions (including religious denominations, as mentioned in his article "Playing Offense" in The Christian Centurymuch in the same way this practice was effective in influencing the South African government to drop its unjust policy of Apartheid in the 1980’s. Bill McKibben’s movement is sounding the call for this action to save the Earth.
The movement is a campaign to address the issue of climate change and influence individuals, governments and corporations to take action to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the current amount of 392 parts per million (ppm) to a safe 350 ppm.

I made a symbolic commitment as a teenager: I would not get my driver’s license until I turned 21. I had several reasons for taking this unusual step. When I was in my early teens growing up in Santa Barbara, California, I witnessed the ecological devastation of the massive oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel in January of 1969. I also witnessed the beginning of the environmental movement including the first Earth Day in 1970 and was particularly impressed by the negative impact cars had upon the planet. This was my personal act of “divestment” of the fossil fuel industry.

Like giving something up for Lent, this symbolic commitment took some discipline. I walked, rode my bike and utilized public transportation. My discipline meant that there was just a little less pollution and consumption of petroleum. I often had a chance to explain my reasons for not having a driver’s license — a teachable moment as result of this symbolic act.

During this time of Lent, we have another teachable moment. I urge all Presbyterians to make a prayerful study of all Biblical passages dealing with the stewardship of creation and also read Bill McKibben’s 
Rolling Stone article. Upon reflection, I hope that a discussion and dialogue would commence within our denomination for us to consider joining this call for divestment of the fossil fuel industry in order to demonstrate our commitment not only for human rights, but the right for all of God’s creation to thrive in a healthier planet for many years to come.

Rev. David A. Dolan is a Minister-at-Large in the PC(USA) and has a life-long commitment to the environment and conservation. He has served on the staff at several churches and presbyteries and is the official liaison for the movement to the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Appalachian Voices – A Lament for the Mountains

A Devotional for the Fourth Week of Lent
By Sharman Chapman-Crane

This piece may be used as a litany.

Leader:   Appalachia Cries. Where is our resurrection? 
Voice 1:   Over 500 mountains lost to surface mining.
Voice 2:   Over 2,000 miles of streams buried.
Leader:   Ask the animals, and they will teach you,
Voice 3:   The birds of the air, and they will tell you,
Voice 4:   Speak to the earth and it will instruct you, 
Voice 5:   Even the fish will inform you
Leader:   We have coveted our neighbors’ land,
Voice 1:   Our neighbors’ resources.
Voice 2:   How do we make atonement?
Leader:   Our faith story begins with creation
Voice 2:   …and God saw that it was good.
Voice 3:   Creation was Yahweh’s first gift to us. 
Leader:   Appalachia cries
Voice 1:   For the people –
Mothers:   Living close to mine sites means our babies are 42% more likely to have birth defects.
Fathers:   Surface mining has increased unemployment within the industry by 60%.
Youth:   This region holds the record for depression and our drug abuse statistics are the highest per capita in the nation.
Leader:   Appalachia cries 
Voice 1:   For peace –
Voice 2:   It’s not just the 4 million pounds of explosives set off daily in our mountains, it’s knowing that: 
Parents:   In 2004 in Wise County, Virginia a 3-year-old child was crushed while sleeping in his bed one night.
Everyone:   In 2005 in Hazard, Kentucky some shoppers in WalMart were injured by boulders crashing through the roof.
Couples:   In 2009 in Knott County, Kentucky a couple’s home was destroyed by a boulder the size of a pick-up truck.
Leader:   These are not judgments on these people or on the land. 
Voice 1:   They are evidence of our complicity in sacrificing this gift of creation and our neighbors.
Voice 2:   How do we love our neighbors?
Voice 1:   Where does Appalachia find healing?
Voice 2:   When will we learn what is holy and sacred?
Leader:   Appalachia cries. 

Sharman Chapman-Crane has lived at the feet of Pine and Black Mountains for over 25 years helping her neighbors fight the abuses of coal mining. She developed asthma 8 years ago when surface mining started in her holler above her home. The blasting has cracked the foundation of her home and released methane into her well water.