Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Third Sunday of Advent

Jubilee and Hope
Isaiah 40:1-11 and Luke 3:1-6

As we celebrate the coming of the Savior to the world let us take time to pause and think about the opportunities we have in this restorative season of Advent. Seldom do we consider the connections of our economic priorities with the stresses of our planet’s biosphere, even less how those same priorities affect our homes and health. Those decisions were not made in the homes of everyday people, but rather in spheres and palaces of power and privilege. Gradually they moved away from sabbath and jubilee practices, to an economy controlled by their monarchies and the exploitation of their land. The jubilee practices, particularly those promoted in the Levitical laws, understood the intricate connections between labor, health and land. Yet as the world moved towards a centralizing power, they created a privileged nobility, and their economy became one of mining, particularly extracting labor and land. John the Baptizer audaciously proclaimed a message of repentance to awaken the agency of the covenant people to be actors in the redemptive plan that their God had set out for the covenant people, from an enslaved nation to a jubilee community. 

What would it take to be a jubilee people? Interestingly in Luke’s Gospel we find that people from all walks of life, profoundly moved perhaps of John’s stirring message, asked questions of what needed to be done in order to demonstrate the repentance he demanded from the masses. To some he expected to share their goods with one another. To others who possessed taxing authority (publicans) they were to respect the just wages of themselves and especially of others. Even to those of foreign birth (soldiers), they were to behave as citizens of the Promised Land. The Jubilee Community was also established to bring blessings to the Earth itself. In the same manner that “crooked places” were to be set straight, society’s healing also meant healing for the land: property was not to be hoarded and farmland was allowed to rejuvenate itself periodically. It was akin to turning on a giant reset switch for the people and the Earth. All were to be set free from debt and extraction, so that the true potential of all can be celebrated in harvest and sabbath.

The celebration of Advent is for us to stop, meditate, prepare and work towards a new age of Jubilee. Winter is the time required for seeds to be sorted and prepared, just as we must read the signs to see when it is ripe to plant and reap anew. The opportunity will come to till, plant, nurture, wait, pray and care with hope that our efforts produces food and health to our bodies, to strive for an economy that restores the land that the Lord gave us, together with a willing vulnerability to share God’s blessings and bounty with love and joy. John’s challenge to repent is an opportunity for us to be agents of hope in times of debt and hurricanes.

Prayer: God of Jubilee.
As we suffer the mighty winds and storms of this world, we live in hope for the sun to shine, the rains that give life and the marvel of all things coming to life again. Gather in us through your renewing power, to forgive beyond what we think is owed to us so that we may strive to live in oneness with our neighbor. May we reconcile with the land that sustains us and with all of Creation. Give us love for the Earth which you have deemed good, and through the coming of your Son may we become the covenant people, the Jubilee people, the beloved community you expect us to be. Amen.

José González-Colón currently is pastor of the Iglesia Presbiteriana en Hato Rey, San Juan, Puerto Rico.  A Brooklyn, New York native of Puerto Rican parents, he ministers with rural and urban communities as teacher and pastor with an emphasis on economic justice, environmental advocacy and food sovereignty. He is the current Moderator of the Synod of Boriquén, Puerto Rico.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

You still have time to support PEC in 2018

Presbyterians for Earth Care Members and Friends,

Wildfires in the west and flooding in the east are devastating to all of God’s creation. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in October states that the effects of damage to the climate are happening now, and we have only 12 years to respond to avoid catastrophic changes. Presbyterians for Earth Care has been working to protect God’s creation for over 20 years. We are up to the challenge to be a faith-based leader for congregations and individuals to address climate change and be better stewards of God’s creation. Please help us continue our efforts by making a generous donation today.

At the 2018 PC(USA) General Assembly in Saint Louis, Missouri, PEC members and leaders
  • advocated for the church to divest from fossil fuels and care for God’s creation.  
  • focused on the reduction and elimination of petroleum-based single use plastics at our booth.
  • presented three annual awards at the PEC Luncheon with Rev. Jimmy Hawkins, Director of the Office of Public Witness, as our guest speaker

Actions to protect all of God’s creation will continue in 2019. Issues of our climate, our waters, the earth and all of its inhabitants will be our focus. PEC’s 2019 conference, Peace for the Earth: from the Bible to the Front Lines, will be August 6-9 at Stony Point Center in New York. Rev. Dr. William Brown will be our keynote speaker. We will recommit ourselves to protect our waters and the earth, work for environmental justice, and spur our church to actions on these issues. Your donation can help us to defray costs for students and lower income attendees.

As a non-profit organization, PEC depends on your support to make our work possible. You may also give a gift membership and we will let your loved one know of your generosity.

In the Care of God’s Creation,

Dennis Testerman
PEC Moderator

P.S.  Please support our eco-justice work in 2019 with a generous year-end contribution so that we can continue to work for peace and justice for the earth and its peoples. All donations are tax-deductible.

Second Sunday of Advent

But Ask the Animals and They Will Teach You
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?10 In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.  Job 12:7-10(NRSV)

In March of 2014, I embarked upon my first trip to the Grand Canyon in Phoenix Arizona with a dear friend. As I approached the mouth of the canyon, I was struck with awe at the beautiful sight that lay before me and I gasped for breath. The pictures of the canyon that I had seen previously could not adequately capture the spectacle of it and I imagined that God had chiseled this amazing work of art in earth and stone for all to see. The wonder of the experience was best captured by a little boy who had simultaneously arrived at the canyon with his family. “Oh Wow,” he exclaimed! “I know, right,” I responded with equal excitement.
In the hours that followed, as my friend and I trekked through nature's wonder, we encountered a tree that had not yet received its spring foliage. Lighted upon the tree was a beautiful black bird whose fanned tuff of feathers around its head, and beautiful singing voice caught our attention. We stopped to listen to it sing and I couldn’t resist the urge to sing along so I launched into the song Simple Gifts.The black bird immediately stopped singing and cocked its head as if listening to me. Fearing that I had disturbed its song, I fell silent. The black bird began to warble again. Intrigued, I began to sing again too. The bird stopped its song, cocked its head curiously; so this time, I just kept right on singing
for a while. As soon as I stopped, the bird resumed its musical discourse. Pretty soon a crowd formed around that tree as the bird and I sang our little duet. Eventually, I had to move on but that moment felt divine. For just a moment, I felt one with nature and with God. I said goodbye to the bird as I moved along, and thanked it for sharing such a wonderful gift with me. As an afterthought, I wondered what would happen to that bird, and then, I thought about all of the birds, and animals, and plants, and nature’s wonders that we humans carelessly attend and realized that nature was not just put here for us to use and enjoy; but that, we…that I was put here to care for nature.

Prayer: God of the trees and forests, rivers and seas, hills and vales, and the creatures that walk the earth, during this season of Advent help us to remember the earth in all of its fullness is yours, and that we are stewards of the abundant life you have given. And just as the star that shown over Bethlehem lit the way to the place where the Christ child lay, giving hope to a world in need, help us to be the lights that guide others to see that all you have created is truly precious.

Donna R. Phillips is a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy Student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She has served in the Music Department of Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky for over 20 years, formerly as Children’s Choir Director and currently as Adult Handbell Choir Director. Donna was also the Music Programs Coordinator at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky from 2000 to 2015. In addition, Donna is a Singer, Composer, and Playwright.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Thanksgiving Hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

Don't Fear, You Good Earth
A Thanksgiving Hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

“Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things!… Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield…”   Joel 2:21-23, Lectionary Reading for Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the goodness of what God has done and to remember our responsibility to care for God’s gifts.  As we have been blessed, so we are called to bless the earth and to care for it. 

“‘Do not fear’ is the most common command in Scripture. Distinctive of Joel [Thanksgiving Day lectionary reading, Year C] is the divine address to soil (v. 21) and wild animals (v. 22; cf. 1:10). Not only are God’s people restored (v. 23) but also nature’s potency, indicated in the renewal of the land. Joel’s prophetic message, one that conveys both judgment and restoration, bears a distinctly ecological thrust.” [1]

This hymn gives thanks for God’s care for creation (verses 1 - 3), acknowledges our sin that damages and destroys it, and is a prayer that we may be good stewards of what God has made.
Don’t Fear, You Good Earth    
("How Firm a Foundation")

Don’t fear, you good earth; now rejoice! Have you heard?
The Lord has created you by his own word.
Don’t fear, all you fields for God sends you the rain.
The farms overflow with the wine, oil and grain.

Don’t fear, all you creatures who live in the field;
The pastures are rich and they give their full yield.
You creatures, now sing— for the meadows are green;
Around us, good gifts of creation are seen!

O God, as the prophet proclaimed long ago,
You care for your earth and your gifts overflow.
Though sin leads to things that disrupt and destroy,
You work to redeem and to bring life and joy.

This season, we gather to thank you and say:
O God, you continue to bless us today!
May we who’ve been blessed by the gifts of your hand
Now care for the water, the air and the land.

Tune: Traditional American melody ("How Firm a Foundation") 
Text: Copyright © 2018 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.
New Hymns:

[1]Footnote on Joel 2:21-22, “The Book of Joel,” by William P. Brown in the Discipleship Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Apocrypha, edited by Bruce C. Birch, Brian K. Blount, Thomas G. Long, Gail R. O’Day and W. Sibley Towner, Louisville, KY:  Westminster  John Knox Press, 2008, p. 1247

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of over 400 hymns that have been sung by thousands of congregations around the world, and are found in 20 books and thousands of web sites, including with a special page of creation care hymns. Many of her hymns are published at Sojourners and are also found in Christian Century magazine, The New Yorker, National Public Radio and PBS-TV. She and her husband Bruce are Presbyterian ministers who have served congregations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. They will start serving the First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, NY starting on December 1stView the Sojourners video on Carolyn’s hymns here.

Permission is given for use of this hymn by congregations that support Presbyterians for Earth Care. If you do not have PEC in your church budget, please consider sending a donation for use of the hymn.  Thank you. 

First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent 

Breathing in, I enter the labyrinth.

I’m aware of all the things I’m releasing into the world as the rain gently falls on my head and shoulders: Control. Power. Sadness.

     I don’t know why God has called me to walk this serpentine path this morning.

     There is so much on my to-do list: people to see, emails to send, projects to finish.

Still, with each step on the path into the center of the labyrinth, I try to breath, try to slow down, try to quiet my mind. My thoughts keep trying to break in, and my soul keeps trying to release everything.
     Step by step… in I go.

At the center of the labyrinth, I pause with the group of people I’m walking and praying with. We silently look at the ground, our minds focused on receiving. Our breath mingles, the rain continues to mist around us, the sky turns grey and wet.

As I stare at my feet, I remember what it was like to do a different kind of pilgrimage from the Sun Gate to Machu Picchu in Peru:

At the top of the mountain, my traveling companions and I rested and enjoyed the sun. We’d climbed the Inca Trail as quickly as we could to get to the top and it was good to take a moment to look out across the valley. On the way up, I’d wanted to prove to myself that I was fit enough to climb, and subconsciously I wanted to be the first one to the top to prove that I was more fit than anyone else in our group. What a ridiculous reason to speed up a beautiful mountain. The absurdity hit me as I looked at the sun kissing the valley. I needed to slow down.

I took off my shoes and socks.

We headed down the mountain. My toes helped me find the way to smoother rocks, gingerly avoiding the rough edges. I was slower, choosing carefully where to step, stopping to look at the valley and the trees and the plants. The ground was cool and damp underneath my feet and step by step, we made it to the bottom.

At the center of the labyrinth, I take a deep breath. I reach down and touch the soil and give thanks for the earthy foundation beneath. I accept the peace of slowness as the gift that it is.

I step back into the labyrinth. I breathe again and go into the world.
     Today I will choose to slow down. I will choose joy. I will choose God.

Prayer: In this season of waiting, it is so easy to become so busy that we miss the joy of your coming. Help us slow down and help us breathe. Remind us that your marvelous power in the world surrounds us and calls the Christ into the world. In the name of the one who comes we pray. Amen.

abby mohaupt is a Teaching Elder in San Francisco Presbytery and PhD student at Drew University.  She is the moderator of Fossil Free PCUSA. She loves Jesus, running, and the ocean. Her previous work has included working as a pastor in Northern California, a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter in Chicago, and an artist for worship and liturgy for a variety of conferences. She semi-regularly blogs at, and her writing on earth care has appeared in Sojourners, the Presbyterian Church USA's Unbound, and Ecclesio. She can usually be found with at least one crayon in hand.

Friday, November 30, 2018

PEC 2018 Advent Devotional Introduction

Blessed are the Feet of Those Who Bring Good News

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!” 
Isaiah 52:7

Advent brings a time of waiting, sometimes patiently or not so patiently, for the arrival of many things, namely Christ, in our lives. Advent brings a time of hope, of celebrating, of expectant joy. God is coming to live among us! This passage in Isaiah reminds me of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s famous quote about how his feet were praying while marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma during the Civil Rights Movement. Blessed are the feet of those who bring good news. In the wake of hurricanes in the eastern part of North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and now Florida, it is time to have our feet move. This passage reminded me of those who walked to General Assembly from Fossil Free PC(USA). This passage reminds me of those speaking out, marching, and demanding protection for our environment. I think of the roots of the trees as feet, of all the living organisms that bring forth good news of life in abundance. 

Advent is a time of waiting, but waiting doesn’t mean standing still. In this season of Advent, we are reminded of all those who have prepared the way for the good news throughout history. The prophets, priestesses, proclaiming the good news, preparing the way for the infancy of this great truth. It is also a time of Mary singing the lullaby of revolution; the lullaby and joy as resistance to what is the norm in our economic, greed-based society. Those who bring good tidings, peace, and the one who will bring salvation is not for commercialization.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…of those who climb up the famous peaks to get a new vantage point to see the world, to see the beauty of creation. This Advent, may we embark on our own journey of movement as we (patiently) await the arrival of joy. May we sing joy as resistance to the order of things, and practice faith based economics that remind us of creation. If the world is the theatre for God’s glory, as John Calvin writes, then it is up to us, as human beings, to draw ourselves again and again to the living waters of the world, to protect our environment, and to stand at the mountaintop see the beauty, and run down to proclaim the Good News. 

I also give thanks to Jane Laping and Dennis Testerman for asking me to edit this devotional, and for their work throughout the process and assembling this for you all. My grateful thanks to each writer for their creative lens in which they took the prompt, and produced what is before you. Also, thanks to Jessica Jacks for the beautiful cover art. 

Blessings, Peace, Joy, and Love to you all this Advent season.
Rev. Joanna Hipp

Joanna Hipp is a North Carolina native, residing in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a member of the presbytery’s Ministry Resource Committee, vice president of the Alum Board of Louisville Seminary and serves on the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice. Joanna loves minions, colorful pants and all sports. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Sense of Place and the Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery and the Sense of Place
by Sue Regier and Nancy Corson Carter

On September 23, 2018, the Church of Reconciliation (PCUSA) celebrated Native American Sunday with gratitude and humility.  This service resulted from a year long journey.  Three of our members traveled to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon in September 2017 for the Presbyterians for Earth Care national conference, Blessing the Waters of Life: Justice and Healing for our Watersheds.”  There we learned about “the Doctrine of Discovery” which made a profound impact upon us. 

The Doctrine of Discovery refers to a series of 15thcentury Catholic decrees that gave religious and legal justification used by Europe’s colonial powers to seize Native property and forcibly convert or enslave the people.  It gave free reign to the “discoveries” of the “New World.”  The Doctrine was a forerunner to the concept of Manifest Destiny, and supported the thinking that led to Native American genocide.

In Oregon, we were treated with great hospitality by tribal members – being invited to a salmon feast at their long house, dancing, and hearing from elders.  The tribes shared the history of their sacred lifeway and culture based on the salmon runs in the Columbia River watershed.  However, the salmon runs were decimated by federal hydroelectric projects put in place in the mid-20thcentury without Native Americans’ consultation or agreement. The resultant damage to their lives shows how the Doctrine of Discovery works.

When we returned to North Carolina, Nancy Corson Carter and Sue Regier joined with the adult education committee to present a three-Sunday seriesin January 2018 to learn more about the “Doctrine of Discovery” that still has powerful impacts today. (See a description of this series under resourceson the PEC website.) During the adult education classes we learned more about the Doctrine and current efforts to undo what was done in the name of Christ.  This began in the Presbyterian Church (USA) with the Doctrine’s repudiation by the General Assembly in 2016. The General Assembly directed an apology “Especially to those who were part of the ‘stolen generations’ during the Indian-assimilation movement in the 19thand 20thcenturies, namely former students of the Indian boarding schools.”  In the northernmost US city, Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska, in wintry February 2017, the PC(USA) offered an official apology to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians – significantly in a local Native language as well as English. 

Building on the adult education series in January, we focused our spring Earth Sabbath and its associated adult education classes on the theme “After the Doctrine of Discovery: Interconnections with Our Brothers and Sisters Among First Peoples of the Land in North Carolina.”  Vivette Jeffries-Logan, of the Occaneechi-Saponi, and Professor Ryan Emanuel of the Lumbee, played key roles.  

Vivette Jeffries-Logan opened her Earth Sabbath message to the Church of Reconciliation with this meditation:

Close your eyes and listen
Close your eyes and feel
Close your eyes and BE … HERE.
Be Present with yourself and all of Creation

Citing her Comanche grandmother who said “Relationship is the kinship obligation, the profound sense that we human beings are related not only to each other but to all things – animals, plants, rocks, -- in fact, the very stuff the stars are made of. Thus we live in a family that includes all creation; each of us carries wisdom and medicine that can contribute to our common good.  If we take time to listen, to be present with ourselves and all of creation, we will know how to walk in a way that honors that truth.” In her language Huk windewahetranslates to “We are all Related,” the heart of her daily practice. 

We learned from Professor Emanuel that when the federal regulators issued a stop work order for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), they also released a document that denied a regulatory re-hearing on the pipelines. Thus the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) effectively dismissed the concerns of the Lumbee and other tribes in the path of the ACP because they lack full federal recognition even though “Federal advisory bodies have already established best practices, which urges regulators to consult with tribes regardless of their federal status.” This violated the rights of tribes who have deep knowledge about the potential environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural impacts of the pipeline project. As “a concerned faith community,” we wrote to state and national environmental groups (DEQ & EPA ) protesting this exclusion (sadly, the Doctrine of Discovery is continuing). 

Our final adult education session after Earth Sabbath used ideas of theSense of Place” brochure  developed by Creation Justice Ministries.  We explored our individual sense of sacred places, the elements that we associate with “home” and how these influence our spirituality. 

In the concluding act of our study, the Earth Care Committee drew up a declaration, Honoring First People and the Land.It acknowledges that we are on the traditional lands of Indigenous People
who came before us on the lands we now inhabit in North Carolina. Our declaration was signed on Native American Sunday (September 23rd) and is displayed in our narthex. As we wrote of the tribes now formally recognized by the state in our area (there are many others), “They are our neighbors, those we are commanded to love as ourselves as we heed Christ’s call to the healing of people, of land, and all Creation.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Honoring First People and the Land


                  The Church of Reconciliation Earth Care Committee’s 2018 study of the Doctrine of Discovery prompts us to recognize the Indigenous People who came before us on the lands we now inhabit in North Carolina. 

            The Doctrine of Discovery is a philosophical and legal framework dating to 15th century European papal decrees. This framework gave Christian governments a false moral rationale for invading and seizing indigenous land and people around the world. Its effects, including intergenerational trauma, still linger in our social and legal systems. 

                  We confess our complicity in this sinful doctrine, and we are grateful that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), by official apologies to Indigenous People harmed by colonization, has led the way to listening and to repentance. With the whole church, we intend to further nurture mutual relationships of loving care and respect.

                  We acknowledge that we live on land traditionally belonging to and cared for by Indigenous People now formally recognized as:

                                    Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation             Sappony
                                    Cohaire Intra-Tribal Council, Inc.                         Lumbee Tribe
                                    Eastern Band of Cherokee                                           Waccamaw-Siouan Tribe
                                    Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe                                       Meherrin Nation
                  They are our neighbors, those we are commanded to love as ourselves as we heed Christ’s call to the healing of people, of land, and all Creation.
Nancy Corson Carter, Facilitator,
                  Earth Care Committee 
Rev. J. Mark Davidson, Pastor,               
                  Church of Reconciliation   

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Stated Clerk Responds to UN Climate Study

October 17, 2018

Siblings in Christ,

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for God has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.—Psalm 24: 1-2 

According to a new report from the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change, God’s earth could be facing dire consequences sooner than we thought. This panel of 91 scientists from 40 countries has concluded that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, our atmosphere will warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040.

The results, according to the panel, would intensify the drought and poverty we are facing now. There would be food shortages, wildfires, and coral reefs would die-off at an alarming rate.

The 223rd General Assembly (2018) affirmed yet again how passionate Presbyterians are about caring for God’s creation, particularly about responding with faithful action in a time of climate change.

A policy called “The Earth Is the Lord’s” encourages “the whole church to raise a prophetic voice regarding the urgency of healing the climate of the earth, our home and God’s gift for the future of all life, human and nonhuman” as pastors take on the moral mantle of preaching and teaching while congregations and Presbyterians lead by our example of making energy choices with integrity (

Another policy that was approved by the assembly encouraged the church to “express its profound concern about the destructive effects of climate change on all God’s creation, including a disproportionate impact on those living in poverty and in the least developed countries” while advocating for the creation of carbon pricing that is fair and just especially for those in vulnerable populations (

The assembly, after much debate and consideration of divestment from fossil fuels, voted to maintain the current corporate engagement strategy of Mission Responsibility for Investment to continue engaging fossil fuel companies of which the PC(USA) holds shares on issues of climate change and environmental sustainability, while vetting those companies for selective divestment at the 224th General Assembly (2020) (

These, and the decades of General Assembly policies and Presbyterian action on climate, are especially crucial now.

Presbyterians believe that all people are beloved by God and deserving of a healthy, bright future. We want for our children to breathe clean air and drink clean water. We do not desire for lives and churches to be consistently disrupted by natural disasters caused by climate change. What Presbyterians in North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, California, New Jersey, and Louisiana have experienced are helping us to realize that the time is now for bold action, and that we can all take steps in the right direction—becoming energy efficient, purchasing renewable energy, lowering our carbon footprint, and advocating for safe environmental policies at all levels of government.

In the name of Christ we serve,
Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

PEC responds to powerful and devastating storms

 Presbyterians for Earth Care Responds to Powerful Storms Made More Devastating by Climate Change
by Bruce Gillette

In response to the news of broad devastation by Tropical Storm Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina, Super Typhon Mangkhut in the Philippines and China along with the continuing recovery in Puerto Rico and other areas by past hurricanes, the annual meeting of Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC)’s Steering Committee took on a renewed sense of urgency.

Rick Ufford-Chase, Co-Director of Stony Point Center, met twice with the PEC Steering Committee and encouraged them to help Presbyterians become distinctive as a denomination known for its environmental work. The PEC Steering Committee dedicated their organization to work at encouraging “Every Church Green.”  

One way would be for every Presbyterian congregation to seek to use renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric to avoid pollution that contributes to Climate Change. State chapters of Interfaith Power & Light can help congregations know local clean energy options. Other ideas can be found in the PCUSA’s Earth Care Congregation: A Guide to Greening Congregations (this very helpful guide is a free download from PCUSA web site). Presbyterians for Earth Care has many helpful resources and links to others on the PEC web site. PEC hopes to develop contacts in every Presbytery who can help their congregations in these efforts for “Every Church Green.”

“Caring for God’s creation” as a calling for all church members was added to the Book of Order by the 2016 General Assembly and the Presbyteries. The importance of churches and individual members caring for creation and countering Climate Change is evident in continuing news stories of scientific findings.

During the PEC leaders’ meeting, Science journal posted a new in-depth study that was reported in The Washington Post (September 27): “Harvey, Irma, Maria: These three monster hurricanes, all of which struck U.S. shores at Category 4 in 2017, probably attained such strength because of Atlantic Ocean waters that were abnormally warm, says a new study published in the journal Science on Thursday.  And, in future decades, as the ocean warms even more because of rising greenhouse gas concentrations from human activity, the study projects “even higher numbers of major hurricanes.”  Considering the toll of the 2017 hurricane season, which unleashed 10 hurricanes in 10 weeks, and three of the five costliest hurricanes on record in Harvey, Irma and Maria, it is difficult to fathom the implications of similar circumstances repeating with even greater frequency.”

Facing news reports of these devastating storms, PEC members worshipped together using the “Service after Natural Disaster" from the new (2018) PCUSA Book of Common Worship and sang Carolyn Winfrey Gillette’s hymn, "O God, We Prayed on Wind and Rain" from the PDA web site.

Beyond engaging times of prayer and strategizing, several PEC leaders helped to clear a field at Stony Point Center’s farm that helps supply fresh seasonal vegetables, fruits and eggs for the guests at this national church conference center. The farm uses organic methods in ways that are sustainable and just while the kitchen produces delicious meals that have a national reputation among church and business groups that come to the center.

The Rev. Dr. William P. Brown will be the keynote speaker for the Presbyterians for Earth Care’s "Peace for the Earth" Conference at Stony Point, August 6-9, 2019. The Rev. Dr. William P. Brown is an outstanding teacher, biblical scholar and activist. Dr. Brown is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary. Among his many books is Seven Pillars of Creation: Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder (Oxford University). He has been active with Georgia Power & Light and Presbyterians for Earth Care. PEC leaders hope to double the attendance for this biennial conference because of Dr. Brown and other excellent speakers meeting at the popular Stony Point Center.

The Rev. Bruce Gillette is a PC(USA) teaching elder and vice-moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Food is the Common Thread

Food is the Common Thread
by Dennis Testerman

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue. To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the weekend in town astride a radiator.”
--Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalms 34:8a (NIV)

Fall has officially arrived in the northern hemisphere. This is the season of county and state fairs. And harvest festivals. Two out of every three of the 900+ CROP hunger walks held annually across the United States take place in the fall. The common thread that connects Indigenous Peoples Day (October 8), World Food Day (October 16), and Thanksgiving (November 22) is food.

I am a member of the first generation born off of an Appalachian mountain cove valley farm that has been in my family since 1789, when the settlement by European Americans of what was then the western frontier was taking place, often in violation of land treaties with First Peoples.

Just one generation separates my cousins and me from the annual rhythms of filling the cellar/smokehouse and woodshed to make it through the winter, at a time when there was no other choice.

A World War II-era victory farm certificate from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture hangs on the wall of our farmhouse which acknowledges our family farm’s contribution to the war effort by raising 75% or more of the food needed to feed our family.

“Peace for the Earth,” the theme for the 2019 Presbyterians for Earth Care biennial conference, serves as a reminder that peace is not possible where food, water and natural resources are not shared equitably and justly. The Native Americans who joined with European-Americans in harvest feasts that were the forerunners of our modern Thanksgiving Day holiday are credited with saving the lives of some of the first settlers.

There is enough food for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.

Dennis Testerman's ministry of environmental stewardship has spanned three decades of chaplaincy, global and student missions and public service. He currently serves as Moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care 

Buddhist Perspective

Three Jewels: A Gateway to
Environmental Work as a Buddhist

by Irene Woodard

How does my religion inform my environmental work? We were given this question and it sat with me, for months. It is a chicken / egg type question, and perhaps that is why it took me so long to respond.
I went back to the very start of when I became a Buddhist, 1977, and that gave me a prompt to investigate: the Refuge Vow. The Refuge Vow is the vow one takes early on when one comes to understand that the Three Jewels, The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha are very precious in one’s life. Recognizing these three essentials, and sensing that they are keys to how one wants to approach one’s life, one takes refuge. There is a formal yet simple ceremony. Sort of like a wedding ceremony, one takes vows before the community, the sangha. There are witnesses! The very fact that there are witnesses to this out loud decision, this public display, makes it quite serious, as well as there is a celebration. One celebrates the moment.
From this moment on, I will live as a Buddhist. I will embody the three jewels. They provide a view, of how to live, of how to make decisions.
The first jewel, The Buddha. We are taking a vow to live as the Buddha did. The Buddha, someone, who actually lived, and breathed and walked on this earth. The example of the Buddha is someone who actually, lived a life, not harming himself or others, who was mindful in his actions. So as an example, we know this is possible. Someone else did it, so this is something we are able to do as well. We can make choices, of how and what we eat, wash our clothes in cold water. For me, I live an hour and a half from New York City. I can choose to drive my car, or go by bus. As the day progresses, even brushing my teeth, the water can run, or I can simply wet the toothbrush and turn it off. Depending on where we live, we have large and small decisions that we make, all day long. If we live mindfully we can choose actions, make purchases that are not harming this earth.
The second jewel is the Dharma, the teachings. By taking refuge in the Dharma, we are stating that the wise teachings are worthy of following. We acknowledge this precious human birth, is special and rare. That we will not squander our days. We acknowledge the laws of karma, cause and effect. If we sit with our car idling, we might be more comfortable, but it has an effect. If we don’t fix a leaky faucet, water will go down the drain. If we continue to drink out of plastic bottles, we are part of the throw away culture. Instead we might finally buy a water bottle, hang our clothes to dry, celebrate with a vegan birthday cake. If we don’t participate in these actions, we are in denial about climate change...we are not seeing that we are part of the interdependence of all beings.
Finally, the third jewel, is Sangha, community. The richness of the sangha is that we are part of a whole. We have the support of others as we travel on this path of sustainability. If we are joined with others towards the goal of living more in tune with the nature, we strengthen each other. These are companions, who are inspired by the life and actions of the Buddha, and trust the teachings, the Dharma of cause and effect. Together we can remind one another of how we would like to live. We might see a fellow traveler, plant a garden, put a solar roof up, or change to a vegan diet, and we are more willing to try it ourselves.
And so, this simple refuge formula, in the three jewels, taken to heart each day, provides me with a religious tool I can count on to guide, protect, and provide companionship on this path of green faith.
Irene Woodard, has been a student of the Shambhala Buddha Dharma for over forty years. A professional florist, she has had hands on experience with nature, and as a mother of a son and daughter she understands caring for what we love. She has held numerous roles in the Shambhala mandala, as teacher, Director of Practice Education and Board Member. As a GreenFaith Fellow and Board Member, she has joyously taken part in Interfaith environmental work in her home town of New Paltz, in the United States and globally. She writes haiku and loves to bake breads.

Hindu Perspectives

Hindu Perspectives on Caring for the Planet
by Gopal D. Patel

For Hindus, all life is sacred and interconnected. They believe in a natural order and balance in the universe, known as rta. Once this order is out of balance, there is disturbance in the world. Climate change is one such symptom of our planet being out of balance. Hinduism teaches 3 principles to uphold the natural order: dharmasattva and ahimsa.

Dharma means to uphold, or sustain. It is the closest word in Sanskrit to meaning ‘religion’. Hindus are taught to led dharmic lifestyles, which translates to leading lives that uphold and sustain the world.

Sattva is a way of acting that means ‘goodness’. Hindus are encouraged to perform good acts and lead good lives. In the Bhagavad-Gita a life based on sattva is broken down to include the kinds of food one eats to the types of activities one performs.

Ahimsa is the Hindu principle of non-harming. Hindus are encouraged to minimise the harm they cause to others and the planet. From this principle comes the practice of being vegetarian or vegan. In an age of climate crisis, it can be extended to ensure that our activities are not harmful to the planet.

The Hindu text Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (11.2.41) states, “Ether, air, fire, water, earth, planets, all creatures, directions, trees and plants, rivers and seas, they are all organs of God’s body. Remembering this a devotee respects all species.” Hindus therefore revere all life, human, non-human, plant, and animal. Hindus see rivers as goddesses and mountains as gods. The landscape as a whole is seen as being full of divinity. The planets and stars are physical objects, but they are also celestial beings, they and the space between them full of divinity. Hindus are taught that when they embody this, they can move beyond caring for fellow beings as stewards of a divine creation, but become servants of the Divine. That all of their actions, including those in protection of the world around us and all the beings therein, becoming acts of worship.

Gopal D. Patel was born and raised in England. Since 2010 he has served as Director of the Bhumi Project, a global Hindu environmental network based at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies that is a joint program of the Centre and GreenFaith. He has led the organisation to mobilise tens of thousands of people in India for environmental action, issue the 2015 Hindu Declaration on Climate Change and be a leading voice within the United Nations system on Hindu perspectives to sustainable development.