Monday, August 12, 2019

PEC Award Winners for 2019

PEC Honors Three Award Winners at
National Conference

 
Each year, Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) recognizes two deserving individuals and one organization for their exceptional environmental achievements. This year, awards were presented during a reception at PEC’s national conference, Peace for the Earth: from the Bible to the Front Lines, on August 7 at Stony Point Center in Stony Point, NY. The William Gibson Eco-Justice Award was presented to Natalie “Lee” Pippin, a visionary and activist from South Carolina. Ashley Bair received the Emerging Earth Care Leader Award for a young adult, and Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Earth Stewardship Ministry Team received the Restoring Creation Award for an organization. Continue reading for more about each of the award winners.

Natalie “Lee” Pippin, William Gibson Eco-Justice Award

Lee Pippen has been described as a quiet, steadfast and persistent force for earth care. Not only has she consistently led her church, Forest Lake Presbyterian in Columbia, SC, since 2005 to be a creation care leader in the community and denomination, she also actively promotes environmental stewardship in SC Interfaith Power and Light, Presbyterian Women, Church Women United, and her Midlands of SC community organizations. At her church, Lee led her team of volunteers to become a PC(USA) Earth Care Congregation in 2011, and Forest Lake was awarded Presbyterians for Earth Care’s Restoring Creation Award in 2015. Lee has motivated many people to incorporate sustainable lifestyle habits that are healthier for individuals and for the environment. She has also been a motivator for congregations—both Christian and Jewish—to incorporate a focus on the environment into their programs. Lee accepted the award from her home via a ZOOM connection.

Ashley Bair, Emerging Earth Care Leader Award

Ashley Bair is an associate pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, MN and embodies the values of the emerging earth care leader award. She is at the beginning of her ministry career and chose a call that would allow her to build on her experience and skills in organizing around climate justice and peace issues. She works with both religious and secular groups to advocate for climate justice. Ashley is a member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Activist Council and helped organize the PCUSA Walk for a Fossil Free World. She is also an active participant in the Sunrise Movement, organizing and advocating for the Green New Deal and other environmental justice efforts. Ashley is committed to this work and ministry and will encourage others to follow her example through this Emerging Earth Care Leader Award. Ashley is pictured with Emily Brewer (left) and abby mohaupt (right) who nominated her for the award.

Westminster Earth Stewardship Ministry Team, Restoring Creation Award

The Westminster Earth Stewardship Ministry Team provides education and environmental actions for members of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio since 2006. In addition to recycling and switching to LED lightbulbs, the teamof eight sponsors various adult education classes, and encourages a yearly Earth Sunday with stewardship-based sermon, local flowers and after-church presentations. In the spring, they organize a group to help with a park clean-up. Each month, they sell fair trade coffee, tea, and chocolate and collect electronic waste and batteries for recycling. During Advent and Lent, the group offers short eco-oriented meditations or suggestions in the Sunday bulletin. The church has won local awards and received a city beautification grant to help defray the cost of improvements. Westminster Presbyterian has been an Earth Care Congregation since 2017. Laurie Leach accepted the award for Earth Stewardship Ministry.

Congratulations to this year's award winners! Their conference registration was waived as a reward for having been selected to receive an award.
 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Can Climate Change Affect Mental Health?

An Unspoken Effect of Climate Change

Dr. Susan Clayton will speak about how climate change can affect our emotional well-being at PEC’s Conference on August 7, 7-8 PM EDT. You may watch her talk live by registering in advance. Below is an excerpt from Mental Health and Climate Change: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance that Dr. Clayton co-authored.

“MENTAL HEALTH
The ability to process information and make decisions without being disabled by extreme emotional responses is threatened by climate change. Some emotional response is normal, and even negative emotions are a necessary part of a fulfilling life. In the extreme case, however, they can interfere with our ability to think rationally, plan our behavior, and consider alternative actions. An extreme weather event can be a source of trauma, and the experience can cause disabling emotions. More subtle and indirect effects of climate change can add stress to people’s lives in varying degrees. Whether experienced indirectly or directly, stressors to our climate translate into impaired mental health that can result in depression and anxiety (USGCRP, 2016). Although everyone is able to cope with a certain amount of stress, the accumulated effects of compound stress can tip a person from mentally healthy to mentally ill. Even uncertainty can be a source of stress and a risk factor for psychological distress (Greco & Roger, 2003). People can be negatively affected by hearing about the negative experiences of others, and by fears—founded or unfounded—about their own potential vulnerability.

PHYSICAL HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH
Compromised physical health can be a source of stress that threatens psychological well-being. Conversely, mental health problems can also threaten physical health, for example, by changing patterns of sleep, eating, or exercise and by reducing immune system function.

COMMUNITY HEALTH
Although residents’ mental and physical health affect communities, the impacts of climate on community health can have a particularly strong effect on community fabric and interpersonal relationships. Altered environmental conditions due to climate change can shift the opportunities people have for social interaction, the ways in which they relate to each other, and their connections to the natural world.”

Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica. 


Dr. Susan Clayton is Whitmore-Williams Professor of Psychology at the College of Wooster in Ohio. She has written or edited six books, including most recently Psychology and Climate Change (2018; co-edited with Christie Manning).

Monday, July 15, 2019

On the cutting edge of 21st century agriculture

A Farm Grows in Chicago

by Eric Diekhans

“Like a seed, good things grow with nourishment and encouragement.”

Rows of seedlings sprout from rich, black loam. Farmers with dirt-encrusted nails survey the bounty harvested from the land. City folks line up at a farm stand to fill bags with fresh, nutritious produce. These aren’t scenes out of Norman Rockwell’s oeuvre. They take place every week against a backdrop of concrete and skyscrapers on Chicago’s near north side at the Chicago Lights Urban Farm.

Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church is on the cutting edge of 21st century agriculture. Its Urban Farm ministry began in 2003 as a community garden on an abandoned basketball and tennis court. Vicky Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission at Fourth Church, said, “The land was originally bought by the church for a community center connecting neighbor to neighbor in a gentrifying community. When the church couldn’t get funding, the plan shifted to a vision of neighbors from different backgrounds working side by side.”

Chicago Lights Urban Farm
Located near what was once a large public housing complex, the area around the Urban Farm has rapidly gentrified over the last two decades, bringing low income and middle class residents in close proximity. Where there was once a food desert, a large grocery store has opened. But, according to Rev. Curtiss, people of color often don’t feel comfortable shopping there because of lingering racism. That makes healthy produce from the Urban Farm a valuable resource.

The original garden quickly expanded to become a multifaceted mission program that is, according to Director Natasha Holbert, “dedicated to cultivating an engaged community of youth and adults.” Teens from the surrounding neighborhoods learn all the essentials of urban agriculture, including watering, seeding, pruning, and harvesting. Young adults work at the on-site farm stand, which offers everything from greens and cucumbers to beets and flower bouquets.

“The garden teaches life skills,” said Rev. Curtiss, “and trains youth so they can find jobs in other urban agriculture endeavors, or in the food and hospitality industries.”

Adults also benefit from the Farm. Neighbors and organizations in a five-block radius around the Farm can tend their own plots. Being part of the Farm community is an essential part of the Urban Farm’s mission, so gardeners are expected to volunteer throughout the growing season.

For Rev. Curtiss, the Urban Farm is about economic, social, and environmental justice. “It’s about promoting health and nutritious eating. It teaches care for our bodies and for the earth.” The farm fully connects with Fourth Church’s mission focus on care for creation. When the church session recently approved a composting initiative, it was the perfect extension of Urban Farm’s genesis when compost was laid over the original asphalt.

Rev. Curtiss sees inspiration for this hands-on care for creation in Psalm 8 . “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet.”

Eric Diekhans is editor of Earth.


The Unlikely Story of a Small Presbyterian Church

Going Solar: The Little Congregation that Could

By Gary Simpson

“Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my Lord, brother sun who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor. Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.” ~ Saint Francis of Assisi

Conversion. For many Christians the term conjures up the vision of a “come to Jesus” supernatural moment of personal salvation. On the road to Damascus, Saul, the persecutor of Christians, looks to the heavens and is blinded by the Son. In this single close encounter with the Son of God, Saul the Pharisee is converted into Paul the Apostle. 

But for congregants of the diminutive old Pittsboro Presbyterian Churchin Pittsboro, NC, conversion has also taken on another meaning. Conversion at the church is a daily natural occurrence, at least on days when the sun is shining.

Pittsboro Presbyterian Church
Nowadays, when folks lift their gaze to the heavens above the church, they are apt to catch a glimpse of brother sun shining down on an aesthetically appealing array of dark solar panels constantly converting sunbeams into electrical current. The panels nestled against the black shingled roof are so inconspicuous that they almost negate one of the purposes for their existence: to serve as a shining witness to all that this congregation is striving to become a leader in their denomination's mandate of Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice.

The unlikely story of a small Presbyterian church located in the heart of the historic district of a quaint little North Carolina town becoming the first congregation in the entire county to go solar, began six years ago. At the time, environmental ministry was not yet a blip on Pittsboro Presbyterian's mission radar and the term Eco-Justice would never have appeared in a game of congregational Scrabble. But a handful of environmentally conscious members emerged from the study of Carol Johnston's primer, And the Leaves of the Tree are for the Healing of the Nations: Biblical and Theological Foundations for Eco-Justicewith a desire to put discussion into action.

The seeds of environmental activism were sown into congregational soil not unlike that encountered by the sower in Jesus' parable (Luke 8:4-15). Chatham County is known for its rocky red clay soil that is worked first, not with a shovel, but with a pick. But once tilled, there is great potential for growth and fruition. The persistent handful of sowers in the church worked the soil of ideas, suggestions, and proposals that, over months and years, found fertile ground. By 2016, after much tilling and keeping, they chose to embark on a bold project to determine if their dream of installing solar panels on the church had a chance to see the light of day.

Members of the eco-justice group participated in a Solarize Chatham workshop presented by the local community college in partnership with NC Interfaith Power and Lightand NC WARN. This led to a rooftop assessment by Southern Energy Management(whose representative just happened to be a Presbyterian elder). His verdict? “You're good to go!” And so we did. We set out in search of churches whose solar dream had borne fruit in order to glean from their harvest. We were impressed by the work done by United Church of Chapel Hill. In 2015 they installed 326 rooftop solar panels including a solar trellis at their church entrance, a shining example of a faithful local response to a global crisis.
I was personally enthused by a section of the report presented by their United Earth Ministries (UEM) team that defined the ultimate rationale for such an ambitious project: 

After many months of research and discussion UEM realized that a return on investment (ROI) calculus was the wrong metric to prioritize and that care of God’s creation was/is part of their congregation’s call to faith and mission. As a congregation, UCCH’s decisions on mission work has always been based on what is right to do. Once the church discerns what is right, they figure out how to fund the mission. UEM realized they needed to think of the solar project in the same way. UEM proposed a large-scale project that would reduce the church’s carbon footprint substantially and act as a billboard for care of God’s creation and hopefully as an inspiration for other churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples in the state… UEM hopes that this work will go viral and many other congregations will commit to help our world transition to truly clean, renewable, and sustainable energy, honoring God and preserving the world for future generations.
We grasped the solar baton that we felt had been handed us and created our own bold proposal to install rooftop solar for all the right reasons. Figuring out how to fund the project came down to an appeal to Session to “borrow” the money from a special bequest that the congregation had received some years earlier. Since the panels would eventually pay for themselves, this could be a perfect “win-win” situation. We used Matthew 25: 14-30, the parable of the talents given to three servants, to illustrate our reasoning. 

Congregants of Pittsboro Presbyterian could also experience the kind of joy and satisfaction that the two faithful servants felt by putting the talents to use for the Kingdom. It came because of the faithful decision to invest a small portion of the bequest to further the work of the Kingdom through a local response to the critical environmental mandate to transition to renewable energy. It would honor God and help to preserve the world for future generations.

In the spring of 2017, the Solar Project proposal was accepted by Session. By year's end, 43 solar panels were converting light from brother sun into electrical energy for a little congregation that found a way.

Gary Simpson is a member of Pittsboro Presbyterian Church.






This way of life - farming

Farming is an Act of Faith

by Terry and Linda Lauby

We are affectionately referred to as “Southsiders” by neighbors, family and friends. That’s because our home, farm, and commercial cattle feeding business is located on the south side of the Platte River in the heart of Nebraska.

Linda ant Terry Lauby
We are the third generation to farm this land, which was originally purchased in the early 1900s by Michael J. Lauby, Terry’s granddad. We currently farm about 600 acres of corn, and lease, share crop, or own another 600 acres of alfalfa.

All the corn and alfalfa produced on the Lauby farm is used to feed the cattle in the feedlot. Since we do not produce enough crops to sustain the feedlot cattle, additional corn is purchased from our neighbors.

Lauby Co. Inc. is permitted by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality for 6,500 head of cattle. It’s is a small operation by feedlot standards, but it works for us. Farming and operating our commercial cattle feeding business isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. The hours are long, the work is hard and it must be done in all kinds of weather.

This way of life—farming—is also a family affair. We have two married daughters: Heidi and husband Edwin, and Jessica and husband Michael. The farm is also a favorite place for their four grandchildren: Ellery, Adelyn, Terrence and Freya, who affectionately call their grandparents Ma and Pa.
   
The good Lord only created so much land, so we try our best to be good stewards. Farmers and ranchers are the original environmentalists. We apply “natural” fertilizer to our soil and limit the use of pesticides. Healthy soil is vital to growing ample food to feed an increasing world population.

Each spring, Terry is excited to get back into the fields, plant the seeds and pray for a successful crop. Linda handles all of the office work for the commercial cattle feeding business and the farm. Each year we are also reminded of I Corinthians 3:6-7: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters because he makes the plant grow.”

Once the crops are planted, we usually pray for rain. But this spring we received above normal amounts of rainfall. Many farmers were unable to even plant their fields because they remained flooded.

When the storm clouds appear, we pray for no hail and just the right amount of rainfall because we also manage a feedlot. Cattle do not perform well in muddy, sloppy lots.

We are blessed to own irrigated cropland so we can supplement the moisture in times of drought. Laying out pipe was a family affair when the girls were young. After the pipe was laid, it was a nightly ritual for all four Laubys to climb into the pickup and go irrigate. The temperature was hot, the bugs were bad, and the girls always managed to get muddy. But there was such a feeling of peace and sense of accomplishment in those green fields of corn against the vibrant, blue Nebraska sky. Today, most of the pipe has been replaced with pivots and the helpers are now our grandchildren, but the feelings of peace and accomplishment are the same.

“Who plants a Seed beneath the Sod
And waits to see Believes in God.”

During the months of June, July and August, Terry and our two hired men keep busy windrowing and baling the alfalfa. The perfect bale of hay is made when there is no rain and low humidity. Three to four thousand big round bales are put up each year to meet the needs of the feedlot.

Fall is Linda’s favorite time of the year, when we gather the fruits of our summer labor. At harvest time, we pray for good weather (no rain), safety for all harvesters, no equipment breaking down, great yields, and a good price for our crop.

Farmers only get paid once a year. Even though we look at farming as a way of life, the reality is, farming is a business. The operating note at the bank has to be addressed, and taxes and other bills paid ,with enough left over for our daily livelihood. Each year we pray for a profit on the farm, but most years we are happy just to break even.

The good Lord has guided us through 49 years of up and down, roller coaster cycles of farming. It is our prayer that we are able to enjoy several more years on the farm—our way of Life! Because…

Farming is an Act of Faith!

Terry and Linda Lauby are members of First Presbyterian Church in Lexington, NE. They were named 2018 Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce Farm Family of Year.


John Muir: influential naturalist and conservationist

Full Conversion to the Glorious Light 
John Muir (1838-1914)

by Nancy Corson Carter         

John Muir helped found the Sierra Club in 1892 to “do something for wildness and make the mountains glad.” He was president of the club from its founding until his death. A Sierra Club bookmark celebrating his 150thbirthday in April 1988 describes some of his amazingly diverse credentials:

John Muir—farmer, inventor, sheepherder, explorer, and writer –was perhaps this country’s most famous and influential naturalist and conservationist. In his lifetime, he published more than 300 articles and 10 major books which eloquently express his deep love and understanding of nature and wilderness. He has taught people of his time and ours the important of experiencing and protecting our natural heritage.

John Muir

In one of his journals he wrote:  “Light. I know not a single word fine enough for Light…holy, beamless, bodiless, inaudible floods of Light.” 

And yet, when in his mid-twenties, he almost lost his ability to see. He had just returned from an extended botanizing journey in Canada to work in an Indianapolis carriage shop. Although the job meant leaving nature for the “rush and roar and whirl of the factory,” he was highly successful as a mechanical inventor. But one day, when Muir was preparing to adjust the drive belt of a machine, the nail-like end of a file slipped and jabbed deep into his eye. 

Tom Melham dramatizes the story in his book, John Muir’s Wild America:

“My right eye is gone!” he gasped, “closed forever on all God’s beauty.” Muir’s anguish later deepened when his good eye also failed. His mind reeled. He would have to give up inventing, botanizing, everything!
He was blind, tormented by despair and by thoughts of a wasted life. He pondered his dual loves—inventing and “the inventions of God”—and reached a pivotal decision: He would devote himself totally to nature. In the wilderness he had always sensed “a plain, simple relationship to the Cosmos.” Now he longed more than ever to see it.

His doctor had predicted permanent blindness, but during four weeks of convalescence in a darkened room, vision slowly returned to both eyes. He felt he had risen from the grave. “God has nearly to kill us sometimes, to teach us lessons.” From then on, he shunned the world of factories, although his former employers promised him a raise and an eventual partnership. 

Almost as soon as his sight was recovered, in 1867 at age 29, he left for the adventures to be published much later as A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. “I might have become a millionaire,” he recalled, “but I chose to become a tramp!”

As Edwin Way Teale writes in his introduction toThe Wilderness World of John Muir:

He was the spearhead of the western movement to preserve wild beauty, a prime mover in the national park system so valued today. Beside a campfire at Soda Springs on the Tuolumne Meadows in 1889, he and Robert Underwood Johnson mapped the seventeen-year battle that preserved Yosemite as a national park. Beside other campfires under sequoias, while on a three-day outing with Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, he presented the case for the preservation of numerous wilderness areas with moving effect. Major credit for saving the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest in Arizona is ascribed to John Muir.
The light always shown bright for John Muir. In notes collected by Teale about “The Philosophy of John Muir” we read:

This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is every rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
Dr. Nancy Corson Carter is a teacher-writer-pilgrim. Her most recent book is the memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: A WWII GI Daughter's Stories


Friday, June 28, 2019

Why you should attend a PEC conference

Why I Attend PEC Conferences
by Jim Dunning

PEC member Jim Dunning has attended PEC conferences since 1996 and tells his story about why he goes and why you should too! The early bird registration discount ends on July 9 for this year's conference.

Jim Dunning (2nd from right) attending the 2013 PEC
conference at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center.

I recently registered for the upcoming PEC Conference to be held at Stony Point, New York. This will be my 10thconference. I have found over the years that they are a great inspiration and a big help as I engage with the environmental issues of our time within my church and in my community.

I attended my first conference in 1996 at Ghost Ranch. My pastor and I were discussing my recent career switch. I was wondering if my new position as an environmental engineer for a Native American Tribe was doing something important and if so, to whom and for whom? Was this new career and new job a part of my faith walk?

The conference purpose was to study a position paper that was to be presented to the General Assembly being held in Albuquerque. I spent four days hearing and studying what the Eco-Justice Task Force had written for this presentation. To me, this was one of those mountain top experiences that had a significant effect on my thinking of my role as a Christian. This experience helped me understand my career change and was the impetus to my becoming involved with the Presbyterians for Earth Care program.
           
In the conferences that followed there was always a new topic, a fantastic speaker, a new way of relating the environment to my faith and to my church community. There were new friends and connections made. There were new trails to walk, off-site trips, and new songs to sing during devotions. There was also the after worship evening discussions. One in particular involved a group sitting on the front porch of the lodge at Silver Bay, NY and discussing the future of churches with Rick Ufford-Chase, then Moderator of the General Assembly.
          
 Each conference provided me with new energy and a new connection to our earth and to my faith.

 If you can't attend this year's conference for some reason, PEC will offer another conference in 2021. Conferences are held every other year in odd-numbered years.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

A Climate Chaos Manifesto for Educators

William P. Brown and colleagues, Mark Douglas and Stan Saunders, at Columbia Theological Seminary, wrote this one-page “manifesto.” It is meant to galvanize theological educators across denominations to explore, with the greatest of urgency, best pedagogical practices in the face of climate chaos. It is just a beginning. 

William Brown will be the Keynote Speaker at PEC's 2019 Conference, Aug 6-9, at Stony Point Center in New York. 
  
Climate Chaos: A Pedagogical Manifesto 


The two latest climate reports, “Fourth National Climate Assessment”[1]and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on “Global Warming of 1.5°C,”[2]are the most dire reports yet to be produced by expert scientists. Within the next ten to fifteen years, the human race will largely determine its own survival, and that of countless other species, in “our common home.”  We are at a crossroads, and radical changes in current energy policies, capitalist economies, and collective and individual lifestyles are required to prepare for and mitigate an ecological collapse never experienced in all of human (and hominid) history.

Given such urgency, theological education has no choice except to address the mounting crisis of climate chaos caused by global warming.  We acknowledge that none of us and none of our disciplines will go untouched by the physical and conceptual changes wrought by anthropogenic climate change. In such a time as this, ignoring climate change in our teaching, writing, and research is tantamount to theological and pedagogical malpractice.  As faculty colleagues joined together in the common causes of sustainability and the flourishing of life on a rapidly changing planet, we (re)commit ourselves to do the following both within and beyond our classrooms:
  1. To teach across our respective disciplines with an acute and abiding awareness of the mounting anthropogenic damage done to our common home;  
  1. To embrace the disciplines of grief, rather than despair, over the incalculable loss of life and livelihood among all species in the face of climate chaos and habitat destruction;
  1. To attend to the voices of those on the margins, including environmental refugees, who suffer disproportionately from drought, pollution, flooding, and rising sea waters caused by fossil-fuel based industries and exploitative land use; 
  1. To be conversant with the best of science on climate change and on other anthropogenic crises, from deforestation to ocean acidification;
  1. To embrace the disciplines of hope, rather than blithe optimism, as the odds against human survival continue to mount;
  1. To teach in ways that lead to action and activism, working to advocate for environmentally-focused policies, challenge exploitative ones, and reshape cultural norms and individual lifestyles. 

We renew our commitment to teach integratively in the face of impending ecological collapse and yet in hope for the ultimate renewal of creation (Revelation 21:5).  

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Dramatic Youth Reading for Congregational Use

ONE VOICE at Earth Sabbath 

Earth Sabbath is a celebration that was designed for environmental activists to step aside from their sometimes-disheartening work and renew their spiritual connection to the Earth. Many faith communities offer this practice in an outdoor setting, including the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, NC. At their recent annual Earth Sabbath at New Hope Camp & Conference Center in Chapel Hill four youth members of the church presented a dramatic reading based on the words of young climate change activist, Greta Thunberg; the piece was written and directed by Allison Davidson. Here is her introduction for the dramatic reading script which follows:

“Most people know Greta Thunberg is a high school student in Sweden, who skipped school and went on strike in front of Sweden's parliament to protest political inaction on Climate Change. This started the worldwide school strike movement. Her speech at the 2018 UN Climate Change COP24 Conference in Katowice Poland brought her message, “Imagine what we could do together if we really wanted to,” international attention.

This is admirable in itself but what many do not know is that Greta is on the autism spectrum and is challenged by a condition known as 'selective mutism'. Those who contend with this disorder can speak cogently with those they know and trust (family, teachers) but often become too cognitively distressed to verbalize in other circumstances. She wrote her initial message on a piece of wood. Her message to others is ’If I can speak out, anyone can.’ ”

Watch the video here: Part 1 and Part 2

 Readers (left to right)
 Albert Carlson
 Stella Bowers
 Symone Burt
       and Evan Carlson (right)

 Photos by Jordan Haywood

 
ONE VOICE:
A Dramatic Reading
Based on the Words of Greta Thunberg

by
Allison Davidson

Reader #1: Climate change is real.

Reader #2: Environmental devastation is happening now.

Reader #3: Climate change threatens the future.

Reader #4: Everyone’s future, and it’s only getting worse.

Reader #1: I may not have been the first to say it.

Reader #2: But it bears repeating:

Reader #3: Our collective home – our house

Reader #4: Is falling apart.

Reader #1: I am 16 now.

Reader #3: I first learned about climate change when I was 8. They showed a film at school.
Reader #4: I couldn’t stop crying.

Reader #2: I couldn’t believe adults didn’t do anything: they didn’t take the issue seriously.

Reader #1: I became depressed.

Reader #3: I kept thinking about it.

Reader #4: I wondered “Am I even going to have a future?”

Reader #2: I figured if adults wouldn’t do anything, maybe I could do something to help.

Reader #1: I used to think, “I’m too young.”

Reader #4: I’m too small.

Reader #3: I don’t matter. I’m only one.

Reader #2: But I changed my mind – and that is when I started the school strike movement “Freedom Fridays”.

Reader #1: I painted a sign on a piece of wood.

Reader #3: I sat alone outside Sweden’s Parliament from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

Reader #2: And then….the next day….people joined me. I was never the only one again.

Reader #4: Now hundreds of thousands of students all over the world have gone on strike.

Reader #1: I have addressed more than one parliament.

Reader #2: As well as the United Nations.

Reader #4: Spoken to world leaders.

Reader #3: And I don’t care that I’m working for free.

Reader #1: I especially don’t care that people attack me on social media and in person.
Reader #3: In fact, I expected it when I started!

Reader #2: I told myself, “If this is going to become big, there is going to be a lot of HATE. It’s a positive sign. Our voices are now seen as a threat. That means something has changed in the debate…”

Reader #4: And we are making a difference.

Reader#1: Our house is falling apart.

Reader #2: And our elected officials need to act accordingly.

Reader #3: Some say, “People need hope.”

Reader #4: “Your message isn’t very hopeful.”

Reader #1: Erosion of fertile topsoil.

Reader #3: Deforestation of old-growth trees.

Reader #2: Acidification of our oceans.

Reader #4: Up to 200 species becoming extinct every day? I don’t want you to feel hopeful!

4 Voices Together: I WANT YOU TO FEEL PANIC!”

Reader #1: We must do what we can.

Reader #2: Demand political action.

Reader #3: Don’t stop.

Reader #4: It starts with one.

Reader #1: Only one.

Reader #2: You aren’t too young.

Reader #3: You aren’t too old.

Reader #4: You aren’t too small.

Reader #1: Or too insignificant.

Reader #2: It

Reader #1: Starts

Reader #3: With

Reader #4: One

4 Voices Together: One. Voice.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Seedlings are planted for PEC's 2019 Conference

Planting Seeds of Strength,
Durability and Hope

On the farm at Stony Point Center, the seedlings are in the ground. PEC is looking forward to the delicious food they will produce right around the time that we gather there for our 2019 National Conference, “Peace for the Earth: from the Bible to the Front Lines," August 6-9.Even as the news about climate change may have us despairing, signs of resilient life are all around us. 

Our time in August will plant seeds of strength, durability, and hope as we – together – face life in a harsher climate. An incredible group of workshops is planned to equip you, as people of faith, with the spiritual and organizational tools to effect real change for the good of this planet and all who dwell on it. Take a look at the full listing of workshops in the conference program

Our dynamic plenary worship leaders will include Rev. Dr. William Brown of Columbia Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Jill Crainshaw of Wake Forest School of Divinity, and Sacred Jazz musician, Minister Warren B. Cooper. A plenary session on Wednesday night led by Dr. Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster will explore the psychological impacts of climate change and challenge us to create strong communities of care, especially where severe weather threatens. There will be ample opportunity for you to engage with one another, to connect and imagine together about eco-justice where you live. We especially look forward to conversations at Thursday evening’s Global Warming CafĂ©, hosted by Phoebe Morad of Lutherans Restoring Creation.

Conference participants can sign up for early morning hands-in-dirt time on the Stony Point Center farm or kayak and canoe paddling in one of the beautiful lakes of Harriman State Park. Thursday afternoon activities and free time will offer more time to get out into this incredible part of God’s creation.

Did we convince you yet that you need to be present with us in August? We would love to have you! Please register now to reserve your spot at this August’s gathering at stonypoincenter.org/presbyearthcare. We will stay in touch with you in the next couple of months with updates about conference activities and highlights to look forward to during our time together. 

Spring blessings, 
PEC Conference Planning Team


Friday, April 19, 2019

Easter Sunday Devotional by Rev. Kerri Allen


Easter Sunday Reflection

Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Human One must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words. When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened. Luke 24: 1-12 (CEB) 


In this Easter Luke passage, women closest to Jesus proclaim Jesus’ resurrection.  But before they go out to evangelize this good news, they experienced a lot of emotions.  I imagine they were already experiencing grief, loss, and anger that Jesus was “handed over to the sinners” and crucified.  They probably didn’t have much time to process these overwhelming emotions before going to the empty tomb.  At first, they were frightened and then they couldn’t contain this good news.
I sense some parallels to the present day.  This is not much different from contemporary conversations on environmental injustice, particularly on climate change.  It is frightening, angering, and overwhelming.  As I am writing this during the frigid winter of 2019, there have already been close to 30 deaths in the city of Chicago because of the record cold, with the elderly and children among those most vulnerable.  According to the NAACP, race is the most significant indicator when it comes to the placement of toxic facilities.  Even in the midst of lost lives and urgency to respond, there are too many who believe that environmental injustice is nonsense. If only they would bend over and look inside.
But we can’t control who is willing to look.  Instead, we must be like the women on Easter morning.  Like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary we must remember Jesus words and proclaim them.  Jesus warned that if his disciples remained quiet, the stones would cry out.  And we see the earth crying out in extreme weather patterns throughout the world.  Yet, Jesus proclaimed that sin does not have the last word.
As Easter people, we must proclaim the same and reject environmental injustice. We must declare that just as the sun rises over Lake Michigan, just as we arise on Easter morning to the hope that all of creation might be restored to God, we will rise and proclaim God’s justice, environmental justice, will have the last word.
Prayer:
Eternal and ever present Holy One,
One of complexity and covenant,
God of hope and hospitality,
Source of love and life,
on this day that dawns fresh beginnings, 
birth us anew.
Ignite in us a new passion, 
one that dawns fresh beginnings,
one that emboldens us to resist the temptation complicity.
And when illusions and falsehoods become acceptable norms,
birth us with the audacity to speak truth in love for all that is right.
Amen.


Rev. Kerri N. Allen is a Reformed and womanist theologian, PhD student, and hospital chaplain in Chicago. Originally from St. Paul, MN when Kerri is not buried in a book or writing a paper, she enjoys hiking, travel, watching sports, cooking or spending time with one of her many nieces or nephews.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Good Friday Devotional by Rev. Bill Brown

Reflection for Good Friday


When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.”  
Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.   John 19:30

Such were, according to John, the last words of Jesus on the cross. As I pondered these words for this reflection, I fully intended to recount the myriad disasters we are inflicting on our common home, the wounds of the world’s crucifixion. The list is all too familiar, and it can only elicit a bitter cry of despair. But in John’s Gospel, there was no such cry from the crucified Christ, no cry of abandonment as in Mark. Instead, Jesus’ last breath in John conveys a sense of completion. How so?  

The clue comes from the fact that Jesus’ last words (one word in Greek) point back to the beginning of creation, specifically the pronouncement that the “heavens and the earth were finished” (Genesis 2:1). As John alluded to the beginning of creation in the very first verse of his Gospel (“In the beginning . . .”), so John now alludes to creation’s completion with Jesus’ last breath on the cross. Herein lies a mystery: Christ’s incarnation and death somehow encapsulate the story of creation, from the beginning to the Sabbath (Gen 1:1-2:3). Christ’s ministry, in other words, is for all creation (see John 3:16). The Word made flesh for the world made of flesh. 



Yes, it is important to recognize the wounds of the world through the wounds of the crucified Christ. But John adds a new wrinkle: when all is “finished,” whether God’s creation in Genesis or Jesus’ ministry in John, what comes next is Sabbath. More than in any other Gospel, John’s Jesus is a “sabbath breaker,” the one who promotes life by upending convention. And so the church, as the sign of the new creation, must step up as resistant, sabbath-practicing people for the sake of creation’s liberation. I never expected to find hope, let alone a call to action, on the cross, but John has shown me the way. What we have been given by God in Christ is “finished,” that is, deemed sufficient for us to move forward as God’s sabbath-practicing, earth-honoring people.  

Prayer: God of life, God in Christ, wake us up from our slumber of denial. Grant us the eyes to see more fully the wounds of the world that we have inflicted. But do not lead us into despair. Grant us the hope of redemption and healing for all the world, and in such hope may we act accordingly to break the cycle of exploitation and extraction, of greed and aggression. May we move forward in sabbath wonder, grounded in your vision of shalom for all the world.  

William P. Brown is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, author, biblical theologian, and the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Maundy Thursday Devotional by Amantha Barbee

Which Stones are Crying 
Because of Our Silence? 

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’  Luke 19:39-40

“Order your disciples to stop.” We are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ yet, society has asked us to stop. Society has asked us not to love as Christ loves us. Society has asked us not to welcome the stranger. Society has asked us not to feed the hungry or clothe the naked. Society has asked us to be selfish and self-centered, especially when it comes to land and environment. What makes us money is what we will worship. We have been ordered to stop and unfortunately many of us who call ourselves Christians have adhered to the requests of the Pharisees.

We claim Jesus as Lord. We honor and worship him weekly. We jump with haste to the answer, “Christian” when we are asked our religion. Yet, we sit in silence when black and brown lives are mistreated at the bank, the store, while driving, or living in areas where leaky pipelines taint the water. The rocks are sobbing in a manner that to be sure, pleases not the God we serve but acts as an absolute albatross to truth. Our silence is so loud that perhaps we can’t even hear the rocks crying out. 

As we journey through this Lenten season, will we once again allow Jesus to wash our feet as he did for the disciples in that upper room, humbling himself, for naught? Can we in good faith allow this innocent man to pull off his robe and wash our sinful, forgetful, ungrateful, silent feet? Listen to the rocks. They are crying. They are hurting. They have meaning and they matter. The rocks are the children, the oppressed, the poor, the uneducated, those drinking tainted water or living near nuclear waste. Listen!

Prayer: Holy Lord, we pray to you along our Lenten journey to free us from societal holds and worship you. Give us the courage to be disciples even when society tells us to stop. May we never stop. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Rev. Amantha Barbee is the senior pastor of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church (USA) in Decatur, GA. Her passion for social justice exudes from everything she does. She has recently moved from Charlotte, NC where she led a multifaith group of clergy to fight for justice in the streets, city hall, police stations and around the city.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Palm Sunday Devotional by Alton Pollard

“If These Were Silent”

Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29
Luke 19: 28-40

The most holy week in the life of our faith has begun. On this Sunday, we commemorate the life of Jesus, an all-inclusive ministry that led him back to Jerusalem and to this Passion moment. In a few short hours and days, a change will come over this city, the people, himself. Triumphal entry becomes martyrdom. Celebration gives way to condemnation. Coronation turns to crucifixion. It begins with the jubilant crowd, spreading their cloaks along the ground, taking palms from the trees, throwing flowers in front of his feet, signing praises to God with a loud voice, “hosanna,” “alleluia,” and “blessed is the king.”


Jesus does not ride in a chariot, mount a war horse or wield the armaments of war but comes subversively, on a young donkey. Thirty-three years earlier, the infant Jesus had travelled by donkey too, under the dark cover of night with Mary and Joseph, out of Jerusalem, and into the safety of Egypt. Time and again, there have been many who find in the person and presence of the Nazarene, in his passion for justice and opposition to injustice, a profound threat and challenge to the status quo. Down throughout the ages principalities and powers – Herodians, rulers, empires, governments, corporations, industries, economies, militaries, militias, professionals, religious leaders and more – have been faint with praise while fiercely condemning Jesus. Now as then, many who would seek to know him are scattered, disinherited and at a loss. If we who profess to believe are silent, in our complicity, the very stones will cry out…  

Prayer: We are grateful for this season of Love when life has the last word, all fear retreats and hope is realized within us yet again.  Grace after grace, blessing after blessing, may the fragmentation of our days be made verdant, just and whole, and filled with the newness and goodness of life everywhere.  You are the hunger of our hearts, O God.


The Rev. Dr. Alton B. Pollard III is Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s tenth president. A scholar, author, consultant and speaker on the subject of African American and U.S. religion and culture, Pollard was previously dean of the School of Divinity and professor of religion and culture at Howard University in Washington, D.C.