Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Devotional for Ash Wednesday

Our Chosen Fast

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
    the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:6-11

Educator and poet Clint Smith began his 2014 TED talk by reminding the audience of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

As a high school teacher, Smith wanted his students to know about the importance of speaking up and the danger of not speaking up. Growing up as a Catholic, he had been taught to fast during Lent from pleasures like sodas, French fries, and French kisses. One year, he decided to give up speaking. But he quickly came to realize that in a larger sense he had given up speaking a long time before, telling people what they wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear. When a friend was beaten up for being gay, he put his head down and walked on by. Seeing the lock on his locker, he realized the lock he had on his heart and mouth. 


I must confess that I too have kept silent at the cost of others’ needs, dignity, and freedom. But on this Ash Wednesday, Isaiah is challenging us to consider fasting in a new way. Have we fasted from our fear of speaking up against oppression? Have we fasted from our privilege and instead challenged systems of injustice? Or have we diminished our light and hidden it under a bushel? Have we kept God’s desire “to loosen the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free?” 

Silence allows injustice, discrimination, hatred, and environmental degradation to continue. “Shout out, do not hold back!” as the prophet says. “Lift up your voice like a trumpet!” Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality and death. May we die to fear, complacency, and silence. 

Prayer
Dear God, lead us on this Lenten journey. May our chosen fasting, giving, and prayer be the light that break forth like the dawn. May we not fast from speaking up and living out Your bountiful vision for all in Your good creation. Amen. 


The Rev. David Shinn was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the US when he was 11. Currently he serves as the Associate Pastor for Congregational Care at Westminster Presbyterian Church in beautiful downtown Minneapolis, MN. He is the proud father of two college age sons, Enoch and Ethan, and husband to Julie. He finds peace and joy in reading, opera, running and spending time with his family.


Photo credit: Alancanonj2006




Introduction to PEC's 2020 Lenten Devotional

God Provides Enough for All

Our family recently moved from the Louisville area to Henryville, Indiana, population 1905 humans, but teeming with wildlife. More tree and shrub species than we can catalog; owls, hawks, turkeys, woodpeckers, coyotes, fox, deer, monarchs, turtles, ladybugs, and the bobcat that appeared on our game cam the first night.

Living in such abundance, I find myself talking to creatures and even to trees, mostly expressing gratitude. I don’t expect them to respond, of course. So I am awed when one seems to accept my existence, when a hummingbird flies up to look me in the eye, or a nuthatch continues to feed nearby. 


If we think we live in a different world from other creatures, we’ve been conditioned to do so by centuries of human solipsism, trained to see nature as existing far away, irrelevant. But such distance is an illusion we’re waking from now, as we find creation reacting with violent force to our disrespect for its laws and norms. 

Human distance from nature is an illusion Scripture’s writers do not share. Scripture prompts gratitude for the abundance God offers through creation. Our first lesson in that abundance comes on the Bible’s first page: “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Gen. 1:29-30). In short, there is enough for all. For all people across the world, and for all creatures who inhabit the world with us. Tragically, primarily because we who are rich take more than we need, this abundance is unequally distributed, so that it seems like fearsome scarcity.

Simplicity is key both to Lent and to environmental sustainability. Lenten tradition suggests a fast from some dimension of the overabundance endlessly surrounding the wealthy: from food, or from a destructive habit, recognizing our dependence on God for all we have and are. An ecological fast during Lent might involve dining closer to the ground—eating vegan or meatless, or reducing food waste. It might involve consumer goods—fasting from online shopping, or reducing single-use plastic. Or fasting from cars or planes, walking or staying put instead. Or from screen time, looking up to observe the vibrant world around us. Or from contributing to injustice, as Isaiah 58 suggests.

Whatever your Lenten practice is this year, the writers of these devotions join you in praying that in 2020 we may become channels of God’s peace for the earth and its inhabitants.

The Rev. Dr. Patricia K. Tull is A. B. Rhodes Professor Emerita of Hebrew Bible at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and author of Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible, and the Ecological Crisis and Isaiah 1-39. She and her spouse Don Summerfield have six children and four grandchildren, live in a zero-energy home, and enjoy growing much of their own food. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

PEC Award Nominations Now Open

Make a Nomination for PEC’s Annual Earth Care Awards 
by March 31

2019 was another year of climate disasters, rollbacks of environmental regulations, and more people experiencing climate grief. Despite the dire predictions for 2020, many people of faith are handling their grief by taking extraordinary actions to care for God's creation. Presbyterians for Earth Care presents three awards each year to honor these remarkable people: two for individuals and one for an organization that promote best earth stewardship and environmental practices. As a member of or donor to PEC, you are invited to make a nomination for PEC’s Annual Earth Care Awards by March 31.

The William Gibson Eco-Justice Award honors an individual who:
  • Has a long history of being a good steward of the earth
  • Promotes sustainable practices for individuals or organizations
  • Motivates and inspires others to care for God’s creation
  • Demonstrates active care and concern for the sacred bond that exists between all things, living and nonliving. 
The Restoring Creation Award honors an organization that:
  • Demonstrates sustainable practices and models them for other organizations
  • Operates in a manner that is consistent with good stewardship of God’s creation
  • Partners with other organizations to leverage resources for greater impact
  • Encourages continuous environmental efforts within the organization.  
Ashley Bair received the Emerging Earth Care Leader Award in 2019
The Emerging Earth Care Leader Award is given to an individual, age 18 to 30, who expresses care and concern for the sacred bond between all living things, and
  • Demonstrates sustainable practices and motivates others to care for God’s creation.
  • Expands earth stewardship and sustainable practices through organizing, developing, and/or presenting one or more activities, projects, publications or events.
  • Incorporates care and concern for the sacred bond between all living things.
 An individual does not need to be a Presbyterian to be considered for an award. If you would like to make a nomination but aren’t already a member, you can join or make a donation now. Please see our previous award winners to get an idea of who would be a worthy nominee. This year’s Earth Care Awards will be presented on June 23 at our 25th Anniversary Luncheon at the PC(USA) General Assembly in Baltimore.

You may also mail your nomination to PEC, 501 Valley Drive, Durham, NC 27704. Download the nomination form here. 

PEC appreciates your care of God’s creation and is grateful to be able to honor individuals and an organization for their good stewardship of our common home. Please make your nomination for a PEC Annual Earth Care Award by March 31, 2020.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Climate Change: A World Crisis in Human Security

A World Crisis in Human Security: Climate Change

by Jo Randolph


Our survival depends not only on military balance, but on global cooperation to ensure a sustainable biological environment. Report of the Brandt Commission, 1980 

Those that work on the front lines of security and disaster response see the effects of climate change and our human responsibility for it on health and human security. Dr. Chris King and PEC member Dr. Rick Randolph are just two of those front line individuals who work diligently, teaching others to understand the threats and risks to world peace. They urge us to change our lives for the peace and health of all the creatures in the world around us. 


In conversations with them, they highlight how changes in climate are altering the world. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and ever increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are closely associated with allergies and other health related issues, especially in urban areas. More than 109,000 asthma attacks, 220,000 lost work days, and over 2,500 premature deaths are estimated to have resulted from passenger vehicle emissions in 2015 in the 10 western states alone. These numbers alone are alarming, Dr. Randolph states, for health, health care costs, and health care systems everywhere.

Agriculturally important food crops (wheat and rice) are found to have decreased nutritional values in proteins and essential minerals due to the rising levels of carbon dioxide. Fossil fuel combustions, according to Randolph, are altering ocean acidification and deoxygenation, and are having major consequences on coral reefs, fisheries, and aquaculture (which provide nutrients to about four billion people). Poor nutrition is associated with graver outcomes when populations are fighting health challenges, either living in or recovering from disasters. 

Dr. King, referencing the Tibetan plateau, describes some of those factors in this area of the world where 3.2 billion peoples lives are at risk, where three of the worlds four largest armies and three of the five largest nuclear arsenals are located. Key environmental issues disturb peace and stability in the world. Climate related drivers, such as loss of snow and ice cover, stresses available water resources, escalates flooding and droughts, intensifies the rate of warming temperatures, and is associated with increased and more intense fires.

According to King and Randolph, environmental degradation is a major threat to peace and stability in the world. It will bring on increased refugee/emigration/immigration population, poverty inequality, and epidemic diseases affecting the least of these first.

Solutions must work toward curing basic problems, not treating symptoms. Peace is not the absence of war. Existence of stable human communities that have their basic needs satisfied means assuring regional stability.

Dr. Randolph relates the story of a patient who came into a disaster response clinic complaining, “My heart hurts.” While their heart was being tested, the patient shared that they had lost their home as well as families members – Their heart just hurt. 

…national security is not just about fighting forces and weaponry. It relates to watersheds, croplands, forests, genetic resources, climate and other factors that rarely figure in the minds of military experts and political leaders. Norman Myers, The Environmentalist, 1986

Matthew 5: 9 Blessings on the peacemakers

Dear Lord,
Help to remember with each step we walk we are connected to all of creation. Help us to learn what we have done. Help us to find out path to walk in a way that will honor your creation and make this creation a place that is safe and healthy for all. 

Jo Randolph is a PEC member, Moderator at Heartland Presbytery/Maya Quiché Presbytery Partnership, Rotarian and member of the Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group.

Lessons from the Land

Lessons From the Land

by Josh Svaty

I have the benefit of farming in the Smoky Hills of central Kansas, one of the more rugged regions of the state. Because it is part of the Dakota Sandstone formation, it is one of the few places in Kansas where you can find caves, Native American petroglyphs, and sixty foot bluffs along creeks. 
The regions rugged quality also serves to make it the ideal classroom for stewardship and the environment. Much of our pastures are what we call native prairie – an extant portion of the great American desert that has never been touched by the plow. The plant types, the animal species, and the lay of the land are generally the same as they have been for centuries. Juxtaposed to that are pockets of farmland carved out of more level areas along creeks, or sometimes heavily terraced into the sides of hills. 




In some cases, those landscape divisions get blurry. I have a property that is all pasture, but that wasnt always the case. About half the pasture is what we descriptively call go back,” which means it was farmed at one time and then returned to pasture. The previous owner of the property stopped farming it in 1967. 
To stand on this property, one of the highest spots in Ellsworth County, is to marvel that it was ever farmed in the first place. Its deep canyons cut steeply from the top of the hills. Its location on the west end of the county puts it even closer to John Wesley Powells famous Dry line” (the 100th Meridian), west of which rains become hard to depend on. Its unused terraces curving along hills are a legacy of an effort to keep the thin topsoil in place. 
At the base of one of those ravines is a marker that stands as a lesson for all of us. An old, unused line of stone fenceposts – stone because when the fence line was built there were no trees, and quarried stone served as the best option for pioneers – moves down the hill and into the valley, following the contour of the hill. These fenceposts generally stand three to four feet above the ground, with another three feet buried beneath. At over 500 pounds, they can be incredibly permanent. 
Except in this ravine they dont stand four feet out of the ground. At the bottom of the ravine there are several posts that stand less than twelve inches out of the ground, silted in and almost buried by the washing of the topsoil when the top of the hill was plowed and farmed decades ago. 
As I look at these posts, I think about the vast extent of time involved in Gods creation on this planet; the wildly brief portion of which humans as we know us have been a part; the infinitesimally small part of which we have been farming the Great Plains of central North America; and then finally the farmland on that property that is now back to pasture. I dont know exactly when it was first plowed, but probably in less than a half century – a mere nanosecond of time in our existence – we as humans opened those hills for farming and then figured out that plowing those hills was a big mistake. The damage was done. 
The posts stand as lessons in forgiveness and healing. The scale of lost topsoil is beyond what I will ever fix in my lifetime. The go-back” pasture, though perennial, does not and will never graze as well as the adjacent native pasture. The carbon and living elements in the soil and the mix of plants were altered for centuries in just a matter of years. One could say that compared to truly native pasture, the landscape has been ruined. 
Yet it has not been ruined. I applaud the farmer in the 1960s that made what was then an economic decision to stop what he was doing. Even though the mix of grasses he reseeded isnt perfect, over time it has become more diverse. Greater prairie chickens – a native species rapidly declining because of habitat loss – are in abundance on the property, with most leks in the areas that had at one time been farmed. The property is not entirely better, but it is getting better. Healing can happen. 
As Christians in a rapidly changing environment, we can struggle with how to fix what we see as environmental problems, how to pressure appropriate entities to provide the most impactful relief, and how to heal. The scale can seem staggering or even overwhelming – particularly when so many of us are disconnected from the land. Imperfect as it may be, my pasture full of buried stone posts gives us lessons on healing the landscape.  
First, when we know we are engaged in harmful behavior toward the environment, like the farmer who chose to take a field back to pasture in 1967, we need to stop what we are doing. Second, we need to try our very best at restoration, understanding that perfection and full restoration are not achievable. Third, landscapes can be healed by the same potent force that God commands us to extend to our neighbors: love. When we love a place, we take time to notice its details, to see damage that we have caused, to ponder ways in which we can mend it. Love requires time and investment. 
Not all of us are currently plowing fields that should have remained prairies. But we are all engaged in activities that we know on their face are damaging. We can stop. We can heal. We can love. And future generations will likely look back at us the same way I look at the early farmers that tried to adjust to their mistakes: they may shake their heads at our foolish decisions, but they will appreciate our efforts when we genuinely tried to fix problems in order to create a better future.   
I close with an argument against naming a single threat like climate change as the most important challenge facing us as a planet. I believe climate change, water quality, soil loss, species loss – they are all connected, and all stem from our rapid consumption and disregard of natural resources that began upon our expulsion from Eden. The Industrial Revolution may have sped the process, but these problems started long before 150 years ago. I love to remind friends that had we not had the oil and gas industry, we might not have any whales. Fossil fuels are not the original sin. 
What then, shall we go on consuming so that grace may abound? Of course not. As stewards of Gods creation we must do the best we can, with what we have, right now – secure in the knowledge that we serve a Providential God who has a plan for this planet and everything in it. That gives me hope, and as members of a faith community, can there be any better inspiration to do our best?


Josh Svaty and his wife Kimberly live in Ellsworth, KS, where they own and operate a diversified crop and livestock operation and where he manages his consulting company, Perennial Prairie.
             
            

From the Ground Up

Climate Action from the Ground Up

by Eric Diekhans

While our leaders accept fossil fuel money and deny science, climate change is already having a devastating effect on food supplies. Just ask the Midwest farmers who couldn’t plant or had crops severely impacted because of heavy rains last spring. On a global level, the situation is even more dire. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will bear the brunt of the impact, leading to increased hunger, starvation, poverty, and climate refugees.

But Rebecca Barnes, Coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, sees signs up hope at the grassroots level, where gardens are being planted, churches are going solar, and faithful voices are speaking out. “What excites me are the stories we get from Earth Care congregations,” Rev. Barnes said. “There’s innovative and important work taking place, especially in communities of color. They’re restoring their communities while fighting environmental injustice.”


Climate action is also uniting young people and older adults in common cause. “I feel hopeful,” Barnes said “because it’s become a cross-generational issue. We see passionate youth, but there are also many dedicated retired people, who are an especially strong demographic in the Presbyterian Church. They’re leading movements and hosting conversations on climate change.”

Climate change has become a major focus for the Presbyterian Hunger Program as well. “More of the grant applications we received have focused on climate change as a root cause of hunger,” Barnes said. It was one of the PHP’s focuses around World Food Day last October. “We created a series of posters on climate change and food, water, and natural disaster,” Barnes said.

PHP also issued a Climate Care Challenge, launched at the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, The challenge encourages people of all ages to commit to taking a personal and community step to reduce their carbon footprint. (You can take the challenge at pcusa.org/ccc.)

Barnes also pointed to innovative and important work taking place outside the church in communities of color, like the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in a predominately Latino neighborhood in Chicago. LVEJO was founded in 1994 by public school parents who learned about the potential exposure of their children to dangerous particles during school renovations at Joseph E. Gary Elementary. It provides leadership development for the sustainable self determination of the community. and helps people who have been oppressed take action.

Barnes will be sharing PHC’s work when she co-preaches with Rev. Melanie Mullen, Episcopal Church Director of Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care, during the Presbyterian Church (USA) Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day at Washington D.C.’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Last year, the day attracted more than 200 people who heard from keynote speakers and participated in workshops on a wide variety of topics, including the environment, poverty, and church policy.

After CPJ wraps on April 24, Ecumenical Advocacy Days begins at the Doubletree Hotel in Arlington Virginia. It’s a national gathering of Christian advocates and activists to speak the truth on Capitol Hill.

Barnes sees bridging the political divide as much more difficult than getting young, old, and marginalized communities to work together. ”There are a lot of ways caring for the earth is accessible across the aisle. However, certain words and approaches feel one-sided.”

Barnes said PHP was working with Bless Tomorrow, a coalition of diverse religious partners united as faithful stewards of God’s creation, to develop literature on how to talk about climate change, find common values, and avoid ‘red flag language.

Asked what message she would give to our representatives in Congress, Barnes was direct. “I’d say our faith compels us to do this now because of the suffering that is currently resulting from climate change and that will continue to intensify.”

“We can do something, “Barnes said, “and we must do something. We can raise our voices and we can get things done.”


Eric Diekhans is editor of Earth News and a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago.



Time for Indigenous Solutions

It Is Time For Indigenous Solutions

by Dr. Dan Wildcat
This essay is primarily based on remarks made at the first North American Convening of the Rights of Mother Earth Conference at Haskell Indian Nations University, April 4-6, 2012. It will appear as a fuller version in Dr. Wildcat’s next book. 
Since the first North American convening on the Rights of Mother Earth (2012), U.S. citizens have observed unprecedented deadly and damaging fires from California through the inter-mountain West. In California, the town of Paradise was obliterated. From the U.S. Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic, and continuing to interior New England and its coast, we have witnessed some of the worst hurricane damage and associated weather system flooding in U.S. history. In both cases, it is not too extreme to say we humans are making history in a new, unparalleled sense. Human-induced or anthropogenic changes to landscapes and seascapes offer an ex post facto demonstration that we are indeed living in a new period of earth history – the age of man, or the Anthropocene.
A good number of humankind has been behaving badly. Modern economic and political institutions have been doing business in ways that are seriously degrading, if not actually destroying, the very conditions on which human and our nonhuman relatives’ lives and well-being depend. The good news is that Peoples still remain on the planet that have knowledge about living well on the planet that are conducive to human well-being and systems of life-enhancement. 
Indigenous Peoples of our Mother Earth must provide the leadership required for this cultural climate change to occur.
What follows are seven useful points for us to consider as we transition from identifying problems to enacting Indigenous solutions for the many challenges facing us. 
1. We speak from a place of powerful spirit
The First Peoples of this land speak from a place of power. It is not economic, political, or jurisdictional power. It is a power of spirit – a power of beauty – and, contrary to conventional thought, rich and efficacious when applied to practical problem-solving.
Seventeen years ago, Dr. Henrietta Mann, a Southern Cheyenne woman, reminded students here at Haskell Indian Nations University of the power of spirit. Dr. Mann said (I paraphrase), We are spirits before we come into this world. We come into this world as spiritual beings - we know that. What we are struggling to become, to figure out, in this life is how to become competent human beings. 
We cannot set our spirituality aside or take it “off the table.” There is no negotiation about this feature of our existence. There is no way to mitigate spiritual concerns that we are going to bring forward when we address environmental issues. 
2. Power plus place equals personality
We speak with a power that pervades the universe – the cosmos - which leads to my second point: power plus place equals personality. One of our great intellectuals, Vine Deloria, Jr., often spoke about how power and place equals personality (What I call the 3P formula.) constituted the foundation of American Indian metaphysics. Places are important, for every place on the planet represents a unique constellation of relationships that express power.
Every living thing in their personality is an expression of the constellation(s) of relationships in which we are situated. As unique tribal Peoples, whose cultures were and often remain emergent from and expressions of the geo-, eco- and bio- logical environments forming the places we honored as home, we must be mindful that our activities draw on the power of place. Our Indigenous solutions to the incredible challenges we face must engage the active symbiotic relationship of what I call the nature-culture nexus. We must honor this relationship.
3. The mis-educative nature vs. culture dichotomy
As we renew mindful relations to the places where we live, we may be able to disabuse modern humankind of the most mis-educative dichotomy that operates in the modern mind – the dichotomy between nature and culture. Our unique tribal identities are expressions of our homelands, where the Creator gave us our stories of creation, songs, ceremonies, customs, and habits. 
Discussions of cultural and ecological diversity must not continue as if they were mutually exclusive categories - they are not. They were inextricably coupled around the world until very recently in our human history. Humankind must acknowledge the nexus that has given us our unique tribal and indigenous identities – a diversity emergent from the landscapes and seascapes we called home. This would be a step forward. 
4. A Reconstruction of the Old Ways     
We must reinterpret and renew old ways – our older traditions that embody the application of practical knowledge and wisdom residing and poised to emerge in the places where we live today. We are not talking about going back to some existence in the past nor running to catch-up with some a priori future. That is another thought system: a linear chronologic timeline view of our past, present, and future. 
We are bound-up in a symbiotic NCN and as Greg Cajete in Look to the Mountain has emphasized, a spiritual ecology: an ecology that includes human communities negotiating relationships with the other life in these unique environments and eco-systems. This proposal for a reconstruction requires an Indigenous ingenuity or Indigenuity – a creative application of ancient tribal wisdom to the environment in which we are currently situated.
5. We live among Relatives NOT Resources
Most of humankind talks about resources, because the worldview guiding the powerful economic and political interests operates in those terms. This terminology is overwhelmingly anthropocentric and selfish, hence other-than-human life is denominated by resources. 
We must promote a worldview where the natural world is full of relatives. For in so doing the logic of rights becomes blatantly incomplete without a counterbalancing of rights with responsibilities. A counter-balance to the one-sided fixation on individualist inalienable rights with an affirmation of Indigenous notions of in- and un-alienable responsibilities is desperately needed. Let’s start a discourse about living well responsibly and respectfully with relatives. This is not romanticism. I call this Indigenous Realism.
6. Promoting Systems of Life-Enhancement
People sometimes tell me, “You are against progress, aren’t you?” I guess, if one defines progress by measuring improvement on the planet only through an anthropocentric lens that identifies progress exclusively as about our human physical convenience, comfort, and capital gains at the expense of the rest of life with whom we share the planet, maybe I am not that keen on progress. 
However, I am for something. I want to build systems of life-enhancement, not just for ourselves, but for all of the life with whom we share this planet. Not for the sake of some abstract notion of nature, but the life-systems in those big lakes in the North, the grasslands of the Midwest, the Northwest coastal estuaries, and those pacific islands where our brothers and sisters live.
Our challenge will be to inspire a generation of life-time volunteers for what might be called a physical and spiritual earth-system wellness program. 
7. Beauty resides in the difficult work of difference
My final point is this – promoting beauty and systems of life-enhancement in a world full of ugliness is often difficult work. Our work should embrace the beauty of difference. Few of us see the world in monochrome or fail to differentiate the sounds we hear, a condition called auditory agnosia. Maybe it is the advertisers, manufacturers, and those seeking lowest per unit cost of production mesmerized by profit that move into a sort of experiential one-dimensionality. It is not too much to ask that our human creations are complementary and cooperative in relation to the natural systems where they are placed. 
Take this with you
We must acknowledge the fact that we have been given incredible gifts by our Mother Earth. It takes a long time to offer thanks to and for all that has been gifted to us. Chas Wheelock and I were at a meeting at Wingspread several years ago, when one of our hosts asked one of his Oneida relatives to offer an opening prayer. The elder was hesitant. The elder asked the host, How much time to you have?
The host responded, well, how long does it take? The elder said, well, it takes a long time. The well-meaning but naïve host asked, Can you do a short version? The elder’s response was intelligent and instructive. The elder asked, What part of creation do you want me to leave out? We will not leave out any of our relatives in our prayers. Nor will we forget them in the hard work we have ahead of us. 
There is work for everyone and we have progeny of the settlers that want to be our allies – these relationships are crucial to our success. It is time to roll-up our sleeves and get to work. It is time to demonstrate what it means to conduct our human lives as competent, mature relatives. 

Daniel Wildcat, Ph.D., is a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and an accomplished scholar who writes on Indigenous knowledge, technology, environment, and education.


Farm Church

Take Nothing With You


by Allen Brimer

…the Lord commissioned seventy-two others and sent them on ahead in pairs to every city and place he was about to go. He said to them, “The harvest is bigger than you can imagine, but there are few workers. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers for his harvest. Go! Be warned, though, that Im sending you out as lambs among wolves. Carry no wallet, no bag, and no sandals. – Luke 10:1-4, CEB

I have the privilege of being the pastor of Farm Church, a congregation that meets on a farm and leverages its resources to address food insecurity, all in the name of continuing the feeding ministry of Jesus. 

Farm Church
Farm Church is still a fledgling congregation that is transitioning from being a founder-run startup to a congregation-run church. That natural and irresistible evolution has provoked many questions for the good people who are have come to call this church their spiritual and community home. In our dialog, several concerns have surfaced that are worthy of deeper reflection. Concerns such as: why does our congregation (which is almost entirely white) not look like our neighborhood (which is historically black)? How do we get more people into our congregation who are food insecure? How can we better understand food insecurity? These are really important questions born out of healthy passion, heart-felt intent, and hope that our church and every church will look more like the Kingdom of Heaven. 

My wife graduated with a Master of Public Affairs (MPA), which is the non-profit equivalent of an MBA. She was recruited to be a fundraiser for a Jesuit school for Native American children in South Dakota. She was reluctant for a number of reasons, but the recruiter asked her to come to the school and just see it. So, she went. When she came back, she was both surprised and convicted. She said, “I just spent two years (in graduate school) reading case studies of how NGOs have gone into developing nations and elsewhere and have either had no impact or made the situation worse. This organization is the one case study where they are making a difference. They really get it!”

What she taught me is that all those NGOs that failed to have an impact failed largely because they went to “help.” That is, they went to provide solutions to problems they thought they understood but actually did not. They did not go to build relationships or to learn with humility and openness from the people present. They assumed that the people present did not fully understand their own problems and therefore wouldnt, even couldnt, understand the solutions. These outside groups assumed they knew better and were better resourced. They believed they could fly in, put quick infrastructure in place, teach new techniques, resource the operation, and back away, leaving the people present better than they found them. But their mission failed because their organizations didnt get it.

A good example is from a youth group which was planning to go to Central America for a weeklong mission trip. They fundraised to get basketball goals and basketballs donated and shipped abroad to install outdoor basketball courts for kids in villages. When they arrived with all the new equipment, they realized that there were no flat areas in the villages for basketball courts, but they did the best they could and installed the goals anyway. By the time they got the basketball goals installed, the local children had discovered the basketballs and were playing with them… except they werent playing basketball. They had never heard of basketball. They were playing soccer. What they needed were soccer balls and goals.

Good intentions often have little interest in relationships, or at least, little interest in making relationships the first and most important part of the mission. 

The sending of the seventy-two (Luke 10:1ff.) is a cautionary tale. Jesus sends everyone to someone elses village. He does not invite everyone in those villages to come to him. Second, he sends disciples out in pairs, not alone. When it comes to community engagement, when it comes to the mission of bringing the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, when it comes to making relationships the most important part of the mission, dont go alone. He also explicitly tells them to take nothing with them – no money, no extras, no suitcase, no basketball goals. Just go, the two of you, and meet people. Talk to them. Get to know them. If they are friendly and invite you in, then stay for a while. Give them a blessing of peace. If not, move on. Leave everything as you found it, even the dust. No problem. The harvest is plentiful.

We all know of (and have perhaps been a part of) churches that are concerned with their aging population. We need to get young people in here” is a well-known refrain. More than one church has hired a young pastor with a family in hopes that the youngness and the family-ness will be contagious and lead to young adults and families and children dribbling in by osmosis. But it isnt, and they usually dont.  

What is more compelling is relationships where both people feel known, understood, valued, and cared for in all seasons of life. That is what the church offers that no other institution in our society offers. It also happens to be what all of us are starving for because of an erosion of community in our society and because those precious things are not accessible through social media. 

But for the spiritually hungry to find our church, we have to find them. Because the truth is, everyone in our community who wants and is actively seeking what our church provides has already found us on their own. Our church already has all of those people. In that case, it means that we have to leave the walls of our church and enter the neighborhood and know those folks; know their stories; know their childrens names; know their eyes; know their living rooms… and they ours. It means that we have to put relationships first. 

Our church, like many churches, is concerned that we are too homogeneous; that we dont know our neighbors; that we look like visitors, or worse, tourists, in the neighborhood. Our church is concerned that while we talk a good talk about food insecurity, we dont really know what that means and really dont know anyone who is actually food insecure. Why is that? Because we are still in the process of making relationships the first and most important part of our mission.

There is a group of people from our neighborhood who have created a neighborhood food co-op and have developed it with the resources from the neighborhood. They only invite people to participate who are invested in the neighborhood and who have built trust and “street cred” in the neighborhood. If you are from outside the neighborhood, you may not donate; you may not volunteer. Only folks from the neighborhood. This sounds aggressively protective, and it is. It is because for too many decades folks with good intentions who look different than the folks in the neighborhood have been coming in to “help.” This neighborhood has realized and taken a stand about “help.” Their invitation instead is: If you want to join our neighborhood and embrace its challenges as your own, then you may join us in addressing its solutions. That is the resounding voice on the frontline of our neighborhood.

The path to this kind of invitation only comes after a long walk over the curve of the earth with someone who is not like yourself. It is to meet them on their terms, on their turf, and to arrive with nothing – no money, no offers, no agenda, no assumptions. It is to go because you were sent by the Lord Jesus, and you dont go alone. You go into the neighborhood with your friend, whoever they may be; who is not from your church; who is not from your social class; who is not from your gender identity; who is not from your racial-ethnic group. You go to learn. You go to join. You go until you are welcomed and blessings of peace are shared. Then… maybe then… a magical door will open where enough trust, enough understanding will have been achieved that you can say… “Hey! You said the neighborhood needs a supply of produce for the co-op… Our church has a little garden… Would that be useful?” That is the precious moment where mission becomes reality! That is the moment when your church begins to have a chance to look like its neighborhood, like the Kingdom of Heaven. That is the moment when the voices on the frontline of the community get amplified!

Rev. Allen Brimer is the pastor and co-founder of Farm Church, a congregation that meets on a farm in Durham, North Carolina and leverages the resources of the farm to address food insecurity in the name of continuing Jesus’ ministry of feeding. 


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Webinar: Green your Presbytery

Green Your Presbytery:
Starting and Sustaining
a Presbytery Earth Care Team



We are facing a climate crisis that is among the biggest challenges the world has ever known. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has responded to this crisis through various statements and policies since the 1950’s. Perhaps the most significant activity the Church has undertaken in this area is the Earth Care Congregations program, with 232 churches now certified. However, there is much more that needs to be done. Churches, with their leadership structure and congregational members are perfectly positioned to witness to the moral and spiritual call to act to protect our common home.

In response to this congregational opportunity, Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) is offering a guide for presbyteries to collaborate churches and leaders to become better stewards of God’s creation. The strategy involves forming Earth Care Teams at the presbytery level to engage and support congregations in integrating creation care into their church’s Christian witness and ministry.

You can learn about this step-by-step guide to start, recruit, organize and maintain your Presbytery Earth Care Team during a 1-hour webinar, “Green Your Presbytery: Starting and Sustaining a Presbytery Earth Care Team,” on February 12 at noon Eastern, 9:00 AM Pacific.

If you are involved in creation care activities in your presbytery or in your church, you will want to be part of this webinar. You will be inspired by two presbyteries that have formed successful Earth Care Teams. Barbara Overton will speak about her current experiences in initiating an Earth Care Team in the Presbytery of Tropical Florida. Barry McPherson will share the accomplishments of the Presbytery of the Cascades Eco-Justice Team over the past 30 years. The webinar will end with a time for questions and answers.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program has generously offered to host this webinar. Please register in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

By reaching out to support Presbytery Earth Care Teams to connect with their churches, PEC can more quickly engage congregations than by contacting them individually. As we experience rapidly advancing climate change, time is of the essence. PEC hopes you will accept the challenge and join us for the “Green Your Presbytery: Starting and Sustaining a Presbytery Earth Care Team” webinar on February 12