Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Advent Devotional Introduction

                         Introducing PEC's 2020 Advent Devotional 

Isaiah 55:10-11

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Advent comes at a time when night’s darkness grows deeper and longer as the Earth leans farther away from the sun’s light. However, there is a point near the end of December when all of this starts to change, when darkness begins to recede and light comes again. Astronomically, we understand this to be the Winter Solstice, the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere after which the Earth begins to tilt back towards the sun and the days begin to grow longer.

But we aren’t a people that celebrate the solstice or the subtle teetering of the planet. No, we recognize the approach of a different light, a different kind of cosmological revolution. At the darkest time of the year, Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, the birth of the Word made flesh (John 1:14), and we all know what comes after that. We are then doubly assured that this time of darkness is not permanent. Just as the Earth begins its slow lean forward towards the sun, so too does the birth of Jesus assure us that the grip of death is not permanent, that there will be a time when the sun’s warmth will burst through and usher in a new day where we won’t have to stumble forward in uncertainty and fear. “Arise, shine; for your light has come... For darkness shall cover the earth...but the Lord will arise upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)

But life doesn’t work so simply. After all, this is not the first Advent-Christmas or Winter Solstice we have lived through. And as much as people might hope 2021 will be better, there is no guarantee that the problems we are facing now will magically disappear once the calendars flip over. Just because the light is here does not mean our problems vanish. No, the light just helps us see what needs to be done so that justice, mercy, and love can flow like flooded rivers (Micah 6:8). After all, Jesus Christ did not change the arc of history by simply being born. The power of Jesus lay in what he did, in his actions, in his ministry amongst the people.

And so, I turn to this year’s Advent scripture: Isaiah 55:10-11. Just as the rain does not return to the heavens until it has also watered the earth, neither can we simply hear God’s word and ignore what it tells us to do. 2020 was not just a year of natural disaster, pandemic and hardship; it was a year when so many voices cried out, pleading to the heavens and to anyone else who could hear, that enough is enough. We have heard so many cries. We ourselves have cried.

Just as Jesus, the Word incarnate, came and did that which God the Creator sent him to do, so too must we hear the words that so many have cried out over the past several months and do what they ask. As instruments of God’s justice and mercy in this world, how can we sit idly hearing these cries for help from our siblings and not rise up to meet them? Will we let the word of God and God’s people rain down and water the fields in our heart or will we let our land remain dry and fallow? For only when God’s word accomplishes and succeeds for that which God purposes will the mountains and hills burst into song and will we be able to go out in joy (Isaiah 55:12).

The writings in this devotional are just a small sample of the different voices that are crying out at this time. As you make your way through and finish the devotional, I invite you to not only let the words sink into your hearts, but to try and find the voices and stories not represented in this collection and listen to what they have to say.

To the glory of God, Amen.


Jonathan Lee is a second year Masters of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School. Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jonathan’s faith and love for God’s Creation were simultaneously cultivated during a time in the Maine woods. In addition to considering a career in ordained ministry, Jonathan is interested in environmental and Asian American theologies. He is currently serving as Presbyterians for Earth Care’s Programming and Learning Fellow.


Waterfall photo by David Kepley

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Earth Friendly ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas

 GREEN Ways to Celebrate Advent & Christmas, Save Energy, and Care for Creation in 2020

 

GIFT GIVING

1.Holiday gifting and gathering is complicated by Covid-19 this year. Best information about how to safely celebrate: www.cdc.gov   COVID-19: Holiday Celebrations/CDC

 

2. Look for fair-trade and/or locally made goods. Choose organic, natural materials, and avoid plastics. Help cut down the TONS of extra holiday garbage by recycling, reusing or doing without gift wrap (or wrap with scarf, a towel, fabric). In general, consider simplifying stuff and clearing clutter all the ways you can.

 

3. Give the gift of time: call, send cards, invite a “facetime” or ZOOM with homebound members of your church or far-flung family members & friends. Simplify gift giving (one idea: drawing names and deciding on a limit to spend; re-gifting is fine, just be thoughtful about original giver; festive wine? bottles are recyclable)

 

4. Give a charitable gift like Heifer International: provide honeybees to water buffalo, in your giftee's name: see catalog and ordering info at www.heifer.org/

 

5. Support local and national/world eco-justice organizations like Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 350.org, Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC), and especially for young people—Our Children’s Trust.

 

6. For holiday meals, cook seasonal foods raised locally, i.e., farmers’ markets, CSAs: popcorn, fruit & nuts, all of which can be composted or used for bird seed afterward.

 

BIRDS

7. Decorating a tree for birds is a good holiday activity, and diverse edible bird foods attract different birds: Your food helps them survive over the winter.

 

8. Annual Christmas Day Bird Count - Take your binoculars, a field guide to local birds, a small pad or journal for each participant and walk a course through your neighborhood, local park or countryside. Try to identify and count every bird you see and note each in your journal. At the end of the hike, list species seen and number of birds per species. There’s always surprises, and the activity highlights the presence and value of our feathered friends.

 

ENERGY

9. As you decorate your home, replace some of your incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs; invest in a timer for outdoor displays. LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights use up to 95% less than larger, traditional holiday bulbs & last up to 100,000 hours indoors. Over a 30-day period, lighting 500 traditional holidays lights costs $18.00 while the same number of LED lights costs $0.19. 

 

 

ACTIVITIES

10. Walk outdoors and enjoy the change of seasons

11. Practice a random act of kindness at least once a week

12. Make home-baked bread, decorated cookies, etc. with friends or family.

 

BOOKS & WRITING

13. A great link for creation-caring books for children: “Children’s Lit Love”—a former 3rd grade teacher, now mother of 2 shares book recommendations & literacy tips https://childrenslitlove.com/2020/04/09/earth-day-books-to-read-year-round/

         OR Google up: “Holiday 2020 books for adults & children about Earth care”

         OR All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, & Solutions for the Climate Crisis (2020):

         visionary essays & poems by 50 women leaders in the climate movement. 

14. Send Christmas cards to your Senators and Representatives and urge their pro-environment vote on bills in the New Year & write to President-elect Biden too!

15. Gather a small group to read the Bible and pray together during Advent, think about ways you connect Advent to energy use and caring for creation.

 

Submitted by Church of Reconciliation Earth Care Committee, coordinated by Nancy Corson Carter

 

 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Green your Church

 Starting and Sustaining an Earth Care Team at Your Church 

Do you want your church to be better at caring for God's creation? PEC has been listening to your needs and prepared a Guide to Starting a Church Earth Care Team. Whether you are interested in starting an earth care team for your church or re-energizing an existing team, this guide is for you. Starting an earth care team at your church is just the beginning. Keeping it going is the real challenge. The Guide has five goals to help you start an Earth Care Team and sustain it at your church:

  • Form a Congregational Earth Care Team. This is actually not as big as it sounds. It is a pre-meeting step - before your first Earth Care Team meeting - for a few people to decide on what the team’s purpose should be and to recruit others.  
  • Meet as a Congregational Earth Care Team. In your first meeting, describe your purpose, develop a mission statement, set a goal(s), and decide on a name to help you communicate with others and recruit them to join your team.
  • Schedule Activities and Events. When deciding on an activity or event, be sure to identify and delegate tasks so that one person isn’t responsible for doing everything. Not only does this lessen the load but it involves members so there is more support for what you are doing.
  • Evaluate your efforts. Periodically review your successes and challenges to identify your strengths and weaknesses and make plans to do better.
  • Publicize your accomplishments. Use church, presbytery and local communication channels to report on what your team has done so others will understand what your team does and may be motivated to join. 

Each of the goals comes with at least six suggested activities to help earth care teams come up with their own ideas. Most of them can easily be done virtually during a pandemic. Also included in the guide is a short list of resources that provide additional information. 

Go to the PEC Church Earth Care Teams webpage to download the Guide. You can also view the video of PEC’s Greening Your Church webinar and PowerPoint presentation. Two churches, one large and one small, that presented on the webinar provided handouts that are available on the Church Earth Care Teams webpage. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please email pec@presbyearthcare.org.
 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Meet PEC's First Intern

                                        Introducing PEC's First Intern 

Hello! My name is Jonathan Lee and I am Presbyterians for Earth Care’s Programming and Learning Fellow, i.e. the intern, for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. I’ve been at in this position for the past several months now (some of you might have met me in the monthly PECT calls), and it’s about time for me to introduce myself to the larger PEC community. 

A little bit of background about myself first: I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, I graduated from Davidson College with a major in Environmental Studies and a minor in Religion, and I am currently in the 2nd year of my Masters of Divinity degree at Yale Divinity School. I enjoy cooking for myself, reading up on comic books, and have recently begun enjoying the world of vinyl music thanks to a recently inherited LP collection. 

I always had a particular curiosity for how I could apply environmental activism and sustainability into my faith and church community. My education and realization of the importance of environmental issues had grown concurrently with the maturation of my faith as I learned more about God’s wonderful Creation during a semester-long high school program along the Maine coast. This originally manifested as a passion for environmental sustainability, which I carried into my time at Davidson as a student worker for the campus’ sustainability office and campus farm. I then devoted my senior year capstone to researching how local Christian congregations were responding to environmental issues. This project introduced me to the PCUSA Earth Care Congregations program and connected me with current PEC moderator, Dennis Testerman. Dennis and I kept in touch over the years when this past summer I reached out asking if he would be interested in having a virtual intern for the fall and spring season. He replied with a yes, and so with the blessing of my seminary I started to work for and get to know the PEC community.
 
I am so excited for this opportunity to learn while working with Presbyterians for Earth Care. I am still actively hoping for a career related to environmentalism in some fashion post-Yale Divinity, and so I see this as an opportunity to learn more about what environmental advocacy within the church world would be like. This opportunity is also a chance for me to learn more about the PCUSA’s inner machinations. As an Inquirer for ordination in the PCUSA church, I believe this is a great chance for me get a better sense for how the denomination as a whole operates and how I might one day be able to continue my environmental advocacy through the denomination. 

Though brief, I hope all of this has given a fuller picture of who I am and what I hope to do during my time with PEC. I’m looking forward to learning more while with PEC and interacting with all of you beyond this written format. 
 
Thanks,
Jonathan