Thursday, December 20, 2012

Embracing Outreach with Joy and Hope

During the fourth and final week of Advent, we invite you to join us in discovering the ways the Earth Care Congregations (ECCs) program’s value of outreach can be used to protect God’s creation and create hope in the Advent season. May the work of all those who are committed to Earth Care bring you inspiration and courage, even as we wait with expectation and love for the Hope of the world.  We wish you a blessed Advent season and a very joyful Christmas!  

Fourth Week of Advent
By Abby Mohaupt

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” Isaiah 35:1-4

In October 2006, members and friends of First Presbyterian Church Palo Alto watched Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” This screening lead to the creation of the Cool Planet Working Group, a group of members and friends of the congregation committed to responding to the threat of climate change. From its inception, Cool Planet has sought to reach out to the congregation in its ministries and in partnership with other organizations, and to creation.

Since 2006, First Presbyterian has partnered with California Interfaith Power and Light, Union of Concerned Scientists, the City of Palo Alto, and Acterra, as well as co founding the MidPeninsula Environmental Ministries in partnership with several local churches. These partnerships have led to political action and advocacy, as well as networking and education. For example, in 2010 the congregation participated in a Valentine writing campaign to California Senators and Representatives to urge them to love the earth by passing strong climate change legislation.

From the urging and organizing of Cool Planet, the congregation has embraced caring for creation and ending climate change through Adult Education series, facilities changes, and worship services. In 2008, the congregation replaced their lawn with drought-tolerant plants and added bike racks to the church campus. Annual Earth Day worship services have been supplemented by additional worship services that highlight the human connection to creation, particularly during the annual church picnic worship service which takes place outside. Members and friends of the congregation from all different places in life have participated in these opportunities—from the young to the old, the sick to the healthy, the staff to the congregation.

All of this work has been done within a deep and joyful connection to creation. Members and friends of the congregation and the working group regularly spend time in creation biking, running, or walking. Another working group in the congregation is focused on hiking, and many of the members of Cool Planet are in this group as well. This connection has provided a reminder of why the congregation has committed to caring for creation and working to end climate change.

Facing the reality of climate change can provoke fear and hopelessness. It would be easier to be paralyzed by a sense of helplessness than to participate in the hard work of changing how humanity affects the rest of creation. It’s much harder to join this work, and harder still to do it with hopeful rejoicing. Some of our hope can come from our understanding that creation joins us—that we are connected to each other and to creation. Our hope also comes from our understanding that all of creation waits with anticipation and joy for the coming of Christ, who comes to heal our broken connections. So as we wait, we do so knowing that our bodies and spirits are welcomed into these connections wherever we are in life. Our hands and feet and spirits rejoice with each other and all creation!

 Holy God, give us hope as we work to protect your creation, even as we wait for you. Help us work in your world with grace and peace, reaching out to each other in love. We give you thanks for the joy we find in your creation and for the hope we find in you. Amen.

Abby Mohaupt is the Pastoral Resident at First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto, CA. A candidate for ordination as a teaching elder in the PC(USA), she serves PEC as the editor of The Update.

Monday, December 17, 2012

On the 10th Night of Candlelight: After Hurricane Sandy

Dear Fellow Healer of Creation,

Today we share a beautiful reflection from PEC's Treasurer Sue Smith. Sue lives in New Jersey and lost power during Hurricane Sandy. During her 10th evening without electricity, she wrote about how her experiences in the aftermath of the storm reminded her of the destruction of our fossil-fuel dependent lifestyle and the power of community to help heal God's people.

As I sit here on the 10th night of candlelight, it is in some ways like the first. A Nor’easter is bringing wind, except nowhere near the sustained wind of the first night. Like the first, there is rain – but also snow. Loss of electricity has wide-ranging impacts: it is cold, there have been gas issues for cars, and the loss of a freezer full of food. I am lucky, natural gas allows me to cook on the stove, and gives me hot water.

Called to environmental work for years, mostly because of destruction to the beauty of God’s creation, I have realized more than ever that fossil fuels have impacted our ability to build and sustain community.

Sandy has brought nature’s destruction and devastation to the Jersey Shore – a place I love. Some nearby towns will probably never be the same. People’s lives have been turned upside down, and the National Guard is a constant presence, keeping us out of places we never thought we would not have access to.

Sandy has also made me realize how much impact fossil fuels have on our sense of community and communion with each other. From the first night of candlelight, I have talked to my neighbor every day – checking in, sharing information and caring for each other in ways we have not done for 20 years of living next door to each other. I have been on the phone with my sister, 250 miles away, every day. She goes through my emails and gives me updates from the power company and the township’s websites.

And I have been walking around since day 2 of candlelight. I heard many stories as I met people: the elderly man who had to find a new place to live because a tree smashed into his house; the woman who came to look for her sister whom she had not heard from in days; the people who could not get into the marina to check on their boat; the neighbors who told me about the destruction in Sea Bright to homes, beach clubs and bars; the people telling me what grocery stores were open and what restaurants were serving food. I even talked to the electrical workers from Ohio, here to help us, taking a well-deserved sightseeing break to look at the Manhattan skyline and the new World Trade Center building.

As time went on, and power came back, and roads became cleared, and gas was less of a problem, and more cars were on the road, I met less and less people on my walks, and heard fewer and fewer stories. It occurs to me that all this use of fossil fuels has led to less community. The seventh night of candlelight was Sunday – yes the Sabbath. I went to church that morning, and we shared communion and shared stories of our experiences in the storm and some of the needs that were arising. Again, a sense of community that is different from what we normally experience.

During worship, my friends Bill and Sue Brennan shared this song that Bill wrote after volunteering in D’Iberville, MS, after Hurricane Katrina. It is about the importance of listening to people’s stories in the face of disaster. I share this YouTube video of the song, with pictures of devastation to the Jersey Shore:

Maybe this is the most tragic result of our use of fossil fuels. Yes, there is destruction to the beauty of the earth, to our water supplies and harm to people’s health. But maybe the loss of community is the most destructive impact on God’s people. It is the telling of our stories and the listening to each other’s stories that join us in community.

Sue Smith is the Treasurer of Presbyterians for Earth Care, a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Rumson, NJ, a GreenFaith Fellow, and a student at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Teaching and Reflecting on Jesus' Stewardship of Earth

Our Advent devotional for this third week in Advent explores education, one of the four action areas of the Earth Care Congregations (ECCs) program. We highlight the work of Montreat Presbyterian Church, which is using education to care for creation and prepare for the coming Christ. May their work bring you hope this Advent, even as we wait with expectation, joy, and love for the Hope of the world.

Third Week of Advent
By Bill Seaman

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them. Luke 2: 8-9a

The advent and birth of Jesus offers to Christians not only a sacred annual time of reflection on the birth of a Savior, but perhaps also an opportunity to ponder God’s ongoing acts of creation and to see in them Jesus as Teacher and Steward concerning Earth. When we read that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1a), and that “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him” (John 1:2-3a), we may wonder how indeed Jesus, in his earthly lifetime, related to what was “created” and “made.” How did the infant presented in the temple and singled out by Simeon and by Anna—to the amazement of Joseph and Mary—grow as a child and become “strong, filled with wisdom” (Luke 2:40b)?

The Bible’s narration of the “Christmas story” tells us how even at the moment of birth the life of Jesus Christ was intertwined with “Creation” as manifested in the natural world and also as reflected practically in the lives of those who depended on its bounty. After all, an angel of the Lord was sent to “shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” to announce the good news of great joy of the Messiah’s birth. The shepherds certainly would have been people of the land, presumably in tune with Earth and its seasons. How might Jesus have interacted with them in childhood? Meanwhile, as Jesus learned carpentry in his youth it seems likely that experience with types of wood extended to harvest of trees in the forest, with hands-on lessons in plant and animal ecology. And certainly travel with family, all the way to Egypt even, exposed Jesus to the region’s landscapes and ecosystems.

How do we in modern times relate to Earth? In the United States, educators, physicians and social scientists are seriously concerned for the lack of time spent outdoors by children. Symptoms of so-called “nature-deficit disorder” include obesity, depression, and inability to concentrate. Two critical developmental factors, namely availability of childhood opportunities and adult mentors, afforded Jesus the foundation for a life in close communion with the outdoors. Consider his adult experiences in wilderness, on stormy waters, and in tranquil gardens, and the profound ministries connected with each of them. Certainly Jesus was neither an adult nor a “Child Left Inside!”

How do followers of Jesus afford children and adults opportunity to learn to care for Earth? Congregations across the Presbyterian Church (USA) are educating members and the community about timely environmental issues ranging from safety of water supply, food security and fair trade business, to energy conservation and simplicity of lifestyle. At Montreat Presbyterian Church in North Carolina an appointed Earth Stewardship Theologian recently taught two multi-week Christian Education classes, “Clues for a World on the Edge: Creation as the Theater of God’s Glory” and “What Shall We Eat…?” Additional ways of building biblical and scientific literacy concerning Earth care are coordinated by the church’s Earth Ministry Team, for example by arranging informative and lively programs at annual Earth Care potluck supper celebrations (with elected officials attending) and attendance/discussion at movies and lectures, such as on coal mining and climate disruption. Partnership with the nearby Montreat Conference Center affords access to outdoor facilities such as the Prayer Path, pictured below (Photograph courtesy of Phyllis Sadler, who used it in a church class on “Seeing God through the Eyes of Photography”).

We may not know the exact influence upon Jesus of the shepherds who witnessed his day of birth, but certainly their sensitivity to Creation and its seasons and limits offers guidance in following a Savior who also inspires stewardship of Earth, at Christmas and all other times of the year.

O gracious God, thank you for the birth of a Savior to our world. Please guide us in following his paths of righteousness to steward the Creation where you have placed us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

William Seaman is an ordained Presbyterian elder who resides with his wife in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. He is Professor Emeritus, University of Florida, and in retirement consults on environmental science, leads the Earth Ministry Team of Montreat Presbyterian Church (North Carolina), and is working on certification as an environmental educator. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Worship, Advent Wonder, and our Beautiful World

During this second week of Advent, join us in celebrating Earth Care Congregations (ECCs) and honoring the role worship can play in caring for Creation. We hope that the work and witness of these congregations brings you hope, even as we wait with expectation, joy, and love for the Hope of the world.

Second Week of Advent
By: Katie Preston 

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See I am sending my  messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”  Mark 1:2-3  

Korean Presbyterian Church of Boston (Korean PC of Boston) became a certified Earth Care Congregation in September this year.  They exceeded the total number of points needed and one of the reasons for that was their focus on worship.  Many times congregations find it easy to embrace environmental stewardship in their facilities and elsewhere around their campus (like choosing recycled paper or offering recycling of bulletins).  But it is often seems more difficult for a pastor to include elements of Creation Care into the worship life of his or her community.

That is why ECCs include worship as one of the four components of the certification program.  Sure, you can get certified doing a minimal amount of worship-related components.  But Korean PC of Boston was not one of those congregations.  They held a special Environmental Mission Sunday in conjunction with Earth Day this year, as well as included a Creation themed sermon each quarter.  They created an Earth Day Bookmark that was distributed to members and each Sunday reuse and recycle their bulletins.  They've already started planning out their recertification for next year, including adding an outdoor service to their quarterly Creation-themed sermon.

Korean PC of Boston is just one example of how you can begin to think about incorporating Creation care into the worshiping life of your congregation.  I encourage you to reach out to Elder Jason and learn more about what they've done and what they plan to do to keep building that connection between worship and Creation care.

In his book, The Seven Pillars of Creation, theologian Bill Brown uses a marvelous illustration of how the creation story sets up a temple in and of nature.  This amazing illustration highlights each day of the creation narrative as a pillar of the building of a temple.  But unlike the temple we learn about in 1Kings, this temple is a cosmic temple, not a temple made of stone.  For me, what this imagery highlights is that when we are in nature, we are able to worship God as the Creator who has given us such delights as apple trees and songbirds.  We can just as easily worship God in the wonder of Creation as we can in our beautiful sanctuaries.

I find that being in nature helps me connect to the Creator and have a meaningful worship experience.  Perhaps as they plan for their outdoor service (and as you plan in your congregations), Korean PC of Boston could consider Dr. Brown’s imagery and find ways to incorporate it into their service (and yours)!
Advent is a time of preparation; a time for us to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ-child.  Similarly in our work in the environmental community, we are in a time of preparation for the coming of the “Green Revolution” – the creation of a sustainable community. As people of faith, we are preparing the way for that green revolution – the work we do and the words we proclaim prepare us for what is to come.

Korean Presbyterian Church of Boston does a wonderful job of preparing the way, through regular worship interaction with the Creation.  Making sure that Creation care isn’t a token conversation held on one Sunday, reminds us that there is always work to be done in preparing for the sustainable future.  We can always be doing a little more.  Just as John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Christ, Korean PC of Boston regularly proclaims the call to care for Creation.
Just like we hope in the birth of the Messiah, we hope for a time when we will live in a sustainable world, a world that respects the One who comes to Redeem as the same One who Creates and Sustains us all.

God of hope, help us prepare our places for your coming and help us proclaim your love in the world. Amen. 

Katie Preston is the Director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and a candidate for ordination as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hope for Eco-Activists: Discovering an Environmental Faith

Dear friends in Earth Care, 

Several months ago, PEC began a collaborative process with Patrick Heery, Managing Editor and Social Witness Associate of Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice.  We were in the midst of grieving about the environmental state of our planet. We needed renewed hope.  We agreed to invite fellow Earth-justice-seekers to help lead in searching for a prophetic word, a new pathway along sacred soil, a source of strength for our internal landscapes. 

That hope, that word and that strength are within this November 2012 - January 2013  issue of Unbound, entitled "Hope for Eco-Activists: Discovering an Environmental Faith". Note that this is an introductory selection of a series of submissions which will "roll out" between now and January. Ideally, please plan to sign up through the website so you will receive the new articles as they are published.

I am very grateful for the many contributors of these works as we seek hope and strength in days of grieving.  There is a beautiful variety within these submissions;  much depth, much soul-sharing.  Many of the articles were written by PEC members.  Rebecca Barnes-Davies also worked on the process representing Environmental Ministries. There are also authors who represent other faith-based earth care organizations. And Patrick Heery has led this effort skillfully and powerfully. Let us eat and drink of this feast of words.  

May the soulfulness within these reflections enrich us as leaders...that we may become more prophetic, more compassionate, more passionate in our justice-seeking.  

..."In the name of the One through and for whom all things have been created, and in whom all things hold together." Amen (1)

 Diane Waddell
 Presbyterians for Earth Care

(1) Iosso and Hinson-Hasty, Prayers for the New Social Awakening, "For the Earth and Her Creatures", pg. 143.   (Westminster John Knox Press. 2008) 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Following the Energy Star

Each week of Advent, we invite you to join us in reflecting in how caring for creation prepares us for the coming Christ. Over the next four weeks, we offer weekly reflections that tell the stories of four congregations and how they fulfilled particular requirements to be certified as an Earth Care Congregation by the Office of Environmental Ministries. If you are interested in joining their ranks, please contact Rebecca Barnes-Davies at May the work of these congregations bring you hope, even as we wait with expectation, joy, and love for the Hope of the world.

First Week of Advent
By: Holly Hallman

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. Psalms 24:1

The long glorious days of summer gave way to the golds and reds of fall and now we have come to the slowing—the quieting—that gives those of us in the northern hemisphere a season of reflection and anticipation.

For the Montevallo Presbyterian Church of Montevallo, Alabama, there is much to reflect upon. Their church is a beautiful, white landmark in this college town.  The sanctuary was built in 1902 and the education wing was completed in 1912.  When it was time to update the facilities, the discernment process led them to an exploration of the “best practices” for turning “old” into “green.”  With guidance and information they found through the PC(USA) Office of Environmental Ministry, they explored the guidelines for ENERGY STAR for Congregations.  These guidelines have only been available for the last three or four years so it was new and exciting for this forward-thinking church to contemplate how they might incorporate as much of the program as possible into their renovation.  Rev. Leanne Pearce Reed stated that it was easy, with this group, to sell the idea.  The area where they live has pollution issues that affect air quality and the water in the nearby Cahava River.

The ENERGY STAR for Congregations program provides a range of possibilities that run from free to more costly.  The new windows, insulation, and appliances that the members felt had to be purchased were on the costly side, for sure.  However, if you ever get to talk to Rev. Leanne, she will tell you over and over that there are many, many low cost and NO cost ways to be more energy efficient.  Her hope is that everyone will browse through the online guidelines, especially the “Sure Energy Savers” page. 

But, all great journeys have stories with multiple parts; there’s not just mangers and shepherds.  Congregant Bill Peters began the task of tracking the energy use of the structures and systems that are integral to their buildings.  Using Portfolio Manager he tracked the kilowatt hours of electricity, the gallons of water and the therms of natural gas used.  Bill says that Portfolio Manager is a very technical program designed for use in large, commercial facilities.  It became his calling to make the program work for the Montevallo Congregation’s specific purpose.  He will gladly tell you that he is excited about the re-launch that is coming in the spring of 2013 when Portfolio Manager will provide a user friendly tracking model.  Why is he excited?  A group of Episcopalian churches in Chicago are using this tool for accountability, and not just for a particular congregation, but across the whole diocese!  His hope is that with this apples-to-apples ability to compare, many Presbyterian Churches across the country will join together to share information and resources.

A great story, yes, but the journey this year led right to the White House.  The congregation was honored in September, as one of 28 churches that have become Energy Stars!  Rev.  Leanne was personally invited to represent her members.  There is no doubt that even in those hallowed halls she lost no time telling everyone who would listen that they can do it too.

Creator God, you brought the earth out of the void and flung stars into the skies above it.  When you wanted the Wisemen to find the baby, born and laid in a manger, you led them there by a star that shone both day and night.  We thank you for this Alabama congregation that has found a new and different star to bless their journey. Amen.

Holly Hallman recently retired from serving as a hospice chaplain, and she currently serves PEC on the Steering Committee.

Download all four PEC Advent Devotionals here!

Environmental Hope: A Better Approach for a Tougher Climate

Intro­duc­ing the Unbound Nov 2012–Jan 2013 issue “Hope for Eco-Activists: Dis­cov­er­ing an Envi­ron­men­tal Faith” - A col­lab­o­ra­tive issue of Unbound and Pres­by­te­ri­ans for Earth Care exam­in­ing the rela­tional and spir­i­tual foun­da­tion of a life devoted to sus­tain­abil­ity and envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice. This issue will “roll out” over a period of sev­eral weeks and we will be highlighting articles by PEC leaders as they become available! Check out the introduction to the issue and stay connected for more!
By Patrick David Heery, Man­ag­ing Editor

hurricane sandy
Hur­ri­cane Sandy left many feel­ing doubt­ful about the
via­bil­ity of envi­ron­men­tal hope

This is an arti­cle about envi­ron­mental hope. These days, in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Sandy, the words “envi­ron­men­tal” and “hope” do not often go together. But actu­ally, they’ve been divorced for many years. I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s hear­ing about the destruc­tion of rain­forests, species extinction, and any number of apocalyptic visions due to cli­mate change. As a child, I plastered drawings around my neigh­bor­hood with great spi­rals of smoke con­sum­ing the earth (I had recently seen the films Fer­n­Gully and Med­i­cine Man). I scared my par­ents by telling them that the earth would be bet­ter off if the human race were eliminated—logical, though cer­tainly not the voca­tion par­ents dream of for their child. I hon­estly wanted to make things bet­ter, but that just didn’t seem likely.

And yet, this is an arti­cle about hope. In fact, it’s an intro­duc­tion to an entire jour­nal issue about that hope.This issue asks a sim­ple ques­tion: What gets us out of bed every morn­ing and gives us the will to fight another day for sus­tain­abil­ity, earth care, and eco-justice?
The envi­ron­men­tal move­ment has, in large part, oper­ated from the assump­tion that if we tell peo­ple just how seri­ously threat­ened the future of our planet is, they will start to care and take action. This has cre­ated a strat­egy of “aware­ness rais­ing.” But new (and some old) the­o­ries of how peo­ple learn and develop identity-markers draw this assump­tion into ques­tion. More­over, the strat­egy can back­fire. Rather than more infor­ma­tion serv­ing as a cat­a­lyst, it has often over­whelmed and left many feel­ing powerless.
In his book, The Nature Prin­ci­ple, Richard Louv describes speak­ing to an audi­to­rium filled with two hun­dred high school students—a speaker’s night­mare. He expected the typ­i­cal blank stares, “gum pop­ping, and note pass­ing.” But what hap­pened next sur­prised him: the stu­dents were pay­ing atten­tion. In fact, they were down­right curi­ous and excited. Louv was baf­fled. After­ward, a sci­ence teacher explained: It’s “sim­ple. You said some­thing pos­i­tive about the future of the envi­ron­ment. They never hear that.”
Not long before Louv’s pre­sen­ta­tion, an expert on global cli­mate change had spo­ken to the same group of students—and had received a very dif­fer­ent reac­tion. They were bored; they couldn’t have cared less. What they heard was the typ­i­cal doom and gloom mes­sage: “the planet is in big trou­ble (but it’s too late to save it any­way).” Young peo­ple have heard this mes­sage all their lives. They get it: the world is dying.
But Louv said some­thing that they had not heard before. He spoke about them and “their health: a grow­ing body of evi­dence show­ing how out­door expe­ri­ences can enhance their abil­ity to learn and think, expand their senses, and improve their phys­i­cal and men­tal health.” While Louv named the dire threats to the envi­ron­ment, he pre­sented these dete­ri­o­rat­ing con­di­tions as a ral­ly­ing cry for “new sources of energy; new types of agri­cul­ture; new urban design and new kinds of schools, work­places, and health­care… whole new careers.”¹ With­out down­play­ing the seri­ous­ness of the earth’s envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems, Louv gave a mes­sage of hope that spelled out alter­na­tive prac­tices and poli­cies that are already being imple­mented in com­mu­ni­ties across the world.
“You said some­thing pos­i­tive about the envi­ron­ment. They never hear that.”
It is not enough to tell peo­ple how bad things are. That neg­a­tive moti­va­tion only goes so far. Peo­ple need more. And they need more than “aware­ness.” David Siegen­thaler, who writes in this issue about deep ecol­ogy, says that true moti­va­tion begins with “first-hand con­tact” or expe­ri­ence that elic­its awe and, yes, love. “Under­stand­ing,” he writes, “fol­lows love.” When you love some­thing, you are will­ing to fight for it.
In the spirit of that loy­alty to the earth, these arti­cles go beneath the “issues” (though they cer­tainly engage them) and exam­ine the rela­tional and spir­i­tual foun­da­tion of a life devoted to sus­tain­abil­ity and envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice. They seek a coher­ent way of life and the­ol­ogy man­i­fest in all aspects of exis­tence: human rela­tion­ships, the sacra­ments and wor­ship, the read­ing of scrip­ture, re-connection with the earth, artis­tic expres­sion, our con­sumer deci­sions, and com­mu­ni­ties that rein­te­grate the social cat­e­gories of race, gen­der, age, and class.
The issue began as a project of UnboundPres­by­te­ri­ans for Earth Care, and Pres­by­ter­ian Envi­ron­men­tal Min­istries. But it soon grew and took on new ecu­meni­cal, and then inter­faith, dimen­sions. It turned out that peo­ple were excited to write on this sub­ject. In fact, we received so many sub­mis­sions that we have decided to roll out the issue over a period of sev­eral weeks, rather than post all the arti­cles at once and overwhelm.
You will get to hear from Green­Faith Fel­lows, trained in North America’s only com­pre­hen­sive inter­faith edu­ca­tion pro­gram designed to turn clergy and laity into religious-environmental lead­ers; from sci­en­tists and ecol­o­gists; from artists, musi­cians, and poets; from ecu­meni­cal young adult move­ments like the National Coun­cil of Churches’ Eco-Justice Pro­gram and the World Stu­dent Chris­t­ian Fed­er­a­tion; from par­tic­i­pants in the Rio+20 United Nations Con­fer­ence on Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment; from pas­tors and the­olo­gians; and from eco-justice com­mu­nity organizers.
We would claim that the range of arti­cles shows how hope becomes redemp­tive pos­si­bil­ity. We might say that a “burn­ing man” aes­thetic becomes a “green man”—and woman—ethic that is not con­sumed (or about con­sump­tion); and that coop­er­a­tion becomes part of the earth’s re-enchantment. And per­haps ulti­mately we pray that dis­as­ter recon­struc­tion helps redi­rect the human storms of vio­lence and wasted energy. Here is a sam­pling of the articles:
  • Shan­tha Ready Alonso of the NCC helps us under­stand what young peo­ple crave and how the envi­ron­men­tal move­ment could answer that need.
  • Larry Ras­mussen, the Rein­hold Niebuhr Pro­fes­sor of Social Ethics Emer­i­tus at Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in New York City, writes about the Eucharist and an envi­ron­men­tal sacra­men­tal the­ol­ogy, draw­ing upon his new book, Earth-Honoring Faith.
  • Rabbi Janet Mad­den describes how gar­den­ing offers a sacred space (even in pots and buck­ets) and a sacred time for being together, par­tic­u­larly, on Shabbat.
  • William Sea­man intro­duces us to the deep won­der of our world’s threat­ened oceans, and maps out pos­si­bil­i­ties for recovery.
  • Holly Hall­man and Abby Mohaupt lead the rally cry for eco-feminism, a move­ment and phi­los­o­phy that under­stands the oppres­sion and objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women and of the envi­ron­ment as inter­con­nected and mutu­ally supportive.
  • Com­mu­nity orga­nizer Clare But­ter­field exam­ines racial and class priv­i­lege embed­ded in the envi­ron­men­tal move­ment, and tells us how one urban inter­faith eco-justice orga­ni­za­tion in Chicago is work­ing to change that.
  • Genny Row­ley shares her research on con­gre­ga­tional envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions: how they hap­pen and why they work.
  • Neddy Astudillo reframes our under­stand­ing of cre­ation care from the per­spec­tive of her Latino/a min­istry and con­text, seek­ing to inte­grate and tran­scend the lim­i­ta­tions of stew­ard­ship, jus­tice, and spirituality.
  • Stan Adam­son intro­duces deep ecol­ogy and nature deficit dis­or­der, and tells us how immer­sion in the nat­ural world can become a spir­i­tual discipline.
  • Lau­ren Wright shares art inspired by her Young Adult Vol­un­teer (YAV) and eco-steward year in the wet­lands of south­ern Louisiana.
Together, these arti­cles reveal a chang­ing envi­ron­men­tal movement—one that is less about ward­ing off dis­as­ter or accru­ing ben­e­fits, and more about a vision of local, sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties gath­er­ing around farm­ers’ mar­kets, con­tem­pla­tive hikes and sea voy­ages, urban re-design, and cre­ative polit­i­cal action. It is a par­tic­i­pa­tory, rela­tional vision refram­ing old ques­tions like “How do we stop envi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion?” into “How do we cre­ate a dif­fer­ent kind of soci­ety?” It is a move­ment based on hope and the pre­sen­ta­tion of prac­ticed alter­na­tives that go beyond mere stew­ard­ship of resources (e.g. recy­cling) and address sys­tems, root causes, and issues of priv­i­lege. That hope, for many, is based in a sacred expe­ri­ence of God’s creation.
The sys­tem­atic impli­ca­tions of move­ments like these remain to be seen, but if enough com­mu­ni­ties like these emerge—and if they connect—we may have more than hope. We may have liv­ing alter­na­tives that resist the momen­tum toward dev­as­ta­tion. Dis­as­ter still threatens—we will see increas­ing num­bers of grim storms—but we will also see more of a future that is not heart-breaking but hope-bearing.
Check out the Nov 2012–Jan 2013 Unbound issue, “Hope for Eco-Activists: Dis­cov­er­ing an Envi­ron­men­tal Faith
[1] Richard Louv, The Nature Prin­ci­ple: Human Restora­tion and the End of Nature-Deficit Dis­or­der. Chapel Hill, North Car­olina: Algo­nquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2011: 282–3.

patrick heery on horseback
The Rev. Patrick David Heery is the Man­ag­ing Edi­tor of Unbound and an ordained Teach­ing Elder (for­merly Min­is­ter of Word and Sacra­ment) in the Pres­by­ter­ian Church (U.S.A.). He is a staff­per­son for the Advi­sory Com­mit­tee on Social Wit­ness Pol­icy. He earned his Mas­ter of Divin­ity from Prince­ton The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary (2011) and a Bach­e­lor of Arts in both Eng­lish and Clas­sics from Ohio Uni­ver­sity (2008). While at sem­i­nary, Patrick helped found ECOS: Envi­ron­men­tally Con­scious Orga­ni­za­tion of Seminarians.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Help PEC Till and Keep the Earth

Dear Friend of Creation,
Today we are more aware than ever of the effort that will be needed to call Presbyterians to the role for which all humanity was created, “to till and keep the earth.” (Genesis 2:15). 

In order to connect, equip and inspire members of the PC(USA) to make creation care a central concern of the church, your financial support for Presbyterians for Earth Care is vital. We therefore ask, during this holiday season with its focus on gratitude and giving, that you prayerfully consider a donation of any size.  

Here are some of our activities over the last year: 
  • Assisted the Eco-Stewards program to convene eight young adults in Boston and Vermont to learn about the ways the Occupy movement and Biblical and theological resources intersect in hands-on practical actions to protect and be nurtured by our relationship with the earth. 
  • Continued to build on our relationship with the denomination’s office of Environmental Ministries and its new Associate, Rebecca Barnes-Davies.
  • Began planning for our next conference at the Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center in Arkansas, October 16-19, 2013.
  • Continued to produce the PEC Update newsletter each quarter providing up-to-date news and information about earth care topics from around the denomination.
  • Coordinated advocacy efforts among our members for a multitude of earth care concerns such as the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and mountain top removal, among others.
  • Provided a presence at the church’s General Assembly in Pittsburgh to communicate with members about the urgency of these and other efforts. 
To build on these accomplishments, we continue to need your personal and financial support in order to reach out to Presbyterians across the country.  So much needs to be done now to protect the future of creation!

Please visit to make a donation today. 

 Yours in Earth Care,
 Diane Waddell
 PEC Moderator

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PEC's Advent Update is Here!

Download the entire Advent 2012 PEC Update here!

Dear Fellow Healers of Creation,

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3:4-6)
Hope is often the theme in the lighting of the first Advent candle, and it sets a tone of anticipation through the season. In this text for the first Sunday in Advent we hear words of anticipation as John the Baptist quotes from the prophet Isaiah.  We who seek the Christ also seek reassurance that our work in Earth caring will make the rough ways smoother and the crooked straighter.
The need for hope continues as seekers of Creation-healing, not only during Advent, but each day of Earth's journey around the sun.  A PEC journey of hope was ignited in 2011, when Dr. Bill Brown at our Highlands Conference reminded us that ‘Hope finds us’.  Uplifted, we have followed the path of seeking hopefulness in our recent Updates as well as in our collaboration with Patrick David Heery, editor of Unbound, An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Witness in the November/December issue. (We are very excited about our collaboration and invite you to follow this e-journal.) 

In September, I visited the Kansas prairie, a very grounding experience, to take the opportunity to hear speakers at the Land Institute’s Prairie Festival.  This year speakers included Wendell Berry, P. Sainath, and David Orr (presenting on “Down to the Wire: Discussing Climate Collapse.”) PEC's theme of hope resounded from the prairie.  "Pessimism is not what we need," Orr said, "nor is optimism. Neither will get us ‘anywhere.’" Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson agreed.  “It is hope that will carry us down these days of climate destabilization,” Orr said.
There was still something needed.  It all came together during a sermon when my pastor mentioned a quote (amazingly enough) from Wendell Berry, “It gets darker and darker, and then Jesus was born.”  She mentioned the radical hope that this quote had engendered for a woman in the midst of her own darkness. Yes!!!…radical John the Baptist, radical Christ (indeed) and now, what we need is radical hope...for Earth’s healing.  Amen.
In this Update, we recognize Earth Care Congregations (ECCs) and highlight the four areas of action in the program: worship, education, facilities, and outreach (including community involvement and public policy). We have asked representative ECCs to blend these earth-caring actions with the Advent message.  We honor as well all 97 current ECCs, as well as PEC member churches and the many groups and individuals who have continued to work steadfastly toward environmental and related social justice goals.

The peace and passion of Christ be with you.
 Yours in radical hope
 Diane Waddell
 Moderator, Presbyterians for Earth Care

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mark Your Calendar for PEC's 2013 Conference!

Dear Co-Caregivers of Creation,

The Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference Planning Team has been hard at work for months preparing for our 2013 conference, “Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred,” October 16-19, 2013.  Please put this on your calendars and highlight in green!

We are thrilled about our conference leadership, including both major presenters and workshop leaders. Our keynoter and ethicist is Larry Rasmussen, ThD, who is Reinhold Niebuhr Emeritus of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, New York City.  He is the author of numerous articles and books, including – just printed – Earth Honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key.  In this very meaningfully written resource, Larry argues that our spiritual and ecological ethic must be one which includes the well-being of all creation including our primal elements of earth, air, water, and fire. 

We are also excited to announce that the Rev. Neddy Astudillo, eco-theologian will be our worship leader and the Rev. Bryan McFarland, singer and social justice songwriter, will bring musical leadership.  Both are Presbyterian pastors and are passionate about earth care and related social justice.  

A pre-conference educational tour is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 16 and includes a tour of Heifer International Headquarters and the Clinton Library.  Both represent a commitment to sustainability.  On Friday there will be an opportunity to visit Heifer Ranch as well!

The conference will be held at Ferncliff Camp and Conference center in Little Rock, Arkansas, a beautiful 1200-acres site with a number of wonderfully sustainable features, which promises to be an excellent place for our gathering. Do check out Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center’s website at!

An official conference brochure will be available early in 2013 with information on how to register.  We are looking forward to seeing you at the conference! It will be deeply enriching with LOTS of information on how to go back to your church and community prepared to be a passionate advocate for our Sacred Earth.

 Yours in Sacred Living,
 Diane Waddell
 Presbyterians for Earth Care

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Meet the New PEC Coordinator!

Dear Earth Caretakers,
Hello, members and friends of Presbyterians for Earth Care.  My name is Elspeth Cavert and I am serving as the new PEC Coordinator.  I’m very glad to be filling this role for Presbyterians for Earth Care and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself!

I grew up in Minneapolis and was lucky to be able to spend my childhood enjoying Minnesota’s outdoors and developing a love for nature through bike rides along the Mississippi, skiing on city lakes, and taking trips to Lake Superior.  I stayed in Minnesota for college, and this past spring I graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul where I majored in Environmental Studies and Political Science.  My environmental studies classes led me to view environmental problems as social justice issues that we must commit to solving for the sake of the entire planet’s health and future.  In my time at Macalester, I also learned firsthand about the diverse ways that different organizations and individuals are beginning to address these issues.  I worked on projects researching air quality improvement, helped to create a college carbon neutrality plan, and taught environmental education classes to kids!

I hoped to continue working on environmental issues after college, so I was very excited when I was accepted into Lutheran Volunteer Corps (a year-long volunteer service program) and placed with the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Programs. My work for the National Council of Churches encompasses both my role as the PEC Coordinator as well as outreach and educational work on a variety of different environmental issues for the Eco-Justice Programs.  As Coordinator, I am managing PEC’s website, social media, email accounts, and mailings as well as doing other administrative work.
Though in the past I have mostly worked with secular environmental organizations, I am very excited and passionate about working with people of faith who are speaking out against the destruction of Creation.  I’m inspired by the voices of PEC and other faith groups who recognize and describe climate change, pollution and fossil-fuel based energy as morally wrong and contrary to God’s Creation.  I’m glad that I will be able to continue to receive this inspiration and help PEC’s Creation care efforts as I continue my work.  I also look forward to continuing to learn from everyone who is involved with PEC, and I encourage you to contact me at with any questions or concerns!
Thanks for all your Creation caring!
  Elspeth Cavert
  PEC Coordinator

Please Note: We forgot to include the music notation in our previous blog post about the "Let the Earth Breathe" song. We want to make sure everyone can enjoy this song and share it with their congregations, so we've updated the post with the link. You can also click here for the music!