Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Eve and Christmas Reflections

Going Deeper

Advent offers a counterbalance to our frantic lives.  It invites us to a darkening, quiet, reflective time.  It asks us to ponder with Mary the order of a disordered world.  With her we wonder why God picked that time and place to reach down and give birth to a new way of being?  Can we birth that hope again, this season, in a world gone mad with consumption?  Can we take one step away from the glitzy enticements of the season?  If you are reading this, it is a certainty that you have already taken many steps away from the things of this world.  Can we all go just a little deeper, no matter where we are in our advocacy?  Can we?  Somewhere deep inside us there is a voice that says “please”,  please put aside the frenzy.  Listen to the urging of that voice! Name one thing that will take you deeper into the season, and then go there.

We invite you to take a breath and feel the peace that the Prince of Peace wants each of us to have in honor of his coming. Six times you will be blessed with an advent reflection that we hope will take you deeper.  Let us journey together to Bethlehem.

CHRISTMAS EVE - Life-Bearing Darkness

Tonight, in many of our congregations, we will hear this well-known refrain from Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined” (Isa. 9:2). Here, at the end of advent, on the cusp of the emergence of divine life into the world, we turn to the image of divine light as a symbol of the mystery of incarnation. In the gospel of John, we read, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:9).

But what about the darkness? Divine life inhabits not just the light, but also the dark. In becoming so enamored of the light, we might very well miss the God who comes in the still of the night. In a season dripping with candles, stars, tree lights, and flashing neon sale signs, how can we find our way to that dark and quiet stable?

One of the many gifts of the nativity story is its insistence upon the dark as the site for incarnation. It was under the canopy of stars that Mary birthed the child, and that the shepherds and (eventually) the magi, too, found their way to the presence of God in the infant. It is upon a blanket of deep, rich, dark soil that this story unfolds. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, “Even in the dark, the seed sprouts and grows—we know not how—while God goes on giving birth to the truly human in Christ and in us.”

And so, to go deeper on this night demands an embrace of the dark, even in a culture that so conditions us to illumine every dark room, corner, plot of earth, and roadway. Going into that deep darkness is the only way we’ll ever see that star. We might associate darkness with melancholy, with grief, or with fear. And all of those things are surely present. But in ecological context, we also know the beauty of darkness: It represents the health of the soil, the generation of nutrients, and a posture of restraint and rest. To thrive, living things need darkness as much as they need light. The mystery of creation, whether a seedling or a human being, begins in deep darkness. A darkness that demands our attention, our gratitude, and our tending.

When I was around six or seven years old, I learned to fall in love with the dark quiet that enveloped our family as we made our way back home from the Christmas Eve worship service at the First Presbyterian Church of Asheboro, NC. The very same darkness that blanketed us when we took family camping trips subtly beckoned to us as we left worship on that night. Having lifted high our candles in the dim sanctuary during the third verse of “Silent Night,” we each blew out our candles, extinguishing the flame just before emerging into the crisp darkness of that sacred eve. Although the extinguishing of the flames is a rather practical matter, it might serve as an invitation to meet God in the darkness, if we are bold enough to accept it.

Like the shepherds, tonight we keep watch, wait, and finally make our way into the darkness, embracing it for the mysterious gifts it bears.

The Uses of Sorrow 
by Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

Jennifer Ayres is a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She currently serves as Assistant Professor of Religious Education at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Her book, Good Food: Grounded Practical Theology, was published by Baylor University Press in October 2013. Jennifer lives and gardens in Decatur, Georgia.

CHRISTMAS DAY - Let Heaven and Nature Sing!
Mary Treasured these Words and Pondered Them in her Heart (Luke 2:19)

As I moved my boat out of the brackish swamp into a freshwater stream to collect drinking water, a baby moose lay on the riverbank. It was perfectly framed in a bed of spring grass, its tiny body and disproportionately large eyes identifying it as a newborn. In that moment I was filled with wonder; I wanted to stop my little boat and just be with this marvel!

Every birth is a marvel. Yet on this Christmas Day we remember that the birth of Jesus was especially marvelous. Exalted angels combined with lowly shepherds to impart amazing news that is for everyone: the Savior was born! If Mary pondered these things in her heart, we should, too.

In its praise of God Psalm 139:13,15 shows that each of us is born from two mothers:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb...
My frame was not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
Intricately woven together in the depths of the earth.

In the birth of Jesus we humans see God’s communion with us, as Jesus was mysteriously “knit together in (Mary’s) womb.” And in the birth of Jesus we see God’s communion with all creation, as Jesus was mystically “made in secret, intricately woven together in the depths of the earth.” It is a marvel indeed!

Looking at that baby moose, I realized our relatedness—we were both creatures of God, intricately woven together in the depths of the earth. I also realized our common need for salvation—me from my sin, and this world from human-caused environmental collapse.

In Alaska, my home, ice is vanishing in astonishing fashion—vanishing from the polar seas, from the glaciers and from the permafrost of the ground. Animals that depend on ice are suffering, plants that depend on permafrost are suffering and people who, depend on the frozenness of the ground for food, home and livelihood, are losing it all.

Yet it is to us, a broken world and a broken people, that good tidings comes. In Jesus’ birth God proclaimed God’s relatedness to all creation, including humanity. In Jesus God took action to save us from the sin, which alienates us from God and from our fellow creatures. Because of God’s communion with us all, there is a living hope in Jesus Christ.

Indeed, in due time Mary’s baby will grow up. And Jesus will tell us that we really have a third mother: we will discover ourselves to be born yet again, born of the Spirit this time, called and empowered to live into a new way of being human for the good of this whole earth.

“Let heaven and nature sing!”

Oh God, you have birthed a world that produced the blue of the ice, the fire of the aurora, and the thriving, music-like rhythm that is life. Today, in Jesus you are born to us. Touch us, we pray, with your salvation and your vision for abundant life.

Rev. Curt Karns is a life-long Alaskan, who currently serves as executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Yukon. Rev. Karns and his wife, Cindee live in an experimental, eco-friendly bioshelter, and operate the Alaskan Permaculture Learning Center. In September of 2014 the Yukon Presbyterians for Earthcare are hosting an Eco-Tour For Presbyterians to see the four signs of global warming readily visible in Alaska: vanishing glaciers, vanishing sea ice, permafrost melt, and affects on flora and fauna (including people).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fourth Week of Advent: Holy Spirit and Fire

Going Deeper

Advent offers a counterbalance to our frantic lives.  It invites us to a darkening, quiet, reflective time.  It asks us to ponder with Mary the order of a disordered world.  With her we wonder why God picked that time and place to reach down and give birth to a new way of being?  Can we birth that hope again, this season, in a world gone mad with consumption?  Can we take one step away from the glitzy enticements of the season?  If you are reading this, it is a certainty that you have already taken many steps away from the things of this world.  Can we all go just a little deeper, no matter where we are in our advocacy?  Can we?  Somewhere deep inside us there is a voice that says “please”,  please put aside the frenzy.  Listen to the urging of that voice! Name one thing that will take you deeper into the season, and then go there.

We invite you to take a breath and feel the peace that the Prince of Peace wants each of us to have in honor of his coming. Six times you will be blessed with an advent reflection that we hope will take you deeper.  Let us journey together to Bethlehem.

Matthew 3:11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15 But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 11:2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"

Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit and Fire?  I imagine that most of you who are reading this have been baptized with water, but have you been baptized "with the Holy Spirit and fire?"  John the Baptist announces the coming of a powerful one who will baptize "with the Holy Spirit and fire."  And this one – proclaims John – will burn up that which is "chaff" with "unquenchable fire."

Matthew of course tells us that the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire is Jesus.   John it seems is not so sure.  John, who has been imprisoned by King Herod, hears about the strange ways of Jesus.  Jesus has been opening the eyes of the blind, healing the sick, and raising the dead.  And Jesus has been teaching things like this, "Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth," and this, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  John hears about these strange doings and teachings, and sends a disciple to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"   In other words – Jesus, are you the Messiah or not?   In other words, John doesn't think that rescuing the wounded and teaching love of enemy are Messiah-worthy doings and teachings.  You can understand why John might not be interested in "loving his enemies," enemies like King Herod, and why John might be more interested in seeing King Herod become some of that burning chaff.

Jesus it appears is heading in a different direction than John had anticipated.  Jesus, who has himself been baptized with water, fire, and the Holy Spirit, is being propelled by those baptisms into a God worshiping, people and earth rescuing, life.  Those baptisms and that life will lead Jesus inevitably, inexorably to the cross.  It appears that God's judgment (surely God's judgment is what John envisions in the baptism with fire) it appears that God's judgment may not look so much like a man of violence burned up as chaff, but maybe God's judgment looks more a man of peace hanging on a cross.  Jesus chose to live a life of self-giving love in confrontation with those who practiced self-serving violence and greed.  It was a life that took him to a judgment on a cross.  And was it not a life and death with which God was well pleased and honored with resurrection?
I don't know about you, but I have to confess – My natural inclination is to go with John the Baptist.  Burning the chaff sounds like a good idea to me.

And as a candidate for chaff – How about the fossil fuel industry and their efforts to keep us on a path that may well lead to catastrophic consequences for the earth and its people?  Although once that fire got going where would it stop?  What would the industry be without customers?  I'm beginning to feel a little warm.  Maybe the way of Jesus has some merit – seeking to convert rather than destroy.   Divestment might be a strategy Jesus would use. For one who has definitely been baptized with water, and so possibly also with the Holy Spirit and fire, maybe this Advent season would be a good time to begin working to put that fossil fuel divestment overture before my Presbytery.

Jesus you have baptized us with water, the Holy Spirit, and fire so that we can walk in the way of the cross confronting violence and greed with the power of self-giving love.  Help me so to walk as I serve God by caring for the earth and its people. Amen.

This week's reflection was written by Dana Eglinton, the pastor of Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, in Springfield, New Jersey, who serves on the PEC steering committee as the Northeast Regional Representative.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Your PEC Winter Update is Here!

Moderator's Message from the Winter Update:

Winter greetings to the PEC and larger Earthcare community,

It is a gift to be in true community, whether the community be close or distant physically. It is good to be together as companions concerned about Creation…about environmental, economic, and social justice.

Being together as a body at the “Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred” conference was mu-tually enhancing in our passion for ministry individually and collectively. I am so grateful for or-ganizers, leaders, participants…all who were a part of this experience. Larry Rasmussen’s message in person and through his printed works, including Earth Honoring Faith, embraces the mystical, the sacred/sacramental, the prophetic and that which is wisdom-seeking in working toward a flourishing social order and Earth community.

In and through all this work (called the Great Work, according to Thomas Berry), the individual and community work in partnership…with the living elements of creation. We are whole, together.

Both Larry and I are fans of (the late) Thomas Berry, PhD, a member of the Passionist Order. From the book, The Forsaken Garden by Nancy Ryley, Berry states, “We have to learn to live in the universe on its terms, instead of ours. But we have a long way to go before we learn how to restructure every human task and every human institution until they function in a harmonious relationship with the requirements of the planet…A return to the mystique of the Earth, to the dynamism and wisdom of the natural world, is a primary necessity if we are ever to establish a mutually enhancing human presence on the planet…Only in [the experience of sensing the world as sacred] will we obtain the insight and the energy we need to alter our commitment to ab-solute devastation of the Earth in search of economic gain.”

Strength and wisdom to all as we work toward justice and equity individually and collectively,

Diane Waddell
Presbyterians for Earth Care


Prayer for All of Creation:

Heaven and earth are full of your glory, O God!
How can we not stop and praise you for the wonders you bestow?
You give us community through our passion to care for your earth.
You give us minds to explore the intricacies of nature,
and hearts to marvel at how all things intertwine to form the whole.
You bless us with the joy of laughter shared,
the willingness to reveal our weaknesses,
the strength to overcome seemingly formidable odds.
How can we not embrace the gift of your image dwelling within to form our souls?
How can we not dedicate our strivings toward the line you set for us?
And so Creator God, we seek to reflect the love of your Son in a world gone mad,
to witness that handing over our lives is the key to true life;
through the vision you grant in the night sky we see what can be.
May our efforts never be in vain, gracious God, for we take our bearings from you;
shepherd us for the journey ahead and we will not wander with you behind us.
Great is our God,
compassion and restoration,
forgiveness and reconciliation leading the way,
until that time when heaven and earth shall be one
and all creation shall be full of peace, and your glory revealed.

Contributed by Paul Henschen, PEC Representative for the Midwest Region

A special thanks to Abby Mohaupt, our Editor for compiling and producing our Winter Update!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Third Week of Advent: A Time for Preparation

Going Deeper

Advent offers a counterbalance to our frantic lives.  It invites us to a darkening, quiet, reflective time.  It asks us to ponder with Mary the order of a disordered world.  With her we wonder why God picked that time and place to reach down and give birth to a new way of being?  Can we birth that hope again, this season, in a world gone mad with consumption?  Can we take one step away from the glitzy enticements of the season?  If you are reading this, it is a certainty that you have already taken many steps away from the things of this world.  Can we all go just a little deeper, no matter where we are in our advocacy?  Can we?  Somewhere deep inside us there is a voice that says “please”,  please put aside the frenzy.  Listen to the urging of that voice! Name one thing that will take you deeper into the season, and then go there.

We invite you to take a breath and feel the peace that the Prince of Peace wants each of us to have in honor of his coming. Six times you will be blessed with an advent reflection that we hope will take you deeper.  Let us journey together to Bethlehem.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him. (Luke 1:17)

Advent: A Time for Preparation
Our pastor recently suggested “Joyous Advent” as a post-Thanksgiving greeting.  Coupled with his suggestion was a reminder that our preparation and celebration leading up to Christmas day is equally important as our celebration of the day itself.

Ironically, the frenzy of the preparation often overshadows the event for which we prepare and causes us to lose sight of what it is all about.  Sadly, this is often the case during what should be a joyous celebration of the Savior’s birth. Many of the activities of preparation on which we choose to spend our time and resources– though not necessarily bad in and of themselves– are also the things that not only drain our joy, energy and wallets but also place a greater strain on Creation:  Think of the tons of wrapping paper produced for a single use most of which will likely end up in a landfill and the obligatory gifts – many of which will likely go unused if not returned.  Or the annual harvesting of evergreen trees that have taken years to reach maturity only to be enjoyed for a few short weeks before being discarded.  Then there’s the exhaust-emitting traffic and crowded malls that inspire moods that are anything but joyous.

I must admit that the pressure that our culture – and even our own families – put on us to engage in the frenzy is often difficult to resist.  I love to lavish family and friends with special – and sometimes impractical - gifts but often have to be reminded that it really is “the thought that counts” not the amount of money spend or the miles driven (or the carbon emitted).

Though not a faith-based organization, The Center for the New American Dream has published a guide called “Simplify the Holidays” that provides many meaningful ways to have more fun with less stuff during this season (  Those of us who revere this holy time of year as more than a secularized observation of consumerism have all the more reason to refocus our time and energy in ways that keep “Christ in Christmas.”

This year our family’s Advent preparation has paralleled our preparation for our move to Uganda next summer where we have been called to serve in ministry.  Our impending move has helped clarify and inform how we spend our time and resources before we leave and especially our decisions regarding what we buy for Christmas.  The adage “you can’t take it with you” takes on a different meaning when considering what presents we exchange this month are practical to ship to Africa next year.  It is also a good concept to keep in mind on a regular basis when making choices about how to spend our time, energy and money.

I believe we honor the Creator and the spirit of the season more deeply by focusing less on the superficial and temporal trappings and instead lavishing those we love with the intangible fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (and yes) self control”(Gal. 5:22) when tempted to engage in the frenzy of the season.

Lord God, Help us to keep the season holy by avoiding the cultural excesses that can so easily consume us by focusing our minds and hearts on the gift of Jesus, in whose name we pray.

This week's reflection was written by Paul Homeyer, PEC SW Region Steering Committee Member Representative.  Paul is an Elder at First Presbyterian Church of Houston.  Professionally, he is an architect specializing in Historic Preservation and Adaptive Reuse and Sustainable Design.

Friday, December 6, 2013

'We Three Trees of NYC Are' - Advent Week 2

Going Deeper

Advent offers a counterbalance to our frantic lives.  It invites us to a darkening, quiet, reflective time.  It asks us to ponder with Mary the order of a disordered world.  With her we wonder why God picked that time and place to reach down and give birth to a new way of being?  Can we birth that hope again, this season, in a world gone mad with consumption?  Can we take one step away from the glitzy enticements of the season?  If you are reading this, it is a certainty that you have already taken many steps away from the things of this world.  Can we all go just a little deeper, no matter where we are in our advocacy?  Can we?  Somewhere deep inside us there is a voice that says “please”,  please put aside the frenzy.  Listen to the urging of that voice! Name one thing that will take you deeper into the season, and then go there.

We invite you to take a breath and feel the peace that the Prince of Peace wants each of us to have in honor of his coming. Six times you will be blessed with an advent reflection that we hope will take you deeper.  Let us journey together to Bethlehem.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15

One of the most famous trees (though it is a different one each year) in the country, is the one that is displayed each year in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan throughout the Christmas season. This year a roughly 75 year old, 76-foot-tall Norway Spruce has the “honor.” It is 46 feet in diameter, and weighs 12 tons!  No doubt it was a thing of beauty to behold in its natural setting. And hopefully at least some who see it will still be inspired with visions of eternal life that have historically been the reason we turn to evergreens for this purpose.

But its natural beauty is to be shrouded with approximately 45,000 multi-colored twinkling LED lights, and topped with a “breathtaking” Swarovski crystal star that is 9.5 feet in diameter, and weighs in at 550 pounds!  Talk about “guilding the lily!”  One wonders whether this once beautiful symbol of eternal life has now become instead a symbol of commodification of nature for profit.
A second, and more recently famous tree is actually immortalized in a bronze sculpture of the roots of a Sycamore tree that once stood in the historic cemetery of St. Paul’s Chapel. The tree had been knocked over by debris from the Twin Towers on 9-11but missed all the gravestones and chapel. Called “Trinity Root” by its creator, Steve Tobin, it is installed on the grounds of Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church.
In the description which accompanies the sculpture, the artist speaks of how the connected tendrils of the tree’s roots are akin to the network of human interconnections which helped the city to survive the terrible events of 9-11. It is this kind of Human interconnection that will become the basis for the hoped for Peaceable Kingdom toward which all creation groans in travail.

The third tree is a Callery Pear tree found on the site of the Ground Zero memorial. Known as the Survivor Tree, it has a truly dramatic story of survival. Planted at the eastern edge of the original World Trade Center plaza in the 1970s, workers found it damaged and “reduced to an eight-foot-tall stump” in the wreckage at Ground Zero. It was moved to a New York City park and nurtured back to health – that’s 32 feet tall! But then it was blown over in a 2010 wind storm and yet, once more survived to be brought back and restored to the memorial site in time to survive Hurricane Irene’s 40 mph gusts.

The message of these three trees seems to be this:  that the same human beings who are capable of cutting down one tree in the name of honoring beauty and faith for the purpose of profit,  we can also join together to help another  one survive.  As we yearn through the season of Advent for the coming “not yet” peaceable kingdom, we have the “always already” presence of the resurrected Christ among us to show us the way to being the stewards we were created to be.

In Mary Oliver’s poem titled “When I Am Among the Trees” her last verse seems to capture the essence of our takeaway as the trees call out to her: “It’s simple … and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”

O Lord of trees -- from the smallest shrub to the giant sequoia; from the garden of Eden at the beginning of our story to the Celestial City of Revelation at the end -- help us to make a straight path in the wilderness of our world by learning to weave among and care for the trees of our earth. Amen

This week's entry was written by Fred Milligan, a PC(USA) pastor who serves on the PEC steering committee. A former Associate for Stewardship Education with the GAMC, Fred currently provides stewardship consulting services through The Generous Steward Consulting as well as serving as an Interim Pastor at the Newtown Presbyterian Church, in Newtown, Pa.

Monday, December 2, 2013

First Week of Advent

Advent Blessings
So soon?  Wasn’t advent just last … 
But, no.  Here we are again, caught up in the imperatives of our living and yet looking at the craziness of cramming shopping, parties and family visits into a life that is too full.  Birthday!  There is no time for that this month.  Oh, that’s right.  The season is about a day of birth.
We invite you to take a breath and feel the peace that the Prince of Peace wants each of us to have in honor of his coming. Six times you will be blessed with an advent reflection that we hope you can enter into.  Let us journey together to Bethlehem.


Sunday, December 1, 2013, the First Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Scripture: Psalm 122:1­9
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    “Let’s go to the LORD’s house!”
Now our feet are standing
    in your gates, Jerusalem!
Jerusalem is built like a city
    joined together in unity.
That is where the tribes go up—
    the LORD’s tribes!
It is the law for Israel
    to give thanks there to the LORD’s name,
    because the thrones of justice are there—
    the thrones of the house of David!
Pray that Jerusalem has peace:
    “Let those who love you have rest.
    Let there be peace on your walls;
    let there be rest on your fortifications.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
    I say, “Peace be with you, Jerusalem.”
For the sake of the LORD our God’s house
    I will pray for your good.

Now our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem!
There is something about place—particular places, really—that bring us closer to God. I love that this passage reminds us about the holiness of the City of God—a place of justice and love and peace and rest. As we enter into this season of Advent, we so often get caught up in the bustle of things and we get pulled away from the places where we feel God.

We so often find ourselves surrounded by stores and more things to buy—pulled away from the beauty of creation in this season of hope. And there IS hope in this season as we wait for the Christ who came once long ago and who will come again, bringing the good news that God loves us and all creation. I want to spend this time of hope in places that make me feel that God is near. So, I’m avoiding places that distract from looking for justice and love and peace and rest this year. I’m hiking around the foothills of Northern California to look down onto the city where I feel God and praying.

Peace be with you, Jerusalem.

God of hope and light and life… help us find peace in this bustling season. Help us find places of rest and help us love each other as we wait for the Promised One. Thank you for the places to which you’ve called us and help us find you there. In the name of the One for whom we wait, Amen.

 This week is presented by Rev. Abby Mohaupt.  She is the Pastoral Resident at First Presbyterian Church Palo Alto in Northern California. She loves running and spending time with her partner, Nathan, and their three cats.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Larry Rasmussen's Conference Contribution

These notes were compiled by Karen Bennett, a former Volunteer in Mission for the Presbyterian Church and 35-year member of the Sierra Club and Bread for the World.  Karen holds an M.A. in French from Middlebury College and attends Jacksonville Presbyterian Church in Bordentown, NJ.  She is also active on Mission and Earth Care committees.

At the Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference, held in Little Rock, AR: from Oct. 16-19, 2013, the theme of "Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred" was led in Plenary sessions by Larry Rasmussen, ThD, who focused on “Earth-Honoring Faith.” He reflected on how the sacred and creation intersect.
Sacred traditions were organized by the following dichotomies:
  • asceticism vs. consumerism (the simple life offers an alternative to the consuming spirit of desire)
  • sacred vs. commodified (sacramental ethics views life as a shared commons, contrasting against a commodity ethics)
  • mysticism vs. alienation (classic mystical experience is that humankind belongs to the "all". Alienation is resolved by all things communing with God.
  • prophetic/liberative practices vs. oppression (Justice is at center of Christian life with the prophet's vision of a redeemed creation. Contrast this with evil and injustice from a violated creation and mal-distributions of power
  • wisdom vs. folly (all wisdom traditions counter the negative forces in our lives and in creative order and deal with universal religious and cultural traditions.

What is sacred? David Gushee defines it as "something common lifted up and set apart, with elevated rank" Greta Van Wieren in Restored to Earth believes violating the sacred is a serious sin and often a crime.  The ecological virtues for restoring us and the earth also include a list of 5-"R"s:
-Reverence, Respect, Restraint, Redistribution, Responsibility, and Renewal.
What kind of communities are needed for ethical earth-care?  Dr. Erin Biviano's research on congregational environmentalism found the following elements necessary for environmental activism:
  • adequate level of scientific literacy (when the knowledge gap is devoid of science, religious environmentalism has very little purchase)
  • multiple interdependencies (everything belongs and should have a life- living up or down stream- creation is seamless and recycles everything)
    • social and economic (20% of San Francisco air pollution is from China)
    • ecological
    • spiritual (moral and spiritual issues-kinship and family-the homeless at a church shelter who have names – everything belongs and should have a life)
  • moral heat of social justice (-among the most identified and influential among religious environmentalists- focused on poor people and the love of the present, future, near, far, animate and inanimate neighbor- The human poor and the earth as the new poor, here social justice expands to become creation justice. 
  • the discovery of a bigger God (making green spirituality the broader platform for moral globalization.  We must gather 13.8 billion years of religious environmentalism).

Final reflections, regarded having the "green blues" or environmental melancholia. How do Christians cope with irreversible climate change?  We are charged with leading people through grief and loss, trying to keep nature sacred.  We should work for the whole earth and not focus on single environmental campaigns.

Divestment! It's for you!

Dear friends,
You may have been hearing the term divestment a lot recently.  Divestment from fossil fuels is increasingly up for discussion in many institutions, especially houses of worship.
PEC membership, at our annual meeting at Ferncliff on Oct 18, voted enthusiastically to support the work of PCUSA Fossil-Free (PCUSA Divest). 
We encourage you to talk with your General Assembly commissioners about divestment and begin a conversation in your congregation and presbytery.
We will share our booth at General Assembly with PCUSA Fossil Free and will work to encourage the work of and PCUSA Fossil-Free.
Divest & Reinvest Now! is GreenFaith’s campaign to support fossil fuel divestment and reinvestment in a clean energy future by faith communities. Presbyterians for Earth Care is a proud co-sponsor of this campaign!

Here are two great ways to engage members of your faith community and introduce them to this growing movement:
  • Offer a sermon on fossil fuel divestment and clean energy reinvestment.
  • Have a discussion on the topic with your members.

To help you get started, GreenFaith provides free sermon tips and discussion materials on the topic.
They'll also give you a free copy of Moral Ground:  a new collection of writings on religion and the Earth.  Simplyrequest your free copy by sending GreenFaith the date of your sermon or discussion.
On top of that, GreenFaith is offering two prizes of $250:  one prize for the best sermon, and one for the best discussion, on fossil fuel divestment and clean energy reinvestment.  GreenFaith will announce the winners and runners-up on June 15, 2014, World Environment Day.

Presbyterians for Earth Care is a proud co-sponsor of the Divest & Reinvest Now Campaign's initiative to promote sermons and discussions by faith communities on divestment and reinvestment!
It’s time to step forward.  Schedule a sermon or discussion today, and invite members of your wider community to attend. 

When it comes to the planet’s future, this is a key moment.  Will your faith community rise to the occasion?

Diane Waddell and Sue Smith
PEC Moderator & Treasurer
Dear Lord,
Bless and energize each of us as we find our voices, speak our terrible truths, and humbly lay hands to the work that will mend what we have done to your good earth.  Send us your prophets who will speak to our fossil fuel misuse.  Forgive us for our overindulgence in carbon.  Let us remember that it is you  who are the light of the world—not our human created bulbs shining from a million sockets. 
Thank you, dear God for your words, given each week to congregations across our land.  Give us ears to hear “what the spirit is saying to the church today”.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Upcoming Overtures!

Dear Friends, 
Presbyterians for Earth Care is looking toward GA 2014 and encourages your involvement in overtures related to environmental and social justice issues. There are 
at least four such overtures in various stages of the approval. Three are in need of a concurring presbytery, and I invite you to review these overtures and respond to the initiating presbytery contact if you are interested. (The concurring presbytery does not have to use the same rationale, just the main overture statement.)
Heartland Presbytery is in the process of submitting two overtures: 
1.Sustainable Development:  The Precautionary Principle (the principle of ‘forecaring’.)  affirms the vital importance of an ethic of responsible and moral development of consumer products.  If governments/societies used the Precautionary Principle as a guide, the burden of proof of the safety of products coming to consumers would shift to the developer or corporation before the product is sent to the public.   Concerns most specifically relate to Genetically Modified crops, toxic chemicals, and products of nanotechnology.  Currently if a product comes to the public which is harmful, the burden of proving the harm is placed upon the individual or group in the public realm harmed.  This overture "affirms the Sacred in societal and Creation care, protecting the Earth for future generations." Read about Sustainable Development
2.Food Sovereignty for All  affirms the vital importance of Food Sovereignty, in which people are able to educate and empower themselves to manage their own food (and water) systems in a culturally appropriate and sustainable way, leading toward a just, peaceful, and sustainable world. This overture addresses hunger issues, unequal distribution of food and monetary wealth, water rights, land grabs, possible challenges brought by corporations, and Fair Trade (with definite concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement). Read about Food Sovereignty for All
The Presbytery of Seattle is submitting an overture regarding  Coal Exports to Asia. This overture would be  “to affirm the decision of civil authorities to conduct a full, programmatic review and assessment of the impact of expanded coal export projects in Washington and Oregon on human health and the well-being of communities along the Northwest rail lines.”  Read about the Presbytery of Seattle's overture 
Additionally, PC(USA) Divest is furthering its overture on Fossil-Free PCUSA and although it does have concurring presbyteries, is looking to add to that number. PEC voted in our annual membership meeting to support their position and overture!  We will be sharing our booth at GA and encourage you as individuals, 
congregation, and presbytery to research and support Fossil-Free PCUSA!! Read about this overture here.
 PC(USA) has information on how to submit  and concur with an overture.  If you have questions or comments and/or would be interested in concurring with an overture, please contact the PEC coordinator, Tricia, who will forward your email. 
Strength, courage and wisdom as we care for this Sacred Earth,
Diane Waddell
Earthkeepers of Heartland Presbytery
Presbyterians for Earth Care

Creator God,
Give us the passion to carry forward to our governing bodies the words so carefully crafted in these overtures. Give us the energy to change how we think of energy, food and protection from corporate negligence. Help us to put attention on these four overtures thatawaken us to deep places of pain on this gift we call Earth.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Award Winners Announced!


As you are reading this, 100 Presbyterians are gathering at Ferncliff Camp in Little Rock, Arkansas for the PEC's national conference "Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred." These dedicated stewards of the earth are spending three days learning about creation care as well as taking time to worship the Creator.

One piece of this conference is the presentation of the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award.  This award is named for Bill Gibson who shaped the Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice policy that was adopted by the Presbyterian denomination in 1990. Individuals receive the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award and congregations, governing bodies, ecumenical agencies, and Presbyterian-related entities receive Restoring Creation Awards for environmental work that is particularly praise-worthy and innovative.  

PEC will honor Rev. David Gill and Solar Under The Sun (SUTS) at its Annual Meeting on October 18 at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center. PEC will present the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award to David Gill and the Restoring Creation Award to SUTS. 

David Gill, Executive Director of Ferncliff Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center, is an original organizer and Board member of Solar under the Sun. Since 1997, Rev. Gill has steadily led Ferncliff to be one of the most sustainable camp/ conference centers in the country. Under Gill’s leadership and direction, Ferncliff built an entirely new youth camp with geo-thermal for heating/cooling and the recently completed Eco Center that will serve as a center for creation care and the home for the SUTS Solar School. Ferncliff also transports guests around the 1200 acre camp in a 14-passenger solar electric vehicle and uses a truck that runs on cooking oil.

Solar Under the Su
n is a Presbyterian-related organization whose mission is to illumine our fellow human beings with hope and life through solar energy.  SUTS is a ministry of Synod of the Sun that trains volunteers to design and install solar power systems in partnership with communities that lack reliable electrical power.  This organization is now establishing solar at a rate of almost two installations per month.  In the past four years, SUTS completed nine training sessions, trained 191 missioners, and conducted 50 solar mission outreaches in three countries: Haiti, Ukraine and Kenya. Chris McRae, Executive Director, will accept the award for Solar Under the Sun.

Since 1997, Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) has annually given awards to recognize individuals and organizations for their forward thinking and leadership in caring for God's creation.  

PEC Coordinator

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Meet the New PEC Coordinator Tricia!

Hello Caretakers of Creation!

My name is Tricia Bruckbauer and I am the new PEC Coordinator for this year, so I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself.

I am from a small town in Washington State right near Mt. Rainier.  I just graduated from Gonzaga University in May where I majored in Communications and minored in Sociology and Religious Studies.  I enjoy traveling, baking, Gonzaga basketball, board games, and am a self-proclaimed National Park “junkie”.  My parents are both from Montana so between Big Sky Country, Mt. Rainier National Park in my backyard, and a minivan, I was fortunate to be able to see a lot of the country’s wild places growing up.

I moved to the other Washington in August as a part of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps.  My placement for the year is with Creation Justice Ministries (CJM), and part of that position includes coordinating the efforts of PEC.  As Coordinator, I am managing PEC’s website, social media, email accounts, and mailings as well as doing other administrative work.  Alongside PEC, the main focus of my time with CJM will be public lands issues and matters of preserving God’s creation.  Growing up in the West, I have come to appreciate wilderness and what it does for the mind, body, and soul.  I am very passionate about land conservation and making sure that the areas we enjoy today will be around for future generations to enjoy tomorrow.

I was raised in the Lutheran Church and stewardship of the land has always been part of my understanding of how I interact with nature.  I am looking forward to working with people just as passionate about Creation as I am as we address the multitude of environmental issues that plague our cities, states, country and planet.  Just in my first few weeks on the job, I have experienced the love that PEC members have for the earth and have admired the hard work and determination that is invaluable to the environmental movement.  As people of faith, we have a vital role to play in restoring, caring for, and preserving God’s creation and I look forward to joining you in this journey.


Holy One,
We thank you the gift of this passionate woman who has come to keep us focused, decent, and orderly.  We pray that she will find expansive time to explore her gifts and passions over this coming year.  Bless us as we seek to know and nurture this young woman and her four-footed companion.  May we, together, seek to amend how we have been in this world.  Let us find better ways of journeying with your creation.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Update on all things PEC!

Dear friends,
"We belong to the earth far more than it can ever belong to us. We—God, humankind, and the earth—are tied together. We have no life apart from this Trinitarian interdependency and we are called to care for the earth as if we are caring for ourselves and our Creator. The health and well being of one—be it God or humanity or the planet—is dependent on the health and well being of the others."
These were the words of my friend, the Rev. Jay McKell at a gathering of environmentally-minded people this spring at Village Presbyterian Church of Heartland Presbytery in Kansas. "We are to have dominion in the manner that God has dominion over us. In other words we are to heal, to help, to teach, to guide, to inspire, to create, and above all else, to love." Amen.

There is MUCH going on in creation-justice work. General Assembly is scheduled for June 14-21, 2014, in Detroit, and PEC is working to support social and environmental justice overtures. Beginning this General Assembly, overtures brought forward by a Presbytery will need another Presbytery to concur with the main overture statement, although the rationale can be different. Please see Holly's article, 'Upcoming Environmental Overtures' on page 4 regarding current overtures, and reply to our PEC coordinator if you are interested in more information about any of these upcoming overtures.
We welcome our new coordinator, Tricia Bruckbauer. PEC contracts with Creation Justice Ministries (formerly NCC Eco-Justice) as we share a staff member, a fellow from the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. (See Tricia’s brief bio on page 6.)
We are looking forward to a very meaningful PEC conference at Ferncliff in Little Rock Arkansas, October 16-19. The theme for the conference is Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred. Elspeth Cavert, our previous PEC coordinator, has accepted the position of conference coordinator. She joins a team of visionaries, musicians, and prophets to lead us in a wonderful experience in sharing our passion and expanding our vision in Creation Care.
Please be in touch with us regarding your work in earth care as we join together "to heal, to help, to teach, to guide, to inspire, to create, and above all else, to love" this beautiful gift of creation.  Feel free to check out the entire Fall update here!
Peace and passion,
Diane Waddell, Moderator. Presbyterians for Earth Care

Holy One, you are the page and the ink! You are the mystery and the reason for our organization/organizing. May we listen to your urgings. May we delight in your creation! Most of all may we be servants of Christ and stewards of all your wonders.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

PEC Annual Meeting – October 18

Dear PEC Members and Friends,
Each year, PEC has an annual meeting where we report to our membership and present items that require a vote by the membership. This year’s meeting will be on October 18 at the PEC Conference, Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred
At this meeting we will be confirming the election of the new Southeast Regional Representative to the Steering Committee, Paul Homeyer, and presenting the Bill Gibson Award and the Restoring Creation Award to this year’s winners. The membership will also be voting on amendments to the PEC bylaws that were approved by the Steering Committee at its July meeting.  
The bylaws require the membership to be notified at least 15 days before the vote. The following amendments will be voted on by the membership at the PEC Annual Meeting at Ferncliff Conference Center on October 18.  
  • The Steering Committee election will be conducted electronically in addition to a mailed written ballot prior to the Annual Meeting.  
  • The Annual Meeting will be conducted at the Steering Committee’s Annual Retreat. 
  • An Executive Committee, made up of the Moderator, Vice-Moderator, and Treasurer will have full authority to act for the Steering Committee in managing the affairs of the organization between meetings of the Steering Committee.
  • A provision for the Steering Committee to fill a vacancy on the Committee, by appointing a successor to serve the remainder of the vacating Director’s term has been added.  The Steering Committee may also authorize the Moderator to make interim appointments to fill vacancies. Any person appointed to fill a vacancy on the Steering Committee will hold that office until the Annual Meeting at which the successor is elected and assumes office.  
  • The Nominating Committee will be approved by the Steering Committee instead of being elected by the Membership. The Membership will still vote on the slate of nominees. 
  • A quorum will consist of one-half of the Steering Committee members. 

To view all the changes and edits to the bylaws see the blackline document.
Looking forward to seeing you at the Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Caring for God’s Creation,
Jane Laping
PEC Vice Moderator

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Extended Early Bird Deadline for PEC's Conference!

Dear Friends,

PEC's 2013 Conference, "Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred", is coming up fast, but there is still plenty of time to register! In fact, we are excited to announce that the early bird registration deadline has been extended to August 31st in order to give more people time to register at a discounted rate. Our full conference brochure is available here, and includes a schedule, descriptions of the inspiring worship and engaging workshops and much more. Click here to register for the conference today! 

We also encourage you to submit nominations for PEC's 2013 Awards before September 1st. If you are a PEC member, please click here to nominate an awardee. PEC honors individuals whose Creation care work deserves recognition with the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. Our Restoring Creation Award is given to faith-based organizations such as congregations, governing bodies, ecumenical agencies, and other Presbyterian-related groups in recognition of praise-worthy environmental work. These awards will both be presented at the conference, so don't forget to submit your nomination by September 1st! 

We hope to see you at the conference!

Elspeth Cavert
PEC Conference Coordinator

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Changes Ahead for PEC Coordinator

Dear Creation Caretakers,

This is an exciting time of transition and new beginnings for Presbyterians for Earth Care and the wider Creation care community. Throughout the past year, I have served as coordinator for Presbyterians for Earth Care, as part of my Lutheran Volunteer Corps year working with the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches. As my year comes to a close, the new incoming Lutheran Volunteer will be transitioning into the role of coordinator in late August. 

Throughout my year as coordinator I have been inspired by the passion and enthusiasm that members and friends of PEC have for the hard but necessary work of protecting the earth. Though this work may seem frustrating or slow-going at times, I have seen this year that by framing issues of climate change, extractive industries and toxic pollution in moral terms, PEC is adding voices to a growing chorus and laying the foundation for progress on these crucial issues. 

Though my time as PEC coordinator is coming to an end, I will continue to work with PEC as conference coordinator for the upcoming 2013 Conference “Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred." I am looking forward to the engaging presentations, speakers and activities that are planned for this conference. If you haven’t already done so, click here to sign up for the conference! The early bird registration deadline is August 15th, so there are just two days left to register at a discounted rate!
This is also a season of change for the Eco-Justice Program. After three decades of Earth care ministry, it is spinning off to form its own separate organization, Creation Justice Ministries.  Creation Justice Ministries will continue to be dedicated to the same goal of protecting God’s Earth and God’s people by providing education and public witness through annual Earth Day resources, webinars, and other Creation care activities and resources for congregations! Please click here to visit the new Creation Justice Ministries website!

Elspeth Cavert
PEC Coordinator

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Get Ready for PEC's 2013 Conference!

Dear Friends,

As the October 16-19 date for PEC’s Annual Conference gets closer, there are two things you can do to get ready:
1. Register early and save $25 per person.
2. Make a nomination or two for PEC’s annual awards.

The early bird registration deadline for PEC’s Annual Conference “Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred” is August 15. If you register after that date but by September 30, registration will increase from $225 to $250 per person. After September 30, registration is $275 – if there are any places left!

At the conference, PEC will present two awards: the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award and the Restoring Creation Award. If you are a member of PEC, you are invited to nominate awardees. Individuals whose faith-based work for the environment deserves recognition receive the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award. Faith-based organizations including congregations, governing bodies, ecumenical agencies, and Presbyterian-related entities receive the Restoring Creation Award for environmental work that is particularly praise-worthy. We generally look for award nominees within the Presbytery or general region where the conference is held. This year’s conference is in Little Rock, AR.

If you are not a member of PEC you can join today. Then go to the nomination form and fill it out with your favorite awardee. The nomination deadline is September 1.

Don’t forget to register for the Conference by the early bird deadline of August 15.

Caring for God’s Creation,
Jane Laping
PEC Vice Moderator

Holy One,
You are always inviting us to come closer, listen more deeply and make joyful noise. You gift us with your assurance that where two or more of us gather you will be present.  Thank you for gathering us together to confer, to grow and to strengthen our commitment to your good earth.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PEC's Summer Update is Here!

I am pleased to share the Summer edition of the PEC Update with you. Please click here to view the Update online. Inside you will find an update on PEC’s advocacy work, a preview of worship themes for the upcoming PEC Conference, information to help you cast your vote for PEC Steering Committee members for 2013, details about the new partnership between Presbyterian Environmental Ministries and GreenFaith, and much more!

PEC's main focus of Advocacy for the past year has been on fossil fuels as noted in the excellent resource PEC Policy Priorities 2012 which highlighted four priorities: hydraulic fracturing (fracking), mountaintop removal, coal mining and export, and the tar sands pipeline. PEC is currently in deep conversation with a PC(USA) group entitled "Divest PC(USA)" discussing Bill Mckibben's call to divest from fossil fuel companies.

PEC is dividing our advocacy efforts into three areas: adding environmental toxins and genetic modification as well as lifestyle simplification "going deeper" (including fair trade, economic and social justice, and covenanting for accountability.) We ask your prayers and wisdom and offer the following ways to work with us:
• Share your thoughts/prayers on PEC's Facebook page.
• Contact if you would like to discuss joining us one of the three committees (which meet by phone conference.)
• Write an overture. PEC is CALLING for OVERTURES! This is a fascinating process and can be very helpful in setting official PC(USA) policy. We can help give you guidance in determining what areas to write about and how to go about the process. It is urgent to start soon as there are many steps in the process and it will need to be voted in by your Presbytery by late 2013 or very early 2014. GA is in Detroit June 14-21, 2014. Areas related to environmental justice could include social and economic justice and the moral imperatives associated with both.
• Join the new PEC yahoo e-mail group if you are interested in keeping up with emails about PECs three advocacy groups and the call for overtures. Email us at to be included.
• Register for our PEC conference, Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred, Oct. 16-19. In addition to many other excellent plenary, worship, and workshop sessions, there is one on writing overtures, plus several on areas of advocacy.

There are multiple areas that call for us to study and share. Sustainable lifestyles include critically looking at climate change, clean air, water, soil, transportation systems, health care, ethical eating/food/agricultural systems, and sustainable communities. It certainly also includes fair trade (particularly the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement which is very bad news) population of the planet, inequitable lifestyles/income, and land grabs.

Thank you, PEC members and friends, for sharing your passion in Earth-caring. The Steering Committee looks forward to working continued work together.

 Working together and seeking a sustainable planet,
 Diane Waddell
 Presbyterians for Earth Care