Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eco-Stewards Explorations and Connections

Explorations and Connections 

of Eco-Stewards
by Becky Evans

Seven years ago, I found myself singing and driving the “country roads” of West Virginia in the company of eight inspiring young adults whose deep faith and love for Creation led them on a week-long Eco-Stewards Program adventure exploring the complex issue of mountaintop removal coal mining. In each mountain hollow, we found tight-knit communities who welcomed us with Christian hospitality, good music and rich stories of living with and from the land in southern Appalachia. As a group, we shared our own stories of family, faith, environmental stewardship and vocational discernment while sitting around picnic tables and campfires or riding in passenger vans and whitewater rafts. My role as The Eco-Stewards Program’s multimedia storytelling coach quickly morphed into that of mentor, friend, and even peer.

The conversations and connections started on those country roads in West Virginia (and later in Massachusetts, Vermont, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Washington) continue today through texts, Facebook messages, blog posts and Christmas cards—and they are a huge part of why I continue to serve as a volunteer on The Eco-Stewards Program Leadership Team. Our experiential education model connects young adults who care about faith and environmental stewardship and inspires them through the stories of Christian communities around the country who are acting in faith to defend Creation. Our growing diaspora of Eco-Stewards alumni fills me with hope as I watch how their learning from these place-based experiences shapes their thinking, spirituality, and vocational discernment. It’s even shaped my own vocational thinking: I’m taking a break from the hallowed halls of academia to visit farms and food pantries as a Food Justice Educator for the Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteer Program.

We’re currently looking for candidates for our June 5-10 program, Eco-StewardsRichmond, Virginia: Water is Life, Journeying Toward Justice on the James River. Please spread the word to young adult leaders in your midst!

Becky W. Evans is an environmental journalist, educator and ESOL teacher who enjoys mentoring young adults through experiential education. She lives in Boston with her toddler son, Rowen, and Presbyterian pastor husband, Rev. Rob Mark.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reflection for Fourth Sunday of Lent

Fourth Sunday of Lent

by Nathan Sell

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. (Jeremiah 29:4-5, NRSV)

I’ve lived in eight places in the last seventeen years. This is nothing unique—many millennials are constantly on the move. We go from this place to that, we leave home and go off to school and then we go onto another school. We take this job and leave it for that job. And on and on and on. To be honest, as much as I yearn for home, one gets used to this moving from place to place.

Exile becomes the norm, rather than the exception. There’s a line that the Avett Brothers sing that I’ve been thinking about related to this. “One foot in and one foot back, well it don’t pay to live like that.” It don’t pay to live like that. The prophet Jeremiah offers a different vision. Even if you are not home, you are to treat where you are as such. You are to build a life. You are to invest where you are. You are to plant gardens. Wendell Berry puts it this way: “no further, this is the place.” What if we were called to stay put? Maybe God is calling us to churn up some soil and plant some seeds and stick around awhile. Who knows what beautiful thing might grow? We won’t know unless we stay and see.

Prayer: Holy God, help us to grow where we are planted. Help us to invest in the places and relationships where we are, rather than always looking towards what's next. Help us to be good stewards of those relationships. Amen

Rev. Nathan Sell is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is the chaplain of an all boy's upper school in Maryland, where he lives with his wife, Caroline, and dog, Burley. Nate is most at home in the world when he is backpacking, canoeing, or failing at fly-fishing. He writes regularly for the EcoTheo Review ( 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Third Sunday of Lent

Third Sunday of Lent Reflection

by Gerard Miller

“I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
    flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

~ Langston Hughes

My grandfather is from a small coastal NC town that hugs an inlet of the Albemarle Sound. My grandmother's family is from another NC township named after the Sandy Creek that it was built next to. As a native of Maryland, I've been taught that the Chesapeake Bay is life and breath that must be cherished. When I went away to camp as a kid, it was to a small church-run place along the James River in VA. The chapel was a bower of rough-hewn tree limbs with rows of wooden benches, a driftwood pulpit, sandy floor in a clearing of pine trees looking out over the water. There, at Camp Lightfoot, we were told explicitly that we are able to see and connect with God's power through honoring nature. And it starts down by the riverside.

Throughout my life, I've understood the power of living water. We see it in Jonah’s adventures at sea, in Moses’ timely miracles during the Exodus, in Elisha being sustained by the Brook of Cherith, in the healing of Namon, in Christ's own baptism, and in the gospel story of the man at Bethesda. Water has the power to cool our burning bodies, soothe our thirst, feed us with aquatic plants and animals, support our crops, cleanse us, and provide comfort.
Through the recognition of and care for nature, we contact Spirit and are able to participate in creation. Water is and was at the beginning, and is the primary symbol of God's mercy and grace. Coming into relationship with the living waters around us allows us to deepen our relationship with the Divine.

Prayer: Let the words of my mouth, the meditations of my heart, be accepted in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Guide my steps, and let the works of my hands honor your work of Creation and your sustaining Grace. Continue to work in and through me for my Ancestors’ sake. Amen & Asé

Gerard Miller is a native of Baltimore City with roots in rural Maryland and the Carolinas. Gerard was raised in the Pentecostal Holiness tradition, and was given a keen understanding and appreciation for tradition and scripture. After studying Modern Languages and Linguistics at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), Gerard joined PEC’s Eco-Stewards program in Montana during the summer of 2011. Working with farmer Dave Graber and alongside fellow Eco-Steward David Grace, Gerard deepened his understanding of the pastoral and agrarian symbology throughout the Bible, and built lasting connections in the local Apsaalooke community. He currently works as a housing counselor in Brooklyn, NY while studying and practicing herbalism, foraging, and urban gardening.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

People's Climate March is April 29

Join us at the People’s Climate March!

The People’s Climate March will be on April 29th in Washington, DC, as well as at Sister Marches around the country. One hundred days into the new administration, this march was planned before the election – no matter who won – to underscore how important the climate change conversation is. With the current administration, it is even more important to raise our voices to this issue. The House has already introduced a bill to terminate the EPA on December 31, 2018 (HR 861). For those of us who remember the days before the EPA, it was not a pretty picture. A recent article in the New York Times reminds us of what it was like in New York City.

The plans for the March continue to evolve. The organizers continue to work on the march route with the National Park Service. Plan for the march to start around 11am-noon and end around 4-5pm. There may be a prayer vigil beforehand for faith-based participants.

Why march? This march is about climate action, intersecting with economic and racial justice. We want a clean, renewable energy future, and a build-up of our infrastructure to create a green economy. We want good jobs. We want to stop global warming.

So plan to come to Washington, or find a Sister March near you. There is a lot of information on the Peoples Climate Movement website. If you register, you will be notified as more information is available. If you are interested in the organizing happening in the faith-based community, be sure to visit the Faith Contingent hub. There you can join the faith listserv for updates, as well as sign up for the bi-weekly Monday webinars, 5:30pm eastern, and listen to previous calls.

We would love to hear your plans for the March, so that, if possible, we can connect Presbyterians in the same regions. We hope to see you at the March!

Sue Smith, Vice Moderator

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Second Sunday of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent Reflection
by Alex Haney

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalm 51:7-12, NIV)

I walk through the city on the sunny morning after a snow storm.  Once purely white snow shows marks of what and who has passed by.  Previous pedestrian’s frozen footprints crunch under my own new prints.  Brown, and black splatters from passing street traffic speckles the path ahead.  The artistic sights of a snowman and snow fort warm my cold bones. Squirrel prints, dog prints, dog poop, and yellow snow occasionally catch my eye.  A golden Twix wrapper, green cigar package, and discarded ribbon also collect my attention on the path.  Crusty street salt stains form patterns on the pavement.

Snow visually highlights our interactions with our watershed.  Footprints, colors, and objects of our stay and our passing remain in sight until the snow melts, rain falls, and dissolves our markers into the water and carry it downstream. 
Our beautiful artwork and snow fort creations.

Our messy spills and widespread splatters.

Dissolved, absolved, resolved. 

Much like baptism.


water is not God.

Christ said he would give Living Water,

Distinguishing himself as higher than the natural. 

The watershed can’t absolve and resolve all we put into it. 

Our neighbors downstream must still swim, boat, and catch fish in that water. 

Some of our water has the snow forts and ugly splatters of life in upstream communities. 

Water cleans us, water connects us, water gives us life. Let us remember this with what we do to the ground and the watershed especially when there is no snow on which to see our neighbor’s and our own footprints.

Prayer: God help us to see what kind of mark we leave on our watershed and our neighbors, especially when it is not obvious like marks in the snow. With your help may we bring more good than harm to our surroundings like you have done for us in Christ, Amen.

Alex Haney is a proud member of the YAV and Eco-Stewards communities from western Virginia. He is glad to be part of the planning team for the 2017 Eco-Stewards conference on Watershed issues along the James River.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

February EARTH Keeper: Abby Mohaupt

EARTH Keeper: abby mohaupt
by Sue Smith

It is a season of awards for EARTH’s co-editor, abby mohaupt. She is the recipient of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s 2017 Peaceseeker Award for her “Prophetic & Pastoral Leadership for Creation Care.” And this month she is Presbyterians for Earth Care’s EARTH-Keeper, which highlights an individual who is an eco-justice advocate and who has done something extraordinary for God’s creation. The Peace Fellowship article announcing the award does an excellent job of telling the story leading up to abby becoming the moderator of Fossil Free PCUSA.

abby and I spoke about the next few months of work for Fossil Free PCUSA. Central to that vision is her commitment to working for divestment of individuals, congregations, and middle governing bodies as a witness to the need for the denomination to categorically divest from the fossil fuel industry. Additionally, she's interested in how to continue to build relationships with Mission Responsibility Through Investments (MRTI) and Faithful Alternatives to best serve God’s creation. 

photo on left is abby with Colleen Earp an Eco-Steward and member of PPF's Activist Council. on right, abby is with Katie Preston, a member of the EARTH committee and FFPCUSA Steering Committee

But more importantly, how does caring for God’s creation grow as a touchstone in the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)?

Right now there are a number of already existing opportunities: urging churches to be Earth Care Congregations, advocating fossil fuel divestment at all levels of the church, and recommending investment in the Presbyterian Foundation’s socially responsible fossil free investment option and the Board of Pensions’ fossil free option for retirement accounts. These last two options are a direct result of the divestment movement in the church.

abby recently co-convened (with Timothy Wotring and James Martin) a cohort of young adults from around the US and Mexico at Stony Point to talk about the state of the Presbyterian Church and Climate Change. It was also an opportunity for the participants to connect with the work of the Peace Fellowship and Presbyterians for Earth Care, and as the emerging leadership of the church, connecting with each other. The gathering was one part history of environmental leadership in the church, another part state of climate change science, and a lot the brainstorming about what the participants wanted to see in the denomination going forward and what actions they were willing to take.

At the gathering they wrestled with how much more the church could be doing. The conversation was unapologetic in it's exploration of poverty, race, gender, and immigration as intersecting issues with climate change. Participants wondered how the church can be a prophetic witness in the face of environmental injustice and systems of oppression, and they committed to spending the next few months taking action to move the PCUSA in prophetic ways.

It is an honor for me to work with abby on EARTH and other creation care efforts. I am excited by the vision that abby has for this work, and to know that she is leading this generation of earth care activists in helping all of us be the church of Jesus Christ.

Sue Smith is co-editor of EARTH.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

First Sunday of Lent Reflection

First Sunday of Lent Reflection

by Amy Cantrell

18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:18, NKJV)    
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1, NRSV)

    I have been talking a lot lately about our need for un-tamed spaces, un-domesticated geography and what I mean is that we need the wilds.  Biblically speaking, this is wilderness.
    Lent as a season is meant to take us back to the wilderness as we walk the road of preparation with Jesus--preparation for ministry that is deeply counter-cultural as it announces “good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and proclaims the Jubilee.”  (Luke 4:18,19)  Capital One, Corrections Corporation of America, 1%-ers, empires everywhere, and you and me should expect the order of the day to be turned upside down.  Lent also calls us to walk the road to the cross where political, economic, and religious powers collude to keep death systems (that create more wealth and power for a few) in place and where the un-tamed are crucified only to find resurrection life.
    In this day and hour, we desperately need wilderness.  As the #NoDAPL water

protectors have taught us, water is life, the Biblical record reminds us that wilderness is breath!  We literally cannot breathe without the wilds. And we cannot know God’s way (God’s politics, economics and spirituality) outside of the inspiration (literally to “breathe in”) of the wilderness.

    Theologian Ched Myers writes:  “Jesus seems to have spent most of his ministry and prayer life in the wild places that set our inner demons buzzing and call us into Holy Spirit-led transformation and wholeness.”
    Freed Hebrew slaves went to the wilderness to be instructed and to learn to practice a new way of life beyond empire or as we call it at BeLoved Asheville, Pharoah’s pyramid schemes.
    Many of the people we live and walk with are homeless and they camp in the woods.  These folks daily remind us of the power to trust the Holy One and depend on the wilds for protection.
    We live in a time where everywhere we turn, these wilderness places, these un-tamed spaces are threatened.  What do we do when wilderness spaces are threatened?
    When science is undermined, climate change and the news are deemed fake, and the lands are under attack, rangers of the National Park service speak up and other officials join them.
    When tribal lands and waterways are threatened, tribes come together to speak in unison about the sacredness of the water and our very humanity as we are all made up mostly of water.
    When communities in the wilderness who are perceived as “foreigners” in a land they have long called home are threatened by ICE raids, these beautiful people are defending their communities and standing up for peoples’ right to be here and to thrive.
    When we have forgotten how to practice the wilderness way of Jesus, wilderness communities like BeLoved Asheville are emerging where we learn to trust Gods’ manna, cross boundary lines to work together for liberation, and live out the radical hospitality and sharing that are the great lessons of wilderness.
    How will you enter into this wilderness season?  How will you learn to trust and practice liberation?  Will you trade the fleshpots of capitalism and privilege?  Will you remember the wilderness way and resist?  Will you declare your church an un-domesticated space, a sanctuary?  Will you opt out of empire and live into the new wilderness community?  Will you accept Jesus’ invitation to follow into wild-ness?  

Prayer: Un-tamed Jesus, help us to meet the temptations to be civilized when we need to be wild. Help us to follow you and the freed Hebrew slaves, and all who have walked the wilderness way in this season. Teach us to truly be liberated and liberating people!  Amen.  

Rev. Amy Cantrell lives and moves and has her being in the intentional community, BeLoved Asheville. BeLoved is a community of people from the streets and margins who conspire to do justice and end oppression including homelessness, poverty, and racism by doing the works of love and mercy. Amy lives with her partner; twin daughters; fuzzy rescue dog, Klondyke; and six community members in Asheville, NC.  She is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church, USA, was school educated at Columbia Theological Seminary and was street educated on Ponce de Leon Ave. in Atlanta at the Open Door Community and on Grove Street at BeLoved Asheville. She plays guitar, loves the color purple and following the wildly loving and radical Jesus.  She was most recently arrested calling for a NC that shows compassion to the vulnerable at Moral Monday 7 with NAACP NC Moral Monday Movement and spoke as a moral witness at Moral Monday 13.