Wednesday, November 29, 2017

First Sunday in Advent Reflection

First Sunday in Advent

Wherever the river flows, everything will live

Wherever the river flows, every living thing that moves will thrive. There will be great schools of fish, because when these waters enter the sea, it will be fresh. Wherever the river flows, everything will live.  Ezekiel 47:9 CEB

Each spring and fall, Jeannie Strong’s father fished salmon at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River to provide food for his family and community. Nez Perce fishermen from Idaho joined those from other tribes netting fish from platforms suspended above the falls while their families cleaned, smoked and dried the fish to preserve it. They were part of a 9,000 year-old ritual of Native people meeting at Celilo Falls to fish, trade and feast.

In 1957, the Corps of Engineers completed The Dalles Dam (12 miles downstream from Celilo Falls) to generate hydropower and to simplify barge navigation on this stretch of the Columbia River. When the Fall’s cliffs were submerged under the dam’s reservoir, native people lost access to sacred sites including Celilo’s village, cemetery and fishing grounds. At the time of the damming, fishers annually caught 2.5 million pounds of fish for subsistence and commercial purposes. 
The inundation of Celilo Falls was a devastating cultural loss for Columbia River tribes. The cycle of their lives brought them to Celilo for fellowship and ritual in addition to sustenance.
“We took my father down for the 50th anniversary of when Celilo was flooded. He lived to 96, and outlived a lot of people. It was good to have the different tribes together again for ceremony and the reunion. He was an elder at Northfork Presbyterian Church where my brother is now an elder.”
In 2017, many Native fishers live in substandard trailers and families’ homes still haven’t been replaced as promised by the US Government. Resentment over the loss of sacred waters and land still simmers among Native People. 
At the new Celilo Long House, participants from the Spirit of the Salmon pre-conference immersion enjoyed a salmon feast hosted by Celilo-Wyam fishing families. Elders told stories of Celilo Falls and its import to their lives. Children and young adults explained how their canoe family prepares for an annual spiritual journey. Hosted by a tribe in the US or Canada, canoe families paddle and camp, sharing traditional songs, language, dance and celebrations along Pacific Northwest waterways. The real journey is an internal, personal experience for each member of the canoe family. “What we do out there is we heal. We heal the land, the water, the people,” explained Shannon Comenot, who compared time on the water to a constant, and conscious, state of prayer. “It’s a way of life. Going out on the water is the only thing unchanged since our ancestors.”

Meditation: Do you have home waters to which you return or long to see again? Pause and imagine that you are by your home water. Are you alone or with others? What are you doing? Do you touch the water or cause a splash? Does the sound of the water affect the rhythm of your breath? Are there children to whom you want to introduce these home waters? In the Advent time of preparation, may our memory of the waters of our lives refocus us to see what is sacred and holy in and around us. Amen.

Jeannie Strong is an elder in First Indian Presbyterian Church in Kamiah, Idaho - a church founded by her grandfather on the Nez Perce Reservation. She describes herself as “three part Nez Perce; one part French. Dad was a Nez Perce speaker.” She traveled from Lapwai, Idaho to participate in the Presbyterians for Earth Care conference on the Columbia. She said, “I felt really good about the conference; Celilo and Standing Rock are so important.”
Jeannie’s father is wearing a white t-shirt in the foreground of this historic photo of native fishermen at Celilo Falls prior to its inundation in 1957. (Corps of Engineers photo, public domain)

Advent is a time to recognize that the world needs Jesus and God’s healing restoration of the world. It is about looking for Jesus’ return as much as it is about the birth of a baby. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

PEC supports Divestment Overture #006

PEC Supports
 FossilFree PCUSA Overture
by Katie Preston

WHOOHOO!! We are on our way to General Assembly 2018, and we have a strong overture that Fossil Free PCUSA (FFPCUSA) will be supporting this year. The Hudson River Overture (OVT-006) was passed on July 25 and since then four additional presbyteries have concurred. Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) and FFPCUSA are in agreement in supporting this overture, and encourage you to bring it to your presbyteries as well. 

The Hudson River Overture relies on the previous work of FFPCUSA to bring a divestment overture to the General Assembly (GA). It takes into account the recommendations of the committees at the past two GAs, but continues to press for the immediate divestment of those companies on the Carbon Underground 200 list and for the Board of Pensions (BOP) and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Foundation to support the investment in renewables and energy efficiency.

The Overture recognizes the steps we as a denomination have already taken to be socially responsible in our investment strategy, and the specific options now available to the BOP and Foundation investors along these guidelines. But it also outlines that it is not enough in the face of increasing threats due to climate change. Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria devastated communities and reminded us once again that we are falling short on the immediate need to take action to reduce our carbon footprint in the world. As inhabitants of the USA, one of the world’s largest emitters, it is our moral obligation as people of faith to support divestment and the need for a clean energy strategy for the future. Our past decisions on how our denomination uses its funds demonstrates our responsibility to be better stewards of not only our financial resources, but our natural resources as well. By supporting a divestment overture, PEC and FFPCUSA call on the denomination to use our moral authority to end our dependence on fossil fuels and move us into a more sustainable future.

Katie Preston is an M.Div from Columbia Theological Seminary, currently flying the friendly skies with Delta Air Lines. She is a member of the board of Fossil Free PCUSA.