Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Loaves and Fishes New Haven

How to Feed a Multitude (During a Pandemic)
By Jonathan Lee


As the Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes New Haven, the largest food pantry in the New Haven, Connecticut area, James Cramer has a unique relationship with food. On a given Saturday, you can usually find James running around as he coordinates forty to fifty volunteers moving approximately 10,000 pounds of fresh produce, canned goods, and other donated food to get ready for their weekly food deliveries or grocery pickup events.


When he first arrived at Loaves & Fishes New Haven after receiving his Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, the organization was only serving about 280 to 300 families per week. With only one other employee to help with the week-to-week logistics, James had to lean on a network of dependable volunteers to manage and grow this program. Things changed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and the number of people in the city needing food services ballooned drastically. By the summer of 2020, what started as an operation feeding 300 families once a week was now delivering prepackaged bags to 700 families, and welcoming another 500 to its usual grocery pickup sessions. 



Loaves and Fishes New Haven was not able to meet this increased need alone. When the pandemic started,” James recalls, we said, Lets do this. Lets lean in and jump with both feet first.So we created a delivery program from scratch with three other organizations that was reaching 1,200 families a week.”


Rather than haphazardly tackling problems as they appeared, the team of organizations focused on their strengths to make the most impact on their community. My big focus has been on partnership and figuring out who is really good at what. We partnered with the United Way for example. They found all the drivers, and we found all the food: a perfect marriage. Those are the things weve been embarking on more and more this past year.” 


Before the pandemic, Loaves and Fishes New Haven did not have the extensive network of partnerships it does now. While they were partnering with service providers who used their space, the organizations once-a-week pick-up model meant they werent engaging with specific populations. But as the pandemic put more limitations on peoples ability to get food, James began getting calls and reaching out to others to help address those growing needs. Loaves and Fishes New Haven now works with the Office of Veterans Affairs, Warren Street Deliveries, and the New Haven Board of Alders to get food out to specific populations of the New Haven community which they did not previously have access to. Its like the stepping out in faith,” James says. Were letting the work lead and the money to follow. If someone comes to us, were going to say yesand well figure out how to say yesand the community will support us in saying yesto them. Every time weve said yesto somebody, theres been a donor who said, I want to say yes to that too.Thats been empowering in terms of knowing how much folks can support us.”


With the support and empowerment of his community, James can focus on doing whats important: finding food. Im really good at getting food and getting people to pack that food. Its kind of hodgepodge, but thats the fun part for me. Its a big puzzle!” And there are certainly a lot of pieces that James needs to track. Loaves and Fishes New Haven receives food through relationships with local producers, grocery stores and universities, and also buys food from distributors or food banks using federal subsidies and grant money.


Having access to all these different food streams, Loaves and Fishes does their best to source good, fresh food for their families. We keep a pretty close finger to the pulse of what folks want to eat. We really try to mirror what you and I would get a bag of groceries for. There will be canned goods, some rice and pasta, some meat, but also lots of fresh fruits and vegetables”


Working in such close proximity with different food providers and distributers has given James a unique look into our food system. The more Ive worked there, the more I realized how complicated it is,” James says. The way food trickles down is pretty inefficient. Were paying farmers to plant things that there wouldnt be a market for without the federal subsidy program, and then moving that food from food banks to food pantries and then people take it out.”


This complicated pathway from field to plate isnt just inefficient, but also has environmental repercussions given how much greenhouse gases are emitted as the food is in transit. James is also trying to tackle food stigma, and hopes to break down assumptions about food by encouraging volunteers to take untaken food at the end of a work day. The other end of radical hospitality is not just giving people everything, but also taking what youre willing to give them,” James explains. If youre not willing to be a part of that, youre not in community with them. Youre signaling youre on a different level. Its just food. God created that food for us to enjoy. Food is food”


Whats one piece of advice James has for anyone who wants to work with a food pantry? Talk to them about their specific needs,” James says. He explains that while canned food drives do have a place, those events only add to the systems inefficiencies. A well-run food pantry has much more purchasing power than you or I, and so donating money directly to the food pantry will have a more long-lasting effect than donating food. Build relationships with organizations that you trust and are transparent with their money,” James recommends. If you find someone you can trust, you are good to go.”



Jonathan Lee
is a second year Master of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School. He is currently serving as Presbyterians for Earth Cares Programming and Learning Fellow.

Injustices and Ecological Deficiencies of Industrial Agriculture

God’s Green (and Brown) Revolution
by Jenny Holmes

“The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all.” —Wendell Berry 

Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. NIV. 

“As part of the natural functions and ecosystem services provide by soils, a healthy soil stores more carbon than that stored in the atmosphere and vegetation.” —Recarbonization of Global Soils – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 


As the timeline to prevent the worst impacts of climate change shortens, many questionable “solutions” are being offered that potentially deepen social inequities and erode cultures and biodiversity. How can God’s shalom be embodied in the solutions for climate change? Or is the situation so dire that should we just be concerned with cutting carbon as fast as possible no matter how we get there? What questions should Christians seeking to be faithful to God’s shalom be asking about proposed solutions? 

Billionaire “philanthrocapitalist” Bill Gates, who recently released “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” is one of the most visible promoters of technological solutions to climate mitigation and adaptation, such as carbon capture and storage, and a more climate resilient agriculture. To the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, climate resilient agriculture may be more efficient but depends heavily on fossil-fuel-based fertilizer and genetic engineering. Gates’s technological and capitalistic mindset clearly dominate the Foundation’s approach to climate change. This is not to say that technology and capitalism cannot be useful in finding and implementing climate solutions. Obviously, they must be engaged. However, their dominance blinds us to the opportunity to enhance the flourishing of humans and nature through climate solutions that are more inclusive and equitable. 

Not everyone is buying into Gates programs and are proposing other ways forward. The interfaith Southern Africa Faith CommunitiesEnvironment Institute said to the Gates Foundation in a recent letter: 

"We urge the Gates Foundation to stop pushing a green 'revolution' that imposes technologies and seeds that are controlled by companies with vested interests. Rather, it should be looking at and learning from small-scale farmers from around the world who are working to build alternative food systems that are socially just and ecologically sustainable.” 

Widespread hunger has laid bare the failure of the profit-driven food and agriculture system during the COVID-19 crisis inspired the group’s response. 

Here in the US the COVID-19 crisis has also laid bare the injustices and the ecological deficiencies of industrial agriculture. Front-line agricultural workers were among the first and the worst hit by the pandemic. There is growing awareness of the role that soil plays in the climate crisis, and the value of regenerative agriculture that maximizes the soil even by agriculture giants like General Mills. With industrial food supply chains affected and concerns for food safety, the interest in local sources of food, such as community supported agriculture, skyrocketed at the beginning to the pandemic. Whether this trend continues remains to be seen. 

In the Punjab area of India, where the Green Revolution took root in the 1950s, growing inequities faced by small farmers have brought them to protest in the street. Aniket Aga said in Scientific America “Farmer protests in India are writing the Green Revolution’s obituary…It is evident that the new problems of industrial agriculture have added to the old problems of hunger and malnutrition.” 

Soil is where we come from according to scripture and science, and where we return. Soil health is basic to the health of all life, specially in a warming world. Land degradation greatly reduces the ability of soils to maintain and capture carbon. We have much to learn about the complex living soil. Humility and humus are required to flourish as humans as a partner in nourishing God’s shalom in climate solutions. God is calling us to a revolution in our relationship with each other and earth that is both green and brown. 

Jenny  Holmes lives in Portland, Oregon is a former Moderator for Presbyterians for Earth Care. She serves as the Washington Oregon Field Organizer for Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance organizing people to protect 8.4 million acres of wilderness in Utah that will help the US meet 1.5 percent of its goal to protect 30 percent of lands and water by 2030 for the climate and biodiversity. She has done faith-based environmental organizing for over 30 years and serves on the Earth Care Team of First Presbyterian Church. Gardening and local food nourish her, body, mind and soul. 


References: 

https://usrtk.org/our-investigations/gates-foundations-plans-to-remake-food-systems-will-hurt-the-climate/

https://www.iatp.org/blog/202010/agricultural-revolution-gates-foundation-leading-africa-failure

https://www.hcn.org/articles/covid19-local-food-movement-gains-momentum-under-covid-19

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/farm-protests-in-india-are-writing-the-green-revolutions-obituary/ January 24, 2021, Aniket Aga. 


Food Justice Ministry at Presbyterian Church of Burlington

Food-Centered Mission
By Eric Diekhans

Like much of New England, the land surrounding Burlington, Massachusetts, located fifteen miles north of Boston, was once dotted with farms. But today, most produce in this relatively affluent community is factory farmed and comes from hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

The Presbyterian Church of Burlington has a mission to reconnect consumers of all income levels with God’s nutritious abundance.

The church has a diverse congregation of about 100 members who come from as far as forty miles away. Membership includes people from Africa and Europe, as well as native New Englanders.

“We’re more of a regional church,” says Rev. Trina Portillio, Presbyterian Church of Burlington’s pastor. “That’s partly a function of being Presbyterian in New England.”


The church’s food justice ministry began with helping serve hot meals at The Dwelling Place in Woburn MA, As a Matthew 25 Church, and a Hunger Action Congregation of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Church of Burlington extends its mission reach deep into the community. 

“We’ve had food justice ministries pretty much as long as the church has been around,” says Jane McIninch a ruling Elder, and coordinator of the church’s Community Supported Agriculture pickup site, as well as the People Helping People Burlington Food Pantry.

“Our former pastor was part of the group that started an organization in town called People Helping People,” says Jane. “It brought together three ministries, one of which is the food pantry in town.”

“The church was also one of the initial supporters of the Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteer Program,” adds Rev. Portillio. The young adult volunteers were challenged to eat only locally sourced food for half the year. For the other half, they lived on a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) budget.

In 2010, Presbyterian Church of Burlington became a pickup site for Farmer Dave’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Dracut, MA.

In the CSA model, consumers buy a share of a local, usually organic farm’s crops. In exchange for taking on some of the financial risks of farming, families receive a variety of delicious, fresh, nutritious vegetables, usually once a week.

Farmer Dave’s is unusual because it provides vegetables year-round thanks to their extensive greenhouses. Consumers can also purchase a fruit share and even a home-baked goods share. Presbyterian Church of Burlington also hosts a meat share from Lilac Hedge Farm in Jefferson, MA.

Through Farmer Dave’s and other local farms, the Burlington Food Pantry also receives fresh vegetables.“it's a growing emphasis for a lot of pantries,” says Jane McIninch. “There’s been a shift in attitude that it's not just about the quantity of food, it’s also about the quality. As a community, we are starting to be educated about the quality of the nutrients that we take in. We have a goal at the Pantry that thirty percent of the food we give out should be fresh fruits and vegetables.”

“I think it’s important food be locally sourced whenever possible,” says MaryLou Lynn, a Session member and a volunteer at the CSA pickup site. “it's better for the environment, i’s important for communities to have local food available, it tastes better, and it's part of stewardship to be participating in local food efforts.”

Before the pandemic, pickup day was a time of fellowship and education at Presbyterian Church of Burlington. Two volunteers from the church were always there to help out.

“The opportunities for socializing and learning added so much to the experience,” says Jane. “As volunteers, we were always being asked to identify vegetables and help people understand what they can do with them, because a lot of what we get from the farm was unfamiliar to many people.”

While COVID restrictions have necessitated loading the vegetables directly into shareholders’ trunks, everyone hopes to resume normal activities in 2021.

Whatever this year holds in store, there will be plenty of fresh vegetables in the mix.



Eric Diekhans
is editor of Earth News, a fiction writer, a video producer for the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries, and a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago. His family enjoys fresh vegetables each summer from Angelic Organics CSA in Rockford, IL.





Tuesday, April 27, 2021

PEC is Hiring!

HELP WANTED:
Coordinator for Presbyterians for Earth Care 
 
Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) invites individuals and congregations to participate in the growing earth care movement within the PC(USA). PEC is a national eco-justice network that cares for God’s creation by connecting, equipping, and inspiring Presbyterians to make creation care a central concern of the church. We are looking for a new paid, part-time coordinator to help in our work.  We are open to creative job sharing.
 
Job Description
The PEC Coordinator will report to the PEC Moderator and work with the Presbyterians for Earth Care Executive Committee to provide administrative support on specific tasks, including but not limited to the following:
  • Enhance communication and publicity of PEC through printed and electronic materials and social networking. Coordinate printing and mailings, send e-mails, and maintain and update the PEC website.
  • Assist membership development and maintenance. Receive membership forms and donation amounts and maintain a database of member contact information and giving history. Prepare lists of members and donation history as requested. Communicate with membership and respond to requests in a timely manner, referring to regional representatives and committee chairs as appropriate.
  • Assist officers and committee chairs in projects, commitments and general work, as needed.
  • Help prepare materials for the Annual Meeting and PEC booth such as the annual report and update the PEC brochure as needed.
  • Promote/coordinate national and regional gatherings and conferences, both Presbyterian and Ecumenical.
  • Network with PC(USA) offices and Presbyterian and ecumenical groups to expand the mission and ministry of PEC into new realms.
  • Assist the Moderator in setting agenda for meetings, and maintain files of Steering Committee minutes, Steering Committee member contact information and terms, and general work in a web-based file hosting service, such as DropBox.
  • Record minutes of PEC meetings and conference calls, when requested.
  • Travel to and staff the annual steering committee planning retreat and the biennial PEC national conference (odd years). Expenses covered by PEC.
 
Qualifications
The PEC Coordinator will have an interest in caring for God’s earth and knowledge of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Coordinator will be a self-starter with excellent follow-through, able to work independently as well as collaboratively. Desired attributes include a calm and professional demeanor, good verbal and written communication skills, good time management and a history of meeting deadlines.  Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Publisher and website-related software desired.
 
Work is up to 20 hours a week, annual pay is up to $28,000 and work is done at home.

Please send resume to pecdreamjob@gmail.com     Deadline:  May 3, 2021.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Recommit to Earth Care on Earth Day

 Dear Friends of Presbyterians for Earth Care,


As we approach Earth Day next Thursday, April 22, we leave winter behind, and - we hope - the pandemic that has dominated every aspect of our lives for over a year. Signs of new hope in our world include a new administration and the appointment of persons of color to cabinet positions. We have arrived at this moment by working together. Now we ask you to renew your membership and support of our work precisely because we are indeed stronger together. If you are not yet a member of Presbyterians for Earth Care, you can add your voice to ours TODAY.

In the past year, PEC has:

  • strengthened existing partnerships and formed new ones, including with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
  • continued to join our voices with those of Fossil Free PC(USA) supporters in a call on the Board of Pensions to divest from fossil fuels.
  • worked to mitigate a changing climate by working with the Presbyterian Hunger Program to establish a tree fund so Presbyterians can offset carbon impacts resulting from our travel.
Your financial gifts in 2020 made it possible for: 
  • Jonathan Lee, a student at Yale Divinity School, to serve as PEC’s 2020-21 Programming and Learning Fellow. 
  • PEC’s inspirational Advent and Lenten devotional series, coordinated, edited and laid out by Jonathan Lee.
  • a virtual 25th anniversary celebration.
  • monthly Greening Your Presbytery Zoom meetings where attendees learn to have a greater impact on earth care in churches by working though their presbyteries.

Like many churches and organizations, Presbyterians for Earth Care engages with the intersectional issues of this time through an ongoing, intentional process of action and reflection. Our strength individually and organizationally is in our diversity. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). 
 
Please prayerfully renew your commitment as a member of PEC or consider becoming a member today.You may also print the form and mail a check to PEC Treasurer, 501 Valley Drive, Durham, NC 27704 by Earth Day, April 22. Thank you as always for your support of our ministry and mission.
 
Yours in caring for the Earth and for one another,
Dennis Testerman, PEC Moderator

Friday, April 2, 2021

To Wonder and Wander

Devotional for Easter Sunday

When he was at the table with them, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? 

Luke 13:30-32

Photo by David Kepley

I am often curious as to how much the Christian capacity to generously share is related to the trust in a recognition that God is the provider of all things. God is, after all, the source of supply. As people of Grace, we must come close to God and neighbor in love to encounter the power of collective compassion in order to counter the ever-present temptation to the broken systems of domination and fear. 

We find ourselves Lent after Lent straining towards the beauty and joy of Easter knowing that spiritually we must first sojourn through the emotional and psychological rocky road of Holy Week. If we are to truly appreciate the glory of the New Life of The Risen Jesus, we must open our hearts and our imaginations to practice living in the now and the not yet. 

Both literally and figuratively, we must trust the seed-planting processing. The work to rid the world of food deserts and the work to hold powers and principalities systemically accountable for the immoral dumping of toxic waste or poisoning drinking water requires the kind of faith that with open eyes and hearts to burn with the truth is shared. It is the kind of imperfect faith that Cleopas and another follower of Jesus had that was willing to invite the stranger on the road in and share a conversation, a meal, a hope, or a dream. 

Indeed, to care for this gift of the Earth faithfully, we will have to expand our conversation partners and be open to new insights when we are most dejected. We will need to make more time in our actual lives to share our food, our shelter, or our resources of all sorts with those we discover on the road, even when we are heartbroken or worried that things have been destroyed past the point of no return. 

As people on a faith journey to love God and tend tenderly to God’s beautiful creation, we will undoubtedly find ourselves dismayed and disoriented. While we normally think of this scripture in the Post-Lent and Post-Easter Season, may the story of Cleopas and the unknown follower of Jesus on their way to Emmaus be an invitation on this Easter Sunday to wonder and wander, to rest and refresh, to break open scripture and break bread with our fellow sojourners in a sharing of wisdom and resources. 

Who might God be calling you to connect with today? Will you make that time? Christ Jesus just might show up in unexpected and unimaginable ways.

Prayer
Gracious God, we give you praise for who you are. We thank you for your presence which set our hearts ablaze and never leaves us alone. Empower us to be the Body of Christ together while we are yet full of questions and curiosities about the care of your world. In the name of the Our Creator, Liberator, and Sustainer, we pray. Amen



Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis
graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary and serves as the pastor of Meadowlake Presbyterian Church in the Presbytery of Charlotte. As an enneagram 2, she is a generous and gifted encourager, teacher, and preacher, and she is passionate about equity and anti-oppression work in the Church and beyond. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Our Empire is Shaking

Devotional for Good Friday

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. 

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more, 

for the first things have passed away...”

Revelations 21:4 (NRSV) 

A google search for why we call Good Friday “good” reveals a lot of speculation. However, it is easy to imagine that Pontius Pilate and Herod patted themselves on the back and declared the day good. The young up-start from Nazareth was dead and done. The score was Empire: 1 and Nazareth: 0. Admittedly it was strange about the earthquake happening around that time, but not to worry, empires have lots of stone masons. They didn’t know then that Empire was the loser and the crumbling walls would give way to the message of love being carried globally. 

Last year, on this holy day, we couldn’t know that our empire was shaking, and that the scales would fall from our eyes. A virus and a murder exposed our institutional inequities, our history of genocide, and slavery un-resolved. Very few guessed that some folks would enter the heart of our democracy on January 6th while the president spent his time pardoning prisoners, leasing public lands, and approving pesticides. This Good Friday we are definitely standing on the shaking ground of empire—with our eyes open to what we have ignored for hundreds of years. 

And that really is Good Friday news. We are standing in the rubble of our colonialism, our consumerism, and our escapism. We also stand on our tortured, beautiful Earth, hand in hand, heads down. We see. We weep. We wait “for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4) as the writer of Revelations knew. Empires don’t hold, but the love that is God came and is coming. Eat and sleep well this night. Now that we can see what we haven’t been seeing, we have work to do—together, with the Love of this coming Sunday to guide our efforts. 

Prayer
Now that we see, lead us, holy Jesus, with your love to do the repairs earth and all that dwell in and upon it requires of us.


Rev. Holly Hallman
(left) and husband Fred Dunlap (right) live on traditional lands belonging to the Port Gamble S’Kallam tribe in the Puget Sound of Washington state. Holly is a retired hospice chaplain who hopes that the earth is not her next patient.




Leaf photo by David Kepley

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Getting Lost in the Busyness of Life

Devotional for Maundy Thursday

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth;
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city,
the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying
and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away...”
Revelations 21:1-4 (NRSV)


Oftentimes our earthly eyes get clouded with visions of the present time. We work for our own comfort, for productivity and worldly abundance. We value goods and seek quantity over quality. Our temporal short-sightedness sets our paths toward what is quick and pleasurable. Our end goals of eternity get lost in the busyness of life. Revelation 21:1-4 gives us a vision of our true spiritual desire. 

We are gifted with this image of the new heaven and new earth. A new home without pain. A place to live in communion with our Creator where God himself dwells among us! This picture of a new heaven and earth can help guide our time now on this earth. When earthly things pass away as in Revelation 21:1 and the new heaven and earth are formed, how will our interactions with one another and with God change? Without the need to strive for comfort, productivity, and material abundance, how will our relationship and interactions with earth change? 

Let us use this vision of new heaven and new earth to guide our earthly interactions now. We can see a reflection of our home to come when we partake in communion together. Gratefully giving thanks for the gift of salvation, we remember Christ’s death and resurrection. We look to the promise of a new heaven and earth when we are able to partake in communion with Christ again in this new home where God dwells with us. In our new home, we will treat earth less selfishly, not looking for what we can get out of the earth for our own comfort or productivity, but for what we can pour back into it and into this new creation that God has given us. 

Prayer
Sustainer of the Universe,
Empty us of our own desires so that we may we receive your vision as fresh and fertile soil prepared to sprout seeds of new beginning. May your heavenly will be done on earth and by your graciousness, may we create places of renewal while we await the return of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Amen



Samantha Corwin
is a Master of Divinity student at Fuller Theological Seminary. She has started the process of becoming an inquirer with the encouragement and support of United Presbyterian Church. Samantha is thankful for the love and support of her husband, Ryan and daughters, Bravely and Adventure. As a proud member of the Chickasaw Nation Samantha feels a great call to earth care and conservation.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Greening Your Presbytery with Young People

 


Engaging Young People through Greening your Presbytery


Do you struggle with getting young people involved in faith-centered activities about God’s creation? Dave Grace from National Capital Presbytery has figured it out and has led not one, but two successful projects for high school and college students. Join Presbyterians for Earth Care “Greening Your Presbytery” ZOOM call on Tuesday April 13 at 7:30 PM Eastern, 4:30 PM Pacific to hear what Dave did and his recommendations for what you can do. Email pec@presbyearthcare.org for the ZOOM link.

Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC)’s Greening Your Presbytery project focuses on the presbytery as the organizing level to reach churches about creation-friendly ways of teaching, preaching, reaching out and operating their buildings. The project utilizes Presbytery Earth Care Teams in order to “engage and support congregations in integrating creation care into their church’s Christian witness and ministry.”

PEC has prepared a Presbytery Earth Care Team toolkit that contains a step-by-step process for starting an Earth Care Team at your Presbytery.  The toolkit has examples and other resources to assist a team through the five-step process. The toolkit also includes a list of additional resources for a variety of topics to be used at the presbytery level.  

PEC holds monthly Greening Your Presbytery ZOOM calls with a specific theme on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM Eastern, 4:30 PM Pacific. Participants are invited to ask the speaker questions and discuss in breakout rooms how they might implement the theme of the meeting in their presbytery. To get the ZOOM link, email pec@presbyearthcare.org


Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Disruptive Divine Presence

Devotional for Palm Sunday 

When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you ... you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” ... Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,

“Blessed is the king
 who comes in the name of the Lord!


Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Luke 19:29-39 


As a child there was one treat that I always wanted, but I never needed: a McDonald’s Happy Meal complete with the featured toy of the season. I was an all-out McDonald’s enthusiast, with a rather impressive collection of Happy Meal toys considering the response I would get most often when asking for McDonalds was, “Do you have McDonald’s money?” Often followed by the offhand comment, “You don’t need it anyway, there’s food at home.” It was during these tense negotiations with my mother where I learned the difference between needing and wanting, and where I got a glimpse of the economic system that undergirded my mother’s ability to secure our needs and occasionally to satisfy our wants.

It is in recalling these memories that Jesus’ instructions to his disciples come into focus. “If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” Luke’s recounting of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is rich and textured. But it’s Luke’s decision to depart from Matthew and Mark’s account, and to designate Christ as king that opens this story to the wider implications it poses for us, the land, and the systems of production we’ve created that break bodies and abuse Creation.

Perhaps Luke’s retelling of the story casts Christ as king because of the disruptive role Jesus plays in this scene. Jesus has need of a young donkey, disrupting its ability to labor in the fields of an occupied Israel. Jesus is disruptive, causing workers to abandon their posts. It’s interesting that Luke’s account has no mention of Palm branches, but rather it centers cloaks. Jesus is disruptive, causing people to rethink their needs and their wants, displacing the capitalistic focus on materialism and production with another more powerful force, relationship.

This disruptive divine presence will not be easily displaced; in fact it will bring about a reordering of nature that causes the Earth to cry out. A reordering that clarifies what is truly needed. A new relationship not only between life and death but between bodies and consumption and between animals and production. A new relationship that helps us to listen to Creation, for it is speaking. A relationship that brings us closer to the new Heaven and new Earth that is stored up for us in eternity. And that is what we need, and for each Believer, that must be what we want.

Prayer
Everlasting God, we confess that we have often given in to our desire to have and do more. We confess that we’ve loved what our eyes have seen and what our hands have accomplished more than we have loved you. May you grant us the spirit of disruption, that it may come into our lives and reorder us toward what we most need and what you require. Disrupt us with a holy disruption, and help us to be drawn into you and closer to one another.

In Jesus name, Amen.


A graduate of Howard University and Yale Divinity School, Joshua Narcisse serves as the inaugural Faith & Health Pastoral Resident at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church and Church Health in Memphis, TN, where he leads digital and young adult ministries and develops spiritual care programming for medical professionals. He is an ordained ruling elder and candidate for ordination under care of New York City Presbytery.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Re-envisioning a New Earth

Fifth Sunday of Lent


The lack of physical description for the ‘new heaven and new earth’ makes it hard to envision exactly what this Holy City might look like. One thing is for sure, the new heaven and earth is God’s dwelling place, a space where the Lord brings comfort to the people removing death, mourning, crying, and pain. In this sense, there appears to be a change in consciousness as God removes fears that lead to such hurt. 


This re-envisioning is precisely what ecofeminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether presents in her book New Woman, New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation (1975). After providing an introduction to Christian theology, ecology, and feminism by recognizing the interrelation between ideology and systemic oppression, Ruether encourages a change in consciousness by calling out patriarchy, hierarchy, inequity, and inferiorization. Such widespread oppressions like racism, sexism, and classism only get in the way when it comes to ushering in a new heaven and a new earth. 

Given the heightened turmoil of the past few years, a brand new city is deeply needed, but when viewed within the lens of Ruether another question remains: What oppressions must we abolish in order to achieve this new heaven and new earth? In other words, what might the world look like if we were co-creators in this narrative? I would imagine this new world would be one that is free from fear, a place that strives to care for those who have been hurt, and most of all, a world in which oppression is obsolete. It’s a lot to tackle, but it is worth striving for. 

As people of faith, we are our siblings’ keepers. Justice for others is justice for all. As we anticipate the resurrection of Easter Sunday, I hope we hold onto cultivating a world that is pleasing to God and free from fear— where the Lord can comfortably inhabit our society and dwell among all people.

Prayer
Creator, this Lenten season, open our eyes to the injustices around us. May we begin to build the foundation for a world that is honoring and pleasing to you.—one that removes fear and values everyone. Amen


Vickie Machado
is a leader with the Eco-Stewards Program, a grassroots community that shapes young adult leaders through place-based experiences that connect faith and the environment. She is also a PhD candidate studying Religion & Nature at the University of Florida where her research focuses on the role of religion and spirituality in water-based environmental movements. 


Cloud photo by David Kepley

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Consider the Wisdom of Sophia

 Fourth Sunday Devotional 

The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the LORD;
but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death.   
Proverbs 8:22-23, 32-36

One of my favorite Bible stories related to God and Creation is God’s creation of Sophia, the feminine presence of Wisdom. In Proverbs 8, Sophia instructs us to keep her ways of wisdom in order to find life. She also warns us, however, that we will injure ourselves if we miss her. Over the centuries, the dominant culture in the United States has assumed that the more advanced our scientific knowledge and technology, the better off we will be in the future. While technology and scientific advancements certainly have improved the quality of life for many people, humanity is now at a moment where our actions and human advancements are creating ecological and human destruction alongside human-induced climate change.

Photo by David Kepley

Many of us have traded our ancestors’ culture of wisdom and community for the pursuit of knowledge and wealth to the detriment of both the Earth and ourselves. Western Christianity has neglected Sophia for too long, and has even assisted in destroying cultures and communities that keep her wisdom through the evils of colonization, slavery and white supremacy. The good news is that despite these evils, many indigenous peoples and cultures have resisted against this imperial culture to pass down the wisdom of their ancestors. We still have a chance to listen, learn and practice with our indigenous siblings to balance scientific knowledge and technology with indigenous wisdom of and from the Earth. Books such as Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, who uses indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants to awaken our relationship to a living Earth, have taught me to find wisdom in the Earth just as it is in Scripture.

We must consider the wisdom of Sophia to let ourselves and the Earth rest on this Sabbath. We must also consider the cross of Christ that has made us children of God where we receive and give in community. God has given us a mother in the Earth, and we must seek wisdom that enhances our relationship to Earth so that she may continue giving life to all humans, animals, and plants. Our churches should not just be marked by the resources and presence of Christ we gain to build churches, but what gifts, time and resources with Christ we give back to the living world.


Prayer
God of life help us to remember your wisdom in Sophia.
Forgive us of the ways we have neglected her wisdom.
Remind us of our dependent relationship to all people, animals, plants and Earth. Help us to give back the life we have received from your creation.

Amen.



James Martin is a Master of Divinity student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He spent four years prior as a middle school science teacher in Douglas, AZ., and enjoys spending lots of free time in the mountains either camping, hiking, biking, or rock climbing. James hopes to continue working, living, learning and being in community with his siblings in the U.S./Mexico borderlands.






Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Devotional for Third Sunday of Lent

 Third Sunday Devotional 

Now the company of prophets said to Elisha, “As you see, the place where we live under your charge is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, and let us collect logs there, one for each of us, and build a place there for us to live.” He answered, “Do so.” Then one of them said, “Please come with your servants.” And he answered, “I will.” So he went with them. When they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a log, his ax head fell into the water; he cried out, “Alas, master! It was borrowed.” Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick, and threw it in there, and made the iron float. He said, “Pick it up.” So, he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:1-7


Photo Credit: courtesy of Crosby Palmer

On July 4th, 2019, I supervised residential campers on a special trip to watch fireworks from the field of a nearby ski slope. As the show ended and the darkness of the night sky settled once more, a camper announced he lost his retainer. There was a brief moment of panic before a voice bellowed, “let’s line up like the search and rescue teams do in the movies and scan the area!” Shoulder to shoulder campers and staff moved in sync searching for a clear retainer lost in an expansive field in the cover of night. It felt hopeless. Miraculously, however, the retainer was found. 

Miracles take our collective participation. Elisha didn’t retrieve the sunken axe head on his own - he invited his companion to assist in the miracle of a floating piece of iron. The companion responded to the invitation and reached out to retrieve the borrowed tool. I wonder what could happen if we had hoped an axe head could float or a retainer could be found. In a period where we increasingly long for the good news of Easter, what would it look like to practice hope by living in Christ’s footprints? What if we truly believed Earth can be as it is in Heaven - not as a truth in the distant future, but as a reality in the here and now? What if we responded to the invitation to collectively participate in miracles of care for creation?

When I walk the trails of North Carolina’s high country, I witness the snapping of Beech trees. I mourn this species that will soon be extinct from an unstoppable, deadly fungus and bug combination. Yet, I hold faith in the open canopy, and I hope in the invitation for new foliage to grow. I spread new seeds, and I know the fallen trees, the lost retainer, and the sunken axe head are not the last words. 

Prayer
God, Earth. Loss. Suffering. Longing. Chaos. Mystery. Hope. Change. Miracles. As it is in Heaven.
Amen


Crosby Palmer is an Austin College and Vanderbilt Divinity School alum who now works as Program Director at Holston Presbytery Camp and Retreat Center. Located in Banner Elk, NC, Crosby and their dog Turtle enjoy camping, hiking, rock-climbing, gardening, and playing capture the flag in the beautiful southern-Appalachian Mountains.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Devotional for Second Sunday of Lent

 Second Sunday Devotional 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 
Colossians 1:15-20

High on the mountainside about 10,000 feet above sea-level, we climbed steadily upward. The top of Mt. Wheeler loomed above, a sheer face dropping down toward a glacier and the talus slope of a glacier moraine. Before long, occasional gnarled trees appeared, bleached white or gray because of the wind. We had reached a forest of bristlecone pine, the oldest living things on earth dating back 4,500 years. The oldest grow in the harshest of conditions, forced by wind and water to grow slowly with a density of wood that resists invading disease. Tenacious trees.

Photo Credit: courtesy of Rick Goldwaser; Wikimedia Commons


We stopped near a tree. A fellow hiker paused as well, staring at the tree. Before long he reached out to touch the weathered wood, and exclaimed, “This tree was living when Jesus lived. Can you imagine that?” I thought about those trees. How old were they before the first human ever touched them? How long were they here converting carbon dioxide back into oxygen before the first human breathed in that oxygen? Here was a living tree whose life spanned centuries. I felt in the presence of something holy, enduring, and precious to God.

Modern science teaches us that each time we breathe, we inhale billions of oxygen molecules. In fact, these molecules have entered the lungs of every one of the 150 billion human beings and billions of animals who have ever lived. And the molecules we breathe in now will find their way into all the humans and other animals yet to come. Same air, same molecules. This natural, physical act reminds us that we exist in a miraculous, interdependent web of life created by God connecting us to God, to each other, to all of creation, now and over time.

This Lent as we reflect, discern, and reset our spiritual and moral compasses, take time to become mindful of your breathing. It will lead you to honor what God has done, and embrace God’s promise of what is to come.

Prayer
Creator, this Lenten season, open our eyes to the injustices around us. May we begin to build the foundation for a world that is honoring and pleasing to you. — one that removes fear and values everyone. Amen


For more than three decades, Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman served the church in social witness ministries and as the first national staff for environmental issues. He represented the PCUSA at the Rio Earth Summit, and has attended all but one of the UN climate negotiations since 1995. Now retired in the red rock canyon country of southern Utah, he continues to serve on the World Council of Churches Climate Change Steering Committee.






Friday, February 19, 2021

Devotional for First Sunday of Lent

 First Sunday Devotional 

By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:19

We have been reminded this year that we are dust. Our frailty, our mortality, has felt so visceral and clear over the past 12 months. We have lived in the uncertainty of the unknown, suffered the pain of loss, and struggled with our own lack of answers. We have felt fragile, and the world has felt beyond our control.

And yet, I remind myself: COVID-19 is organic, it is evolution, and it is creation. The same breath that transmits this virus is the breath I have learned to think of as Spirit: ruach, pneuma, the same breath that moved over the waters in Genesis. The Spirit moves, even as we cover our mouths and noses to protect ourselves from a virus we struggle to understand.

 


Scripture tells us that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. The dust that greets my face on the wind during one of our gusty New Mexican spring days is the same dust to which I am intrinsically connected. Our relationship with creation cannot be separated, even as we struggle to understand how to be in relationship with a virus that seems to have no conscience.

I’m not sure how we begin to live in this creation in a new way. We have become accustomed to controlling--perhaps even conquering--nature, and this recent loss of control is scary and has resulted in so much pain and loss. Yet, when the book of Revelation talks about a “new heaven, and a new earth,” I wonder if this is our invitation into a new relationship with creation around us. Creation is a part of us, and we are a part of it. We cannot continue to live as if we are separate.

Prayer
Almighty God, Spirit moving around us, draw us into right relationship with creation. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear you calling us into the dust. Amen.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Luke Rembold is an avid hiker and explorer who seeks the beauty in God’s creation. Luke credits a year as a PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Tucson, AZ, for molding his call to ministry. He currently serves as the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Coordinator for the Presbytery of Santa Fe, guiding the Albuquerque site of the YAV program and supporting youth leaders in the vital work of youth ministry.

Photo courtesy of Luke Rembold

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ash Wednesday by Rev. Rebecca Barnes

 

Ash Wednesday Devotional 

Today we bear a mark, the smudge of ashes, on our foreheads or hands.

Many of us grew up with an unappealing notion of “dirt.” Visible dirt smudged on our skin might be unfavorable. As a slang word for soil, dirt has a lot of negative connotations. Someone might be called “dirt” as a hurtful term about their essential worth. Being “dirty” means one must clean one’s self before being admitted into proper company. Or, alternatively, being “dirty” could be used to convey a spiritual or moral uncleanness. Dirt is associated with impropriety at best and shame at worst.

Shame is different than guilt. Guilt is related to having enacted a particular harmful behavior. Shame meanwhile is more about one’s essence, worth or deeper value. Being ashamed is different than being humble. Shame can impact one’s ability to keep and maintain relationships, work, and purpose. Shame can create great harm in a person’s life and in our world. Ashes should not be a mark of shame, but rather a mark of humility.

Humility is about knowing one’s right proportion in comparison to other things. Humility is not a rejection of self but a sense of the larger universe and of God’s presence. We are a part of something, even if only a small part. We are claiming we are earthy dirty, and connected to creation—which is actually a beautiful thing rather than a terrible thing.

Humility can be a relief, if we let it be. Being made from ash and returned to ash at the end of our earthly existence, we have an empowering and invigorating connection with God and God’s creation. It’s a reminder that the world’s problems aren’t all up to us, even if they depend on each of our contributions to make things better. God is in our midst.

In Revelation we look to a new heaven and a new earth, but not because we are shameful dirt that needs redemption. We look to a new heaven and new earth because being part of creation, we affirm that this world isn’t yet what God desires it to be. With humility, we mark ourselves with ash and commit ourselves to humble action. And even if we are unable to receive the imposition of ashes this year because of the continuing pandemic, we can always mark our hearts in its place. No matter how we choose to mark ourselves this year, by doing so we draw closer to the creation and to our Creator.

Prayer
Creator, this Lenten season, open our eyes to the injustices around us. May we begin to build the foundation for a world that is honoring and pleasing to you.—one that removes fear and values everyone. Amen.

Rev. Rebecca Barnes is the Coordinator for the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Lent Devotional Introduction

Introduction to PEC's Lenten Devotional 

Revelations 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”


I remember the beginning of the 2020 Lenten season quite clearly. This was my first Lent as a seminary student, and the school was abuzz with anticipation. Students were discussing amongst themselves about how they might channel this period of abstinence into impactful action. The chapel worship team excitedly invited students, faculty, and staff to join together for the Ash Wednesday service. Some students even hosted Mardi Gras parties (yes, more than one) on that Tuesday night complete with colorful beads and a plethora of sweets. I was excited to be in this space where Lent and Easter wouldn’t just be Sunday morning references, but events to be reminded of and look forward to daily. Little did I expect, however, that I, along with people the world over, would soon be giving up much more than I had bargained for. 


Over the course of several weeks last March and April, we watched as the world collectively entered into what was previously reserved for an episode of the Twilight Zone. The streets were largely empty, restaurants and churches closed, elbow bumps and quick waves replaced handshakes and hugs, and people began hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. As the weeks went on, we all watched as violence against our Black siblings sparked pent-up pandemic nerves to fuel social unrest and protests. Soon weeks became months, and masks became essential accessories, classrooms and church sanctuaries broadcasted from our computer screens, and political unrest took on a whole new meaning in our country on that fateful January 6th. Whether we like it or not, the world is a different place, and it has touched all of us. 


Considering all of the tension, changes, and sacrifices we have already had to make, it almost seems unnecessary to begin thinking about Lent once again. After all, what more do we have to give up? But let us not forget what the Lenten Season promises us: the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry in which he opens the doors and makes room for all of us in his Father’s house (John 14:2-3). Jesus promises us something new, a new way forward that leads to truth and life. Just as Lent is a commemoration of Jesus’ time in the wilderness (which might feel particularly apropos this year), this season is also reminder of Jesus’ promise for us, and a time to prepare ourselves for the new world Jesus brings with him. 


In Revelations 21:1-4, the scripture passage for this year’s devotional, John sees a vision of what Jesus promises. After visions of angels, plagues, and beasts, John witnesses the arrival of a new heaven and new earth to replace the old. This is a hallowed place marked as the home of God, free from all suffering, pain, and death. While ours is not paradise, we also see a new world around us marked with expectations and demands once largely unseen and unheard. We now have an opportunity to join in with the voices crying out for justice, mercy, and love, to join in the reimagining that is needed to build the new Jerusalem of our dreams. This reimagining is already taking place around us; in the face of isolation and violence, we have found new ways of building community, new networks of resiliency, and new understandings of how to better love one another and ourselves. 


Our work as stewards of God’s creation also requires us to imagine a new earth, to take back the land, water, and air away from polluting, extractive, and imperialist ways of viewing our home and neighbors and to create something sustainable, equitable, and compassionate in its place. The task ahead of us is colossal, but do not forget about the stories of environmental renewal that sprung up in the midst of the pandemic: fauna of all shapes and sizes returned to their old homes, cities recorded record-low levels of pollution, and people rediscovered the joy of gardening and cultivating the earth. Whether we work towards justice for our planet or for our neighbors, we have an opportunity now to embrace the new world around us. 


Whatever your Lenten practice might be this year, I pray that you will look to God for comfort and assurance in this ever-precarious world we find ourselves in. I pray also that you let the voices in this devotional move your heart, and to accept their invitation into joining in communion with all creation as we go forward. 


To the Glory of God,

Amen.


P.S. For those that did not know, 2020 was PEC’s 25th Anniversary. In commemoration of this momentous achievement, several of the writers in this devotional are past and present leaders of PEC ministries. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported PEC’s work. May God continue to bless us for another 25 years!





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