Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Stand with Indigenous People in this Climate Crisis


by Rev. Jed Koball

Closing worship for the Presbyterians for Earth Care conference was co-led by the Rev. Jed Koball, PCUSA Mission Co-Worker in Peru.  Jed is a strong and passionate leader in the church in both social and environmental justice. He has graciously shared a summary of his message. 

“In the face of the Climate Crisis, the Church has a unique role because it has unique responsibility. It is my belief that the crisis we are in today started long before the first combustible engine or any other greenhouse gas-emitting technology. I believe the crisis started at the dawn of the European conquest and colonization of what is today the Americas, Africa and Asia. Namely, I believe it began with the infamous Doctrine of Discovery in which the Church authorized, legitimized, and mandated the conquest of foreign lands by European kingdoms, justifying land left, slavery and genocide of indigenous peoples. 

In its eradication of indigenous peoples and their cultures, the Church buried indigenous spiritualities that promote harmony with the Earth and replaced it with a spirituality that promotes dominion over the earth. In so doing, the Church unleashed racial hierarchy and the exploitation of the earth in the interest of promulgating Christendom. While the Church has repented for some of its past, it is essential that we continue to reckon with our history which in many ways  has come to a head in the form of the climate crisis. Of the remaining indigenous peoples in the world today, they are guardians of 85% of the world's biodiversity, and they are crying out that if we want to solve the climate crisis then we must listen to them. I believe that in the face of the climate crisis, this must be our paramount task – listening to indigenous peoples. 

While we should have no expectation that any indigenous peoples would want to converse or be in relationship with those of us who are not indigenous and follow Jesus, we can and we must lift up their voices and their causes…and when invited stand with them.”

Note: To view the recording of the closing worship of the 2023 PEC Conference, including the sermon by Rev. Jed Koball, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

PEC's Conference: A Personal Perspective


by Rick Randolph, MD

This September, my wife and I attended the 2023 Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) biennial conference at the PC(USA) Conference Center in Massenetta Springs, VA. This was a wonderful event featuring inspired preaching from the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, enlightening teaching from Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull, the Rhodes Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and an enlightening offering of classes. Everyone was collegial and the setting in Massenetta Springs enhanced our sense of reverence.

This conference was an ambitious undertaking by PEC. It was held in a hybrid in-person/online format with presentations originating from several different sites. It spanned five days and had 28 presentations. These presentations included advocacy opportunities, learning more about the effects of climate change, the Inflation Reduction Act, personal financial choices, congregational funding, and personal wellness.

We heard about the Doctrine of Discovery, environmental communications, home energy conservation, and how to become an Earth Care Congregation. In order to have so many offerings, several were presented simultaneously, presenting us with the challenge of choosing only one course at a time!

Thankfully, all the breakouts, the plenary presentations by Rev Dr. Diane Givens Moffett and Rev Dr. Patricia Tull, and the times of worship were recorded and all are on the PEC website. Visit and see the full breadth of the areas presented.

As with most conferences, the ability to visit with the other participants who were attending in person ended up being one of the most enduring fruits of the conference. Thanks must be given for the incredible hard work of the organizing committee. My wife Jo was part of that group and didnt have the opportunity to enjoy the conference as much as the rest of the 237 attendees. I can only express my profound appreciation for the results of their labors. PEC puts on a conference every two years. Plan now to attend. You will not be disappointed.

Richard Randolph, MD, recently retired as the Senior Chief Medical Officer of Heart to Heart International, based in Lenexa, KS, having had responsibility for the development of medical, disaster, and public health programs in the developing world and the US. He and his wife Jo have worked actively with PEC for many years and belong to Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas.

The Parable of the Sower


by Nancy Corson Carter


One of the great gifts of PECs conference for me was the discovery of Octavia E. Butlers novel, The Parable of the Sower. I learned of it through Dr. Faith Harriss presentation, A Womanist and Interfaith Response to Climate Change: Reimagining Our Collective Futures.”


Dr. Harris quoted Katie Geneva Cannon to introduce herself: My assignment as a womanist liberation ethicist is to debunk, unmask, and disentangle the historically conditioned value judgements and power relations that undergird the particularities of race, sex, class, and oppression.” (She defines womanist” as a liberation theology restoring dignity and hope to women of color without being adversarial.)


In asking What should people of faith and good conscience do?” Dr. Harris argued that our faith tradition can change the narrative: We can make the moral argument to invest in people, in Earth.” So it seemed natural, now that I have read The Parable, that she would celebrate this book.


Written in 1993 by a gifted prize-winning writer whod grown up poor, fighting the notion that black women dont write,” the story begins in 2024. This dystopian work of science fiction presents a world in chaos that we can recognize as already becoming true—it is both prescient and prophetic.


The young woman protagonist, Lauren (the sower in hopes of seeding good soil), is thrown into a deeply disturbing journey by violence. I found that the nightmarish world she traverses (ostensibly the Pacific coast in the future) is not unlike the DariĆ©n Gap, the dangerous link between Colombia and Panama being risked now by hundreds of thousands of migrants set on finding a better life in the North. Yet Earthseed: The Books of the Living threads through the book in brief poetic-journal form at the beginning of each chapter as her testimonial that there is a God who is our partner in this Earth through change, forever uniting, growing, dissolving.” She believes that this God leads us, if we persist, toward loving, Earth-honoring community. The books final words quote the parable of the sower from Luke 8: 5-8 in the King James Version of the Bible.


 A main theme Dr. Harris argued is that, Our challenge is to interrupt the fossil fuel death spiral” and to face our problem of a theo-ethical premise” that individuals can own land and push others out (stealing, killing, or enslaving them as in the Doctrine of Discovery). She urged that the moral remedy is to bring God back to Earth: God is not outside us but within us and all Earth,” and our hope is to create community wherever we are. She celebrates Parable of the Sower as a work that gives her hope because we are going to have to figure this out, to do it together.” That we will do this is my hope as well.


Nancy Corson Carter, professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College, has published two poetry books, Dragon Poems and The Sourdough Dream Kit, and three poetry chapbooks. Some of her poems, drawings, and photos appear in her nonfiction book, Martha, Mary, and Jesus: Weaving Action and Contemplation in Daily Life and in her memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: a WWII GI Daughter's Stories.

Empowering Hope in a Threatened World


by Nancy Corson Carter


Retired oceanographer Dr. C. Mark Eakin has spent over 30 years with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. His presentation, Climate and Oceans,” reminded me of the powerful film he helped create as its Chief Science Advisor. The Sundance and Emmy award-winning 2017 movie Chasing Coral documents one of the first repeated coral bleachings that occurred between June 2014 to May 2017. During that time, nearly all world coral bleached, sometimes for two years running, as the Earths oceanic waters have continued to warm beyond safe levels for the coral. An area near Guam was hit excessively. Now, almost every year brings bleaching events.


When corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.


Chasing Coral helped alert the world to what is only a 10-year-old field of study, one which is racing against time to rescue a beautiful and once abundant source of life. Nearly a billion people rely on coral reefs directly and indirectly. Thanks to its availability on Netflix and YouTube, Chasing Coral is available to more people and encourages action in caring for the oceans and advocating for their protection.


The corals depend upon a symbiotic relationship with algae, which exudes nutrients for the coral and protects them. Those who study the coral have been shocked to find that in places like the Great Barrier Reef and especially in the tropical waters around Florida, 60% of the coral are in jeopardy.


The situation has become critical and scientists are conducting research in coral nurseries to keep them alive and find strains that can survive warming water. One of the corals wiped out in the wild now only survives in a nursery. But we must do more to reduce CO2 now to save one of the ocean’s most valuable resources. 


There is some good news on the climate change front. France has officially pledged to shut down all coal-fired power plants in three years. California will put five million electric cars on the road by 2030. Individuals can help reduce dependency on fossil fuels by changing lifestyles, for example, by using mass transit and electric cars, and by supporting electric work vehicles like pickups, buses, and delivery trucks.


Reducing local stressors also helps. 50-85% of the coral loss in Kiribati in 2016 is now bouncing back; after a ban on most fishing. Shade helps and anything that cools the water—even ships spraying salt water up to make clouds.


Dr. Eakins report emphasized a great need to provide mental health support for scientist-researchers who must observe, year after year, the death of once healthy and utterly magical coral reef ecosystems.

In 1994, I went on an eco-tour of the Brazilian flooded forests of the Amazon, sponsored by the PC(USA) and led by Rev. Bill Somplatsky-Jarman. Our preparation packets included a stunning essay,The Ecology of Grief,” by Phyllis Windle.


Windle explores, with a wonderful cast of scientists and especially ecologists, the benefits of grieving well,” of avoiding the temptation to turn and walk away when what we love is threatened. In the final words of her essay, she writes,We shall need passion, commitment, creativity, energy, and concentration. We shall have none of these if we fail to grieve (alone and with each other) for the magnificent trees, the lovely animals, and the beautiful places that we are losing.


As Dr. Eakin and others like Dr. Faith Harris in our empowering 2023 Earth Care Conference remind us, Our hope is to create community together wherever we are.”


Nancy Corson Carter, professor emerita of humanities at Eckerd College, has published two poetry books, Dragon Poems and The Sourdough Dream Kit, and three poetry chapbooks. Some of her poems, drawings, and photos appear in her nonfiction book, Martha, Mary, and Jesus: Weaving Action and Contemplation in Daily Life and in her memoir, The Never-Quite-Ending War: a WWII GI Daughter's Stories.

Eating for a Healthy Climate


by Eric Diekhans


It seems like everything about America is big, whether it’s our landscapes, our superhero movies, our McMansions, or our SUVs. But that abundance results in a disproportionate impact on global warming. Each year, Americans are responsible for 19 tons of CO2 emissions per capita, as compared to seven tons for Europe, two tons for South Asia, and one ton for Sub-Saharan Africa.


Fifteen percent of those emissions comes from food and food waste. It’s not the largest source of our carbon footprint but it still has a substantial impact on climate change. Making different choices about food can make a real difference in avoiding the worst impacts of global warming.


As a member of Montclair Presbyterian Church (MPC) in Oakland, CA, Suzanne Jones helps lead the Earth Care Committees Climate and Food Team and recently co-authored MPCs new cookbook, Climate Friendly Cooking—105 Recipes to Help Save the Planet. During her presentation at PEC’s conference, Suzanne admitted that changing our diets isn’t easy. Food has important connections to our emotions, our habits, and our identities. Think of Thai beef noodles, British steak and kidney pudding, or Cuban boliche.


“It can be difficult and even painful to change such deeply held practices,” said Suzanne, but we can harmonize our food-related needs with leaving behind a livable planet and still be healthy and well-fed.”


Suzanne said that “the dominant factor that determines our dietary greenhouse gas emissions is what we choose to eat for protein.”

Thirty-one percent of agricultural emissions comes from livestock and fisheries. Most adults need 50-175 grams of protein per day. Eating 100 grams of beef protein emits 49.89 kg of carbon. Getting the same amount from nuts emits about half that amount.


But you don’t have to completely give up meat to make a positive environmental impact. Ruminants do the most damage to our environment. These are animals like cattle, bison, and sheep that chew the cud regurgitated from their second stomach, or rumen. This causes them to exhale methane, which is 80 times stronger than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Ruminant waste also emits CH4 and nitrous oxide n20, which are 300 times more potent as greenhouse gases than CO2.


“Cutting out just red meat and dairy products results in emissions comparable to pescatarians (who eat fish but not meat) and lacto-ovo-vegetarians (who eat plants, eggs, and dairy products),” says Suzanne.


If you don’t want to become a full-time vegetarian or pescatarian, Suzanne suggests saving beef for special occasions like Christmas dinner, and getting most of your protein from pork, chicken, and plants.


Fish is also another good source of protein, but choosing the right seafood is complicated. Wild-caught fish tend to be better for the environment than farm-raised, though new methods of raising fish on land are changing that calculation. Plus, ocean ecosystems are very stressed due to overfishing, pollution, and acidification from CO2 emissions.


Crab, lobster, and some oysters and prawns are very high in CO2 emissions because boats must go out and check traps often.


You can learn about the best options for choosing seafood using the Seafood Carbon Emissions Tool.


Buying local has become a popular way to minimize agriculture’s harm. But Suzanne says that, while it may have other benefits, buying locally sourced food has little impact on emissions because transportation only accounts for 6% of agricultural CO2. But it’s still important to be aware of how our food is transported. Ships are much more fuel-efficient than trucking. California beef has only 1% lower emissions than beef exported from Australia. On the other hand, air shipping perishable foods like out-of-season berries is terrible for the environment.


Food waste also contributes to global warming because food grown but thrown away offers no benefits. In the United States, we waste 40% of the food we use, and 30% of food is wasted worldwide.


“What could be more unChristian?” Suzanne asks.


She suggests that we be careful not to overbuy. We can also bring our own containers to take home restaurant leftovers, buy ugly produce that might otherwise be thrown away, and donate our extra food if possible. You can even search the web for companies that will deliver ugly but tasty produce to you, or consider signing up for a CSA farm share.


Following all of the advice in this article will make a positive impact on your personal carbon footprint but Suzanne reminds us that to save our planet, we must also take action to support and change institutions that have an even larger impact on carbon emissions. That means supporting democratic institutions and voting rights so we have the power to make our voices heard. Those voices must demand that governments enact swift and bold policies to phase out fossil fuels and other sources of greenhouse gas emissions.


Eric Diekhans is a published author, Executive Director of the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries, and a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago. You can learn more about him on his website.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Wild Journey: Going Beyond Church Outside

Doing Wild Church

By Mindy Braun

 I have found God in nature for as long as I can remember. The tiny wildflowers would speak to my heart and reassure me that God sees me, just as He sees the hidden face of the flower. I also felt a sense of gratitude from God and the flower that I had the eyes to see them, notice them, appreciate them.

 It was through my grandparents, Bob & Barbara Stevenson, that this church of the wild experience really got established in me. They heard and answered Gods call to move from Coalinga, CA to Calvin Crest Conferences near Oakhurst, CA. Calvin Crest was established by the San Joaquin Presbytery of California in 1954. They moved their family of six up to the camp, where my mom spent her high school years. Our family would spend holidays there and I became a camper at Calvin Crest when I entered elementary school.

 The mountain and forests of Calvin Crest (which is on the homelands of the Miwok Indians) were midwives to my spirituality and connection to God. Calvin Crests outdoor church was my favorite. My heart could truly soar in worship underneath those pines.

 Im now 48 and am rediscovering a deep connection to God through this beloved earth and all creation. For years, my heart has longed for church outside again. I was able to get a taste of it during Covid-19 when my Presbyterian church, The Cove Fellowship, began to meet outside when the weather allowed. I confess that at times I may have listened more to the goldfinches singing in the trees than the sermon.

           When a fellow spiritual director told me about a book she was reading, my life and heart opened up in a new and exhilarating way. I began reading Church of the Wild by Victoria Loorz. Its her story of being a spiritual director and pastor, longing for something beyond her experience of church. When she writes, I longed for church to be a place where Mystery is experienced not explained…” I heard my own heart echoed.

 I soon visited Wild Church Petaluma and pretty much wept through the entire time. This could be church?” I thought. I signed up for Wild Church Networks six-week leadership course for those who were feeling the call to start a wild church in their watershed. Wild Church Petaluma is part of the Petaluma River watershed and I lived in the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed just north.

 I quickly realized I was kind of doing wild church” already. I had been leading God in Nature Hikes for the past four years through Journey Center Santa Rosa, for which I serve as Executive Director. We are a Christ-centered contemplative spirituality nonprofit for those seeking to encounter the Sacred. We have various pathways to encounter the Divine and one of them is God in Nature. I had been leading groups where we started with a scripture or poem reading, walked in silence together for 20 minutes, then stopped along the trail to share what we had noticed. Then the rest of the hike was in conversation with one another.

After telling others in the Journey Center community about wild church and seeing there was a resonating “YES!” in people’s hearts, Wild Journey was born in December 2022! This is the description you will find on our webpage:


Wild Journey is an emerging community of those who are returning to nature as spiritual practice. We are Christ-centered AND welcoming to all spiritual paths. We are not led by doctrine or dogma, but by the Divine Mystery that dwells in us all. We meet outside in various locations within the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed and seek to reconnect with the sacredness of earth, honoring the Divine Presence in all beings.


Our gatherings offer opportunities for contemplation, grief and praise, movement and song, solo wandering and wondering, advocacy, ecological restoration, and activism on behalf and in collaboration with the beloved others in our watershed. Children are welcome to participate or play nearby. All are welcome.   


We meet once a month within the Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed; usually the first or third Sunday of the month. Wild Journey is an expression of Journey Center Santa Rosa and is a part of Wild Church Network.


There are four movements within our time together:

·       Gathering & Grounding – Welcome, Invocation of the watershed, introductions and gratitude, 7-direction prayer

·       Reading & Reflection – Reflections on the season we are in and poems to ponder

·       Wandering & Wondering, - 30 minutes to wander and listen to nature speak

·       Sharing & Sending – return to the circle to witness how the Spirit moved in each other and then a closing song to send us out

 You will find on the Wild Church Network website this beautiful description of the movement that is drawing people to love, protect and preserve this precious gift of Mother Earth:


Popping up all over the land, like wild mushrooms after a spring rain, Wild Church communities are responding to a call from deep within to change the way we relate to the natural world, moving  ‘from a collection of objects, to a communion of subjects’Thomas Berry


In this age of mass extinctions, we feel compelled by the love of Christ to invite people into intimate relationship with some of the most vulnerable victims of our destructive culture:  the land, waters, and creatures with whom we share our homes.  


New Wild Churches are emerging all the time, offering invitations to reconnect with the natural world. As kin. As sacred. As beloved co-participants in a larger story of grace and inter-being.

 Wild Journey continues to grow and welcome those who are longing for connection to God and nature in community. I am in awe that this indeed is church and would dare to say it is a much fuller expression than I have ever known.


Mindy Braun is the Executive Director of Journey Center Santa Rosa. She graduated with the 2021 Cohort of the Journey Center Associations Spiritual Director Formation Program. Her passion is to create safe, sacred spaces for all people to experience love and belonging.

Grounded in Context

 by Rev. Eric Beene

Eco-activism can easily become abstracted. The problems of changing climates and planetary destruction become separated from the places where we encounter the needs of the world, and they lead us to worry in ways that can literally overwhelm us. Photography is also a process of abstraction. When we snap a photo, we literally put a frame around an object or a scene or even a person, and then we remove it from its context and carry it away into a much bigger world. But I wonder if photography can be a tool for grounding our activism again, too.

Although photography is a process of abstraction, the act of zooming our lens in on an object or set of objects and pressing the button or tapping the screen happens in a context. The context is not only visual. It is also filled with the emotions we feel when we are confronted with what we see in that place, as well as the spirit that stirred us to go to that place and take out our camera. As we frame and capture images, we also capture those feelings and that spirit’s leading, and if we are willing to pay attention to them, they can be a source of great power for us. In a 1958 article in Commonweal called, “Poetry and Contemplation:  A Reappraisal,” Thomas Merton said, “Aesthetic intuition is not merely the act of a faculty, it is also a heightening and intensification of our personal identity and being by the perception of our connatural affinity with ‘Being’ in the beauty contemplated.” By noticing and acting on the feelings and leadings inside us as we frame a photo, we exercise our creative power. That creative power is aligned with the power of the Creator whose work we are abstracting and carrying home. And then, in looking at our photographs later, and in sharing them with others, we bring them to new contexts in which we can discover additional details, with new feelings, different values, and longings we didn’t know we had. Through our photography, with all of its context, abstraction, and re-contextualization, we can ground ourselves over and over again in our “connatural affinity with ‘Being.’” 

We can let our impulse toward activism on behalf of the environment follow a similar path. We can take those issues that are abstracted and overwhelming and put them back in touch with the feelings and the spirit which were the context into which our activism was born. Our desire to preserve and protect the places where we live and where we encounter the needs of the world thus can become an expression of our affinity with the Being in whom we live and move and have our own being.

 All of the photos below were taken within an hour’s drive of my home in Sonoma County, California. I have paired them with sentences of scripture to show how I perceive my own connection through them with the God of my being. I pray that they will show you a way that leads you to be grounded in your own identity and affinity with the One who created you and calls you into the work you do.

“When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.” (Jeremiah 10:13)

“You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore!” (Psalm 16:11)

“Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all day long.” (Psalm 35:28)

“For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew.” (Zechariah 8:12-13)

“The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)

“Happy are those…whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them!” (Psalm 146:5-6)

Rev. Eric Beene is General Presbyter of the Presbytery of the Redwoods and an amateur photographer. Previously, he served as Pastor to congregations in Savannah, Georgia, and Boston, Massachusetts. He lives in Windsor, California, with his wife Mary and their teenage son Isaac.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Morning Grace


Eric Diekhans

By Eric Diekhans

The alarm sounds at 5:30 am and I immediately roll out of bed. In summer, the sun is already bursting through the blinds; in spring and fall my bedroom is dark and sometimes cold. I pull on lycra shorts, jersey, gloves, and cleated shoes. When the weather get colder, I add a jacket, booties, lobster gloves, and sometimes a balaclava. My gear allows me to ride even when the temperature drops below freezing. 

The world is mostly silent as I push my bike out the door and climb aboard. A few blocks later, I wave to a small gathering of cyclists also ready to roll out. They ride faster than my pace so I continue on solo. That’s the way I prefer it anyway. 

I’ve been taking these morning rides for years, two or three times per week from mid March until November. The early start allows me time to get home, walk the dog, and get ready for work. During the pandemic, when I was working at home, I continued my ritual. The streets I ride on Chicago’s North Shore were mostly deserted. In a time of turmoil and uncertainty, my this stress-free hour offered me peace.

 During Covid, I began to think of my morning ride as a form of prayer. I’ve always felt more comfortable with unspoken prayer that comes from my heart and soul rather than words that come from my head. While Covid brought the world almost to a stop, my thoughts receded and God’s presence came forth. 

I roll north and spot other cyclists out for training rides. A few cars and delivery trucks add to the mix, but nothing like this road will see in an hour as the morning commute begins. Lake Michigan is off my right shoulder. I sense its magnificence even though I can’t see the water through the houses and parks along the route. Some mornings, I pause partway through my route to ride down a steep hill to a deserted beach. The sun rises over the lake and I take a few moments to contemplate the wonder of nature.

Riding back up the hill, I continue on even quieter streets. Birds sing to me overhead and occasionally I spot a deer ambling across the road. I turn and pick up the bike trail that runs along the commuter rail for my return trip. Occasionally I spot a runner or a train roars past, momentarily disturbing the peace.

“The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (Mark 6: 30-31)

I suspect that Jesus retreated to the desert or some quiet garden more often than reported in the gospels. Ministry is hard work and solitary contemplation is as important as engagement. As Christians, we need to be in fellowship in the pews, and in service outside the church doors. But we also need to connect with God in creation, and where better to find the Divine than in nature’s quiet embrace?

I reach the end of the trail and roll back onto city streets. The traffic is starting to pick up as the rest of the world begins its day. I’ve ridden these streets so many times I know every busy intersection and my mind continues to relax. When I arrive home, I’ll continue my own day in a state of grace thanks to the nourishment of the natural world. Hopefully, that feeling of peace will linger in my soul long after my ride has ended.


Eric Diekhans is an award-winning author, television, and podcast producer, and a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago. If he’s not on his bike, you can find him at www.ericdiekhans.com

Nurturing Spirit and Body; Seeking to Nurture Earth


JOY’s 7-circuit canvas labyrinth

By Diane Waddell

 The Justice, Outreach and Yoga (JOY) New Worshiping Community is a part of the 1001 NWC program of the PCUSA. The group gathers in St. Joseph, Missouri, in a sacred, beautiful space where the prairie has flourished, offering solace and quietude for the restoration of body and soul.

 JOY was birthed from a Laudato Si understanding of seeking equity in both environmental and social justice. Leaders and others who are part of the community share opportunities for sacred connection. We are a Matthew 25 community, seeking justice, and are particularly grateful for the three recently added intersectional priorities” to Matthew 25, including the importance of working as faithful stewards of God’s Creation to respond to Climate Change.

 Our Community meets at least three times a month. Our spiritual gatherings begin with candle or sage burning, prayer vigil for local or global needs, and the music of singing bowls. Our themes have been based on Celtic spirituality which keeps us grounded and centered in Creation. Alternate months we share and are amazed by the work of the mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, who offered an essence of “greenness.”

 We have been gifted by one of the members, Rev. Dr. Krista Kiger, with a 7-circuit canvas labyrinth, and have been able to share a special sacred time of a labyrinth walk at least twice yearly. Our hearts, minds, and spirits are enriched by the sacred walk.

 We are strengthened and nurtured in our space and through our community. Our next steps are those in which we reach out to the wider community — our neighborhood and the wider region to advocate for the healing of the Earth. (Refuse, reuse, recycle; limit or refuse single-use plastics; plant native flowers, shrubs, trees; care for our gift of water, air, earth…)

 Indeed, for we ourselves to be healed and whole, we must nurture and care for this beautiful home called Earth.


Diane Waddell is Leader of JOY New Worshiping Community.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Alyeska: A Special Part of Our Earth


Caribou photo by Brian Schmitt

by Barbara Brown

When I first moved to Alaska in 2007 I had visited here twice before, and I was in awe of the magnitude and majesty of this place. The name Alaska is derived from a native word: “Alyeska”, which means great land, and this state certainly is that.


    I live in the city of Palmer in the southcentral area of the state, about a 50 minute drive from Anchorage, the largest city. When I watch our local news and weather, the station is based in Anchorage, but the reports cover other areas of the state as well: North Slope, Interior, Southeast, Aleutian Chain, Western, Kenai Peninsula, and  Prince William Sound. I live in the area which is known as being “on the road system”, where a majority of the population lives. Once you get past Fairbanks in the interior there are no roads to get places except for the Haul Road, used by truckers to get supplies up to the oil fields in the north.


   My city has several very popular tourist destinations: the Reindeer Farm, where you can go in the pen and feed them, the Musk Ox Farm, where you can watch them being groomed for their incredibly soft qiviut fiber, Hatcher Pass, where you can hike, ski, and see the remains of the Independence Gold Mine, and the small town feel of the downtown area, full of shops and restaurants.


  Out my front window I have a wonderful view of Pioneer Peak which stands at 6,398 ft. and is part of the Chugach Range.  These mountains, along with the nearby Talkeetna Mountain Range, are not as high as the Rockies but are jagged and stark against the mostly flat plains surrounding them. The ever-changing light and shadows from clouds overhead means I will never get tired of watching them.  If you have never seen a mountain bathed in the pinkish, orangey glow of Alpenglow, you really need to come here to experience it.


   The Matanuska Valley, where Palmer is located, was carved out by the Matanuska Glacier. Like many of the glaciers in Alaska it has receded many miles back from where the town is, but it is readlily accessible by car, and you can go on guided tours across its surface. The Matanuska River flows from it through town, and it is a classic example of a braided river, full of glacial silt. The water at the height of the spring melt runoff time is a bluish gray color.


    The fertile soil in this valley means this area supports some of the largest agricultural fields of the whole state. Maybe you have heard of the giant cabbages that can grow up to 110 pounds, and other giant vegetable like 4 pound carrots and 5 pound kohlrabi. There is a whole section at the state fair (held in Palmer in late August through Labor Day) of giant veggies on display each year, so again, if you have never been to Alaska, maybe you want to come for that.  We even have Cabbage Fairies who wander around the fairgrounds in their cute green costumes spreading good cheer to young and old. 


   Our new Representative in D.C., Mary Peltola, is Alaska Native,  from the Kuskokwim River area in and around Bethel. She is passionate about protecting this great land.  She is aware that Alaska has mostly been a resource extraction state in its relatively short 63 years of statehood but she knows that there is much to be done to keep this boom and bust extractive economy from completing raping all the bountiful resources in this land. There are now collaborative approaches happening that are moving the state toward a regenerative economy. For a sample, listen to the latest episode of “A Matter of Degrees” podcast.  The episode delves into the decades-long fight to protect the Tongass National Forest in southeast AK. It features Marina Anderson, Deputy Director of the Sustainable Southeast Partnership and President Richard  Chalyee  Peterson of the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.


     In closing, I want to reiterate: Alaska is a great land, and its nickname The Last Frontier is well earned. I feel blessed to call this place home, and pray God will bless our efforts to care for this special part of our earth.

Barbara Brown is a member of PEC as well as the Presbytery of Yukon.  She was one of the planners and hosts for a glorious eco-trip to Alaska/ Yukon Presbytery in 2014 along with Curtis Karns, then Executive Presbytery of Yukon Presbytery.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Taking "Church" Outdoors


Covenant Kayakers

by Eric Diekhans


Outdoor ministry. The phrase evokes memories of church camp, probably a few hoursdrive from home. A week or two spent in nature for children, teens, or perhaps families.


But what if outdoor ministry was more accessible, just a short work or drive away? What if it was right outside your churchs door?


After retiring from his call as a PCUSA campus minister, Bruce Chapman became a Florida master naturalist and park ranger. When he and his wife moved to North Carolina in 2019, Covenant Church and its Outdoor Ministry Committee were a perfect fit for him. At the time, outdoor ministry opportunities there were modest. The church offered a monthly hiking excursion to contemplate nature and enjoy fellowship.


I started talking with Lauren Sawyers and other church people that were involved in the hiking,” says Bruce. We all were sensitive to environmental issues, and a core group of us wondered what else we can do as Christians.”


Bruce and Lauren became committee co-coordinators as their ambitions grew. The committee focused on a multi-pronged mission: To provide members of our community practical opportunities to experience nature; deepen relationships with the church, each other and our natural surroundings; and grow in faithful stewardship of the environment.”


The committee continued to offer hikes to beautiful area locations like South Fork Catawba Trail and the Stevens Creek Nature Preserve, along with kayaking and other outdoor activities. They also invited speakers like Timothy Beal, author of When Time is Short, to speak about climate change. An eco-study group formed and, Chapman says, We looked for ways to not just navel gaze but actually have a mission project or some kind of outreach.”


One of their first ventures was a stream clean relationship with the local stormwater district. The church adopted an urban stream in a restored riverine habitat that runs through Charlotte and committed to picking up trash there four times a year.


Last summer, the church also started a gleaning mission through the Society of St. Andrews, a grassroots, faith-based, hunger relief nonprofit. They collect leftovers from fields after harvesting is done,” Bruce shares.  “Our group visited rural North Carolina farms and collected tomatoes, squash, and other vegetables left in the field.  These were then passed through the Society of St. Andrews to needy organizations.”


The committee is also looking at ways to make a positive impact on the environment right outside the church’s doors. Just before we came to Covenant,” Bruce says, they added an addition to the building, To meet city code, they had to offset that impervious surface by digging an earthen basin to catch stormwater runoff. But the basin isnt doing its job because its not connected to any of the downspouts or drainage systems. Its just grass that we mow.”


The committee has drafted a proposal to repurpose the basin as an urban wetland habitat and micro-forest.  It sees the project as a significant statement about how Christians can be good stewards of the earth.


The work of the Outdoor Ministry Committee is just one way Covenant strives to be a forward-thinking community with a culture of embracing innovation as we live out our mission. “ In doing so, the church provides an inspirational example of how we can all be better stewards of our environment, individually and as a community.


Eric Diekhans is an author, editor of “Earth News,” a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago, and Executive Director of the Greater Chicago Broadcast Ministries.