Diane with a Kenyan friend on a mission trip to Thawke Village near Nairobi
by Diane Waddell
Eco-Tourism is a popular item….a destination-type of tourism where visitors hope to travel responsibly or visit places that are deemed to be sustainable communities. `
Consider a spin-off on Eco-tourism…towards faith-based, destination Earth encounters, such as Sustainable Mission trips. Consider the term…Sacred Earth travels as a new mindset. Indeed, connecting with our Sacred Earth is connecting with the beauty and intelligence of plants and other animals….with earth, air, soil, water.
In fact, Creation calls us… as God calls us…through whispers of water, air, fire, and soil; through multitudes of types of plants and animals; all miraculous. Our response to that calling honestly must be with reverence, grace, and gratitude. Creation is calling…for Justice. The Rev. Dr. Bill Brown (professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary) shared many wise words at PEC’s Stony Point Conference in 2019. He suggested that the term we need to use is “Creation Justice” as we are stewards of God’s magnificent gift.
I am so grateful that the PCUSA, through Presbyterian Compassion, Peace and Justice programs, has shared and continues to share ways of connecting with our global partners through travels and seminars (both virtual and on-site.) I have been so grateful for connections that have continued to be transformative for me. In Lima, Peru, for example, I vividly recall climbing up one of the Andes Mountains toward a small community and school. The higher up the mountain, the more poverty there was. The children had to climb down in the dark in the morning to get to school, and parents had to leave in the darkness down the mountain to get to their farming work. Thanks to the work of World Mission partners, Hunger Program, Disaster Assistance, and many others for allowing us to be connected both virtually and physically around the world; raise awareness, and support persons in need.
Presbyterians for Earth Care has shared many excellent conferences both on-site and virtually, and continues to share and prepare us as Creation calls. Stay tuned for their next amazing conference in September, 2023 and for many webinars coming up…when we can virtually ‘tour.’ And hold in appreciation those who have hosted conferences. (Thanks to Barb Brown who has written a lovely article about Alaska. She and others including then-EP Curtis Karns hosted a great conference in Alaska open to PEC members.)
Yet, we can also be connected with travel in our backyards, church campuses, local parks, rural areas, and more. We can work towards making a sanctuary in our own backyards with trees, plants, and animals. Planting native plants and trees is a beautiful way to make a special connection. Native species are more sustainable and adapted to thrive in their own natural habitat.
While connecting with your own space, look up the name and history of your watershed and what native tribes walked in the same space. Work with local and national groups who appreciate caring for your Earth space… to work on the transformation of your backyard, church campus, etc., toward becoming a more sacred space.
Wendell Berry states that “it is impossible, ultimately, to preserve ourselves apart from our willingness to preserve other creatures, or to respect and care for ourselves except as we respect and care for other creatures; and…it is impossible to care for each other more or differently than we care for the earth.“ (The Body and the Earth) He reminds us that the earth is what we all have in common, that it is what we are made of and what we live from, and that we therefore cannot damage it without damaging those with whom we share it. Amen.
And as we travel, we recall that sustainability in means of travel is extremely important… Thanks to Jo and Rick Randolph’s travel stories of walking while traveling. How beautiful to touch the Earth with respect while walking and hearing Creation calling that much more clearly.
And if and as you do travel using fossil fuels, consider contributing to the Restoring Creation Fund as a carbon offset program of the PCUSA, which will go toward planting and nurturing trees with longstanding partners.
Restoring Creation For Ecology & Justice (E865715)
To give by phone, call 800-872-3283. To send a check, please designate where you want your gift to go on the memo line and mail to:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700
As you consider an eco-tour, hold in your hearts the concept of Sacred Earth. Consider that sacred earth each time you touch the ground as you walk, every time you breathe in the air, feel the warmth of the sun or the coolness of rain and marvel at the beauty of God’s garden. Allow each moment to be a means to answer Creation’s call for justice. Be grateful for each opportunity to be and share, whether it is with a plant or water fountain, indoors or outdoors; whether in your own backyard, or on a local, regional or global visit or conference.
Hold those moments and those places sacred. For indeed, they are.
Diane Waddell is a leader in Heartland Presbytery’s , and past moderator of PEC.