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Serving Our Creative God in Creative Ministry and Ecofeminist Theology

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Layton Williams is curating a series we’re calling “Ministry Out of the Box,” which features stories of ministers serving God in unexpected, diverse ways. What can ordained ministry look like outside of the parish? How might we understand God calling us outside of the traditional ministry ‘box?’ We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Abby Mohaupt

I knew I was going to seminary by the time I was 14.

Actually, by then I knew I was going to McCormick Theological Seminary to get an MDiv and then be a pastor in a church where I would preach about how Jesus is pretty cool and God loves everyone.

I thought I would say prayers over bread and juice and I would baptize babies.

I did enroll at McCormick when I was 22 years old, but between my middle school self and my post-college self, I fell in love with creation. I realized I was better at listening to God when I was hiking in the prairie than anywhere else. I studied religion and sociology as an undergraduate and my white, able-bodied, educated, middle class self learned to unpack categories of difference and systematic oppression on the streets and in a shelter of Chicago.

When I met with my presbytery, I knew I was really called to do environmental ministry and antiracism work. I could tell you about my ordination process—how I often forgot to talk about how much I love Jesus until I started talking about how he’s like Captain Planet or how I felt a lot of joy in taking the ordination exams or even how my first call let me explore ministry in really prophetic ways.

But my ministry has never been traditional.

My first call was in a wonderful congregation that let me spend 10 hours a week at a non-profit that works with farmworkers. When those 10 hours stretched into 15 and 20 hours a week, I knew that my heart was not fairly in the work of the congregation. God was calling me to be immersed in the work of a rural northern California community seeking to build bridges between farmworkers and the people who eat food every day. I fell in love with the children I worked with, who taught me to sing boldly and to carry stickers and chocolate with me at all times. I grew from meeting with congregations who sought to build relationships with the rural community, and I learned to be fierce in asking congregations to pray and to give their time and to share their financial resources.  My heart grew three sizes from working long days with colleagues who made me laugh and who wondered if my two graduate degrees in environmental theology really qualified me to sort through the donations of crayons and toiletries we so regularly received.

I gave thanks over juice boxes and granola bars and held children’s hands as we explored the scientific properties of water.

About a year into that second call, I realized that I was being called away. My love for studying and reading and teaching was an indication that I might be called to a PhD program. I looked for programs in ecology and theology and applied to four schools. In one week I visited three of the schools and knew by then I would be moving across the country to the east coast to learn to be a professor/clergy/activist.

It mattered to me just how I’d tell my beloved community I was leaving, and I eventually chose my program at Drew University based on conversations with some of the farmworkers and locals.  

This is a third call—a call in which I spend my days auditing extra classes and learning to be a better organizer and antiracist ally, in which I write papers about political and ecofeminist theologies and climate trauma and in which my heart swells with the four-month-old friendships of my peers. This is where I talk about how much I love Jesus for his solidarity with the poor, and how I see God’s heart breaking by the state of creation in climate change. I don’t preach anymore, unless you count the freelance writing and multi-media art I do, grappling with the sacred texts of the Bible.

There’s an arboretum here, and I run through it, listening to God and seeking joy, grateful for work my 14-year-old self would never recognize but for which she deeply longed.


abby mohaupt is a PhD student at Drew University in the Religion and Society Program. She’s the moderator of Fossil Free PCUSA, co-editor of Presbyterians for Earth Care’s EARTH newsletter, and a member of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s activist council. When abby’s not reading or running, she’s often drawing with crayons and seeking joy. she splits her time between CA, IL, and NJ.

Earth Care: Responding to Pope Francis’ Call

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Pope Francis, Laudato Si, Chapter 4, paragraph 139

September 24, 2015.

kepley1I live in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC, which can sometimes be both a blessing and a curse. Yesterday, when Pope Francis addressed Congress, it was a huge blessing! My wife and I joined a number of our friends from Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, an interfaith group in Fairfax County, VA, and the National Capital Presbytery Earth Care Network, a group of 10 churches in the National Capital Presbytery dedicated to earth care, to hear what the pontiff had to say on the National Mall. Oh sure, we could have watched it at home on TV, but being there in-person among an incredibly diverse crowd of people who are passionate about the environment was electrifying! After much speechifying and good music, we got to see and hear His Holiness on a jumbo-tron. Pope Francis did for Congress and the American people what pastors from before Jesus’ time have always tried to do – discern God’s Word for our time and place. The crowd on the grass all around us cheered wildly, as if we were in the chamber. But as my pastor once said to our congregation: “What are you going to do after the cheering stops?”

That brings me to the second event that I attended that day. It was an interfaith gathering at the National Cathedral entitled, Coming Together in Faith on Climate. It included faith leaders from about a dozen different faith traditions from Jewish to Muslim to Episcopalian, Catholic, Evangelical Christian, and AME.   It even included a sitting US Senator, Sheldon Whitehorse of RI. Imam Ebrahim Rasool summed the prevailing sentiment best telling us that the current ecological/social crisis was so threatening to our world that we needed to put aside our religious differences, as Pope Francis had said earlier in the day, and work together to address the situation. The imam reminded us that this is a moral issue with deep theological roots in all of the major world religions, be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. These faith leaders then called on all people of faith everywhere to adopt this five-point strategy “to lead by example.”

  1. Engage: Engage our Congregations and Communities for Climate Solutions. Beginning today, we’re asking every person of faith to go to their house of worship as soon as possible, and speak from their heart to their clergy or spiritual leaders. We’re asking the same of clergy and spiritual leaders – to speak personally, from your heart, to your congregation. Tell them you agree with Pope Francis and a wide array of multi-faith leaders that we have a moral obligation to take action today on climate change and build a sustainable future for our children. Tell them you will lead by example to build support for climate solutions by engaging and inspiring others and take actions that will help restore a healthy atmosphere, and you hope that will lead by example too. And make sure to take this personal pledge: blessedtomorrow.org/join
  2. Energize: Form or Join a Clean Energy Group in our Faith Communities. Thousands of congregations already have active climate- and environment-oriented groups leading the way in switching to clean, renewable energy. But we need thousands more. At the site below, you’ll find links to the amazing organizations that are doing wonderful work helping congregations and individuals energize, so you can (a) maximize energy efficiency; (b) switch to clean, renewable energy for your community of faith, your home, and your neighborhood; and (c) so you can energize your people to push for needed political action. interfaithpowerandlight.org
  3. Divest/Invest: Clean up our Personal and Congregational Investments. Denominations, universities, and seminaries are divesting from fossil fuels, and investing in clean, renewable energy. Now, it’s possible for us as individuals to do so as well – transferring our personal savings, IRA’s, and other investments into companies that are part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Make your personal pledge at idivestinvest.org
  4. Vote: Make Climate One of our Top Three Issues When (Not If) We Vote. We’re asking you to demand needed action from every candidate and elected leader in every election. We’ll provide you with resources to help you learn which candidates are supporting climate change solutions, and which are ignoring or opposing them. faithinpubliclife.org
  5. Educate: Stay Informed and Educate Others. Through your social media and in-person networks, you can become a trusted source of information and inspiration for others. To stay informed and keep learning, sign up for Common Good News for regular updates: convergenceus.org/common-good-news.html

I hope you cheered the Pope’s words, but now that the cheering has died down, what are you going to do about it?


 

David Kepley

Ruling Elder and Deacon

Providence Presbyterian Church

Fairfax, VA

Kepley.david@gmail.com

Stewardship of Creation

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September and October, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

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