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Loving the Earth Boldly as People of Faith

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Rev. Ken D. Fuquay is curating a series featuring an eclectic group of voices responding to the question, “Does church matter? And if it matters, how, and if it does not, why?” Some of the voices speak from the center of the PC(USA); others stand on the periphery. One or two of the voices come from other denominations while some speak to us from the wilderness and barren places. “To every age, Christ dies anew and is resurrected within the imagination of humans.” These voices are stirring up that imagination in their own way. May your imagination be stirred as you consider their insight. We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by abby mohaupt

When I was 5, I spent most of my summer days outside with my sisters. We were mostly barefoot and wild, wandering and playing in the gated confines of our family’s backyard. We had a pool, a swing set, and a sandbox.

A wooded grove, however, grew as the centerpiece of our childhood. The trees, gnarled and spiky, grew together, forming a canopy of leaves. We rooted around in the shade, imagining home and creating stories together.

I fell in love with the earth during the summer days, that love deepening as the leaves changed colors and drifted to the ground.

That love for the earth grew with me as I aged. I learned to respect the power of fire and the strength of waves. I felt awe at the tops of mountains and the rims of canyons.

It grew deeper still when I encountered theologies of ecology. Out of the first creation story in Genesis 1 (and throughout the Bible), we learn that God loves creation desperately and deeply. Throughout Genesis 1, God calls creation good, and in Genesis 2, humanity is made from the topsoil from which all the plants and animals come from and rely upon. Understanding that God’s love extends to all creation helped me see that everything that is alive is part of my family.

And because I love this earth, my heart broke as I learned more about environmental degradation, environmental racism, and climate change.

We humans have created incredible damage, changing the natural greenhouse. In the last century, “the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2. The effects of this burning emerges in many ways, and strikingly in raised global temperatures.”1 What’s more, climate “exacerbates nearly all existing inequality” as a crisis that “dangerously intersects race and class.”2

This socio-scientific data tells us that we people of faith need to respond to the earth with radical love. We do so with the understanding that our collective “we” power is more powerful than our individual actions. Collectively we respond to climate and environmental injustice, knowing that women, people of color, and people who are poor are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation.

We must respond if we believe in the God who created all things out of love and called it good.

But we must also respond quickly. The National Climate Change Assessment Report released in 2018 noted that we have just 12 years to slow and stop climate change. Our ecosystems, agriculture, atmosphere and more are all degrading quickly with the ongoing complicity of fossil fuel companies and our individual and ecclesial use of and investment in fossil fuels.

Twelve years is not many years at all.

I am no longer that 5 year old girl enamored with the trees of my childhood. Now I am a woman entranced by the whole world.

Still: we must again love the earth in the ways we did when we were children. We must harness our imaginations and create a new story together. This story must be one that loves the leaves and the tree — and also other people. This story must be one that’s willing to take risks and bravely abandon business as usual.

If God loves the world, we need love to it extravagantly if we are going to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be church, whether now or next, we must boldly act with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength…and with our wallets too. What we love, study, advocate for, worship, and invest in are marks of what and in whom we believe.

Nothing less than our whole selves will do.

1 “A Blanket Around the Earth,” Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, last modified December 11, 2018, https://climate.nasa.gov/causes
2 James B. Martin-Shramm. Climate Justice: Ethics, Energy, and Public Policy. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010), 12. A synthesis of that ground-breaking report is available here: Larry Bernstiein et al., “Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Plenary XXVII, November 12-17, 2007, https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf, 128.


abby mohaupt is Senior Advisor for Education and Training at GreenFaith, Director at the Green Seminary Initiative, Adjunct Professor at McCormick Theological Seminary and Moderator at Fossil Free PCUSA.

The Healing of Our Planet

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a series on the Sarasota Statement, which we unveiled a year ago and continue to promote for use in our congregations and communities, along with the accompanying study guide. You will hear from a variety of voices and contexts throughout March, reacting to phrases in the statement, and sharing ways it is being used. How have you used the Sarasota Statement? What is your reaction to these phrases? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter

Editor’s note: In this blog post, abby reflects on the end of Part III of the Sarasota Statement, which reads, ” We work for the healing of our planet from the wounds our own carelessness inflicts.”

by abby mohaupt

I am running next to the ocean; this is the place I call home. While I divide my time between so many places because of God’s call on my life, it is this bend in the path that reminds me who I am. Running here, as the waves lap against the rocks, I remember what the coastline looked like when we first moved here. Four years ago, it was further out…. We could climb down the rocks and into the surf, letting the waves kiss our toes. Our first Thanksgiving by the ocean, the county brought in big rocks to stop the erosion from the king tides. The ocean has been rising; the place I call home is slowly disappearing.

So here, when I look at the sky with its purple and pink and green in the sunset, I fall in love again with this little part of the planet that is groaning.

We work for the healing of our planet

I can hear the leaves crunch under my feet as I wander through the arboretum. I’m picking up the litter the undergrads have left behind. I catch my breath when I see the upturned roots of the tree that fell last spring; I forget what it’s like to watch a tree return to the ground. Ashes to ashes, topsoil to topsoil. This is a death that is part of life. I pick up more litter. This is a death that is not natural but part of a life we have created for ourselves. These are left behind clues of consumerism that will not decay. I listen to the birds call to each other, wondering what they tell each other about us.

And here, when I look at the branches that are just beginning to bud into spring, I fall in love again with this little part of the planet that is groaning.

We work for the healing of our planet

I am on my third conference call for the day, and this time I push my niece in her stroller as I listen to my co-organizer imagine a world without climate change. We are writing an overture, arguing for the moral mandate to divest from fossil fuels. My niece wakes from her sleep and stares at me; I make faces at her to make her smile as we walk down the path back to her house. My mic is on mute because the wind keeps blowing. So, I listen and pray.

Then here, when I look into my niece’s face as she begins to smile, I fall in love again with this little part of the planet that is groaning.

We work for the healing of our planet

I do not know how to love God’s good creation. I know only that in the beginning God breathed everything into being and loved it — all of it. I know only that our first call has been to love creation with our whole selves — with our hearts and souls and minds and strength. I know only that we must do all we can in all the ways we can to love creation with our liturgy, ritual, buildings, and wallets.

So, here I am, looking out onto the whole big lovely world, falling in love with it and letting my heart break for the groaning of this little planet.

We work for the healing of our planet


abby mohaupt is a minister member of San Francisco Presbytery, a PhD student in New Jersey, and a native of Northern Illinois. She is the moderator of Fossil Free PCUSA, a member of the Presbyterian Hunger Program Advisory Committee, and co-editor of Presbyterians for Earth Care’s “EARTH.” abby is a long distance runner, multi-media artist, and deep lover of Jesus and all creation.

Stewardship as Intentional Caring

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Deborah Rexrode is curating a blog series called “A New Perspective on Stewardship.” We’ll hear from some stewardship experts across the country on a wide range of what stewardship means for them. What are ways stewardship can be a spiritual practice? How might we come to a new understanding of the role of stewardship in ministry? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Jordan Davis

When I was a student at Union Presbyterian Seminary, “stewardship” might as well have been a four-letter word. My understanding, at the time, was that stewardship meant a request for money (of which I had very little!) and stewardship month was the most painful month of the church.

When I was asked to write about stewardship and the seminary student, I groaned but also prayed that maybe my experience was a unique one. I have learned a great deal about stewardship since those early years, but also I have been working on a capital campaign at Union Presbyterian Seminary for three years. I knew that our students have heard a lot about money and I hoped that we hadn’t clouded their minds in the recent months.

And so, I took to social media and asked “What do you think of when you hear ‘stewardship’?” Preparing for the worst but hoping for the best, I began to read the responses and y’all… the future of the Church is in good hands!

Rather than worrying about money, seminary students are worrying about — wait for it — caring! An overwhelming number of responses came in highlighting that stewardship is about caring for God’s creation through the use of our time, talents, influence, and (of course) money. Special concern was shown for stewardship of the earth, in the way that those resources are both cared for and used.

One word that was used in these responses was “intentionality.” I think that this is what sets seminary students apart from so many: their intentionality. Our seminarians are being taught to think critically and act intentionally. Papers and actions are dissected as every word and movement is looked at through the lens of an “other” in hopes that they can learn more and therefore model better. Seminarians are learning that ministry is not just about preaching on Sunday morning and visiting hospital rooms during the week. Ministry in the 21st century is about breaking down barriers as we both look at and refine the way we live with one another in God’s creation. This intentionality, this thoughtful care, is quickly becoming the new face of stewardship.

I spend a great deal of time with congregations of all shapes and sizes, and I have heard my (not so fair) share of stewardship sermons and campaigns. I am always so disappointed at the focus placed on money, especially in areas where I know that money may not be the best or most accessible resource for that particular congregation. I have grown weary and frustrated with the idea that no ministry can happen without someone sitting poised and ready to write a check! If we will give these students a chance, if we will welcome them into our congregations and give them the space they need, they just might change the way that we minister in the 21st century.

Yes, Jesus spoke of money, but he mostly spoke of care and love for one another. I fear that many of us have lost focus of this crucial message in our attempts to “save the church.” Every year when the “ask” is made for a financial pledge (which IS vital, but maybe not the most important), more members grow tired and our congregations grow weaker. If we give these students space as they begin their ministry and heed their advice in our own ministries that have already changed multiple times, maybe our congregations will find new energy and endurance in their care for one another and God’s creation!

I also asked current seminary students how they are involved in stewardship.  One of my favorite answers was simply, “Through immersion.” I think of the students I regularly see in my work, and I think of the time they spend carrying compost buckets, serving in multiple capacities within congregations, cleaning kennels at the animal shelters, and hosting prayer vigils. They help to fundraise and they remind those of us who are so focused on money the importance of coming together to play.

Stewardship is about caring, and I think it is time that we allow these students to be our teachers.


Jordan B. Davis received her Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary in 2014 and has a passion for building relationships within the Church and the world. Jordan devoted her time at Union to finding ways to strengthen the community through fellowship and worship. Taking a call as a Church Relations Officer for the seminary was a natural next step after graduation. She enjoys working in a setting allows her to continue learning both from congregations and students, recognizing that the church is already very different from when she started on this journey! Learn more about her ministry at www.congregationalcorner.wordpress.com.

The Call to Create

This month, strategy team member MaryAnn McKibben Dana is curating a series of posts on our most recent National Gathering. Now that we’ve been back in the trenches of ministry for a while, what ideas have really “stuck”? What keeps nagging at us, whether in a positive or challenging way? How has our view of or approach to ministry been impacted by what we experienced? What continues to be a struggle? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Kate Foster Connors

I have no idea why I signed up for the workshop, but when I read “Thirsting to Create,” my mouse clicked on that option without a thought. By the time I arrived at the NEXT Church National Gathering in March, I had completely forgotten what workshops I had signed up for, so I was surprised to see an art workshop listed on the back of my nametag. (I actually read it and wondered if it was a mistake.)

In another life, before I had children, and before I went to seminary, I took art classes, learning how to throw pottery on the wheel, and exploring watercolor painting. I also wrote poetry, and took long walks in the woods. Years later (after seminary, and a few years into ministry), I was fortunate to be able to stay home with my children when they were young, and those years were rich with making homemade Christmas cards, mixing homemade playdough, learning how to knit, and creating art with my children nearly every day.

My girls are now teenagers, and while they continue to love and make art, I cannot remember the last time I took some time to make something. Actually, I can remember – it was at the National Gathering, in the “Thirsting to Create” workshop.

Despite my initial shock at being registered for an art workshop (!), I went anyway.

The room was set up with all kinds of materials:  papers of all colors and textures, magazines, glue, markers, paint, and yarn, and………I looked around, found a seat, and felt myself exhale, and then inhale, filled with an unexpected but familiar sense of delight and peace.

In the middle of the tables were books, piles of rough-edged papers sewn together with plain, gray cardboard covers. Our assignment was to choose one, and make it our own. I took the book closest to me, opening it to examine the papers inside. The pages of the book were from an old hymnal, and the first page of mine, cut off so only about the last 1/3 of the page was visible, read “LOVE.”

Already ambushed by the overpowering joy and calm that filled me at being surrounded by art materials (!), and given a block of time completely dedicated to making art (!), it became abundantly clear to me that I was standing on holy ground. Like a burning bush announcing to Moses that God had some plans for him, the book-from-an-old-hymnal that began with “LOVE” shouted a reminder that God has given me an assignment in my current call: to facilitate ways for all of God’s children to enact God’s radical and abundant love.

I covered my book in beautiful paper with a blue and green and gold design that reminded me of middle eastern art. Too pretty. I found some old magazines, and cut out words that spoke to me:  Spirit, collaboration, unpredictable, a whole new way, you find there’s nothing these 3 can’t handle. Too predictable.

While I worked on my book, I talked with the people around me, learning about one woman’s ministry of sewing stuffed animals to give to children, and of another woman’s project of bringing “Messy Church” to her congregation (I LOVE that idea!).

I grabbed a roll of silver duct tape. Shiny, but practical, and tear-able. Perfect. I tore 2 strips, sticking them to the front of my too-pretty, too-predictable book, making a rough-edged, imperfect, shiny cross on the front. Perfect.

We ran out of time, but I walked out of the workshop with that book in my hand, confident now that I had been exactly where I needed to be.

I now have my book-from-an-old-hymnal on my desk, staring at me to help me remember that creating is not a luxury – it is a central part of who I am, of how I remember who I am, and who God is calling me to be in the world. Using my hands to make something gets me out of my head, clearing a path for the Spirit to speak without the clutter that often stands in its way.


Kate Foster Connors is director of The Center: Where Compassion Meets Justice, a mission initiative of the Baltimore Presbytery. She is a 2001 graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary, where she spent a lot of time on the streets of Atlanta, learning what it meant to encounter the Word in the city. She lives in Baltimore, MD and is married to Andrew Foster Connors, also a pastor. Together, they have 2 teenage daughters.

Book Review: Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible and the Ecological Crisis

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!

by Walter Canter

Patricia Tull’s book Inhabiting Eden searches the wisdom of the Old Testament for a way of ideal relationship with God and creation. Tull ends up in Genesis and Isaiah (along with a supporting cast of plenty other texts from across the OT and gospels) basing her approach to the ecological crisis in humanity’s identity and prophetic call.

Photo from: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Gtu0Wp1TL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Tull begins with a broad assessment of human relationship with God and creation—she finds that the relationship we have isn’t the ideal depicted in Scripture. After the broad overview, Tull assesses the implications of this less than ideal relationship in regards to commerce, food, animal life, and human rights. Inhabiting Eden ends with a hopeful prophetic call to renewed relationship with God and creation through living within the planet’s means.

Throughout Inhabiting Eden, Tull challenges contemporary understandings of ‘environment.’ Environment, to Tull, is not isolated to the nearest wetland, national park or forest. The environment that needs our care and respect in Eden is everywhere. All humans live in an environment and human action affects both the immediate environment as well as the beautiful places of wilderness. The story of creation includes everything, no part of this world is out of God’s reach and all parts of this world are loving gifts from its Creator. Using this all-encompassing definition of environment, Tull develops a theology of gratitude.

Within the ordered and fundamentally good creation, humans have the vocation of caretakers. God provides what we need, and in response to that providing, human beings have the task of preserving these gifts. In Tull’s words, “We were intended to draw sustenance from creation’s bounty. With each breath, we take in God’s provision of air; with each drink, the precious water supply; with each bit of bread, the manna for one more day of love and service. We can begin to uphold the world that upholds us by recognizing these gifts with gratitude, especially our place in an ordered world that is full and fundamentally good, and our vocation to preserve the goodness and health of this living, teeming, exuberant world” (30).

Tull, along with the biblical prophets, shapes her call for justice around an understanding of change in the world. The ecological crisis comes out of dangerous change, but hope comes out of an acknowledgement that just as change in human behavior brought danger, a new change in human behavior can overcome that danger.

Tull’s writing style and structure is accessible; she dives into current ecological issues and scriptural study with clear and concise language. Tull’s accessibility makes it tempting to read quickly, but the depth, poignancy, and relevance of the information often left me pausing to assess my own handling of these sacred texts in relation to my everyday activity. There were even a few moments in Inhabiting Eden where I paused mid paragraph to google things like, “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” hoping that Tull’s description of our planet’s state was hyperbolic (it wasn’t… and ew).

Inhabiting Eden is an excellent read that reminds the reader of the timeless power of Scripture as it challenges the reader to see these old texts in a new light.


Provided by: Walter Canter

Rev. Walter Canter is pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church of Big Lick in Crossville, TN. He’s an avid soccer fan and enjoys hiking with his wife (and occasionally his dog). Contact him at canterjw@gmail.com.

Trading Away God’s Creation

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!

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Senses and Sacraments

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! Read more

Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba and the Cahaba Environmental Center

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!

By Kim Hall and Benga Harrison

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. – Psalm 8:1-8

river 1

From the beginning, God gave humankind dominion over creation; thereby, creating humankind’s first call to stewardship. God has never taken that command away. This call to stewardship, to make “disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19), and to “let the little children come to me” (Matt 19:14) inspired the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley to create sacred space – Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba.

In 2001, the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley sold two camping facilities and purchased a unique and important site in central Alabama. It is located on 440 acres of majestic forests and fronts 4 miles of the Cahaba River, one of the most biodiverse rivers in all of North America.

Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba continues the presbytery’s long tradition of youth camping and spiritual retreats. It is a place of natural and spiritual beauty where the soul is nourished and the spirit renewed. It is the perfect place to teach the importance of God’s call to stewardship.

Held by the waters of Living River, the Cahaba Environmental Center (CEC) was created with this in mind. What better way to teach people how to take care of the land than by showing them the ways to fall in love with it?

We at the CEC invite students of all ages into our backyard and immerse them in this special place. Students spend between three to five days exploring creation in all forms, from the tiniest carpenter ants to a whitetail deer to the stars sprinkling the night sky on a cool autumn night. At first, the students may be hesitant, scared even of some of the amazing, unpredictable forces of the natural world, but soon, both children and adults at the CEC slowly but surely discover the power of wonder for the natural world. As Rachel Carson said, “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Whether they understand it yet or not, these children are falling in love with the land and steadily becoming stewards of both land and water here on Earth. Their experience on the Living River property prepares them to care for this sacred space, along with all other natural spaces they come in contact with.

river 2

At the Cahaba Environmental Center and Living River, we hope to open the door to the outdoors. We aim to bridge the gap between science and religion, between the environment and the church, between people and the land. We wish to someday live in a world where people understand the importance of becoming stewards of God’s creation. Our dream is to create this perfect world on a small scale, to build a model for how the world could and should be. And thus, we have created a Living River that we hope will wash away the barriers between people and the natural world, creating a path to stewardship and a commitment to a better world and a better us.


kimKim Hall is Director of the Cahaba Environmental Center, www.cahabaec.org. Contact her at khall@livingriver.org.

 

 

 

BengaBenga Harrison is Development Director for Living River: A Retreat on the Cahaba, www.livingriver.org. Contact her at bharrison@livingriver.org.