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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.

Keep Awake

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Kate Morrison is curating a series featuring reflections on Advent and Christmas from our 2018 National Gathering workshop and post-Gathering seminar leaders. Over the course of the month, we’ll hear what this season means to them through stories, memories, and favorite traditions – and how they see the themes of Advent connecting with the work of NEXT Church. We invite you to share your own memories and stories on Facebook and Twitter!

Editor’s note: Kate is co-leading a post-Gathering seminar (a 24-hour opportunity to dig deeper into a topic, new this year!) called “Beyond the Mission Committee: Re-thinking How Your Church Engages in Local Mission.” It will take place from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning following the 2018 National Gathering. Learn more and register

by Kate Foster Connors

In this season of waiting, I feel impatient.

Congress is a mess. The #metoo movement is only growing, with accounts of sexual harassment and rape coming out daily. Wildfires are burning California – again. Churches are declining and shutting their doors in a steady stream.

This year, the lectionary texts from the first Sunday in Advent feel especially timely. Isaiah pleads with God: “O that you would … make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!” (Isaiah 64:1-2) And the Psalmist implores, “Stir up your might, and come to save us!” (Psalm 80:2b) Like Isaiah and the Psalmist, I don’t feel like we can afford to wait. My prayers lately have been some version of, “How can we WAIT, God? Have you been paying attention to this messed up world?”

It seems fitting that this season of waiting, arriving in a firestorm of brokenness, begins with a call on God to act boldly.

Advent also is the season of getting ready. Advent is the time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus – not the docile baby wrapped in cloths that is depicted in so many children’s books and light-up, front lawn nativity scenes, but the justice-seeking Jesus whose mission is to bring radical love for all of God’s children. Advent is the time when we prepare for God to upend the world as it is, and usher in the world as it should be.

So although (like Isaiah and the Psalmist) in my prayers I’ve been pleading with God to please come soon, my prayer this Advent season can’t only be about my impatience with God. Preparing for the coming of Jesus means that I have some work to do, too.

I have a rock sitting on my desk. It is almost perfectly round, and is smooth and flat on the front and on the back. I keep it in the most visible place on my desk – next to my phone, and in front of the pictures of my family. Across the top, big and bold in black marker, are these words: “Keep awake.”

The Gospel reading from the first Sunday of Advent commands us to “…keep awake…or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” (Mark 13:33)

I wrote those words on my rock during Lent a couple years ago, at a prayer station our Christian educator had set up for a Maundy Thursday prayer service. It was a good message for Lent, but I decided to keep it in plain sight all year round, because it keeps me honest. To keep awake, I need to pay attention. To keep awake, I cannot let myself stay in the safe bubble that is easy for a middle-class, white woman to stay within. To keep awake, I cannot stay inside the cocoon of my office, or my house. To keep awake, I need to listen to my neighbors in a city that is both full of life and culture, and that is broken and hurting deeply.

It is easy for me to get stuck in my cry for Jesus to please come soon! I need God to help me keep awake, so that I don’t wait (however impatiently) my way through another Advent.

My prayer for the Church this Advent is not all that different: that we all pray urgently for Christ’s coming – “come to save us!” – but that we don’t get stuck in that prayer – that we don’t wait passively – that our churches keep awake to the injustice that is unfolding daily, in our nation, in our states, in our cities and towns, and in our backyards. That we resist the easier path, the one that takes us from our cars in the parking lot to the pews in the sanctuary and back again – and take the more difficult one, the one that takes us out of our church building and into our neighborhoods to find out what’s really going on with our neighbors. The path that keeps us awake.


Kate Foster Connors is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She has served churches in Memphis, TN, and Baltimore, MD. Currently, Kate is the Director of The Center: Where Compassion Meets Justice, a mission initiative of the Presbytery of Baltimore that hosts church groups for mission experiences in Baltimore. She and her husband, Andrew, have 2 teenage daughters, a cat, and a dog.