From Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting with Sacred Earth by Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley [Used with permission]
WATER, SACRED TO US ALL
When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.
For several years, we packed up our kids and a few belongings in an old van and traveled from one Indian reservation to another as we served Indigenous people in a variety of ways. On our trips, we learned in new ways the way that water is sacred to America’s Indigenous people. Water is sacred to us all.
One year, we were honored to be present for a blessing ceremony on the Big Grassy Reserve in Ontario, Canada. In the early spring, the Ojibwe community blesses the lake. They say prayers, sing songs, and speak words to reestablish any lost connection in that great circle of life, which includes the people and the fish and the lake.
Across Turtle Island is Hopiland. In the Bean Dance, as with most ceremonies among the peoples of the Southwest, the Hopi nation prays for rain. And I think that’s about all the Hopi would like said about that. With deep gratitude to the Hopi, we were their guests for the Bean Dance.
Traditionally, Cherokee people do a going-to-water ceremony, during which songs are sung in the morning to greet the day at the creek or river’s edge or next to a spring. These ceremonies continue to this day. I am among those who continue to practice the Cherokee water ceremony, if even in a small way.
Among the Pacific Northwest nations of Indigenous peoples, borders disappear during their annual Canoe Journey. Canoe Journey is a chance for those various tribal peoples to reestablish themselves once again. The Pacific Ocean, with its bays and inlets and beaches, has provided so much for the people over millennia.
You have a daily relationship with water. Perhaps we all can agree on a few simple truths:
• Our aquifers are being over pumped well beyond their recharge rates.
• Rising temperatures are boosting evaporation rates.
• Rainfall patterns are now severely altered, and inadequate snowmelts are not properly feeding rivers and streams in the dry season.
• Water tables are falling, with whole lakes now disappearing.
• Glaciers are melting at alarming rates. The tundra is melting.
• Water shortages translate to food shortages.
• Global water consumption doubles about every twenty years. The UN expects demand to outstrip supply by 30 percent in 2040.
• Global corporate opportunists, who see the absolute devastation coming, are attempting to buy up the world’s water supplies for profit.
Water is sacred. No one can live without water.
Savor water enough to save it for everyone. Today, try to use less water as you wash, cook, or clean. Become active politically on behalf of water.
[An added note from Randy Woodley]:
Each of us has a relationship with water. The relationship may be built upon respect and care or perhaps on disrespect and carelessness, but we are all in a relationship with God’s good gift of water. What is your relationship with water today and every day? While it is estimated that residential water use is only about 10% and industry uses about 20%, the remaining 70% is used by big agriculture! Big Ag also wastes the most water and pollutes the lion’s share of our most precious resource.
While it is important for each of us to do everything we can personally, we must also act corporately within the world’s systems in order to save water. What can you and your church, or other affinity groups do to protect the earth’s water? If you care-act! Perhaps you are already acting on behalf of water. If you or your group are active for the rights of water, what can you do to share that model to inspire others? When we respect water, we are respecting and preserving the whole community of creation. When we respect the whole community of creation, or any part of it, we are respecting and honoring the Creator.
Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley, PhD is a farmer, activist/scholar, distinguished speaker, teacher, author and wisdom keeper. Dr. Woodley currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Faith and Culture at Portland Seminary. He and his wife are Co-sustainers of Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice and Eloheh Farm & Seeds in Yamhill, Oregon. www.eloheh.org
by Rev. Dan Paul
“The prophetic message addresses a deadened present with implications for an energized community in the future” –Dr. Margaret G. Alter, Resurrection Psychology
Each week as soon as visiting church youth groups arrive at the Blue Theology Mission Station they are walked to the rocky shore of the Monterey Bay and asked to find a quiet place to sit and soak in the view of the magnificent Ocean. And while each pilgrim settles into the soothing sound of waves, wind and seagulls, each young person is asked to write down a response to this question “How does the Ocean remind you of God?” Responses are easily found and a sense that the waters themselves are sacred flow into each consciousness. As the week progresses, each person finds an understanding that the Monterey Bay is not only a sacred place, but also a place of resurrection.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, sardines, whales, abalone, elephant seals and the adorable sea otters (which Rev. Talitha Amadea Aho in her book In Deep Waters: Spiritual Care for Young People in a Climate Crisis describes as “problematically cute”) were all vigorously hunted with unbridled exploitation. The once thriving sardine industry that put Cannery Row on the map dwindled due to overfishing and ignorance of sustainability. Ecosystems on the bay were tragically altered due to loss of key species such as the abalone and sea otters. A spiritual darkness crept on the bay – our sin on display.
But then, prophetic voices rose and a grassroots effort to repent resulted in sea otters, elephant seals and other species getting federal protection. In 1992, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established with a good portion of the energy to create the National Marine Sanctuary provided by coastal churches. In a marine sanctuary (people of faith – don’t you love that the word “sanctuary” was chosen to describe the management of Ocean ecosystems?) various environmental agencies keep a watchful eye on the delicate balance of the many ecosystems found within the sanctuary.
Fifteen years ago, the Blue Theology Mission Station was established on the coast of the Monterey Bay to offer learning/serving experiences in Ocean Stewardship to church youth groups. During the week, an understanding that “dominion over the earth” is not about domination, but more about accepting God’s gift of the Ocean with a deep sense of responsibility and interdependence. The Blue Theologians learn that managing ecosystems is indeed holy work. The Blue Theology Mission Station is a beacon along the sacred waters where Science is not considered antithetical to Spirituality, but rather specifically at the Blue Theology Mission Station current Marine Science informs our faith.
This past year, with the help of Creation Justice Ministries two Blue Theology Outposts were established on the Gulf Coast in Texas City, TX and on the Back Bay of Newport Bay in Newport Beach, CA. Plans are underway to create two more Blue Theology Outposts – one on the shoreline of North Carolina and another on the coast of Cape Cod. Each of these locations are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the unique ecosystems in which they find themselves and will tailor their learning/serving programs accordingly.
Ocean ecosystems are still out-of-balance, key species in these ecosystems are still on the endangered species list, the sea level is still expected to rise a full foot by 2050 and don’t even get us started on the massive islands of plastics in the Oceans gyres. Yet, prophetic voices will continue to be raised with hope abiding that Dr. Alter’s quote will be true – this deadened present will establish and embolden energized communities of faith and the resulting repentance on our part from those prophetic voices will assist the sacred waters of the Ocean to a glorious resurrection.
Dan Paul (he, him, his) is an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a graduate of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. Dan is the director of the Blue Theology Mission Station – www.bluetheology.com .
Wild Church Movement: Restoring Sacred Relationship with Earth
by Rev. Victoria Loorz
The old story, as eco-spirituality pioneer Thomas Berry said 30 years ago, is no longer effective. A story of domination and separation expressed through violence of racial and species superiority is unraveling. And a new story is emerging. Everyone affiliated with the Creation Justice movement is involved in that emergence. We are living in a time of liminal in-between. We know that the layers of crises and cruelty we face will not be solved with technological, political, or economic strategies alone. That a deeper transformation of heart is necessary to welcome in a new story.
The Wild Church movement is part of that transformation. Moving away from a worldview and a way of life that treats others as a “collection of objects” toward a new way of being human that participates honorably in a vast “communion of subjects” is what Thomas Berry called “the Great Work.”4
The Great Work is spiritual at the core. It is a shift beyond stewardship, which is still rooted in a hierarchy of superiority, as if we humans are the ones who know what is needed to make the necessary shifts of survival. What’s ultimately required is a change of heart, a shift in how we relate to each other and to the whole of the living Earth. It is a shift from mind to heart, from theory to experience, from stewardship to relationship.
Restoring sacred, kindred relationship with the land where we live is the core theological practice of wild churches. While there are diverse expressions of a Church of the Wild, creating, restoring, adapting spiritual practices that reconnect us with the rest of the alive world as a beloved community is at the root of the movement.
Wild churches include a time of wandering. An embodied movement beyondthe circle of humans to listen for the voices of the others, to hear the voice of the Sacred through the wind’s conversation with leaves, through the crickets call, through the airplane’s trail in the clouds. Like virtually every single spiritual leader in our sacred stories captured in the Bible, a call into wilderness is simply the pattern of calling into leadership. Jesus went into (not just in…eis, the Greek preposition used in every single account of his going to pray is a relational word meaning into) the wilderness, the garden, the lakeside to pray. The children of Israel wandered into the wilderness not just as an act of punishment, but as a tender remembering of who they are in relationship with the whole created world. The word wilderness, midbar, after all, in Hebrew means “the organ which speaks.”
Wild churches create spiritual practices that invite relationship. Beyond caring for creation or stewarding Earth’s “resources,” it is entering into an actual relationship with particular places and beings of the living world that can provide an embodied, rooted foundation for transformation.
The new story is rooted in a worldview of belonging—a way of being human that acts as if we belong to a community larger than our own family, race, class, and culture, and larger even than our own species. The apocalyptic unveiling happening in our world right now makes it difficult even for those who have been sheltered in privilege to look away from the reality, both tragic and beautiful, that we are all deeply interconnected. Humans, trees, oceans, deer, viruses, bees. God.
Re-placing our spirituality back into the actual sacred world, where it has been rooted for most of history, is a way to restore our place in the life-thriving systems of Earth. Wild Spirituality is a practice of remembering what we have forgotten: we are part of Nature, not separate.6Wild church replaces a human “kingdom” paradigm of hierarchy, monarchy, and inequality with the power systems of Earth, which can be described as a “kin-dom” of cooperation and kindred reciprocity.
Church of the wild is one way to help us live into a new story of a kin-dom of God that includes the whole system of life and regards all humans and all species as inherently good and valuable. In this kin-dom we love neighbors—all neighbors—as ourselves. We do unto others—all others—as we would have them do unto us.
Victoria Loorz, MDiv, is a Wild Church Pastor, an Eco-spiritual Director and founder of the Center for Wild Spirituality, Seminary of the Wild and the ecumenical Wild Church Network. Her book, Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred, is an invitation to deepen our commitment to a suffering earth by falling in love with it--and calling it church.
Reflections on Gonna Trouble the Water
by Dr. Miguel A. de la Torre (Adapted from an interview at the Southern Festival of Books)
Water is Sacred
There's a sacredness to water that all too often the religious sensibilities of the West simply cannot grasp. In the West, water is a commodity: something to use, to abuse, to make money off of. But in many indigenous cultures, water is a spirit in and of itself. So many Indigenous cultures around the world have a reverence for water, see water itself is a deity. Among the Yoruba people, the rivers are known as a goddess, and it is to her that one gives honor by respecting water. The act, then, of polluting water is not just polluting water, but desecrating and blaspheming against the deity. The spirituality and sacredness of water is present in so many traditions, and we are poorer as Christians for not having that.
Water is Life-Giving
The second thing that becomes obvious is that there are rights—not just human rights to water, but that the water itself has its own rights, just because it is water. And it's not just the rights of the water and the rights of humans; it's the rights of everything that has life. Animals also have a right to water.
I want you to really grasp the idea that water is sacred and life-giving. Scientists tell us that we all originate from water—it is the giver of life. For us to abuse water, as the African indigenous religions have taught me, is to blaspheme against the Creator of all!
Water is Power
Of course, the third thing that becomes obvious is that water can be abused to the point of abusing other human beings. For example, we see the abuse of African-Americans in Flint, Michigan, the people who have been suffering the most, because of lack of clean water. This year alone, the Western part of the United States is literally on fire, burning down because there is not enough water in the atmosphere. At the same time, on the Eastern side of the country, hurricanes and flooding are overwhelming the coastal areas, and shores are being destroyed and sinking into the ocean. So water—the lack thereof in the West, the abundance thereof in the East—is wreaking havoc on our environment, with our country, with our security as a nation. All the while, there are people who want to continue to insist climate change is a hoax.
Water + Theology
“Western Christianity's understanding of stewardship and domination as subjugating nature contributes to the present ecological challenges that humanity faces. The belief that the destiny of human beings is to reside with God in heaven and that the earth is but a place of sojourn until we reach our celestial destiny, has encouraged—at the very least—neglect of our environment. The greatest threat to the environment comes from those who hold a view of the end of time (an "eschatological" view) where the destruction of the earth is welcomed for it indicates Jesus's "second coming" when he raptures (takes away from the earth) those destined to be saved. If the world ends in a conflagration and such an end is close at hand, why then worry about the environment?
“Contrary to these fundamental Christian views, most indigenous religions from the Global South maintain a sacred respect for creation, a respect lost and historically abused by many Western religions like Christianity. Indigenous traditions that understand water as living entities, if not deities, remind us that within the circle of creation, all are equal in value to the Creator. Or as George ‘Tink’ Tinker writes: ‘A chief is not valued above the people; nor are two-legged valued above the animal nations, the birds, or even trees and rocks.’ Even the stones cry out the praises of creation. Human relationships to creation become a matter of life and death, balancing one's needs and place within the world while seeking to preserve the world for one's descendants who will live ‘seven generations from now.’ While one takes from the plenty of creation, something must always be returned to maintain balance. If we are going to appropriate from nature, we must reciprocate to maintain a mutual relationship.”(Gonna Trouble the Water, page 7–8).
Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre – international scholar, documentarian, novelist, academic author, and scholar activist. The focus of Dr. De La Torre’s academic pursuit is social ethics within contemporary U.S. thought, specifically how religion affects race, class, and gender oppression. Since obtaining his doctoral in 1999, he has authored over a hundred articles and published forty-one books (six of which won national awards). He presently serves as Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.
“Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
When was the last time you felt you were standing on holy ground? Perhaps it was in your garden, feet planted alongside Kale and Squash. Maybe it was at the beach for summer vacation, feet sinking into the sand as the water washes over them. Wherever it was, go there right now in your mind’s eye and try to feel what you felt in that moment. Feel the presence of God in that thin place where heaven and earth nearly touch.
The lands and waters of this world are sacred places. We know it when we rest in them and we know it from our sacred texts. As Christians, to see the world as creation is to see the world as sacred.
We read in Genesis 1 that when God created the world, it was called good. This inherent goodness declared by God means that the lands and waters that were created on the third day are sacred in themselves, even before the creation of other creatures and humanity. This is affirmed in the stories of the prophets who time after time decry exploitation and injustice that destroys the land. In Jeremiah 4, the prophet looks out across the desolation of the land and cries “my anguish!” in response to death and destruction wrought by those who “are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good” (Jeremiah 4:19, 22). The fullness of sacred lands and waters is filled through Jesus Christ, who came to save and redeem not only humanity, but the entire cosmos (John 3:16).
The world reverberates with the love of God and the light of Christ. The lands and waters of this creation are imbued with sanctity through their creation, protection, and sustenance.
Theologically, we know the world is sacred. But what does it mean practically to say the world is sacred?
To say the world is sacred is to recognize that the lands and waters of the world are valued on their own accord, not merely because of what can be extracted, produced, or experienced on them. They are sacred because they are created by the love of God and perpetually sustained by Christ (Colossians 1:17).
To say the world is sacred is also to recognize that we have obligations toward it. In his recent book This Sacred Life, Norman Wirzba writes that being accountable to the sanctity of the world is central to our collective call: “The fundamental task of our humanity, we might say, resides in witnessing the sacred life that pulses through every place and everyone, and in that creative witness committing to the liberation, nurture, and celebration of each other” (This Sacred Life, 140).
Indeed, witnessing the sacred and rejoicing in it is important, but it is not the end of our work. We are to respond to the invitation of the sacred by committing to the liberation, nurture, and celebration not only of our fellow humans, but of all the creatures, lands, and waters that constitute God’s creation. The work of protecting the lands and waters of this world is a sacred task.
An important initiative in this work of land and water protection is “30x30,” the goal to protect 30% of lands and waters in the world by the year 2030. This global initiative promotes biodiversity, climate resilience, equity, and a healthy relationship to God's creation. Rooted in current science, this initiative aims to protect habitats and create sanctuaries where life may thrive amidst climate and environmental threats. As a country, the United States has committed itself to the 30x30 goal and several states have followed suit. To learn more about 30x30 and how to advocate for land and water protection, visit creationjustice.org/what-is-30-x-30.
This year for the Season of Creation, Creation Justice Ministries is exploring the theme “Sacred Lands, Sacred Waters.” Throughout the month we’ll be featuring perspectives from theologians, activists, and spiritual leaders.
We are grateful to be celebrating the Season of Creation with you, and we wish you the blessings of wonder, conviction, and action as we go about this month.
By Karyn Bigelow and Avery Davis Lamb, Co-Executive Directors
Inspired and informed by our two distinct wisdom traditions, we are led by a shared goal: the healing of our planet. We write together as a scientist and a pastor seeing our earth suffering from multiple perspectives. We can see that our health is deeply intertwined with the health of our earth. We recognize our shared belonging and connection to the land and water, be it through our understanding of ecology or our interpretation of theology. Science and religion both motivate us to create sanctuaries: places of safety for people, animals, and all of life. That’s why we’re writing together, as a scientist and pastor, in support of California’s newly released 30x30 Conservation Plan and the proposed Chumash National Marine Sanctuary.
The 30x30 plan is a global initiative to protect 30% of the earth by 2030. Currently, 15% of the earth is already protected and the 30x30 initiative aims to expand this protection. In order for the State to work towards meeting these goals, California will work closely with indigenous communities, fishers, farmers, and local community members to conserve, and coexist within, these sacred land and waters. This work of healing the earth demands collaboration between countries, cultures, religions, and occupations. The final 30x30 pathways strategy provides a stronger definition of conservation, highlights the importance of biodiversity, and emphasizes the need for equitable, inclusive ocean access. The strategy is a great start, and we pray that California will back up its ambition with action.
As a pastor, I (Rev. Daniel Paul) see the care and preservation of our natural spaces as a call to action from our Creator. I understand our earth to be inherently valuable, beyond resources and recreation. Out of my window at The Christian Church of Pacific Grove, I can experience the beauty of creation in the diverse plant and animal life that blesses Monterey Bay. We have a moral and a spiritual duty as stewards of God’s creation to protect the habitat for these creatures.
As a scientist, I (Pat Rutowski) support the 30x30 initiative as a way forward in this time of environmental degradation. From biodiversity loss to ocean acidification, we are in need of a plan to tackle California’s most pressing ecological issues. The implementation of highly and fully protected marine areas is necessary to protect our oceans from extraction—a qualification outlined in the final 30x30 pathways document. Stronger, more complete regulations are needed within our marine sanctuaries to protect these environments. Additional protections for our marine life are vital to the health of our ocean. For example, the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will be the first tribal-led marine protected area, and will prohibit oil drilling, encourage habitat restoration, and with additional protections for biodiversity, can support recovering wildlife populations. Its proposed boundaries will protect the gap on the California coastline between the Monterey Bay and Channel Island Marine Sanctuaries – a necessity in controlling drilling and other sources of pollution and habitat destruction that are not limited to one body of water.
The California coast is endlessly valuable, both intrinsically and because of all that it provides for us. As members of a faith community, the coastline serves as a spiritual sanctuary. As scientists, we value the importance of our diverse ocean ecosystems. Marine Sanctuaries throughout the United States bring these different users and communities together to help protect the use of these marine resources for all people, expanding access to public lands and waters for disadvantaged communities while we expand protections.
Through collaboration with California locals, scientists, faith leaders, and indigenous communities, we can approach environmental conservation through an array of perspectives. With a shared desire to protect the ocean, we can take action to care for our ocean while connecting people to our coastal environment. Together, we strive to uplift conservation efforts and delve into action with our minds, bodies, and spirits. Motivated by a theology of creation care and a commitment to furthering our scientific understanding of the natural world, we support the 30x30 initiative and look forward to a strong implementation to achieve its goals. May we work together to create sanctuaries where life abounds.
Co-Authors: Pat Rutowski (Marine Biologist) and Rev. Dan Paul (Christian Church of Pacific Grove)
By Gabrielle Poli (CJM's Blue Theology Fellow/CCPG Member)
Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) 2022 has come to a close. This year’s theme was Sea: The Future and was filled with lots of wisdom and actions we can all take to further ocean conservation. God’s marine creations that reside within the ocean are majestic and often mysterious. Those creations are in trouble. Increasingly, as climate change worsens, we see less and less of God’s marine creations near us.
Each year the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation hosts Capitol Hill Ocean Week the first week of June (National Ocean Month). Throughout two days, there are panels of speakers revolving around a set theme. Speakers include federal agency and administration staff, legislators, and members of the ocean conservation community. CHOW is convened to bring policymakers, scientists, managers, business leaders, conservationists, educators, students, and members of the public to engage in dialogue and debate on significant issues that impact our ocean and Great Lakes and to propose innovative policies and partnerships to address these issues. CHOW 2022 is open to the public and free to attendees. The Foundation relies on the generous support of sponsors to host CHOW.
In the wise words of Dr. Kelsey Leonard, University of Waterloo Canada, Member of Shinecock Nation, “We don’t have a crisis in climate, we have a crisis in human.” Dr. Leonard reminded us that mother Earth is capable of healing. In 2020, the world saw that lessened human activity allowed for the space that God’s creation needed to start healing the damage humans have done. As we have done this damage to God’s creation, we are responsible for taking a step back to look at our own behavior. We do indeed have the ability to aid God’s creation in healing, but not necessarily in the ways we have previously thought.
Multiple speakers across panels during CHOW pointed out inefficiencies in the ways we look at conservation. Violet Sage Walker, Chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, has pointed out, “We need to stop thinking about a sustainable ocean, but a thriving ocean, because sustainability will only allow our standards to go down.” This thread of thought was continued by Patuxent Riverkeeper, Fred Tutman, the longest serving riverkeeper in the Chesapeake Bay Area, “Performing ‘as well as can be expected’ is not enough. We need better ‘best practices’ for our legal system. Paradox between everyone following the rules and the water is still dying. How do we go about designing these projects so that they will not be ineffective?” These words were particularly significant to me.
Slightly better than horrible is still bad. Violet and Fred made excellent points: we have to set our standards high and look at how to enforce the measures put in place to care for God’s creation. The speakers not only pointed out areas of where we needed to improve, but talked about the areas where they are already making progress. Two of those people were Imani Black of Minorities in Aquaculture and Feini Yin of Fishadelphia.
These two organizations are doing incredible work at the intersection of sustainable eating and ocean sustainability. Minorities in Aquaculture teaches people in the Chesapeake Bay area where their food comes from and Fishadelphia is a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) that works to distribute fresh, local seafood to the community at subsidized rates for those in need. Each of these organizations is making strides in their communities that they hope will be replicated in other parts of the country. When looking at the mission statements and achievements of these organizations, I think of the saying, “Think globally, act locally.” I was inspired and refreshed by this year’s CHOW and can’t wait to act with the new knowledge and wisdom I’ve gleaned.
On Monday, February 28, 2022 the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on climate impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. We took away from the report these three points:
1. Further delay in action will miss the small window to secure a livable future.
2. Climate change is most affecting communities least able to adapt.
3. Urgent adaptation & resilience might prevent widespread suffering.
As noted in the report, “There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate resilient development. Multiple climate resilient development pathways are still possible…”
We have just one planet and a closing window of time to safeguard ALL of God’s beautiful creation for current and future generations.
We know what is happening, the severity of this crisis, and who is causing it. Experts have continuously told the world We also know how to change it. Immediate action on climate can prevent the worst effects of climate change — but catastrophe will continue to devastate God’s planet and people as a result of the continued inaction from world leaders. We recognize that as we enter into the Lenten season, we are seeing Creation itself being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20).
The ashes of Ash Wednesday could be the remnants of sequoias or oaks, being spread on our foreheads in acknowledgment of our own death-dealing ways. We acknowledge death even as we prepare for the outlandish possibility of restoration. Ellen Davis has written: “Resurrection hope does not mean that things are not as bad as they seem. It does not mean that we may expect to be shielded from the worst effects of our selfishness.” The climate crisis is bad. The effects of this crisis will continue to worsen before they get better. But perhaps, by the grace of God, our best efforts might be redeemed by the resurrection power of Christ. This is an active, living hope.
In response to the reality of the climate crisis, we are equipping congregations to rightly care for eachother, their neighbors, and the rest of God’s creation. As we enter into the lenten season and Earth Day Sunday, we are providing this resource for churches and their communities to engage in climate resilience.
We conclude with this prayer:
God, we come to you in grief and despair for the state of your creation.
Lord, have mercy on your planet and people.
Today, we look with an unflinching gaze into the reality of climate catastrophe,
because we are to be a people who do not turn away from suffering and injustice.
Lord, have mercy on your planet and people.
May our lament turn to compassion and our rage turn to action.
Lord, have mercy on your planet and people.
When hope seems foolish and impossible, may we continue to work for the restoration of this world.
Lord, have mercy on your planet and people.
In grief, despair, and lament, we offer this prayer through Jesus Christ, our creator, redeemer, and sustainer.
In hope and faith,
The Creation Justice Ministries Staff
Avery Davis Lamb
Creation Justice Ministries organizational comment on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Draft Management Plan
Subject: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Public Comment
Creation Justice Ministries
Document ID: 2020-02832
Federal Register #: 85 FR 8213
Creation Justice Ministries represents the creation care and environmental justice policies of 38 major Christian denominations and communions throughout the United States to protect and restore God's Creation.
Creation Justice Ministries educates, equips and mobilizes Christian communions/denominations, congregations and individuals to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.
Based on the priorities of its members, with a particular concern for the vulnerable and marginalized, we provide collaborative opportunities to build ecumenical community, guide people of faith and faith communities towards eco-justice transformations, and raise a collective witness in the public arena echoing Christ's call for just relationships among all of creation.
As Christians, we care deeply not only for God’s creation and take seriously our responsibility to live in right relationship with God’s people and planet. The creation of marine sanctuaries can be a vital tool in our care for God’s creation. Unfortunately, that care is null and void if the management plans are not updated to reflect the challenges facing God’s Marine Creation.
In the past 10 years, NOAA has tracked measurable degradation of habitat quality in the sanctuary. This degradation is tracked to human activities and commercial fishing, both of which are only allowed minimally in highly and fully protected areas. These effects are being seen in the endangerment of Humpback whales and the warming of Stellwagen’s waters, which are warming faster than 99% of the global ocean, exacerbating the effects of other stressors on sanctuary resources. Outdated management practices for this sanctuary are putting a great wealth of biological diversity at risk, such as more than 575 species residing within, including seabirds, sea turtles, 22 species of marine mammals, and fish.
The central purpose and policy of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act is “to maintain the natural biological communities in the national marine sanctuaries, and to protect and, where appropriate, restore and enhance natural habitats, populations, and ecological processes. NMSA Section 301(b)(3). By not updating the management plans for the sanctuary NOAA is forgoing its legal responsibility under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act..
It’s time to update the management plan for this beautiful, important piece of God’s creation. We ask that NOAA revises the management plans to place the strongest possible protections in place for the sanctuary. Given the degraded state of the habitat and wildlife in the sanctuary, the draft management plan ought to propose major changes to the current regulatory regime as well as include input from affected communities. We ask NOAA and the Secretary of Commerce to fulfill the purpose and policies of NMSA and revise the management plan to protect and restore the sanctuary’s wildlife and habitats. This is a question of science, law, and most importantly, morality. NOAA is scientifically, legally, and morally responsible for the health and flourishing of Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary. Use your authority to update the management plan and provide the strongest possible protections for this one-of-a-kind piece of God’s creation.
Specifically, we urge the sanctuary management plan to:
NOAA has the scientific, legal, and moral responsibility to amend the management plan to protect this important part of God’s creation. The dozens of national denominational bodies, thousands of churches, and hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Creation Justice Network pray for you and urge you to do all you can to protect this amazing sanctuary.
By Nicholas Anton
When the Incarnate Christ is baptized in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descends and the Father proclaims, “this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In this moment, God is revealed as Trinity: three persons, one essence. This is why the Feast that commemorates Christ’s baptism is called Epiphany (or Theophany), which translates from Greek as the illuminating revelation of God.
The annual Celebration of Epiphany concludes and culminates the Twelve Days of the Nativity of Christ. The revelation itself happens after His baptism rather than at His incarnation. Why?
The Incarnation of Christ is a piece of the larger puzzle whereby Christ fully takes on human nature; it is just one piece of the whole creation. However, through His baptism in water, the symbol for all creation, Christ takes on its totality. Thus, the revelation of God shows us that all things are encompassed in God – not just material things, not just plants, not just animals, and, of course, not just humans. Indeed, this extremely important moment reveals the Trinity setting in motion a divine plan for the ultimate restitution of God’s relationship with all things and all people.
At this point, you are likely wondering why I am dropping all this theology on you. Bear with me and you’ll find out! Despite the clear revelation of God as redeemer of all, we humans do not live up to our vocation and obligation, as the creatures made in His image, to be Stewards of Creation. We pollute the very symbol of creation and life – namely, water – through dumping waste and fracking for energy. We dehydrate the earth, causing dry forests ripe for fires. We take more trees than we plant and desecrate the soil with chemicals and genetically modified organisms. Even as creation itself rebels from years of abuse with pandemics and powerful and volatile weather patterns, we refuse to reevaluate our role in the big picture and right the relationship. We have lost sight of Epiphany and perverted the meaning of the Incarnation by perceiving humanity as superior to creation, which we ultimately enslave rather than protect.
Therefore, as we celebrate this important Feast, we should take time to reflect on what we can do to be better Stewards of Creation. We can start small: for instance, by ensuring our online orders come in one shipment rather than many; by using reusable “things” in all aspects of life and using them as long as possible before replacing them; by using solar chargers and other zero emissions forms of energy; by driving less; by moderating consumption and avoiding private water sources. Then we can go big: for instance, by adding solar panels to our homes; by driving hybrid or electric vehicles; by insulating our walls and windows to decrease energy usage for heating and cooling; by planting as many trees as possible. Eventually, we can advocate for measures to expand clean energy and better protect God’s creation. All it takes to start is a slight modification of our habits.
When our worldview begins with the Incarnation, revealed at Christ’s Nativity and Baptism, and culminates in the Crucifixion and Resurrection, then we know that: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Then we appreciate that the least we can do with our lives is to sacrifice as much as possible, both individually and as collectively as a community and society for the sake of all of God’s Creation.
Nicholas Anton is with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and a board member of Creation Justice Ministries.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.