At Christmount Retreat Center near Asheville, North Carolina, 25 faith leaders from the Southeast gathered to learn, pray, and build community for the cause of climate justice.
A joint effort of Creation Justice Ministries and Interfaith Power and Light of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, the retreat equipped faith community leaders to identify oil and gas infrastructure threats to their local communities, understand environmental justice principles, and speak effectively with the media. It was also an opportunity for prayer, meaning-making, and network building. Rev. Rob Morris, Director of Christmount Retreat Center, also rooted the gathering in a sense of place, and showed the group a concrete example of how his retreat center, which is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is using their property to protect and restore God's creation. Guests from The Wilderness Society also shared a new Oil and Gas Threat Map, a tool to empower the public to better understand the threats posed by oil and gas infrastructure on public lands.
The planning team for the retreat included:
Retreat participants included:
On October 14-15 in Charleston, West Virginia, Creation Justice Ministries co-hosted a Healing Waters Retreat alongside West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutherans Restoring Creation, the Episcopal Church, the West Virginia Council of Churches, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Wilderness Society, and the Sierra Club. The gathering brought together front line water activists, people who have personally lost access to safe drinking water, scholars, and faith leaders from West Virginia and Flint, Michigan. Twenty-one participants spent 24 hours together to build solidarity and better understand the struggle for safe, affordable drinking water.
Rev. Jeff Allen, Executive Director for The West Virginia Council of Churches (Council) read a letter written in 2016 from the Council to the people of Flint. “A Church that extends the Incarnation always asks, ‘Who is sick? Why are they sick? Who is hungry, why are they hungry?’... When we ask who is thirsty, why are they thirsty? We believe that these questions have power in and of themselves, reminding us of our neighbors and our failure to love manifested in neglect, exploitation, classicism and environmental racism.”
After the narration, Krystina White, the Chief Operating Officer of Black Millennials for Flint and Harold Woodson of the Bethel United Methodist Help Center presented the group with an overview of the Flint water crisis and the state of the city today. Harold came with the perspective of a Flint resident who has been there since the beginning of the crisis and now works tirelessly through his ministry to provide water and nutritious food to citizens of Flint. Krystina White spoke about the lead policies Black Millennials for Flint focuses on throughout black and latinx communities nationwide.
The evening wrapped up with a water blessing facilitated by Janet Keating of Green Shepherd.
The next morning, Lutheran Disaster Response coordinator Pastor Sherri Schafer spoke about her work responding to disasters caused by the disrupted watersheds in West Virginia.
On Tuesday, Susan Farrell of the Wilderness Society shared the recently launched fossil fuel threat mapping tool. This database and interactive map show available data about fossil fuel sites on public lands. The database also shows the Environmental Protection Agency data on bodies of water that the sites have polluted. The group zoomed in on nearby decimated Kayford Mountain as an example site, and lamented the permanent damage caused by mountaintop removal mining throughout the state.
This session wrapped up with civic engagement actions. Attendees participated in West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light’s postcard campaign to advocate for the passage of the RECLAIM act. Additionally, participants were invited to sign-on to a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency urging Administrator Wheeler to uphold methane pollution standards instead of rolling back protections, as is currently proposed.
Annika Harley of Creation Justice Ministries said she left the retreat “inspired and committed to continue to work in solidarity with communities that have lost access to safe drinking water.”
On Thursday, October 17 in the Rayburn US House Office Building, at the invitation of the US House Committee on Natural Resources, religious community members congregated with a macaw, a parrot, a python, a corn snake, a bearded dragon, a siamese fighting fish, a tortoise, a slider turtle, a guinea pig, and various pet dogs.
Opening with a blessing from the US House Chaplain Fr. Conroy, the service was a reminder to uphold our reverence for all of God's creatures. The service featured readings, prayers and blessings by United Methodist General Board of Church and Society General Secretary Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, Global United Fellowship Bishop Carroll Baltimore, Ohev Shalam Synagogue Maharat Ruth Freidman, Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso, as well as Evangelical Environmental Network President Rev. Mitch Hescox. The organizer of the event as well as the Master of Ceremonies was National Religious Partnership for the Environment Executive Director Cassandra Carmichael.
The blessing is timely, as our society increasingly needs reminders to show care and reverence for God's nonhuman creatures. Today, one if our species faces the threat of extinction. A slide show from the event as well as the full text of the program can be found below.
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.