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 .
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.