Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ecoreformation Resolution

Lisa Therrell is an Earth Ministry Colleague from Leavenworth Washington. She gave this brief speech at the Eastern Washington-Idaho ELCA Synod Assembly in 2015, at which two Eco-Reformation resolutions were adopted. One prioritized ecological justice in light of climate change be included in planning for the 500th anniversary celebration of the Reformation. The other is a commitment to creation care in the life and mission of the Synod. Lisa eloquently connects the call to stewardship with reformation values. Earth Ministry is grateful for her leadership, along with others who are raising up the moral voice for climate action in Eastern Washington!

"My name is Lisa Therrell.  I am from Faith Lutheran Church in Leavenworth, Washington.  I am retired from a 34 year career with the United State Forest Service, where discussions on climate change science became commonplace towards the end of my career.  Our family also has a farm in Asotin County that has been in our family prior to Statehood, where we witness changes to the landscape.  
In the Genesis story we read, “And God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
Flickr: Chris Weber
We know this about the Inland Northwest:  a land defined by mountains and canyons, prairie and scabland, forests, rivers, lakes, and fertile fields.  We are defined by this landscape, fed by this landscape, renewed by this landscape.
I am here to remind you the Earth is God’s Good Creation worthy of our care. Before you are two companion resolutions.  Memorial 1 is directed to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly to make addressing climate change and ecological justice major themes of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  Resolution 1 is to this Synod, to advocate for reduced dependence on fossil fuels and to step up our care for creation.
God appointed us to tend the garden.  Our failure to care for the garden is a sin against God, a failure to love the Creator with our whole heart.  The challenge is clear.  We must steadily reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. And we can do it. Our congregation put 96 solar panels on our local Middle School, a sign of the transition we can make to renewable energy.
But what does this have to do with the Reformation?  The Reformation was a return to our biblical roots and a call for the renewal of the church and its mission.  Theologians have coined the term “Ecclesia semper reformanda” meaning “the church is always to be reformed”.  So we can observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as a “looking back”, but also a “looking ahead” for where the active presence of God’s people is needed in an ailing world.
There are many ways churches can work on ways to reduce their own carbon footprint and to inspire members to do the same.  We can be a faith voice in our communities, region, and nation for care of creation.  We can lead the way globally as peacemakers and healers of the land, standing in solidarity with those in peril and leaving a positive legacy for unborn future generations.  
We are a church of reformers.  I ask for your vote in favor of leading an Ecoreformation to save the atmosphere that surrounds our fragile planet while there is still time.
Thank you very much."

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

From Resisting Religion to Resisting Through Religion

The following is an article written by Earth Ministry's Outreach Coordinator, Emily Martin, for our Spring 2017 Earth Letter:

I’ve always had a stubborn sense of right and wrong. As a child, I would drive my mother crazy with demands for her to explain injustices to me (usually about how wrong it was that my older sister always got to sit in the front seat of the car). When I finally exasperated my mom with questions about how she could allow such a thing, she would eventually say, “Sometimes life just isn’t fair,” an answer I could never accept. 

My passion for fighting the good fight eventually led me to my high school’s debate team, then to an internship with the Washington State Legislature, and finally to non-profit advocacy.

This same fire in my belly is why I initially avoided organized religion like the plague. Like many angst-ridden teens, I viewed religion as an anesthetic that kept people numb and passive to injustice in the world. I thought people of faith viewed suffering as a part of God’s plan and that their motto was that call to apathy: “everything happens for a reason.”

A class on world religions exposed me to the history of diverse faith traditions and began to teach me a different story. Each religion is unique but they share common threads, one of which is that they all tell stories of resistance to oppressive systems of power. 

Prophets and other religious leaders have historically been countercultural; the visions they fought for stood in direct opposition to the political status quo of their lifetimes. The most iconic social justice activists of all time were inspired by their faith.

From the earliest Jewish stories of Abraham, Moses, and Deborah to the Hindu non-violent resistance of Gandhi; from the unification of warring tribes under Islam by the Prophet Muhammad to the compassionate yet firm push for Tibetan liberation by the Buddhist Dalai Lama; the histories of world religions illustrate that no oppressive government has stood the test of time once the members of its society collectively realize their power. 

The most powerful revolutions history has ever seen were brought about by those who knew that God does not want us to bury our rage with prayer. God calls on us to harness the fire in our bellies, using its flames to consume injustice and leave nothing but that same fire’s illuminating and loving glow.  

We are called to action. We cannot sit by idly while the health of our brothers and sisters and that of the environment is degraded for profit. Treating each other and our planet with love and respect is not radical, it is necessary if we are to call ourselves people of faith. 

I avoided the faith community for most of my life, thinking that religious folks thought God would take care of everything for them. My exploration of faith has led me to the United Church of Christ where I am a proud member today. My newfound congregation is a justice-driven and advocacy-focused community that both inspires me and moves me to action. I know now that faith groups are the most effective when we recognize that God by any name works through us, not for us. 

-Emily Martin
Earth Ministry’s Outreach Coordinator.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Creation Care: A Letter to the Editor

The following is a Letter to the Editor that was written by one of Earth Ministry’s Alaska members and printed in the Sitka Sentinel:

Genesis 26+:  Then God said, “Let us make humankind[c] in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth,[d] and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth..."(NRSV)

It’s with intense, deep emotion that I write this letter both as a Christian and conservationist.  I am called to speak on behalf of those without a voice - the winged, four-legged, furred, finned, scaled as well as the air, water, soil and plant life.  March 28th will be marked as a dark, dark day for Creation.  Not only was the Clean Power Plan rolled back by a stroke of President Trump’s pen, but the moratorium on coal mining on public lands was lifted, the EPA directed to not enforce environmental protections and on the heels of Monday’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline permit.
Flickr: Richard Ricciardi
Additionally, this week the senate joined the house in passing joint resolution 18 and 69, respectively, using the Congressional Review Act. These were sponsored by the Alaska delegation.  This legislation allows the reversal of “fair chase” hunting practices in the 16 Alaska National Refuges.  It was opposed by 47 national and local hunting and wildlife conservation groups.  Now,  bear cubs and sows with cubs can be taken plus bears can be baited as well as killed with snares or traps or from an aircraft and wolves/coyotes can be taken during denning season.  This violates ethical rules of fair chase and is completely out of line with what the Creator meant by dominion in my opinion.  

Our elected officials appear to be influenced by neither science nor ethics, but by powerful forces that are putting profit and greed before reason and the health of our fragile island home.  So how can we collectively raise our voices on behalf of Creation and take planet-focused action?  

First, join Sitka’s emerging Citizens’ Climate Lobby to advance a national carbon fee and dividend program.  A fee is placed on fossil fuels at the source starting at $15 per ton of CO2 and increases each year by $10.  All of those fees are returned to American households on an equitable basis.  Additionally, a border tariff adjustment is placed on goods imported from or exported to, countries without an equivalent price on carbon.  The carbon fee and dividend program moves us towards clean energy keeping pollutants out of air and water and promotes the public’s health and the economy.

Second, learn more about assaults on Creation. Hop on to webinars or read e-newsletters from advocacy groups like Earthjustice,, League of Conservation Voters, or Alaska Audubon as well as Creation Justice or Earth Ministry to educate yourself about the issues that are putting undue stress on God’s good, green earth. 

Third, call your congressional delegation about pending legislation that impacts the health of the natural world that’s been entrusted to us.  It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, and our delegation appreciates hearing from Alaskan constituents. Use or submit emails on our Alaska delegations websites to make sure the voice of Creation is heard.

Fourth, pray, meditate, and spend time in Sitka’s bountiful Creation then bring Creation Care issues to your houses of worship for reflection and action.  

Finally, join fellow Sitkans on April 29th for the People’s Climate March.  Collectively, we need to rise up and boldly and compassionately steward the Divine’s holy Creation.

Lisa Sadleir-Hart

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

You Are a Prophetic Leader

The following is an article written by Earth Ministry's Senior Outreach Coordinator, Jessica Zimmerle, for our Spring 2017 Earth Letter:

Early last year I found myself overwhelmed at a conference for young adults in ministry. You know the feeling – that creeping realization that one person can only do so much. A mentor noticed my discomfort and sat down for a conversation that would completely shift my perspective.

He listed five types of leaders: apostles, shepherds, evangelists, teachers, and prophets; then asked which I think I am. Without enthusiasm I guessed the shepherd.  

“Interesting,” he said, “I’d rank shepherd low for you. I think you’re a prophetic leader.”
My initial reaction was, “WHOA don’t put that on me!” In my mind, being a prophet meant being the next Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I could easily brush that notion aside with degrading self-talk. I’m not that kind of leader.

With a smile, my mentor encouraged me to consider the prophet differently. Instead of the person whom everyone looks to for inspiration, what about the prophet who creates inclusive spaces to uplift voices that aren’t being heard? How about the prophet with heightened awareness of our interdependence, called to heal where we are broken and celebrate where we’re not? Now that’s more like it!

Nearly one year later I was in a seminary classroom engaged in conversation about prophets. The professor described the prophet as one who sees or hears the present reality compassionately with critical eyes and ears tuned in on a Gospel vision. 

Let’s break that down. Prophets are aware of where we are, but know we have a long way yet to go. So they respond, not react, so as to balance criticism with compassion. This approach, one that requires both creativity and collaboration, is encompassed in religious values of justice and peace. 

After the class I approached another student and thanked her for being a prophet. Similar to my initial response, she denied her prophetic qualities by saying she wasn’t doing enough activism because she’s a busy mother who is also in school. I encouraged her otherwise, sharing how I am inspired by the beautiful insights and challenging questions she brings to our cohort. She began to cry in gratitude, I hugged her, and we both left the room feeling more resilient. 

Can you recall a time when you’ve been the prophet? Instead of downplaying this role, can you claim your prophetic qualities as God-given gifts? How would doing so strengthen your community?

Earth Ministry certainly believes in your prophetic abilities, and we’re happy to remind you that you are making a difference. As members of the Earth Ministry community, you are spreading the prophetic message of creation care, you are implementing creative solutions in your congregations, and you are working together to advocate for policy reform. Even on days when you don’t have capacity for any of that, you are supporting an organization that reflects your values and puts your faith into action. 

So, my friends, let’s walk boldly through the world as prophets. Let’s respond with loving criticism and take steps to build a brighter future for all of God’s children. And let’s find strength in knowing we are not alone on this journey.

-Jessica Zimmerle 
Earth Ministry’s Senior Outreach Coordinator.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Keeping the Faith Despite the Latest News

Today you read that President Trump signed an Executive Order reversing the Clean Power Plan and other strong national environmental policies. The bad news is that the president believes that climate change is a hoax, despite the fact that 2016 was the hottest year on record and the third record-breaking year in a row. The good news is the vast majority of Americans in both political parties support building a clean energy economy. 

Do not despair and do not lose heart. We have won so much more than we have lost, and the tide of history is turning in our favor. The National Association of Clean Air Authorities reports as of today: 75% of US states are already meeting their 2022 interim greenhouse gas targets under the Clean Power Plan, 20% of states are already meeting their 2030 final targets, and 85% are on track to meet the 2030 targets. In China, where multitudes of people are dying each year from pollution and climate change, the government is aggressively turning away from coal and investing in renewables. No matter what the carbon barons would have us believe, the age of fossil fuels is soon to end. 

As people of faith we hold fast to the mystery of hope, especially in this season of death and resurrection.  This Executive Order is the last gasp of a dying order, while together we are crafting a just transition to a clean energy future. 

Thank you for our shared partnership in this great work,

The Earth Ministry Team

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Urgent Standing Rock Update: Act NOW!

Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced their intention to issue a permit for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe –a route that would jeopardize the drinking water and desecrate the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux –as soon as tomorrow. The Army Corps also stated that they would grant the easement without completing an Environmental Impact Statement (an inclusive project evaluation process that allows for public input).

Last December, the U.S. Army Corps found that an Environmental Impact Statement was necessary to determine the safety and environmental impact of the pipeline’s construction, and yesterday’s announcement circumvents this legal process while jeopardizing the health and cultural rights of our Sioux brothers and sisters.

The Department of Defense has direct jurisdiction over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 
Act Today: Call Secretary of Defense James Mattis at 703-571-3343 and urge him not to grant the easement without a full Environmental Impact Statement that properly consults the Standing Rock Sioux and upholds treaty obligations. If the voice mailbox is full, please keep trying!

Call Script:
"As a person of faith, I am deeply concerned about the welfare of the Standing Rock Sioux people. Granting an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline without first completing an Environmental Impact Statement circumvents an important legal process and jeopardizes the health and human rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I urge you to ensure that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers abides by the processes they set forth in December by completing a full Environmental Impact Statement, while properly consulting the Standing Rock Sioux and honoring treaty obligations."

Thank you for taking action. To read the official Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's press release on the decision, click here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Beloved Community: DAPL Actions

Beloved Community,

Tens of thousands of us have stood behind the Great Sioux Nation against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). President Obama rightfully declared that a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required to test the safety of a pipeline that would cross a river providing water to 28 million people.

Now, a president with no mandate has signed executive actions to advance approval of the Dakota Access Pipelines, meaning that tribal leaders will not be consulted on issues that affect them directly. As people of faith and citizens in a democracy, it is our responsibility to speak out against this action for what it is: sinful. It is sinful and illegal to once again disregard the sovereignty and Treaty Rights of Native Americans.
Flickr: Dark Sevier

Our Indigenous neighbors have asked people of faith to speak against the greed of the President and his fossil-fuel infused cabinet. Here’s how:

Tell the Army Corps of Engineers to support the full environmental review currently underway for DAPL. Remind them that your faith calls you to be careful with creation, protect future generations, and demand justice for Indigenous peoples. Submit a quick comment here.

Call the United State Capitol switchboard and leave a message for your senators: 202-224-3121 *Especially if you live in RED states or districts*

• If you are near Seattle, come to next week’s City Council Meeting on Wed, February 1 from 9:30 to 12:30. An ordinance will be discussed that would divest $3 billion of Seattle’s money from Wells Fargo to end the city’s relationship with one of the major banks funding the DAPL.

We can do this with love and respect for all God’s children as we say NO to theft of Native sacred lands, our water supply, and our children’s inheritance,

 Jessie Dye
 Program and Outreach Director
 Earth Ministry and Washington Interfaith Power & Light

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Beloved Community: Compassion and Resistance

Beloved Community,

Flickr: Mumu Matryoshka
We are living through a challenging week. We Americans are standing directly in the path of history and the moral arc of the universe. Everything we do – and don’t do – will make a difference. How do we navigate this very dangerous passage, being true to our faith and to our one and only planet? In deep discernment in the weeks after the election, Earth Ministry has committed to two values that we affirm in our decisions and actions in the times ahead: compassion and resistance. 

The Golden Rule has iterations in all faiths – the requirement to love our neighbors is a deeply-held religious value. Unfortunately, our neighbor can be a bully and a thief or someone who cheers on bullies and thieves. Our neighbor can condone hate crimes, make racist comments, and denigrate women. Yet as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said:

“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

Compassion – in the Buddhist sense – is love combined with wisdom and non-attachment. Compassion isn’t weakness, it is strength beyond measure. It is a positive and powerful force against darkness. Compassion flowed through the Civil Rights Movement, because non-violence requires that we respond to evil with peace. MLK also reminded us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” The faith community is uniquely positioned to model this kind of meaningful response.

Yet we must also resist evil when we see it. Resistance is the ability to set clear limits on the way we and others are treated, and on decisions that affect us all.

Resistance means standing up for justice, speaking out for equality, and putting our faith into action. Resistance has a strategic purpose in protecting our neighbors, our communities, and our common home from harm. It is extremely powerful when carried out in community, though it requires honesty and courage.

We are entering a period when our outspoken and compassionate resistance may have an historic, even evolutionary effect. Our greatest strength as a faith community lies in our deep commitment to care for each other as a way to honor the Creator of life. At Earth Ministry we know that the faith community is up to the challenge of our times.

To begin this profound undertaking, we invite you to gather with Earth Ministry at the Seattle Womxn’s March on Saturday, January 21 at 10am in Judkins Park.

March Start Location: Judkins Park, 2150 S Norman St, Seattle, 98144
10am Start time - arrive, find Earth Ministry (we will try to be at the south end of the park near S. Judkins Street between 21st and 22nd Avenues South.)
10:30 rally/speakers begin
11:00 groups begin marching
End Location: Seattle Center, 400 Broad St, Seattle 98109
Route Length: 3.6 miles

March with us and thousands of others in compassionate resistance to the ugliness taking root in our highest public offices. We are better than this, and our love for each other, our country, and all of creation will see us through. See you on Saturday!

LeeAnne Beres
Executive Director

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Beloved Community: Two Pieces of REALLY Good News!

Dear Fabulous Friends of Faith,

Great news! Today, the Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark announced that he is rejecting the aquatic lease permit for the Longview coal export terminal because the company refused to provide basic information about its finances after the bankruptcy of the previous owner, Arch Coal.

For many years Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light – with your help – has been fighting proposals to ship coal mined in Montana and Wyoming through Northwest’s deep-water ports to be burned in Asia. Thanks to today’s decision, we are one step closer to defeating the last of six fossil fuel export projects proposed in the Northwest. Good work, team faith!

And speaking of excellent news, Lummi Nation applauded Commissioner Goldmark and the Department of Natural Resources for honoring the tribe’s request to protect the lands of Xwe’chi’eXen, Cherry Point, by adding 45 acres of aquatic lands to the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. Lummi was determined to protect this area permanently as it has been their ancestral home and traditional fishing area for millennia. 

In May – through the advocacy led by Lummi Nation and supported by Earth Ministry on behalf of the faith community – the US Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for a coal export terminal at Cherry Point. Today’s decision by Commissioner Goldmark to place these acres into an aquatic reserve will  protect the area marine habitat and keep future fossil fuel proposals away.

In this dark time of the year and state of our democracy, let this news be a reminder that you can make a difference. The faith community is an important part of the rich partnership that led to these victories. We are grateful to our Native neighbors, to Commissioner Goldmark, and to each of you who contributed to this success in so many ways.  

With gratitude and joy in 2017,
The Earth Ministry/WAIPL team

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Beloved Community: Take Action for Standing Rock TODAY

Beloved Community,

For many generations, Native leadership has been at the forefront of protecting God’s creation, often at great sacrifice to themselves. This is especially true for the Standing Rock Sioux, who have stood as peaceful and powerful warriors on behalf of their ancient lands on the Missouri River in North Dakota. They have drawn a line at the Oceti Sakowin camp (the Native name for Sioux) against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that threatens to poison the water of this great river.

The Water Protectors at Standing Rock are at a crisis point, since the company behind DAPL is pushing hard to complete the pipeline by January 1 at current contract prices. Pipeline owners need the Native resisters out of the way NOW. While the Army Corps of Engineers has issued an eviction notice to the camp as of Monday, December 5, the Corps has since said they will not enforce the action.

The Governor of North Dakota, on the other hand, is not so gentle. He intends to starve the water protectors and freeze them out. While this is nothing new to indigenous peoples of the Dakotas, it is shocking that it is still going on today. Governor Dalrymple is a Presbyterian and we are asking people of faith to write to him this week, urging him to live into our shared religious values, including loving our neighbors as ourselves.

As people of faith of all traditions, we have been asked to join the warriors of Sioux Nation this week by taking these steps:

Email Governor Dalrymple here (or send a letter to him c/o Office of Governor, State of North Dakota, 600 East Boulevard Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58505) and ask him desist from attacking the Oceti Sakowin camp— on behalf of our shared faith and care for God’s creation.

Pray with the Standing Rock Sioux in your faith communities this weekend, as requested by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes (the Buffalo people). He has asked for prayers for the Morton County Sherriff’s Department deputies who have attacked the water protectors, prayers for the Governor and the DAPL pipeline owners, prayers for President Obama, and prayers for the people at Oceti Sakowin.

Call your Senators today, as precious few have heard from religious voices on behalf of the Water Protectors. Washington’s Senator Maria Cantwell is on the Indian Affairs Committee of the U.S. Senate and can be reached at (206) 220-6400. Senator Patty Murray is at (206) 553-5545. If you live outside Washington State, find your senators here.

The Standing Rock Sioux have stood strong against that which will pollute their water and sacred lands. They are no less powerful for their good prayers and peaceful means. May we join them in compassion and resistance.

Jessie Dye

Program and Outreach Director
Earth Ministry
Washington Interfaith Power and Light

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beloved Community: Uplifting Gratitude

Photo by Let Ideas Compete on Flickr
Beloved Community,

Gratitude is one antidote to grief, and both can live in our hearts at the same time. This Thanksgiving we are full of appreciation for so many of our friends, partners, and colleagues who have been heroic models of courage and joy in the past year.

We are grateful for Native American leadership in the Northwest and around the country. Lummi, Quinault, Yakima, and the Great Sioux Nation among many others, have stood in protection of God’s creation, the land and water their ancestors gave them to hold in trust for their descendants. Indigenous people have shown us how to be strong warriors despite terrible losses, how to be resilient strategists, and how to forgive. At this moment, in the middle of several battles for clean water and clean air, tribal communities are in the forefront spiritually, politically, and legally. We are deeply in their debt.

We honor and value the many strong advocates for climate protection who worked hard on Washington’s Initiative 732, a proposal to put a tax on carbon in our state. Though it did not pass, the initiative has been a powerful tool for uplifting climate concerns and bringing home the desire of so many voters to find real solutions to a warming planet. Environ

We uphold the many, many victories that we have won for environmental protection and a healthy future for all God’s children. With your help, Earth Ministry/WAIPL has stopped five of six proposed coal export terminals that would have irreversibly damaged the stability of Earth’s climate. In fact, we and our partners have defeated or seriously delayed 25 different fossil fuel projects in the Northwest! Nationally, the Keystone XL oil pipeline is history, the three largest coal companies in the country have gone bankrupt, and people across the nation are standing with the Standing Rock Sioux. Globally, representatives from 175 countries signed the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the UN and Pope Francis has unleashed a faithful climate revolution. Can you believe this all happened in the last year?

When the future is uncertain, remembering the good we have done gives us strength. Thank you to everyone who contributed even a small act to make these successes possible.

Finally, it is our love, acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude for each other that carries us forward. If you are reading this, you have a special place in our hearts at Earth Ministry. You matter to us, and your support and friendship over so many years has given us life, energy, and the spark of Spirit in our work. Thank you.

Blessings to you this Thanksgiving,

LeeAnne Beres
Executive Director
Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light

Friday, October 24, 2014

Religions for the Earth

Written by Jessica Zimmerle
Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator
Dear friends,

"A peacemaker takes on the causes, not just the consequences."
- The Rev. Jim Wallis

Climate change is a major ethical dilemma facing my generation. This challenge, and the resonating issues of environmental justice within faith traditions, is the passion to which I will devote my life’s energy. For further professional and personal development in this field, and thanks to a generous grant from the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, I attended the Religions for the Earth Conference at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

The Religions for the Earth Conference was both captivating and inspiring. Interfaith representatives gathered from around the world, each bringing their own unique perspective with the goal of building a collective movement of people fueled by a spiritual essence to combat climate change.

I was in awe of the amount of wisdom shared by global faith and environment leaders, scribbling down notes frantically in an attempt to absorb the abounding knowledge they offered. One specific session I would like to share was the opening workshop that focused on what moves us. Faith traditions met to discuss what creation care means to their spiritual practice, afterwards sharing their main points with the large group.

Buddhism focused on the delusion of separation from the Earth; Islam invoked caring for creation as a form of worship; Indigenous traditions called for Mother Earth to be treated as a relative rather than a resource; Christianity honed in on revitalizing the tradition of stewardship within existing practices; Judaism spoke to the indivisibility of sustainability and justice; Secular Humanists desired connection as one people on one planet; and Indic traditions offered nature as an inspiration to change our own hearts. The collective message was fantastic, presenting unique gifts from each tradition and acknowledging that, although we are not one in the same, Earth is an equalizer and a foundation for interfaith collaboration.

Throughout the conference, I identified three major themes: contemplation, commitment, and action. A main focus of the contemplation aspect was the question of how can we stand in the center of this crisis with love? This question was addressed by acknowledging that love and experience generally proceed caring and action. Building off of this foundation, faith can, in the words of Al Gore, “become a wellspring of energy for transformation.”

Taking time for personal contemplation after each session was also incredibility beneficial. This self-reflection gave me space to personalize what I was learning and ponder further questions, contributing to a deeper understanding of my own beliefs and developing methods to move forward towards action.

Another strength of this conference was the level of commitment articulated by incredibly influential leaders. Terry Tempest Williams set a serious tone by saying that “the eyes of the future are looking back at us, and they are praying that we see beyond our time.” The intergenerational implication of our actions, and the severity of current climate disruption, resonates on a different level when placed within the framework of how our faith values call us to strive for justice in this world. With this motivation, we can breach the identity barriers that may otherwise divide us to strive for a stronger collective commitment.

Not only were commitments implied throughout our discourse, but they were solidified through a powerful ritual. At the closing multi-faith worship service, each speaker shared their personal commitment with the audience and set it in stone by placing a rock on the central alter. Everyone in attendance participated, building a mound of commitments to combat climate change. Personally, I vowed that I would commit my life to this movement and draw strength from this experience when I lack faith, courage, or hope.

The goal of the conference was not simply to engage with one another in conversation, but to prepare strategic ways to put our faith into action. For, as Larry Schweiger said, “it is one thing to know the truth, another to act on it.” The conference aligned with two major international gatherings, the UN Climate Summit meeting and the People’s Climate March, both of which were significant opportunities for faith leaders to show the world that climate change is a moral imperative.

I was one of the 400,000 that participated in the People’s Climate March in New York City. The entire march was historic and exhilarating, but it was especially outstanding to see the faith contingent, 12,000 individuals strong, demonstrate that we are serious about climate action. The collective spirit of the crowd was absolutely electric, providing a space for folks from all walks of life to share in a common vision of a more sustainable future. This global action certainly caught the world’s attention and was an excellent way to take what we discussed in the conference and enact it on the streets.

This experience definitely provided further clarity in my vocational calling for faith-based environmental justice. I left feeling renewed and empowered with hope that, as peacemakers, we can take on the root cause of climate change and strive towards a faith-based paradigm shift.

This experience was invaluable and I am incredibly grateful that I had to opportunity to attend the Religions for the Earth Conference and the People’s Climate March due to the generous support of the Krista Foundation and Earth Ministry. I am excited to continue onward towards a more cohesive global faith network, spreading the good news that religions are indeed for the earth.

In peace,

To read more about my experience at the People's Climate March, please click here.