Thursday, March 15, 2018

What do spiritual communities have to contribute to the conversation on climate change?

Photo: Jan Messersmith
There is a bizarre little story from the Book of Numbers in the Hebrew Scriptures that just came up recently. The Israelites are out wandering in the desert for 40 years with Moses and God leading them. They keep complaining: “The food is terrible, and the portions are so small!” But that suddenly seems like nothing when they are beset upon by serpents. People are dying of snake bites. So the Israelites come to Moses and say, “We are so sorry we ever complained against you and God. Now please fix this situation!” So Moses goes to God and says, “Um, God? We have a situation here.” And God says, “Make a serpent out of bronze and mount it on a pole. When people get snake bites, they will look at this snake on a stick and they will be healed.”

Which is terrible medical advice, just for the record. But on a metaphorical level, it’s terrific. The thing that is terrifying you? The thing you are running from and denying with all your might? Turn around and stare it in the eyes. Because then it loses its power over you. Then you can figure out exactly what the issues are and start devising ways to deal with them.

Climate change is one of those things we can lift up like a snake on a stick. If we say, “Too scary! Too scary! Don’t want to look it in the face! Don’t want to talk about it!” then we just stay in freak-out mode and don’t actually deal with the problem. That helps exactly no one. The people who look to you for spiritual leadership are already freaking out. They already know it’s bad. Not talking about it, or saying it will all work out in the end, is not doing anyone any favors. But just lifting it up like a snake on a stick and freaking people out is also not doing anyone any favors. We have to look at this snake on a stick and figure out what is our power here?

So what strengths and gifts do we bring, as leaders of spiritual communities, that help empower our people to stare down the snake on a stick?

We know how to talk about greed. Those who market products to us would have us believe that we are not enough—not good enough, not attractive enough, not popular enough—unless we buy their beer, their eyeliner, their car. And then we will suddenly be surrounded by attractive young people playing volleyball on the beach or something. They are selling this image that always starts with the premise that we are not enough. But we have this counter-message, very counter-cultural, that says each person is a fabulous creature, a beloved child of the Divine, and that all those possessions may just get in the way of a good relationship with our Creator and with all of creation.

We know how to talk about lament for what is being lost. Where do people go when someone dies? They put together a memorial service, and even if they are not usually showing up in a community of worship, this is one occasion when they often come. Because we know how to grieve together in community. We know how to support each other in times of loss. And what we’re losing right now is the earth we used to know.

Earth Ministry members at the 2017 Seattle Climate March
We know how to talk about hope, even in the face of what appears to be hopeless. Our hope comes from within, and we are empowered to work out of this place of hope not because we expect to win something, but because it is the right thing to do. Hope is a spiritual practice. If our hope is placed out there somewhere, beyond our control—we hope that the president will fund solar panels for every home in the U.S.—we are setting ourselves up to be passive and to be disappointed. If our hope is instead based out of our spiritual connection to our Creator and all of creation, we are empowered to live into the world that we want to see, whether it actually comes to fruition or not in our lifetimes.

We know how to talk about gratitude and abundance, community and support. We know how to talk about sharing what we have. These concepts are familiar to us. We don’t have to face the challenges of climate change alone.

We know how to talk about power. Joanna Macy talks about the difference between power over and power with. The first creation story in Genesis talks about God giving humans dominion over creation. Many have understood this as free license to do as they please with the planet. But we as spiritual leaders understand that dominion means God created everything, called it all good, and then gave it to us to take responsibility for keeping it good. How counter-cultural a message is that? No, you do not have permission from your Creator to rape and destroy the planet. You are to be a good steward of it. To take care of it. To live in harmony with it.

We as leaders of faith communities can and need to say these things. We need to offer spiritual grounding, moral and ethical frames to center our people in this work, encouragement to help people be their best possible selves, ways of seeing beyond the individual to the greater good of the community and the ecosystem. We can only do this work if we dare to raise climate change like a snake on a stick and stare it straight in the eyes. We can help each other. We can pray, meditate, advocate. We can become the world we want to see.

The Rev. Meighan Pritchard is the pastor of Prospect Congregational United Church of Christ, an Earth Ministry Member congregation. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Earth Ministry members deliver
Oil Spill Prevention Valentines

Well that’s all she wrote folks – the Washington State legislative session is a wrap! I am thrilled to share the good news that thanks to the advocacy efforts of people of faith statewide, two of Earth Ministry’s priority bills were passed and are now waiting to be signed into law.


Oil Spill Prevention Act, E2SSB 6269
Provides secure and reliable funding for the Department of Ecology’s Oil Spill Prevention Program by expanding the barrel tax to pipelines. Thanks to this legislation, marine protections will be fully implemented and ongoing concerns will be addressed regarding oil spill prevention and preparedness.

Healthy Food Packaging Act, ESHB 2658
Phases out toxic PFAS chemicals from paper food packaging. An added victory is that a companion bill also passed to ban this same class of chemicals in firefighting foam. Washington state is the first in the nation to place restrictions on these chemicals that are linked to a slew of health concerns. We are grateful to live in a state that pioneers protecting the vulnerable.
More to Come:

Equitable Price on Carbon
While Governor Inslee’s attempt to put a price on carbon did not make it through the legislature, the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy filed an initiative to the people immediately after the bill was pulled. This move is the culmination of over three years of organizing efforts to bring together diverse constituency groups in support of a policy that reinvests in Washington and truly holds equity for impacted communities as its core value. Earth Ministry has been a member of the Alliance Steering Committee since it was founded and we are excited to work with you to pass this initiative this fall. Stay tuned for more ways to get engaged, including opportunities to help collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

People of faith from Whidbey Island meet
with their Representative Dave Hayes
Earth Ministry members have had so many opportunities for engagement with their elected officials this year! My top moments from this session were teaching workshops at interfaith advocacy days in Spokane and Olympia, going door to door with Earth Ministry Colleagues delivering handmade Valentines in support of the Oil Spill Prevention Act, watching Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator Leda Zakarison testify at a committee hearing for the first time, and organizing meetings for faith leaders from Whidbey Island to speak with their legislators about chemical safety.

By sharing our stories within a values-based framework, people of faith bring a new depth to legislative action. Earth Ministry’s advocacy efforts encouraged legislators to look beyond bills as solely environmental and instead to consider them as opportunities to uphold the moral choice of protecting communities and creation.

Even though the legislative session is over, our faithful advocacy continues strong! Democracy is like going to the gym – in order to see progress, you must work your democracy muscles more than once a year. So while we certainly deserve to catch our breath and celebrate, we will keep putting faith into action through our upcoming Earth Month activities and initiative campaign efforts. We look forward to partnering with you along the way.

With joy in our shared victories,


Jessica Zimmerle
Earth Ministry Program and Outreach Director

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A More Greening Mission: St. Leo Church Tacoma

A Church’s Journey in Living out a Dynamic Mission in Solidarity with a Changing World. 

St. Leo's L'Honey Project.
Photo: Courtesy Franciscan Volunteers
For those who know of St. Leo’s, they will say that it is an interesting parish and has a unique flavor in the expression of liturgy and the mission of its congregation. Like all congregations we have our own history and expression of what it is to be Church. As it states in 1 Corinthians, the church is one body with many parts. We come together in love and faith to worship our Creator in unique and wonderful ways. Collectively, we all are all called to be the Good News to our world by living out our faith in God.

All of our congregations give expression to that faith we hold in common but express it uniquely! How we “do church” is our faith response to the working of the Spirit in our world. Our faith is expressed dynamically and responds to the needs of our time. We are an expression of the living Body of Christ in the world and in each other’s lives. Because faith is dynamic and the Spirit of God works in and through us becoming that Good News - we have to be open to change. We have to be open to the shifting needs of a suffering world. If our expressions of faith become static and incrusted by routine and habit, we may miss the moving of God’s Spirit. In the Papal Encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1965, it states that we have the “duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.” This call to duty has been echoed by Popes Benedict, Francis and other church leaders in various ways in more recent times.

Change and keeping up with the needs of our world is difficult, energy sapping and overwhelming. It takes faith. A faith that can build upon our past to address the issues of today and that of future generations. 

St. Leo Church has grown and changed over the years. In its earlier days the focus was on providing a faith home and quality education to the local population of arriving immigrants and their children. As the needs of providing parochial education to the community waned, the emphasis shifted to address the growing social concerns of the poor and displaced as the community struggled with urban decay.
The need to provide a place to nurture a healthy faith-life, educate our young and care for our most vulnerable remain a concern we try to address. We continue to build upon the good works of the past, but our understanding of mission and what it is to be church has changed and has grown. We now know that we are called to be Stewards of Creation. We are sisters and brothers with all of Creation. Our God is understood as the God and Creator of All.

With this new understanding we are compelled to broaden our Mission by bringing good news to ALL of Creation, not just the human family! This year, 2018 St. Leo Church is making a commitment to stand in Solidarity with all that God has created. If we are to understand the world as it really is, we need to embrace the concept of solidarity with all that God has made. This understanding does not cheapen or lessen the value of humankind; it gives us a deeper richness to that understanding of what it really means to be human!

Totem Pole Journey at St. Leo's, 2013
As a parish, we really began to be more receptive of the needs of God’s Creation by supporting a cause made known to us by our Lummi Nation Sisters and Brothers in 2013. Master carver Jewell James of the Lummi Nation brought a colorful 22-foot healing totem pole to St. Leo as part of a 1,700-mile journey from Wyoming to British Columbia. The trip was a rolling protest against the potential export of Wyoming coal to China via Northwest ports. This very moving and spiritual event captured the hearts of many and helped continue to weave threads of connections with the created world and all of God’s people. It awakened concerns for the need to end the use of fossil fuels and to find alternatives. Coupled with the parish’s growing honeybee program and this awakening stirred by the Lummi People made clearer our call to environmental stewardship and advocacy.

Since 2013, the parish has greatly expanded its educational/community outreach on care for Creation with its honey bee program – The L’Honey Project. We have instituted parish recycling efforts, improved energy efficiency (a work in progress) and are planning to create a parish greenspace for young and old alike on our church campus! The parish has become more active in clean energy promotion and legislative advocacy in Olympia as well as at the federal level. We are continuing to work in partnership with our Sisters and Brother at Earth Ministry and Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center.

Truly we are entering into a different understanding of our relationship with each other and the created world. We are all knitted together, in solidarity and we will not be pulled asunder.

Rick Samyn

Rick Samyn is the Pastoral Assistant for Social Justice at St. Leo Church in Tacoma, WA. St. Leo is an Earth Ministry Greening Congregation.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Grit and Grace

Jessie Dye is Earth Ministry's Senior Campaign Strategist. She wrote this piece as a reflection on the new year and the new challenges and opportunities it brings. If you would like to receive reflections and updates about Earth Ministry/WAIPL programs directly to your inbox, you can sign up for our email newsletter on our website.

Beloved Community,

The week after New Year’s Day is the most difficult of the working year. In the Northwest, we are in full hibernation mode during the weeks just past the winter solstice, our darkest season. The music, lights, and reunions of the mid-winter holiday are behind us. Nature lies bare with only the tiniest hint of the daffodils to come.

Facing the demands of this new year is formidable as well. In 2017, we confronted and fought our way through horrific environmental decisions made by the current presidential administration – the cannibalizing of our public lands, plummeting US global leadership on climate, and the gutting of the EPA. Attacks on the poor, the ill, and the immigrant are increasing and hate speech is no longer seen by some as shameful. Rising to the challenges of 2018 daunts our most resolute activists.
At Earth Ministry/WAIPL, we pledge ourselves to grit and grace this year.

Grit, because we are in it for the long run and serious obstacles are part of the landscape.

Grace, because it is only with kindness, love, and the presence of Spirit that we are able to reach across the rifts that divide us, here and around the world.

How can we act with grit and grace when our democracy, our heritage, and our children’s future are being robbed in plain sight? Gratitude for each other takes us a long way there, as does compassion for the angry ones, and honest pride in the remarkable successes we’ve accomplished together.

Image: Patrick Wilson on Flickr

This year, we celebrated many victories. Thanks to our shared efforts, decision-makers denied permits needed to build the coal terminal in Longview and have ordered a more in-depth review process for a methanol refinery in Kalama. We expanded the Children's Safe Product Act, ensuring that parents can protect their children from harmful toxic chemicals. And due to public outcry, both the City of Tacoma and Whatcom County paused construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects in those communities. 

Gratitude goes first to the Native Nations of our region and across the country. Thanks to the Lummi, Quinault, Yakima, Nimiipuu, and Upper Columbia Tribes as well as many others, we have fought terrible fossil fuel projects in the Northwest and won! This beautiful video tells part of the story.
Gratitude extends to our environmental partners, who have open-heartedly welcomed faith leadership into their circles and shared their policy wisdom and resources with us. We are all so much stronger together.

Earth Ministry is particularly grateful to each one of you who said a prayer, preached a sermon, picked up the phone, submitted a comment, attended a hearing, sent a check, made a monthly donation, talked with your family, and sent in a ballot in the last year. Take pride in the good work we have done together. It takes a powerful movement to protect creation, and you are at the forefront of it!

Finally, showing compassion for those who are terrified of change is a powerful moral and strategic lesson from the Civil Rights Movement. In a fast changing world, our kindness is our greatest strength and builds the social bonds we require for a civil society and for long-term care for our common home.

In 2018, Earth Ministry has an absolute commitment to you that we will find the right messages, provide strong leadership, and maintain the stick-to-itiveness necessary to get us though this year with grit and grace. We count on your grit and grace as our beloved partners in the coming journey around the sun.

Blessings to you in the new year,


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Our Call to Protect Public Lands

The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel is the eighth Bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Olympia, which encompasses all of Western Washington ( Earth Ministry/WAIPL is proud to partner with the Diocese of Olympia and many of its member parishes to care for creation and advocate for our Native neighbors. He wrote this opinion piece in advance of the Trump Administration's announcement that they will be significantly cutting the size of Bears Ears national monument.

On Monday, the President of the United States is scheduled to visit Utah and is expected to put in motion a process to dramatically cut the size of national monuments in that state and others around the nation. From the Grand Canyon to the Everglades, from Ellis Island to Mt. St. Helens, public lands in our country are, for so many, religious and not, a spiritual and moral anchor, a touchstone of inspiration, honor, and respect. These lands exist not only for our enjoyment and recreation but also to teach us. Our faith compels us to be stewards of the land and to protect these special places.

Five Native nations of the Southwest have worked for decades to establish Bears’ Ears National Monument, which protects almost 200,000 archeological sites as well many places sacred to the People. Recently, all seven Utah Chapter Houses of the Navajo Nation that surround Bears Ears National Monument unanimously came out in opposition to the President, and our government, taking any action to diminish formal protections for this sacred place.  

Goose Neck State Park, part of Bears Ears National Monument.
Photo: Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management.

Many Christian denominations, like mine, have, in our history, failed to respect Native culture and religion. I must admit that. And that makes it all the more painful to see Native sacred sites still being seized for mining, grazing, and drilling. I was raised to believe that the theft of Native lands was a thing of the past. Now, very little land remains protected on behalf of Tribal communities. This is already a scar upon our nation and the action being contemplated by our President only makes this worse. Bishops and denominational executives in Washington State wrote letters of apology to our Native neighbors in 1987 and 1997 acknowledging the harm they suffered at the hands of Christians in the past. These faith leaders promised to stand with Indigenous people on behalf of their sacred sites and treaty rights if threatened in the present. That time is now.

Public lands are part of our great American heritage. Republican president and conservationist Teddy Roosevelt recognized the importance of public lands and fought to protect them, in part though the Antiquities Act of 1906. This bipartisan act allows the president to conserve our natural, spiritual, and cultural heritage for our children and all future generations.

There is a saying that “conservationists are the best ancestors.” We are called to be good ancestors, and as people of faith, good stewards, and protect the Antiquities Act, which is under attack by Congress and the Administration. Gutting the Antiquities Act will greatly reduce the power of Native nations to protect Bears’ Ears. It will also make it more difficult for all of us to protect our shared heritage from corporate interests who are so often only concerned about their own gain.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, and the Diocese of Olympia, is proud to have partnered with Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power & Light to stand with our Native neighbors and host Totem Pole Journeys of the Lummi House of Tears Carvers in defense of Northwest Native sacred sites and treaty rights. Now we stand with Tribes across the United States and all of those who value our beautiful and well-loved public lands from further diminishment at the hands of our government. For the sake of future generations, and in the spirit of stewardship of what has been so carefully passed down to us, I encourage all people of good will to call their elected officials and ask them to keep the Antiquities Act intact and to continue to protect the great riches we have in our national monuments and parks.

To read more of Bishop Rickel's writing, please visit his blog at


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.