Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Paper and plastic and foam, oh my!

Eric Pfaff, Intern

The local environmental blogs are buzzing: The Seattle City Council has approved a fee for plastic grocery bags and a ban on foam food containers. Despite the obvious benefits of a “green fee” for plastic bags and banning foam food containers, Kaitlin, Mikaila, and I started thinking about it.

“What?” you ask. “Aren't you environmentalists? Don't you love the earth?”

Brian Naasz, an Earth Ministry board member and my former chemistry professor, taught me that we must look at all sides of an argument: paper is not necessarily “better” than plastic; Styrofoam cups aren't necessarily “worse” than ceramic mugs. It depends on the angle you take, and the trick is to fit all the angles together.

Mikaila and Kaitlin took a social justice stance on the recent decision, and I looked at it through energy consumption of plastic bags versus reusable bags. The City of Seattle looks at the ban as a means of waste reduction. Each lens brings its own benefits and problems.

Go here ( to read news articles, references and information on the decision, and also find out what other local governments around the world do. I would also recommend the FAQ, written by the City of Seattle, which answered some of our questions.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Worshiping By the Waters

By Deanna Matzen

This was my second visit to Holden Village. But this time, there was an added depth to my experience. As part of the Earth Ministry teaching staff, I was in charge of holding a Caring for All Creation, By the Waters worship service. At first, I was intimidated. The church I worship in today, and have worshipped in for the last 10 years, is not liturgical. So I just didn't even know how to structure a service of that sort. With the Caring for All Creation By the Waters module in hand and God bringing people along to help me, a beautiful creation-honoring service came together.

First, I got a lot of help from the Earth Ministry staff: LeeAnne gave me a copy of her church bulletin so I could get a sense of liturgical structure, Mikaila helped me refine the order of service and musical selections, and Beth and LeeAnne prepared a flute duet for the special music. To lead worship, God brought me Kathy, one of our members who attended the retreat. She emailed me about carpooling and mentioned that she played instruments and wanted to make her skills available. We coordinated over email and practiced at Holden. I have to say, I was so blessed to have her help!

I thought we were set until Brian Naasz, an Earth Ministry board member, told me that Jens, a young man from his church and another retreat attendant, had his cello with him and asked if he could help with the service. The answer was an emphatic, "Of course!" So Kathy played guitar and led singing while Jens accompanied on his cello. His cello brought just the right sound to fill out the music. Not only that, but Jens played a solo with his mom accompanying on piano and it was the perfect fit for the special music during the blessing of the water ceremony. I could not have picked a better song! It was majestic, meditative, and moving! As I reflect on that service, I am in awe of how God brought all these components together.

Part of the service was a Blessing of the Waters ceremony. Almost everyone had brought a sample of water from a nearby body of water whether a stream, a lake, a pond, or a rain barrel. People came up in a line, like communion, and poured their water in a large communal bowl. I especially loved how the couples held each others hands as they poured the water together. After everyone finished we sat and soaked in the song that Jens was playing. I wish I could have stopped that moment in time and held it for eternity.

The other challenge and blessing for me was giving the sermon/homily/message. It was only the second "message" I've ever given, but the first one was rather informal for a childern's retreat. I have to tell you that I was very stressed out about that sermon for several weeks before going to Holden. I just couldn't get my thoughts together. I knew I had the sermon helpers in the By the Waters module, and they were really helpful, but I still had to construct a thoughtful and organized sermon. But again, God showed up and as I rose early and went to the Holden labyrinth in the early morning, my thoughts began to come together. I prayed and studied that passage over and over again as I walked the path. The sermon passage was the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. And I tell you, I have never read that passage with such clarity and excitement for the revelation of God through that story. But I won't give away my sermon now. You'll have to wait til August when it will be posted on Holden Village's website.

What amazes me the most is the way the story, the liturgy, the music, the people, the entire week, wove together in a beautiful tapestry. I heard the same messages with slightly different flavors all week long. There was an amazing synergy at Holden that week. I would venture to guess that there is synergy every week at Holden as people gather together in community and wilderness in the name of God. I am so blessed to have been a part of that week. I will carry it with me for a very long time.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hike in Paradise

The snow is melting, the wildflowers are blooming, and the weather is warm and clear. It’s the perfect time for an Earth Ministry hike at Mount Rainier! (Wow, that’s almost poetic!)

On Saturday, August 2, join members, friends, and various Earth Ministry staff for an inspiring day on the flanks of this gorgeous mountain. We’ll meet in front of the newly-renovated Paradise Inn at 9:00am—yes, this makes for an early morning for folks traveling from Seattle, but the day will be well worth your effort!

We will hike the Skyline Trail from the Paradise parking lot to Panorama Point, where we will have lunch and enjoy the spectacular vistas. After lunch we’ll make our way back down to the cars and reflect on our time together before heading home.

Please RSVP to or as soon as possible—we’d love to help you arrange a carpool, which requires a little advance planning. Feel free to invite friends and family; just let us know how many people you’ll be bringing.

We look forward to meeting you and experiencing God’s Creation together!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Familiar & Unexpected

Fresh mountain air, bright sun illuminating the backdrop of snowfields and craggy peaks, conversations with friends—new & old, a monstrous dish of butter pecan ice cream at the end of the day…

For me the Earth Ministry trip to Holden was both a return to the familiar (I’ve been there several times before) and a leap into the unexpected.

Holden Village is all about community, so each experience in the Village is different, depending on who happens to be a part of the community on that particular day or week.

I had never been a member of the teaching staff before, and the privilege of adding to that portion of the week’s conversation was very exciting! LeeAnne and I led a movement prayer session, and the response from the participants was wonderful. I heard reports of folks adding movement practices into their daily routine after their experience with us, and I was part of a spontaneous Earth Body Prayer practice on the shores of Holden Lake. Pretty amazing!

The teaching sessions on “The Ethics of Energy,” led by Earth Ministry board members Brian Nassz and Kevin O’Brien, added another element of excitement to my week. Kevin & Brian allowed the Holden community to drive the dialogue, and many of us were able to insert our unique backgrounds and values into the conversation. We each left with a broader appreciation of the issues surrounding energy use—I, for one, plan to challenge myself to ask bigger questions!
Thanks again to all who were able to join us in the Holden community this year--I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Our Planet, Ourselves

By Jessie Dye

"One can lie about the body, but the body will not lie about itself." Thus spoke a character in the powerful James Baldwin novel, Another Country, a favorite of mine from college. This line keeps coming back to me now that I am facing a health problem that can only be resolved by a greatly modified, low fat, healthy local foods diet (can you believe it?) at the same time as our beautiful Earth is facing a health problem that can only be resolved by human choices. In the spirit of the great series on women's health, I title this blog "Our Planet, Ourselves".

It is so simple; it makes me want to cry. We are made and nurtured by the Creator to live on this good earth; the limits of our bodies are the same as the limits of our world. If we put toxics into the air and water we do the same to our bodies. If we care for our bodies and steward what we have, we support our health and happiness. If we care for the earth, the animals, and each other, our world flourishes with all the good gifts of the Creator. If we do neither, we can hide from ourselves. We can believe the spin of those who want us to consume our lives away; but the earth and our bodies will not lie. We face catastrophe.

So I can go on overindulging and live a painful, foreshortened, medically-invaded and diminished life span (not to put too fine a point on it!). Or I can make the hard choices right now to give up some comfortable indulgences (fat and alcohol) but feel much, much better. If I feel my feelings and grieve my losses, the actual joy of making the changes and identifying my true needs comes flooding in to me. And lo, I actually feel better. The farmer's market calls me and I will indulge in the fabulous fresh fruits and vegetables of the season; this illness is a gift in disguise for me in many ways.

I can't help but think the same applies to our cultural life. Does driving everywhere and buying junk really make us happy? Somehow my own psyche isn't comfortable when I know others are truly suffering from preventable causes, like desertification and systemic poverty. Would not our whole society feel more peace and joy if we truly support the common good? "Me first, at your expense" is not a Christian social teaching I learned, and it feels rotten to boot.

So there it is. I committed to eating a healthy, local, sustainable diet for 3 months and the hand of God reaches down and impels me to do it for the rest of my life. May our leaders commit to sustainable energy and food policies as well as equity for the poor, to be shown by Grace of God that honoring the true needs of our world is the healthier, more joyful way indeed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Degradation and Forgiveness

By: Mikaila Gawryn
Earth Ministry Intern

If the contrast between silent, lush, mountain forest and dehydrated orange mine tailings wasn’t enough to startle me the white stone cross with mining steaks driven into its extremities surely was. I stood gazing at it, quietly humbled. I had wandered, on a whim, into the graveyard of the Holden Mine, which from 1937 to 1957 produced what is valued at over $500 million in copper, gold, zinc and silver.

As I walked the trail up to the tailings with MaryFrances Lignana, one of our Earth Ministry board members, I realized that I have had the privilege of growing up without seeing the environmental scars of industrial production. I use the word privilege intentionally because only a privileged few see the shiny new “products” created from mines like this one. I have not seen the consequences of a lifestyle dependant on industrial scale use of the environment. I definitely haven’t had to breath, drink or eat the consequences as many in our world do every day. Maybe going to the tailings that afternoon was partially due to my desire to see the harsher side of this industrial lifestyle.

What I found most astonishing was the close proximity of splendor and disfigurement. As we followed a creek up the mountainside, it turned from gurgling clear to chalky white, until the tanned rocks were covered by milky sediment that appeared indifferent to the flowing water. Tracing the creek up to its source led us to a rusty “Danger! Do Not Enter!” sign, and a stagnant pool of water emerging from the opening of the mine shaft. Yet, the fresh green trees and undergrowth extended uninterrupted framing the wide wooden beam entrance. The sounds of forest life could be heard through the thick hot silence of the open tailing plane. Rusting equipment seemed to blend into the dusty rock of the tailings, only yards away from creeping vines and leaves full from a wet spring. It was as if a deep wound had been gashed into the living flesh of the mountainside. The splendor of God’s creation was disfigured here.

I can’t deny the benefits that industrial “resource” use has brought. Yet the damage done by such use is plain to see. It is these dichotomous situations in life that should lead me to prayer. All too often though, prayer is not where I go. Instead I thought to myself: How can we work against environmental degradation when destruction of the natural world is so systematically part of our society? How could I change these things? Any of these things?

In this mindset it is no surprise that I found the image of the cross startling. The white stones had been clearly visible from the entrance to mine the shaft, though I had to walk a few hundred feet to see the mining steaks driven into the ground. I had to walk closer to read the word underneath it: “forgiven”.

It was a good reminder of where my mind should have been. I shouldn’t have been thinking of what I could do, because when it comes down to it I am only human, and only one. The cross at the mine tailings reminded me of my tendency to despair in the face of degradation. Thankfully, I realized that I can do nothing on my own. We can do nothing on our own. As we live as witnesses to both the splendor and disfigurement of creation let us look to God for guidance and courage and let us lean upon the power of God for forgiveness.

Until my next post,



Monday, July 14, 2008

Holden, Home!

After a beautiful week at Holden Village, the staff of Earth Ministry is home.

Sixty-five members, friends, board members and staff of Earth Ministry came together last week for a wilderness retreat. This was officially the second retreat Earth Ministry has held at Holden Village and by far the largest. People came from as far away as Maryland and Wisconsin and they were as warm and friendly as our friends here in Washington.

The staff led five teaching sessions: Toxics and Environmental Health, Greening Congregations, Movement Prayer, Advocacy for all Creation, and a By the Waters Worship Service. Two of Earth Ministry's board members, Brian Naasz and Kevin O'Brien, led a series on the Ethics of Energy. In addition to the sessions provided by Earth Ministry staff and board, teaching staff from around the world were at Holden that week and provided incredible teaching that filled the heart, mind, and soul.

Recordings of all the teaching sessions should be available on Holden's website sometime in August. We hope you will check out Earth Ministry's offerings and we highly recommend the Bible study provided by Allen Storey (a methodist minister from South Africa) - he will blow you away!

In addition to a great time of learning, the staff enjoyed getting to know new members and friends as well as reuniting with old friends while hiking, eating, resting, making music, travelling, and playing. Holden is a unique intentional community and the mix of work and play makes for a dynamic time together. Thanks to all who made the long trek to Holden; you enriched our lives and our work.

You may be wondering, "will there be another retreat"? We have not committed to that yet, but we are seriously thinking about it. Stay tuned... In the meantime, you can enjoy the forthcoming blogs from the Earth Ministry staff as they personally reflect on their time at Holden.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Buy a Bus Pass

by Eric Pfaff

I have a short blog entry for you today, with the message: Buy a bus pass.

Of course, it is easy to say you will ride the bus. I have been telling others to do it for years now. But even with gas prices at easily over $4/gallon, I still found myself filling up my car's gas tank. Then, through Earth Ministry, I received my very first bus pass.

It's a lot easier on the mental pocketbook to swipe a card than shell out $1.25 in cash, and if you have already purchased a bus pass (especially the 1-month to 3-month long passes) then the less you use your pass, the more you overpaid for something (and the more you use your pass, the cheaper it gets per ride!).

Go here:

The more you ride, too, I have discovered, the easier it gets to navigate the bus system--imagine that! So don't let that scare you off. I know I have probably pointed to it before, but Trip Planner (link below) can tell you how to get anywhere by bus using the time you want to leave, or the time you want to arrive to your destination.

Alright, this post ended up being longer than expected. Maybe it's because my co-workers are off gallivanting in the woods of Holden Village and I am holding down the fort here, with only the blog readers to keep me company. . . or maybe not.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bye-bye, Bananas!

By Jessie Dye

The Cavendish banana is on the road to extinction, both world-wide and certainly in my home for the next three months. Before we review this prospect, let us first consider the fact that someone named a banana Cavendish.

Cavendish sounds too upper-class for this humble subsistence fruit of the world. It's the African equivalent of the potato of my Irish ancestors, a healthy sustainable food for the poorest people of many lands. My image of an upper-crust Cavendish banana appears as a fruit on only the best tables and would be consumed by such aristocracy as the founder of the Golden Retriever blood line, Sir Dudley Marjorybanks, Earl of Tweedymouth. Regardless of the ridiculous name, this type of banana is not local to North America, is fraught with environmental problems, and is facing extermination by blight similar to the potatoes of my above-references ancestors. Because it is the staple food of much of East Africa, this potential banana apocalypse may create a famine ten times the size of the one that famously eradicated half the population of Ireland in the 1800's.

As it turns out, 100 billion Cavendish bananas are eaten world-wide; our local Washington state apple is less popular by half. The ubiquitous golden fingered fruit, however, is no longer welcome in my home because we are only eating food produced within three hundred miles for the next three months.How can we complain? Rainier cherries are in the markets now, and there is no more glorious tree fruit. The strawberries are late this year, and more delicious than I can ever remember. The earliest apricots peeked out at Wallingford farmer's market last Wednesday and Asian pears, blueberries, raspberries, and our tiny local kiwis have yet to show their sweet faces. We have the best fruit in the world in our own back yard, Sir Cavendish bedamned!

And then there are the apples: sweet, tart, red, yellow, golden and green. All within hiking distance from my home town, coming to fruition during the crisp autumn season. The local foods challenge becomes difficult when the Rainiers and Bings have been plucked for the year and the last pears have fallen. But apples last all winter and give away their goodness throughout the darkest most miserable months. My family can afford eat avocados andCavendish bananas and asparagus from Peru when the winter rains come, but I don't want to anymore. The limits of the land and the season are becoming my personal limits. I don't want to pay Chiquita or Dole (or worse, Exxon and Mobil) when I can support Wenatchee famers and keep my foodprint small. By eating local apples, I don't contribute to poison in the bodies of the workers of Honduras who pick bananas with a pesticide lode toxic to them and to the volcanic soil of Central America. Not only that, but I know the farmer who raises the apples; my food dollar pays for his kid to go to WSU and study agriculture to strengthen the farms to produce the apples that grow so well here in Ecotopia.

When winter comes it won't kill my family to go without the Cavendish. It might kill the families of our brothers and sisters in East Africa. Genetic diversity is one antidote to the Cavendish crisis and our local farmers produce that 24/7. Buy Washington apples not long-haul bananas; it matters.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Holden, Ho!

By LeeAnne Beres

It’s the day before Independence Day, and all of us here at Team Earth Ministry are scurrying around, organizing ourselves for next week’s retreat at Holden Village. We’ll be leading a week-long creation-care gathering for 65 Earth Ministry members and friends, high in the mountains overlooking Lake Chelan in central Washington.

I have a confession to make. I’ve never been to Holden Village before.

In the faith community, that’s tantamount to saying you’ve never seen the Pacific Ocean. Run as a Lutheran ministry open to all, Holden Village has a mythical status – it’s an intentional community, a place of solitude, an outpost in the wilderness (literally and metaphorically), a learning center, a font for renewal, and much more.

Ask any Lutheran in the Northwest about Holden Village, and they’ll get a faraway look in their eyes and start talking about it like it’s the Promised Land. Daily Bible studies and Vespers worship services. Ice cream socials. Five class options a day taught by leading theologians, scientists, authors, activists, and artists. Hikes with stunning views of the lake. Arts, crafts, and music. Children’s programs for all ages. Great food.

And more than anything else, community. Holden Village is all about community – building it, nurturing it, and sharing it. It’s what I’m most looking forward to next week. I’ll be surrounded by an amazing group of Earth Ministry folks and a have chance to get to know each of them more personally. I’ll find out what calls them to care for God’s great gift of creation. I’ll hear about their families, their jobs, their hopes, their dreams, and their challenges.

Best of all, each of the 65 participants in this retreat will hear each other’s stories. We’ll work, learn, laugh and play together. We’ll form friendships and share ideas.

We’ll all come as individuals, but leave as a community strengthened by our common bond of Holden Village. A Promised Land indeed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Three Months, 300 Miles Starts Today

By: Mikaila, Earth Ministry Intern

“Unseasonably anxious”, I noted to myself, “I am unseasonably anxious today, but why?” As a recent graduate summer is not predictably a time of high stress. Yet today marks the beginning of a very big project for us here at Earth Ministry. As Jessie Dye announced a few weeks back we are holding our very own Three Months, 300 Miles food challenge starting….today!!

If you’re like Jessie you’ve probably taken a food challenge of this sort. Thus today’s task may seem like the natural next step. But, as you already know, this challenge makes me…well anxious.

I have appreciated the fruit of regional food systems over the last few years, but never taken on a pantry makeover. Thankfully, I realized that many of you may be in the same position! With Regional Food Challenge Veteran Jessie Dye speaking for the more experienced participants I am ready to take my place as…

The Rookie

So here I am, prepared to talk about all of the obstacles and challenges of eating within 300 miles for three months for the first time.

I'd like to share some guidelines that I’ve set for myself:

- Start off slow: I will be working up to a full regional diet throughout the 3 months period which means I am not going to panic about that dusty can of condensed coconut milk in the back of my cupboard.

- Live the challenge with grace: I hope to see this as an opportunity to become more connected to regional food systems, and not a time to berate myself for the ways I “mess up”.

- Prepare for time, ahead of time: I anticipate the biggest challenge for me will be adjusting my expectation of how long it takes to go shopping. I will need to find local farmers markets and travel there for the first time as well as peruse for local products in stores. At first this will take more time, but I want to remember that it is an investment and will only get easier!

- Be available to YOU: Not sure where to start looking for regional cheese? Check out Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, located in Pike Place Market. Tell us about those difficult-to-find products and other obstacles and we’ll try to help you out!

As we enter July 1st and our first day of the Three Months, 300 Miles food challenge I am assigning myself some homework (forgive me…I seem to miss school already!) Feel free to take it on too, perhaps as a first step!

1) Find a farmers market near me with the 2008 Puget Sound Fresh Farm Guide.

2) Visit Sustainable Ballard’s website and see what great regional products they’ve already found.

3) Buy three regional products and share them with you!

Unseasonably anxious no more, I look forward to sharing this challenge with all of you!

Signing off until my next post,

The Rookie
Mikaila Gawryn
Earth Ministry Intern