Monday, December 20, 2010

Shopping for Simplicity

By: Dana Swanson

With Christmas less than one week away, I find myself frantically rushing around to pick up last-minute gifts for family and friends. From the chocolates seductively dressed in red and green to the glitzy decorations - not to mention the tempting red sale tags - it is a challenge to resist materialism.

From what I understand, the Wise Men did not bring gold, frankincense, and Nintendo Wii. When we are bombarded with images of all the latest technology and fashion, we are easily distracted from the real reason to celebrate this season. I find solace in the following words by William Ellery Channing:
“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never—in a word to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.”
Within the chorus of consumerism, the ringing cash registers, beeping bar-codes and rustling plastic bags, try to discern the symphony of simplicity. Instead, may heart-felt conversations and laughter of loved ones be music to your ears.

Blessings and peace to you from all of us at Earth Ministry.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Give Your Gift to Earth Ministry!

Did you know? In the last year alone, Earth Ministry has:

  • taught 59 faith and environment religious education classes in congregations
  • presented at 5 major conferences
  • inspired hundreds at creation care prayer services for Earth Day and the Gulf oil spill
  • provided advice and guidance to green teams in a growing network of 300+ congregations across Washington State and beyond
  • promoted the efforts of our 39 Greening Congregations
  • trained 37 religious leaders who participated in 14 in-district meetings on climate change with state legislators and members of Congress
  • turned out 150 faithful advocates to speak up for the environment at 3 advocacy days
  • appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, Charlotte Observer, and Huffington Post
  • and much, much more!

Now is the time to make your year end donation; with your help, we can redouble our efforts in the year ahead. We’re updating and improving upon our already-successful Greening Congregations program. We’ll be in Congress and at the state capitol, representing the faith voice – you – on important environmental issues. And we’ll continue to provide leadership on national climate and energy campaigns through our Washington Interfaith Power & Light project.

With Christmas approaching, it is the perfect opportunity to give the gift of Earth Ministry membership to friends or loved ones. All members receive regular updates on our work, invitation to Earth Ministry events, and a one-year subscription to our award-winning quarterly journal, Earth Letter.

Whether you are a current member or a friend who would like to become a supporter, your gift makes a real difference. Please donate here!

Merry Christmas from all of us at Earth Ministry.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Save the Date!

As we gear up for the 2011 Washington State legislative session, Earth Ministry invites you to join us for the following events!

Legislative Workshop
Saturday, January 8, 2011, 9:30am-2:45pm
Seattle Pacific University, Gwinn Commons

This annual event is your opportunity to be involved as the state’s leading conservation groups prepare for the upcoming legislative session. There will be experts on hand and a panel of state legislators to answer questions about this year's Environmental Priorities. There will also be helpful break-out sessions on how to use social media to get your voice heard and be your own citizen lobbyist. Also, new this year, there will be a session titled Activism 2.0, for folks who are ready to take their activism to the next level to help build the environmental movement. Register here!

Environmental Lobby Day
February 15, 2011
, 8:30am-6pm
United Churches, 110 East 11th Ave, Olympia, WA

No one who attends this exciting and engaging day goes away unchanged. Participating in the democratic process is joyful and empowering. Please join Earth Ministry staff, many people of faith, and friends of the environment throughout Washington State in Olympia to meet your legislators and support good climate legislation. Your voice will make a difference! Registration for Lobby Day will be available later in December. More information is available here.

Interfaith Advocacy Day
Thursday, March 17, 2011

United Churches and State Capitol, Olympia, WA

This event, sponsored by Earth Ministry and an interfaith coalition of statewide religious organizations, brings people of faith from all over Washington to Olympia for a day to advocate for a unified social justice agenda. On this day, Earth Ministry members and friends come together to speak as one voice with the larger faith community on behalf of creation care and protection of our climate. This year, because our goals are strong and challenging, your voice is particularly important to convince legislators to be bold in voting for climate protection. Check out Earth Ministry's Events page for more information.

Monday, December 6, 2010

By the Waters

By: Dana Swanson

Water flows over these hands.
May I use them skillfully
To preserve our precious planet.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Aluminum foil, food coloring, and a spray bottle of water – not your usual Sunday School class. Using these materials, I joined youth from Ballard First Lutheran Church to construct Watershed Models, exploring the role of water in our daily lives.

We’re pretty familiar with water here in the Pacific Northwest, as it cascades down from the heavens quite frequently. On average, Americans use 80 to 100 gallons of water each day. We don’t just use water for drinking – we use it for washing our hands and vegetables, bathing, cooling, watering plants and crops, recreation, and waste disposal. Although water may seem in abundance to us, unfortunately many do not have access to clean water. As part of the Watershed activity, the Sunday School youth and I explored what happens when the water supply is contaminated.

First, we created a terrain with paper cups to resemble the natural landscape, leaving a flat place at the far end to simulate a lake at the bottom of the watershed. After securing the foil around the edges of the pan, blue food coloring was placed atop the highest “mountain.” One of the students used a spray bottle to mimic rain on the watershed at the highest point, simulating the headwaters of the river system. The blue “waters” spilled down the mountains, shooting out tributaries as it made its way to the lake.

Next, we placed a few drops of yellow food coloring in the “mountains” to represent pollution. The deep blue waters promptly became contaminated by the yellow, turning a vibrant shade of green. Realizing how the pollution had tainted the watershed, we talked about the impacts of pollution on our water supply. Fertilizers and other chemicals we use create runoff, acting as the yellow dye impacting the water supply.

Water is a wondrous gift of creation, one that should be respected and honored. In the Bible, water represents the essence of life, without which there could be no life. Fortunately, simple adjustments to your daily routine will conserve water, like turning off the water while you’re washing your hands or brushing your teeth. Install low-flow shower heads and toilets to conserve water. Use rain barrels to capture runoff from your roof and use them to water your garden. Be a more mindful steward of creation - think about where your water came from and where it goes once it leaves your house.

In addition to making changes in your personal life, you have a chance to support clean water throughout the 2011 Washington State Legislative Session. Two of the Environmental Priorities endorsed by Earth Ministry deal with water. The 2011 Clean Water Act is about creating jobs, rebuilding our local economy, and cleaning up polluted waterways like Puget Sound and the Spokane River. The Freshwater Pollution Control Act is a common-sense, cost-effective approach to reducing phosphorus in waterways by restricting the sale of phosphorus lawn fertilizer - a great way to keep yellow dye and pollution from damaging our watersheds. Learn more about the priorities here.

Next time you’re caught in a downpour without an umbrella, consider how the heavy droplets are a blessing, trickling down from the heavens to renew us and bring us life.

The Watershed Model Construction activity, as well as other activities and musings on the theme of water, can be found in Caring For All Creation: By the Waters, available from the Earth Ministry online store.