Monday, February 28, 2011

This Lent, Give Up Carbon and Keep the Chocolate!

By: LeeAnne Beres
Earth Ministry Executive Director

Forty days of Lent. Nine hundred and sixty hours. Fifty-seven thousand, six hundred minutes. This time before Easter is one for reflecting on and fasting from the actions, objects, or attitudes in our life that separate us from God. For many, it is also a time of renewal and reconnection, to our Creator and the great gift of creation.

Marjorie Thompson writes in her book Soul Feast, “For the early church, Lent was just the opposite of a dreary season of restriction.…It was understood as an opportunity to return to…the life of natural communion with God that was lost to us in the Fall.”

In this view, Lent is a time to restore our life of natural communion with God, which includes understanding both our limits and the limits of God’s creation. One way to celebrate Lent, therefore, is to practice practical ways of honoring those limits.

The spiritual practice of fasting, accompanied by prayer and meditation, moves us to be more open to the will of God in our lives. Fasting helps us listen to what God wants us to be and to do. During Lent this year, Earth Ministry and Washington Interfaith Power & Light invite you to try a “fast from carbon,” that is, to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide you put into the atmosphere.

Why should you consider a fast from carbon? There are at least five reasons:

1. The carbon dioxide we are putting into the environment, in the form of greenhouse gases, is changing the climate of God’s creation, our planet Earth. Scientists no longer debate the basic facts of climate change.
2. The sources of these greenhouse gases are largely produced by human beings and the society we have created.
3. The largest component of greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide, which comes from the burning of fossil fuels during the generation of electricity and from the modes of transportation that we use.
4. Unless we reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, the impact of these increases will be devastating for our planet, for its people—especially the poor and vulnerable—and for the plants and animals that have lived here for millions of years. Time is critical.
5. God created this Earth, declared it to be good, and expects us to care for creation and to maintain its goodness for future generations.

Engaging your congregation in a carbon-free Lent is a practical and timely way to put faith into action. These free resources can help you get started.

Lenten Creation Care Resources

Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s Prayer and Action Guide for a Lenten Fast from Carbon
This Lenten prayer guide features seven prayerful reflections (for Ash Wednesday and the six Sundays of Lent), which include insights on regional impacts of climate change, Scripture readings and prayers, and actions of individuals wanting to reduce carbon their carbon footprints. An excellent resource for weekly bulletin inserts, adult forums, and even personal devotions.

Earth Ministry/WAIPL’s 2011 Carbon Fast for Lent Calendar
This 40-day calendar suggests a practical, carbon-dioxide-reducing action for each day of Lent (e.g., "find the most environmentally friendly way to get to church today" and "run your dishwasher only with a full load"). And under this program, you can have your chocolate and be observant too: the Lent calendar allows for an indulgence in a Theo Chocolate bar, which is organic and free-trade certified.

Additional inspiration for Lenten reflection can be found on Earth Ministry’s Lenten Devotions and Resources page, including an Environmental Stations of the Cross service.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

If you’re going to give up something for Lent . . .

By: Rev. Tim Phillips
Guest Blogger

Giving up something is a traditional practice during Lent. Some people give up chocolate or alcohol or meat. The idea is that to abstain from something will make us more aware of the pattern of our lives and the life we owe to God. It identifies us with the forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness before he began his ministry or the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. Periodic fasting from meals, various foods, or particular actions is part of most religious traditions.

This year, if you are going to give up something for Lent, why not give up something that would make a positive impact on the Earth? Since Earth Day is also Good Friday this year, our Eco-Spirituality group at Seattle First Baptist invites us to experience an eco-friendly Lent, asking you to consider what you might give up as a spiritual practice to care for creation.

If you are going to give up something, why not give up driving one day each week of Lent or give up your incandescent light bulbs for more energy-efficient compact fluorescent ones? Why not give up some of those toxic cleaning products for an experiment with more eco-friendly cleaners? Why not give up bottled water (a 16 oz. plastic bottle takes as much water to manufacture as to fill) for an eco-friendly non-disposable water bottle? If you think you might want to take on something rather than giving something up, why not experiment with eating locally-grown food during Lent or commit to sign-up for a Clean Greens Farm share this spring? Why not bring home a house plant and nurture it as part of your Lenten spiritual practice?

Why do any of this? Remember that the most fundamental human responsibility in the ancient creation story is the care of the Earth. There is something deeply human and creative about owning that responsibility and something incredibly hopeful about doing it together. At then end of their book, Saving Paradise, Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker write:

We reenter this world as sacred space when we love life fiercely and, in the name of love, protect the goodness of earth’s intricate web of life in all its manifold forms. We feast in paradise when we open our hearts to lamentation, to amplitudes of grief for all that has been lost and cannot be repaired … We recommit ourselves to this world as holy ground when we remember the fullness of life that is possible through our communities, our life-affirming rituals, and our love of beauty. Thus immersed, we are more responsive to and responsible for life in this world.
That is why. And that is why, this Lent, we invite you to make a spiritual practice of the care of this Earth. If you are thinking of giving up something, why not make it something that will reconnect you with one of the most fundamental human responsibilities – and opportunities – of all. After all, we were made to feast together in paradise and to walk on holy ground.

Earth Ministry offers several resources to help you along your Lenten journey, including a Carbon-free Lent Calendar with carbon reducing practices for each day of Lent, and a weekly prayer and reflection guide, both available on the Carbon-Free Lent Resources webpage.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Love the Earth - Support Senate Bill 5769!

By: Dana Swanson

On Sunday February 13, I attended St. John United Lutheran Church's Love the Earth Sunday, as part of Interfaith Power & Light's National Climate Preach-In.

Interfaith Power & Light invited faith leaders from across the country to give sermons and reflections on global warming the weekend of February 11-13. Over 20 churches across Washington State joined Washington Interfaith Power & Light (WAIPL) and Earth Ministry to make climate change the focus of their worship service last weekend.

As part of Love the Earth Sunday, members at St. John United signed postcards to their elected officials, encouraging them to love the Earth and their neighbors this Valentine's Day by phasing out coal in Washington. Youth in Sunday School decorated Valentines for their representatives, asking them to "Have a Heart" and support legislation for a Coal Free Future for Washington. On Tuesday, February 15, at Environmental Lobby Day, Earth Ministry delivered the postcards to State Representatives in Olympia.

The advocacy efforts of those at St. John United and of the greater Washington faith community are making a difference in the state legislature. Just this morning, the coal bill passed through the Senate committee. Now is the time to act - tell your Senator to support a Coal Free Future for Washington!

Call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 today!

I must confess, I was a little nervous when I called the hotline this afternoon. However, it was not as intimidating as I anticipated. When the operator answered the phone, I told her I was in favor of a Coal Free Future for Washington, Senate Bill 5769 (SB 5769).

She then asked for my name, address, and phone number - just like if I were ordering a pizza. They will ask if you have any additional comments, to which you can choose not to say anything, or you can identify yourself as a member of Earth Ministry and/or as a member of your church.

Call today to tell your Senator to support SB 5769! Consider our children's future - the futures of Emily and Madeline who made Valentines with me - and encourage your elected officials to transition Washington off coal power.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Morning Has Broken

By: Dana Swanson

As I rise from bed, the sun sluggishly does the same. Flannel sheets replaced by a winter chill, I find myself humming Morning has Broken to soften the transition.

Morning has broken Like the first morning, Black bird has spoken Like the first bird. Praise the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them springing Fresh from the Word!

As my gloved hand pulls the door closed behind me, I am greeted by blades of grass, each zipped up in a frosty coat. With each inhale, crisp air fills my lungs. As I jog west, the silhouette of Mount Rainier smiles at the skyline, his inverted grin looming in the distance.

Sweet the rain's new fall Sunlit from heaven, Like the first dewfall On the first grass. Praise for the sweetness Of the wet garden, Sprung in completeness Where His feet pass.

Shy orange light coyly brushes above the Cascades, drawing jagged lines across the still and reflective waters of Green Lake. As an egg shell cracks and its yellow yolk spills into a skillet, the horizon cracks and light spills over the Earth. Yes, I have breakfast on the mind.

Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning. Born of the one light Eden saw play! Praise with elation, Praise ev'ry morning, God's recreation Of the newday!

The mountain ridges, accented by the day’s first light, form a furrowed brow across the horizon. While climbing Phinney Ridge, I glance over my shoulder at the Olympics completing their morning routine. My rosy cheeks beam at the ridges, and the mountains blush back. I’ll take this over sleeping in any day. Praise every morning.