Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Land is Our Land

Written by Jessica Zimmerle
Outreach Coordinator for Earth Ministry
Dear friends,

When you think of public lands, what image comes to mind? Perhaps your mind wanders to the familiar path of a hiking trail, a favorite family camp site, a scenic lookout over a breathtaking landscape, or a proud national monument. For many of us, these experiences in wilderness form important steps in our faith journey as we encounter the divine in nature and can often find a much needed sense of peace in these places.

Martin Luther once said that “God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars.” Connecting with this message in the natural world enhances our relationship with the Creator as it grounds our faith in a physical place where wonder and awe remind us of God’s presence. Wilderness also provides a source of Sabbath rest where we can escape the trials and labors of our everyday life and reconnect with our religious heritage.

Not only do we benefit from the spiritual and recreational fulfillment that comes from public lands, but we are also called to be faithful stewards of God’s lands that have been entrusted to our care. Unfortunately, these beautiful spaces that we hold dear are at risk. Oil and gas development on and privatization of public lands is increasing, so  it is very important to be sure our representatives know how much this land means to us from a spiritual standpoint.

This means that, once again, it’s time for the faith community to raise our voice for creation care by speaking with our elected officials!

A fantastic group of eight faith leaders living in the 8th Congressional district met with US Representative Dave Reichert on November 5 in his district office in Issaquah, WA. The meeting emphasized the spiritual value of wilderness for the faith community and expressed thanks for the Congressman’s longstanding dedication to our lands -- especially his hard work in designating and expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Five out of the eight people of faith present were under age 35 (including me!), demonstrating the importance of public lands for younger generations who increasingly seek their spiritual practice through nature.

The Earth Ministry members who participated in the meeting approached the topic of public lands from a variety of perspectives. In explaining why people of faith value our lands, participants shared stories of laying down their emotional and spiritual burdens in the nearby Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, participating in restoration projects that rely on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the importance of experiences in nature for today’s youth. The group addressed the bipartisan cooperation exemplified by past US Presidents designating new national monuments under the Antiquities Act and asked Congressman Reichert to oppose any amendments to weaken the Act. Our group also weighed in on the need to keep public lands in public hands and to keep conservation on equal ground with oil and gas development.

These stories set a tone of respect and care for creation that Representative Reichert responded to very positively as he articulated that he shares our values as people of faith. The meeting was both uplifting and promising as it expressed gratitude and focused on requests that affirm protection of our public lands.

In the words of Woody Guthrie, “this land is your land, this land is my land.” So let’s come together to protect our public lands for all of God’s children to enjoy today and tomorrow.

In peace,

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