Eco-Journey is the blog of the Environmental Ministries Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It includes a wide array of environmental topics: upcoming environmental events, links to interesting articles and studies, information on environmental advocacy, eco-theology topics, and success stories from churches that are going “green.”
Author Rebecca Barnes is the Associate for Environmental Ministries at the PC(USA). She is a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary with an MDiv and Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) dual degree.
Drawing members from around the Triangle region of North Carolina, The Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill’s Earth Care Committee deepens the faith life of its members and engages in a multitude of community efforts (such as making a banner for Moral Mondays, hosting environmental film viewings, and advocating for positive legislation on environmental concerns).
Actively connecting biblical and theological principles to human treatment of the earth, the Earth Care Committee strives to keep a focus on the good news—in the world and in the church. Knowing that it is easy to be overwhelmed with bad environmental news, one member of the Earth Care committee regularly brings a piece of good news to share. The team also encourages prayer and biblical reflection, to focus on the Good News that is part of caring for creation as a part of one’s Christian faith.
Earth Care committee facilitator Nancy Corson Carter explains that as a child, her family always had gardens, and visited grandparents every Sunday on their farm; her father was an agricultural engineer. Combined with the establishing of Earth Day in 1970, Corson Carter shares, “I felt the earth was in trouble and I wanted to do something. I went to a women’s retreat at my church in Florida and I felt called to commit myself to this. I said I don’t know where it’s going to lead but I feel called to work to heal and take care of the earth.”
Corson Carter became a Restoring Creation Enabler for the Presbytery of Tampa Bay and was moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care (then Presbyterians for Restoring Creation) for six years. When she moved to North Carolina in 2003 and joined The Church of Reconciliation, she helped to rejuvenate church efforts around earth care there.
The Earth Sabbath that the church has annually at New Hope Camp and Conference Center is thoroughly enjoyed by the congregation and is always a meaningful and spiritually enriching time. Musicians, children, members sharing stories of hope—each year the Earth Sabbath is a fabulous time to be out in God’s creation and to worship together. As Corson Carter said at a recent Earth Sabbath shared sermon on “Seeds of Hope,” it is the community that can give hope in dire times. Connecting and upholding one another in this work is essential.
Larry Rasmussen, speaker at the October 2013 Presbyterians for Earth Care conference in Little Rock, AR, talked about the “green blues,” and how hard it can be to keep up one’s faith. Corson Carter resonates with this idea and shares that we need to remind one another that God is with us, to keep going back to find our scriptural centering. As Thomas Merton wrote to a young activist, even if we won’t see the end of our work completed, the call is to remember to remain faithful.
“Keep connected with scripture, and your faith. Remember to have times of quiet prayer,” encourages Corson Carter, “Something I hope our team will do more is to go to a park and just have quiet, to read the Psalms, and to remember and reconnect with what we’re defending and hoping to heal.”
Even as this church’s earth care ministry tends the soul, so does it also tend to the practical needs in the world. From offering rain barrels for sale to passing an anti-fracking resolution, from passing out water-saving showerheads to helping plant a garden in Vacation Bible School, The Church of Reconciliation endeavors to grow deeper and broader in all its earth care efforts. “Earth care is connected with all sorts of social justice and economic issues and all committees of the church. It is all interconnected,” explains Corson Carter.
The Church of Reconciliation is one of 14 PCUSA congregations celebrating their 5th year of certification by PCUSA as an Earth Care Congregation. Their work helps us to remember to take time indeed to celebrate, to share our stories, and to keep connected with one another, always giving thanks to God for the healing work that God is doing in the world.
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There are currently 140 certified PCUSA Earth Care Congregations. For the initial year of certification, each church fills out a congregational audit, gains session approval of an “Earth Care pledge,” and has an earth care team of some sort. This first year of certification often means that a church has been working to integrate care for God’s creation into its ministry for a number of months or years prior to certifying. Each additional year of recertification requires the congregation to both continue and to grow their efforts at integrating creation care into the life of the church. Begun in 2010, this PCUSA certification program has 14 churches now entering their 5th year of certification.
The "5th year certified" churches are: Light Street Presbyterian Church (Baltimore, MD), Trinity Presbyterian Church (East Brunswick, NJ), Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church (Louisville, KY), Church of Reconciliation (Chapel Hill, NC), Montevallo Presbyterian Church (Montevallo, AL), St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Tucker, GA), Second Presbyterian Church (Little Rock, AR), Maryland Presbyterian Church (Towson, MD), First Presbyterian Church of Howard County (Columbia, MD), North Como Presbyterian Church (Roseville, MN), First Presbyterian Church (Cottage Grove, OR), Swarthmore Presbyterian Church (Swarthmore, PA), St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Kilmarnock, VA) and Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church (Stevens Point, WI).