Singing songs, telling stories and planting seeds. The final night of the Presbyterians for Earth Care 2015 Conference in Montreat was a time for attendees to celebrate the fellowship and accomplishments of PEC’s 20 years of service. Presbyterians for Earth Care began in 1995 and has grown over the years to an official membership of 300. However, leaders say social media has allowed them to reach as many as 1,000 Presbyterians through e-blasts, Facebook and blogging.
“I’m grateful that we have been able to do the groundwork with PC(USA) agencies as well as other groups outside of the church,” said Diane Waddell, PEC moderator. “We have grown and strengthened our membership and our base to understand who we are and who we want to become.”
Waddell said PEC’s success lies in advocacy at the local level; as churches, synods and presbyteries tackle the environmental issues that are near and dear to them.
“Some see the need to advocate against oil or coal trains that run through a community,” she said. “I see real fire bursting with enthusiasm on that issue. We’ve also seen movement in the area of fossil fuels and divestment.”
Quoting Environmental Activist Wendell Berry, Waddell said those involved with environmental issues need to “find their place, protect their place and be in their place.”
Kathleen Dove, of Irvine, Calif., is a new PEC Steering Committee member representing the Pacific Region. Attending her first conference, she said she is excited to see younger members join the effort.
“We have all of these emerging leaders and we need to celebrate their involvement,” she said. “A big part of this ministry is not just changing the world but convincing leaders and change agents that they cannot continue to borrow their quota of clean air and water from generations to come.”
Dove says millennials can teach us about climate adaption and like it or not, the world has to adapt.
“This new generation is living in smaller homes, riding bikes to work and making lifestyle changes our parents and grandparents would not consider,” she said. “Now we have to adapt and learn that science and technology are the way of the future.”
Among the rising leaders mentioned by Dove was Rebecca Barnes, associate for Environmental Ministries with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Barnes was recognized for her years of service to the PEC, receiving the William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award, named after one of the PEC founders.
“This is given to someone who has put forward an exemplary effort in environmental justice,” said Waddell. “Rebecca served as the PEC coordinator for many years and is very deserving of this honor.”
Barnes credits grassroots support in the congregations, synods and presbyteries for the PEC’s ability to have a national voice.
“There’s no one path or order of steps to get involved with environmental issues. Knowing what one’s own gifts are and understanding the culture of that congregation helps us to know where God wants us to take the first step,” said Barnes. “God doesn’t call us to do something off the wall, but gives us a heart for particular issues whether they are hunger and poverty, facing natural disasters or becoming joining hands partners. There are no wrong steps.”