Sunday, April 26, 2015

Exploring Environmental Stewardship


I have been asked to write regular pieces on the environment and going green for my Mission Center newsletter.  (My church - the Community of Christ - is divided into regional mission centers for organizational purposes.)  I thought you might enjoy reading them, so I'll be sharing them here after they are published. 
 
There are two things you should know about me.

1.       I am a farm girl.

2.       I am a quiet girl. 

I’m someone who grew up believing in the sacredness of the land with all of my heart, mind and soul – recognizing a solice and a peace in the natural world that I find nowhere else.  I'm most at home on the hills of my parents’ farm, exploring the paths at my favorite state park, sitting quietly in my kitchen watching the birds at my feeders, or digging in the dirt.  That’s where I find God.  That’s where I can hear His Voice.

I remember distinctly the pain I felt when - as a teenager – I began learning of how truly fragile our environment is.  As a 16 year old attending a special academic camp I majored in “extinction” and the three weeks of research I did during that class turned me forever into an environmentalist.  Our planet has suffered because of human action – often times because we have just not known any better – and the problems are so large that they can be overwhelming.  I’ve spent my entire adult life determined to do what I can, even if my own actions seem a very small drop in the ocean.

Curiously enough, though, I never really thought that my interest in the environmental movement had anything to do with my membership in the Community of Christ Church.  As far as I was concerned, those two aspects of my life were completely unrelated.

That changed three years ago when my girls and I attended our first Mission Center Reunion at Camp Woodland Hills.  To my completely surprise – and utter delight – one of the sessions of my adult class focused on our spiritual responsibility towards taking care of the earth that we’ve been given.   I remember coming away from that class feeling very excited, and very proud of the Community of Christ Church.  The idea that it truly is God’s work to do what we can to help our planet?  Amazing.

If this connection is unfamiliar to you, I invite you to consider the fact that two of our Enduring Principles – The Sacredness of Creation and Responsible Choices – speak directly to the needs of the environment.  According to our world church website, these two principles are defined as such:

Sacredness of Creation

·         In the beginning, God created and called it all good.

·         Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related.

·         Creation’s power to create or destroy reminds us of our vulnerability in this life.

·         God is still creating to fulfill divine purpose.

·         We join with God as stewards of care and hope for all creation.

Responsible Choices

·         God gives humans the ability to make choices about whom or what they will serve.  Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices.

·         Human choices contribute to good or evil in our lives and in the world.

·         Many aspects of creation need redemption because of irresponsible and sinful human choices.

·         We are called to make responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives that contribute to the purposes of God.

When combined, these two principles call us to take better care of the world which God gave us…to work to heal the damage already done and to protect that which is left. 

To this end, the world church has developed the Earth Stewardship Team as part of its work towards Justice and Peace Issues.  I would encourage you to visit their page on the world church website - https://www.cofchrist.org/earth-stewardship - for more information about the team and to learn about their current projects.  Their Mission Alignment is that, “The church is called to “…bring fresh vision to bear on the perplexing problems of…environmental deterioration” (D&C 163:4c) The team’s primary concern is the identification and promotion of human accountability and responsible behavior toward the Earth and its resources in individual, church and community life.”

The question becomes, what can we do?  How can we apply this to everyday life? 

On April 22 we will celebrate the 45th annual Earth Day.  Earth Day began in 1970 as a movement to educate the public on the needs of the environment and to call people to action.  I invite you to celebrate this year by taking some time to reflect on which environmental problems speak to you directly.  It could be water conservation, the protection of endangered animals, reducing waste, finding creative ways to recycle goods, cleaning up our resources, going green in our homes or our church buildings, food sustainability…anything!  What speaks to your heart?  What means the most to you?  What would you like to help with?

 Once you figure that out, commit to taking one small step towards change.  Our actions need not be monumental to make a difference.  As I said, every little bit helps…and we all need to start somewhere.  It could be as simple as making sure our lights are turned off when we leave a room, taking faster showers, finding out about the recycling options in our communities (and then taking advantage of them), or taking the time to learn more about an issue. 

In the future I will be bringing you more specific ideas of what you can do to “Go Green” in support of the Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles, and I will be introducing you to programs and ideas that can help support us in this work.   I would love to also share stories about what’s already being done in our Mission Center, because I know this is a cause near and dear to many of our hearts.