On Being an Earthkeeper

img_20161120_121523On Sunday, November 20th, 2016 I, along with over forty other United Methodists from around the world were commissioned in the first class of United Methodist Earth Keepers. We are missionaries commissioned to care for God’s creation.

For me, this came at the perfect time. My discouragement and anger following the general election in the United States led me to recommit my life to justice.After several days of training and getting to know amazing people I would have never otherwise met, I felt a passion rekindled in my desire to care for creation as a United Methodist.

Earthkeepers are described on the General Board of Global Ministries Website:

Earthkeepers [are] United Methodists who are aware of the ecological challenges in our world today and feel called to be part of a movement to transform the world. They can be laity or clergy, students, part-time or full-time workers, or retirees. (Earthkeepers aren’t paid, although some may have a paid job that allows them to work on creation care projects.)

Earthkeepers will participate in four days of intensive training in creation care theology and community organizing, and then commit to 10 hours per month of providing leadership for a community project or advocacy campaign. Each Earthkeeper would select his or her own project or focus area. They could include efforts like creating community gardens in urban “food deserts,” advocating for renewable energy policies, working for environmental justice by cleaning up toxic waste sites, or creating a green team within an annual conference.

We also have a focus on community:

What’s particularly unique about Earthkeepers is that its focus is on communities rather than the church…It’s within communities where solutions lie and where they can best be identified and implemented. But a lot of those who are passionate about creation care aren’t sure how to organize and engage people around a common cause. That’s why the training and the quarterly meetings will be so critical. And churches may want to become connected Earthkeepers’ projects in their areas.

I am honored to be among the many amazing clergy and lay members of the first class of Earthkeepers. My project is to develop an online library of faith formation resources integrally tied to creation. My understanding in all my work is that people must be connected to their place and space to survive and thrive. Rural ministry and faith formation must be rooted in known land and sea as a means of connecting both with God and with our world.

The collecting of resources from around the world on faith formation in connection with creation is the beginning of providing resources for clergy, laity, students, and anyone else looking to develop a deep spiritual relationship with creation, which will prompt care and action for and with creation. The hope is that as this project grows, new curriculum, tools for writing and adapting curricula, and space to experiment with these resources will begin to appear.

As for my community, I hope to become active in local eco-justice organizations, my annual conference Green Team, and possibly begin leading local groups on hikes, outings, and activities around developing faith based connection and action with creation.

A cool drink of water

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The Earthkeepers training today was long. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, it was just a long day.

I’ve met so many people doing work in climate justice, environmental advocacy, community development, and education. The work people do is amazing.

Many of them are clergy working in their communities to organize around environmental action. Some are students in seminary, some are people working in other jobs, and others are retirees dedicating this portion of their life to this work.

What I’ve learned from all of them is that this is a struggle. No matter where they are, no matter if things are going great, there seems to be a struggle taking place. A struggle with policy, with time, with apathy, with competing issues, with tradition, and the withs go on.

In my work, I talk about Sabbath a lot. Sabbath is not, NOR WILL IT EVERY BE, a day off. Sabbath is a disruptive time, in which all work and production ceases in order to look back over what God has done and to look ahead and imagine what God will do. In that space comes the potential for imagining, re-imagining, re-membering, and resurrecting aspects of life. This time seems to be that. A time away from our work and life, a time to look at what has happened and what could possibly happen.

I recently heard a rabbi talking on NPR–which sounds like it could be any NPR show at any time–about how there is never really a silver bullet for any of the issues of justice we work on. There is more something like silver buckshot. That is, we are all aiming at the issues, but not all using the same weapon. Our approach may appear scattered but it is effective. Advocacy, education, solidarity, companionship, organizing, spiritual formation, and more.

Being here is more than a cool drink of water, its diving headfirst into a mountain pond. It is shocking. It is revitalizing. It is disruptive. It is necessary.