Saturday, January 29, 2022

From Someone Else’s Nature Journal(!) -- "The Last Sparrow in the Last Forest: Communities of Faith Must Lead the Rescue"

It has been quite some time since I have shared a guest on my blog, but my great friend, entomologist Bill Matson, is writing for his Lutheran church in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and I asked if I could share this. 

Bill is the activist I wish I was! He’s also brilliant when it comes to God’s creation. He and Sheri are fast friends and it seems the times we spend together always go by way too quickly. 

I share here a recent column he posted in his church newsletter. With fine writing like this, and its crucial message, I hope their church at least has the ability to share his work with their larger diocese. I agree with him wholeheartedly that faith communities must take the lead on earth’s stewardship. God calls us to it. And if we leave earth care only to those without faith, its Gospel foundation can be lost – the truth that it is part of God’s redeeming work to transform all of God’s creation. So here we go…

The Last Sparrow in the Last Forest:

Communities of Faith Must Lead the Rescue

Our blue planet has always been in continuous change, even before humans arose from harmless obscurity.  However, as our populations and technologies exploded over the last forty millennia, so did our impact. Today, the consensus is that we have driven the world to a precipice of disaster. Decades of science have warned that we humans are triggering a snowballing catastrophe of mayhem and death.  It’s now especially acute in nature where there have been alarming losses of life-supporting organisms like bees, birds, trees, and ocean fish. Already, millions of displaced humans are desperately seeking refuge because of the unprecedented flooding from melting glaciers, ocean thermal expansion, and storms, as well as from record-breaking droughts and forest fires.

Lutherans strive to live by the mantra of God’s Work, Our Hands, dedicating our church body to care for others.  But, humanity’s recklessness reveals that too many hands are desecrating creation, not caring for it.  Will it come down to the last sparrow in the last forest before we can discern our grave mistakes?  A many decade’s old popular song summarized our predicament in its lyrics, “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Rector Ragan Sutterfield in the Christian Century magazine (Sept 2021) asserts that fixing the planetary crisis requires that we must first reconcile human life with all of creation. This demands radical transformations in life styles and governance from top to bottom. Big money and technology alone will not rescue us.  Rector Sutterfield urges that the Church step forward to become a leader of the rescue.  Planetary healing, he argues, can arise from a united effort by all communities of faith, where green, healing ripples will emanate from hundreds of thousands of green parishes. Ripples can become healing waves spreading into communities, and beyond. 

At least five, step-wise changes are recommended at each and every parish (abbreviated here):  Withdrawal to stillness, contemplation, discussion, and then to prayerful action.  Cast aside business as usual. Think deep transformation. Ecological Neighborhood Awareness is the establishment of a parish’s ecological footprints, its place in the local ecosystem matrix that sustains it.  Congregants will learn about its flora and fauna, becoming real partners with all of our brethren.  Sanctuary is the idea of every parish, every parish member creating sanctuary, sacred refuges for God’s creation in private and public spaces.  Skill and Tool Sharing means that congregants share their essential knowledge, skills, and tools so that all consume less and create life’s essentials locally. Think of growing/canning food; repairing, not discarding.  Mercy and Grace are generously offered balms badly needed in the midst of coming social and ecological upheavals.  

The aforementioned are merely the early seeds of transformation.  All of us must engage and offer our gifts.  Let us pray that all communities of faith will unite, renew and transform themselves and claim their crucial roles in the rescue and healing. God help us. There is work to be done.

~~ With thanks to Bill, 

RGM, January 28, 2022

P.S. An idea: where I live in Washington state, I am occasionally able to take part in a group called Greening Congregations Collaborative, a group of folks from several area faith communities who are meeting together monthly to resource and inspire each other to shared earth stewardship projects in their churches. Shouldn’t every church have a ministry team of some sort, official or ad hoc, that keeps earth care before its congregants as a discipleship practice? Mightn’t it be a great help to share these ideas between churches? Think about it. “The earth is the Lord’s… (Psalm 24:1),” and we are the Lord’s stewards.