Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter trees in Rwanda and Tanzania

Hi - I keep thinking I "should" be getting ready for the 6 worship services to come. But except for a sermon and some little details, they're ready. This creation care work is my priority right now. In the midst of finalizing the resolution on energy stewardship for our Metro DC congregations and planning for our church's creation care carnival on April 18th, I got two wonderfully related emails.

The first was from a friend and Lutheran pastor in Rwanda who reported that a bridge that once took refugees escaping from genocide to safety in refugee camps in Tanzania, is going to be rebuilt in order to enable business between countries. Years ago, Pastor John planted trees on the border of this river - once flowing with human wreckage of war - as a sign of hope, sanctuary, and rebuilding. From Pastor John:
Some of the buildings were asked to move to other place and owners will be covered! At the hill, our tree farm forest survived!...I was given forms to fill up for title deed! It was done successfully, went to the forest, found the fish eagle... was there for 3 minutes looking at me!!!!!! Thought that God sent this bird to tell me that He had a purpose for me to plant trees on this hill, may be a sanctuary for birds, animals and people who want to take away stress.
What a great reminder that the hope that caused John to plant the trees was not in vain.

Then also got an email about the Lutheran Church in Tanzania's efforts to reforest Mt Kilimanjaro - from their website:

Organization: Kilimanjaro Environmental Conservation Program: Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCT) in Tanzania- Northern Diocese

Mount Kilimanjaro in Northeastern Tanzania has three distinct volcanic cones. The highest — called Kibo – is 5,895 meters high and covered by snow. However, the snowcap is rapidly disappearing. In March 2005, the peak was almost bare for the first time in 11,000 years. According to NASA, the most recent ice cap volume has dropped by 80%. This will have grave consequences for the local population who depend on water from the ice fields during the dry seasons and monsoon failures.

Additionally, deforestation and poor land management have accelerated soil erosion on farming lands. Streams are muddy with tons of vital topsoil that is being washed away. Increased flooding is destroying crops and causing food shortages.

The local church is working to encourage intensive tree planting and education on farming methods to conserve the environment and ensure sufficient food production. For example, young people attending confirmation classes have to plant 10 trees before they are confirmed. Women in parishes are leading the campaign for tree planting around churches and schools.
For more information and to support this effort, click here.

So yes, I keep feeling like I "should" be preparing for Easter - but what better preparation is there than to hear real acts of hope and re-creation? These efforts make me want to shout halle...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Earth Hour, Creation Care progress

Sunday afternoon before I left work for my sabbath day (Monday) I sent out a draft resolution on energy stewardship to a handful of people in different congregations in our area, Metro DC, to get feedback and support. It was wonderful to open my email this morning and not only see great response and comments from those I'd emailed, but also emails from folks I've never met saying "I heard about this and want to be a part."

In short, we are working to create a new Creation Care Team within the synod (for non-church people, that's the 80 or so congregations in the DC area who work together) and to put forth a resolution at our synod assembly (again for non-church people, think stakeholders meeting) encouraging congregations to act for energy stewardship. We'd join synods like Metro New York, Chicago, Milwaukee and NE Iowa in getting such a resolution.

This is exciting work and feels good - as in "and it was good" kind of good. Speaking of good - at Prince of Peace we celebrated Earth Hour on Sat night. That's where around the world, people turned off the lights. 60 is the Earth Hour logo (for 60 mins). That's me behind the "6."

We weren't quite as dramatic as the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, but from 8:30-9:30, we turned off our lights and a small group of us looked through a telescope, had fun with glow sticks, and shared stories. I told about the stars and night sky in the Peace Corps in Malawi, where I always knew where we were in the moon cycle because the sky was lit up bright when the moon was full, and dark when it was a sliver.

Saturday I got to see the moon up close through a telescope. The surface just looks like pitted concrete. It blew my mind to watch as it drifted out of sight in the eyepiece because we were moving so fast on Earth. Wow. We ended with a prayer of thanksgiving for this marvelous world. Thanks Joyce, David and Alex for a fun night.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Very exciting developments in creation care

Today's been a great creation care day.

Just got back from lunch with Joyce, one of the Prince of Peace Creation Care Team originals. She shared with me exciting news that Poolesville is participating in Earth Hour this Saturday at 8:30 - turn off your lights for that hour.

A group of us in the synod is working on drafting some sort of formal commitment to creation care at the next assembly in May. A couple days ago I spoke with a lovely woman in the New Jersey Synod who passed along their resolution discouraging use of plastic water bottles.

Next I called the ELCA Washington office and talked briefly with Mary Minette, the director of environmental policy and education. She put me onto the trail of Kim Winchell, a diaconal minister in Michigan working on faith and environment and the author of Awakening to God's Call to Earthkeeping, a great educational resource that our congregation used last year.

Called Kim. She sent me drafts of a resolution on energy efficiency that other synods are considering in their spring assemblies. Will send out to our group soon to see if this is the route we want to go. We had a wonderful talk about the growing network of Lutheran people, congregations and synods committing to creation care.

She put me onto a new group, Lutherans Restoring Creation. Various Lutheran environmental organizations have developed over the years, but this looks like the best one yet.

And to top it off, a friend from seminary is starting a garden at her church in Oregon and we're going to chat about it soon.

I love when things come together - the Holy Spirit is moving in this one.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I can see clearly now...

I can see clearly now because I just washed a bunch of windows in my house.

They're not all done (I have about 80 % left to go actually) but it was amazing to me what a difference getting the grime washed off did to let the sunshine in. There's a metaphor in there somewhere, but I'll spare you.

I love cleaning. Not all the time - oh no. Either the clothes are scattered across the room or I'm ironing each piece of clothing before hanging it up. It's all or nothing, which makes keeping an adequately clean house a challenge.

Cleaning the entryway this morning took me 3 hours (it's quite small) because I was actually scrubbing the walls. It was all I could do to resist taking a toothbrush to the floorboards.

Not necessary. But fun - amazingly fun actually. I lost myself in the cleaning (unfortunately, I also lost track of time and missed an important meeting). I was barefoot all morning long, going in and out of the house, filling buckets with water from the hose and vinegar (who needs chemical cleaners?) wearing old clothes and getting good and messy. Drank down the coffee, organized my sports equipment, geared up for gardening, cleaned my pottery tools.

The windows were the best. What a difference that makes. Here's hoping I have the time and energy to do the rest of them before I start to lose enthusiasm. Let the sunshine in!

PS - That's not a picture of me, but a squeegee is definitely my next purchase (and a great scrabble word).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

First Crocus

Hi all - my last blog post was a month ago and I'd been lax in the posts since before then. Not that there's been nothing going on in my head and heart, but when I finally got around to sitting down to write, the old inspiration was gone gone.

Well, many little events in the past week have started to build my inspiration back up. At Prince of Peace our crocuses bloomed. At my house, this morning the buds were out and I think that with this sunny day, the blooms will await me when I get home. Seems like long ago that Elizabeth (housemate) and I planted our 200 bulbs with the hopes for spring. And now they're coming.

Other moments of inspiration: the youth service project for the 30 hr famine last weekend. We sorted clothing and served food at Community Family Life Services in downtown DC. We had just studied and prayed with the text "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was naked and you gave me clothing" and there we were, meeting Jesus face to face.

The combo of that experience, fasting, and hearing the story of the prodigal son in church last weekend kind of ripped me out of my self-absorbed fog (yes, pastors get in those fogs too) and turned my head and heart back outward.

Gaithersburg Help took in over $60,000 of donations last week - the bulk was the payoff for the many pairs of feet that walked in mini-walks all over town last October, but there were many other checks too: 17 dollars here, 150 there. One of our students won a prize for her Girl Scout video on the food pantry and donated it right back.

One of our gardeners is out back tilling the soil for a 2nd community garden - hoping to raise even more food to give away. We'll need a lot more hands to help - not sure where they're going to come from. But taking a kind of "if you build it they will come" attitude.

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...