(Scroll to the end for free stuff; expires on Apr 26th!)
Earth Day is always April 22nd, Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (go figure). This year that meant that these events were only two days apart (Easter on April 20, Earth Day on April 22) - intriguing since Jesus' death and resurrection had two days in between as well.
In some ways this mirrors some of the church's behavior towards the earth. In rapture-esque theology that understands believers to be transported off of this planet "in the last days" there has been no reason to care for this planet: it was put here for our convenience, so let's take from it while we can. Since it'll be destroyed anyway we can pillage and extract and pollute as we desire; after all, God gave this planet to us humans.
Pillage and pollute aren't words that this theological tribe would own, but it's certainly the posture that they've taken. It comes from the same place as the belief that the majority race is ethnically superior to the minority (a la "12 Years a Slave"....excruciating movie!). Even though the church has fallen into a post-Christian era, the work of much of the oil industry, lumber industry, animal and big farming industry, is inherently supported by this kind of world view. "It's there and it'll make money, so let's go for it."
Certainly not ALL of the church has believed thus and acted thus. Certainly not. Innumerable followers of Jesus have espoused the need to be immersed in and to care for creation. Facebook this week carried the lament, "I wish more people did the work of caring for the Earth instead of arguing about who created it." Seriously. Yet there are scores and scores of known and unknown saints from the past (and the present!) who do the work of caring for this planet, this orbiting ball of goodness that we are as-yet unable to duplicate. That God is found in nature is an undeniable fact of Scripture; that God is honored by honoring this planet would seem to be a self-evident truth. And yet it's not. The Church should be the ones championing the green movement. And yet, for the most part, it's not.
Things seem to be changing, though. More and more people are committing their habits and their votes to saving this one planet that we have. I just wish it had been the Church leading the charge, rather than that Church catching up.
Echoes is trying to do what we can. On Easter Day we met in front of Bellingham's City Hall. Walking to the Courthouse and jail, and reading Jesus' arrest narrative, we located the story of Jesus in our city. Entering the Whatcom Creek trail and describing the death of the creek by early settlers and by the 1999 Olympic Pipeline explosion, we read Jesus' crucifixion narrative. Then, entering Maritime Heritage Park, we read the resurrection story. For indeed, through the work of countless many, our downtown park has been transformed into a life-giving area, redeeming it from the sacrificial death that humans had ravaged. Salmon are again nurtured and birthed. Habitat is restored not only for vital wildlife, but also for the sanity of humans who need to "lessons in the woods" (as Bernard of Clairvaux aptly states). And yes, the green space also provides some shelter to the shelterless. We have a glorious haven of nature right in downtown Bellingham, and it's history mirrors the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This Sunday was a tremendous experience of locating us and our place in the bigger picture of God's story.
We found ourselves in Maritime Heritage Park through the work of Rae Edwards, Bellingham's Parks and Rec volunteer supervisor. When asked if she had a project for Echoes on Easter she pointed us to a HUGE mound of mulch that needed to be redistributed at the park. The mulch, which came from this year's chipped-up Christmas trees (hello, resurrection!), is spread so that invasive blackberry and ivy gets snuffed out so that habitat that supports a thriving ecosystem will replace it. So after our walk we donned gloves, shouldered mulch rakes, and to got about the work of practicing resurrection. It was a phenomenal experience.
One participant beatifully stated, "This may be the first Easter our sanctuary has been the outdoors, our choir the birds, our music the cascading waters of a creek, our flowers the random trillium and zillion dandelions, and our community wearing boots and work gloves instead of Easter finery." (Darlene Buss)
And just so we were explicitly promoting Earth Day, Echoes offered a free movie screening to Bellingham. Mt Baker Theater generously donated space, organizations like Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association and Conservation Northwest hosted tables to provide the audience with information about their work, while others, such as Sustainable Connections, RE Sources, and Whatcom Land Trust, encouraged Bellinghamsters to attend. The award-winning movie, Elemental, follows three different conservationists as they focus on their campaigns to close the tar sands oil fields, clean up the Ganges river, and implement new technologies to reduce global warming. Hopefully motivated to go make a difference, audience members were directed towards the non-profits who were in attendance to sign up for more information, donate, and join their volunteer efforts. It aligned with a huge value of Echoes: connecting locals to ways by which they can help promote health and vitality to our city and county.
It was a great two days....and I wonder what next year will bring?
AND NOW FOR THE FREE STUFF!
If you'd like to know more about the theology of creation-care, here is a fantastic resource...
A seminary that has had a strong earth-honoring bias is Regent College in Vancouver, BC. Until Saturday, April 26th, the college is offering several creation-care lectures for free! There's great stuff in these talks and classes, so download to your heart's content, and share what you learn with others.
Amost free, Leah Kostamo's new book on the history of A Rocha in Canada, Planted, is an excellent read, Through May 15th the Kindle version is only $3.99! The book is beautifully written, engaging, and highly praised by Canada's literary treasure, Margaret Atwood.