Faith for Thought 2013

Faith for Thought is a one-day conference, sponsored by Calvary Baptist Church in State College, where people explore together how Christian faith connects with our daily lives. The theme for 2013 – “Seeds of Hope” – derives from God’s call to the first humans to “tend the garden” of his creation. PAIPL co-sponsored the 2013 conference where together we we seek an authentically Christian response to contemporary ecological anxieties, one that combines theological depth, scientific rigor, and a passion for justice.

About sixty people gathered at Grace Lutheran Church in State College to hear the keynote speakers

and to share in a range of breakout sessions and hands-on activities.


Bike Trip blog 2013.2: Send-off and welcome

This is the best way to begin our trek to DC. We arrived at Micah and Bethany’s farm (Plowshare Produce) about six p.m. after a short, but tough, 18-mile ride from State College. We had a short tour of the farm, saw the impressive Percheron draft horses that plough the fields, and cooed over the new lambs and goats. 

This farm is such an inspiration – from solar-powered pumps to a woodstove heating the greenhouse, this is what a low-carbon lifestyle is all about. Some 20 family members and friends joined us for a wonderful dinner and conversation – we even broke into song – seriously! Now we’re sitting around, relaxing and getting ready for bed (there are, however, three computers open and running). 

Many, many folks showed up to wish us off from Grace Lutheran Church. We loved all the hugs, well-wishes and prayers. Pastor Steve Lynn read from Ezekiel 1:19-20: “When the living creatures moved, the wheels moved beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.” Most impressive, however, were all the prayers, drawings and well-wishes that were presented to Hannah – she’s carrying them in a bag over her shoulder! 

About fifteen people accompanied us on bikes out of State College, causing University students to spontaneously cheer us on. We even stopped traffic on Atherton (our main street) as our group crossed. It was a great atmosphere. But, gradually, we six were abandoned to face Pine Grove Mills mountain alone. 

We all made it, though not without scars (sorry, Ray); I was particularly impressed with Hannah and Jesse pushing their way up on the tandem! The view from the top is so great, though, and with the warm sun and light breeze, we felt a real sense of accomplishment. 
Huntingdon, where we’re looking forward to helping make the town more bicycle friendly. Tomorrow, we’ll do some weeding and other farm chores in the morning and then head to 

Jon (Andy, Dave, Hannah, Jess and Ray)

Selinsgrove: Interfaith Creation Care

On April 19, several members of PA IPL attended an  interfaith workshop put on by the Rivertown Coalition for Clean Air and Water.   There were workshops and a wonderful closing Litany of Dedication, shared below.  Look back next week for Bill Sharp’s remarks, which he kindly scribed so that we can include them on the blog (thanks, Bill!)

As you plan events within your faith communities, think about when words, images, or ideas from other traditions might enrich a discussion in your community.  As you plan interfaith gatherings, consider the balance between appealing to all and sharing differences: what, when, and how best do we gain from interfaith practices, and what, when and how best can we gain from multi-religious opportunities?   

Interfaith Creation Care Symposium
Closing Ritual
Litany of Dedication
(Editor’s notes: this Litany uses a notation common to many denominations: leaders read the regular text, the congregation joins or responds with the bold. The full prayer comes to under 1.5 pages of 12-point font.)

Creator G-d, in the beginning your Spirit, your Wind, your Breath hovered over the formless earth, and with your Word, you created all that exists.  You breathed life into your creation.  you created green plats to produce oxygen so that your creatures might breathe fresh air.  To keeping the air pure and fresh for all creatures,
I dedicate myself.

Holy G-d, you separated the waters from the dry land and made rippling brooks, flowing streams,  rushing rivers, and immense oceans and seas.  You gave us the cycle of the seasons, the rain and the snow and the giant glaciers.  To keeping the water clean and pristine,
I dedicate myself.

Lord, you made the dry land that it might produce plants of all kinds and be a home to your creatures.  You formed mountains and valleys, small hills and great plains.  To the proper, sustainable, and healthy use of the land for growing crops — planting seed, growth, and harvest, for building homes, shelter, and other structures,
I dedicate myself.

G-d of beauty, you created plants to purify the air, to feed your creatures with nuts, fruit, berries, vegetables, roots; to provide shade from the heat of the sun; to make a beautiful world with all its variety for us to live in.  Help us to use the resource of wood wisely and to plant and renew these wonderful gifts.  Thereto,
I dedicate myself.

Most marvelous G-d, in your almighty goodness you created all the members of the animal kingdom, each to its purpose, interdependent, each doing its part — the animals of the sea, the air, and the land, co-existing with us.  Such wonders you have created: the ultraviolet light-seeing bees to pollinate the flowers, the goldfish with its eyesight superior to all other creaturs, the dog with its super sense of smell, the horse with its strength, beauty, and speed, the birds with brilliant plumage, the ffogs wiht their spring chorus.  Mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates you created them.  To preserve their habitat, to avoid and overcome threats to their extinction, to provide them with a pollution-free existence,
I dedicate myself.

Last, but not least, Holy Lord, you created us —created in your image to have relationship with you.  Out of love we were created, for you, Holy G-d, are love.  We were placed on the earth for a purpose.  For that purpose you, over time, gave us intelligence, the use of our hands to create, the desire to discover and invent, the ability to use tools to control our environment and to bring about bigger and better things.  you gave us fire to cook our food, to build community, to warm our homes and to cleanse.  To carry out the purpose for which you made us,
I dedicate myself.

Lord G-d, the first command you gave to us, your creatures, was to shamar the earth, a word with many meanings — not just to care for or have dominion over but to treasure, celebrate, protect, keep watch over, secure, defend, preserve, and keep in all its original pristine beauty. you have made us the protectors, the custodians, the defenders, stewards and guardians of your creation.  To these ends,
We dedicate ourselves.

Let us pray together,
Holy Lord G-d, help us to find ways to live lives that are simpler, that will use fewer resources, and to seek to use renewable resources.  Help us to share with others who do not have.  Give us the fortitude, courage and will to stand up for what is right and against injustice against your creation, the poor, and those who have no voice.  To those who would pollute the air and water; risk the health and welfare of your people; destroy the streams with runoff, spills, and mine waste; who strip the land; all for profit, help us say “No.”  To politicians who turn a blind eye to toxic waste and pollution in exchange for kickbacks and to those who issue gag orders not to discuss health issues caused by industry’s pollution, give us a voice to say, “No.”  To those who operate in darkness and secrecy to deceive the public, knowing that what they are doing is destructive and wrong, give us the strength to shout, “NO.”  To all who indiscriminately kill and destroy your creation, make us declare a resounding “NO”!  Enable us to carry out our task to be about the care and redemption of all that you have made and to carry out the mandate to speak publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and proclaiming God’s love for the world.  We ask this in your holy name.  AMEN

A beautiful Collect

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church chose its monthly Evensong service as its Preach-in service.   It was a beautiful service with a full choir, a wonderful guest sermon by Rev. Bill Thwing (and a delicious reception afterward!)  Thank you to all the people who made it happen, both for what you created, and for inviting members of the Creation Care Coalition of Centre County to join you. 

The Collect is a collective, responsive prayer connected to the message of the church day.   Should some of you be looking for inspiration for your own Preach In material, or your own prayers, here is the one Barbara Ballenger wrote for this evening:

We pray for the healing of your creation, oh God.  For the departed land, the dying forests, the barren stretches of ocean, the melting ice caps and snow peaks, the rising sea levels, the thirsty and hungry creatures.  We pray:
Lord have mercy.

We pray for the healing of your creation, oh God.  For the beautiful, complex and diverse sepcies that you have fashioned and that we have endangered.  For those lost to us forever, we pray:
Lord have mercy.

We pray for the healing of your creation, oh God.   For all people overcome by drought, and flooding, and by shifts in season that destroy crops and dry up water sources.  For the countries that are most at reisk of environmental disaster caused by climate change: for Haiti and Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Madagascar, Cambodia and Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi and the Philippines.  May they find ways to adapt, and resources to survive the damage already done.  We pray:
Lord have mercy. 

We pray for the healing of your creation, oh God, in thanks for the return of the rain to Somalia where tens of thousands of people fled drought this year, in search of food and water.  For those who return to work the land and for those who did not survive the journey.  We pray:
Lord have mercy.

We pray for the healing of your creation, oh God, where environmental disasters displace more people than war.  Where the poorest, who use the least of the world’s fossil fuels, are hit first and worst by climate change.  We pray:
Lord have mercy.

We pray for the healing of your creation, oh God.  You who called the rich young man to give up everything to follow you, call us now to give up that which harms and threatens the world you have made.  For what we have done, and for what we have failed to do, we pray:
Lord have mercy.

Creator God, hear our prayer.  We do not wish to be like the rich young man, who finds the price of everlasting life too high.  We need your grace.  And eyes to see the consequences of our ways.  And ears to hear the cry of those who suffer.  And hearts that beak with love.  Grant that we might turn the rising tide and help your world to heal.

Thanks at Thanksgiving, plus a little inspirational downtime

It seems appropriate this week of Thanksgiving to share our ways of giving thanks.  My family joins hands and sings a simple grace most nights as we gather around the table.

Evening is here
the board is spread
thanks be to God
who gives us bread

The one below  is longer, and we use it less often, but it’s one of my favorites.  It captures so much in so few words, and I am thankful for the miracle of renewing life that provides my food, and for all the hands that touch it from seed to mouth.  It can be sung in a 4-part round.

For sun and rain
for grass and grain
for all who toil
on sea and soil
that we may eat
this daily food
we give our loving thanks to God.

Does anyone else have favorites?  Please share in the comments!

Inspirational downtime
When you’re done with your dinner, your post-prandial walk, and as many games of Clue, charades and Bananagrams as you can handle for one evening, consider sharing some truly stunning scenery with your family.  It might even count for extra credit in earth science for your middle school relatives.

Several PA IPL members in State College recently attended a screening of the 93-minute video, HOME at Penn State.  The website description introduces the film in the paragraph below.  Reviews just call it “eye candy”   It’s available in several languages, so choose the one you know best, or one you’re learning. 

“Internationally renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand makes his feature directorial debut with this environmentally conscious documentary produced by Luc Besson, and narrated by Glenn Close. Shot in 54 countries and 120 locations over 217 days, Home presents the many wonders of planet Earth from an entirely aerial perspective. As such, we are afforded the unique opportunity to witness our changing environment from an entirely new vantage point. In our 200,000 years on Earth, humanity has hopelessly upset Mother Nature’s delicate balance. Some experts claim that we have less than ten years to change our patterns of consumption and reverse the trend before the damage is irreversible. Produced to inspire action and encourage thoughtful debate, Home poses the prospect that unless we act quickly, we risk losing the only home we may ever have.”

Arthus-Bertrand’s website GoodPlanet has more stunning film related to the International Year of Forests.  A series of free photo-art posters are available for schools and others wanting to host educational events about forests.  They’re gorgeous.  Would they spark inspiration, discussion, or prayer in the halls of your congregation’s building?

A Baha’i Perspective

Bill Sharp generously shared these words with us at the Interfaith Convocation service, teaching us first a bit about Baha’is, and then sharing exerpts from texts with his thoughts.
Bahá’ís are followers of the nineteenth century Persian teacher Bahá’u’lláh who spent most of his life in exile and his last days in what is now northern Israel where the Bahá’í World Center is located.  Today a terrace of gardens ascends Mount Carmel at the place he designated for the seat of a council that guides a virtual global Bahá’í congregation.

The Bahá’í Faith has roots in Shi’a Islam and the Sufi tradition but is an independent world religion with members in most of the world’s countries.
Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh’s spiritual role is to confirms the message found in Genesis (chp. 45) that God will never leave or forsake the human race.  We call this Progressive Revelation.  Bahá’u’lláh said that his mission was to provide teachings for the emergence and eventual spiritual transformation of the modern world.
We are here in an interfaith gathering.  Let me recite a passage from Bahá’u’lláh that speaks to the importance of such meetings: 
“… [C]onsort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship, to proclaim that which the Speaker on Sinai hath set forth, to observe fairness in all matters.
“They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consort­ing with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations.  Blessed are such as hold fast to the cord of kindliness and tender mercy and are free from animosity and hatred.”
There is another reason I am privileged to be here tonight.  My belief is that we are meant to live well and prosper physically and spiritually in this world, and germane to this is a statement from Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet of the World
In regards to “… that which is conducive to the advancement of mankind and to the reconstruction of the world:”

First:  “It is incumbent upon the minister of the House of Justice to promote the Lesser Peace ….  This matter is imperative and absolutely essential inasmuch as hostilities and conflict lie at the root of affliction and calamity.”

Second:  “Languages must be reduced to one common [auxiliary] language to be taught in all the schools of the world.”

Third:  “It behooveth man to adhere tenaciously unto that which will promote fellowship, kindliness and unity.”

Fourth:  “Everyone, whether man or woman, should hand over to a trusted person a portion of what he or she earneth through trade, agriculture or other occupations for training and education of children….”

Fifth:  “Special regard must be paid to agriculture.  Although it hath been mentioned in the fifth place, unquestionably it precedes the others.”
This fifth passage is relevant to me because my vocation is sustainability and because my attention increasingly turns to how we draw sustenance from God’s Good Earth. This sentiment was echoed by an American contemporary of Bahá’u’lláh’s, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said:  “Every man has an exceptional respect for tillage, and a feeling that this is the original calling of his race.”
At the heart of such passages is our respect for sustainability.  To Bahá’ís, how we live during our time on the Earth is as important to our spiritual development as the life in the womb is to our physical development.  
God created us to know and worship Him.  The Earth seems to have been created to support life as we know it for many millions of years to come.  Untold generations to be born will share our destiny of reverence to God and right living only if we fulfill our duty to God, and to them, to be good stewards. 
Emerson also wrote that fortunate is the man or woman who is awakened to worship by nature.  I believe that this worship is founded in the gratitude we each feel for God’s bounty of land and water and sun.  It is found in the work we do as well.  Bahá’u’lláh said that work performed in the spirit of service is worship.  Much of our work today, perhaps the most important work we have to do, is to preserve the bounty of the Earth.
I believe that we are meant to live well, to live in community, to live in peace and to prosper on the land, to draw from it, as Bahá’u’lláh said in a letter to physicians, not only our subsistence, but our health.  To do that we must learn to live sustainably, that is, to live within the means God has provided for our own well being and for that of all generations to come.  The future thus starts in the present moment.  It lies in our hands.