Monday, March 30, 2009

Early Spring Abundance

Spring officially began a little over a week ago, and in that short time there has been an abundance of blessings pertinent to creation care for Nebraskans. All of these events took place against a backdrop of typical spring weather, with cold, cloudy, and even snowy weather alternating with sunny days that helped the earliest spring flowers to bloom. A variety of songbirds, including robins, wrens, meadowlarks, and red-winged blackbirds, are making it sound like spring even when the temperature feels more like winter. Here’s a glimpse at some pieces of that abundance.

Dinner in Abraham’s Tent
The Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska has partnered with Temple Israel and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture to form the Tri-Faith Initiative. Friday evening at the Qwest Center in Omaha was Dinner in Abraham’s Tent: Conversations on Peace. It was a wonderful evening to share our worship experiences, make new friends, and hear an outstanding conversation about peace.

The spirit of this event was very much like the spirit I’ve experienced at GreenFaith gatherings. GreenFaith is an interfaith organization that “inspires, educates and mobilizes” people of different faiths for environmental leadership. In working with GreenFaith in their Fellowship program, I’ve found that working on creation care can build bonds among people of different faiths and different Christian perspectives. All of us recognize the Earth as God’s creation, all of us feel closer to God when we experience the wonders of creation, and all of us realize that we have a moral responsibility to help care for God’s creation.

As I described my ministry to our dinner companions on Friday evening, there seemed to be an understanding that creation care would be something that people of faith should be doing. As we Episcopalians become more aware of how environmental issues fit into our religious lives, we might very well find a strong common bond with people of other faiths who are also beginning to recognize the connection between faith and the environment.

Crane Sunday at St. Stephen’s, Grand Island
Our liturgical celebration of the crane migration on March 22 went well. Parishioners brought in beautiful paintings and photos of the cranes to share; we had a crane banner and many, many origami cranes in the church itself; our music director tailored the music to the occasion; a parishioner worked with Rowe Sanctuary to provide a fact sheet about cranes that we included with the bulletin. The sermon articulated some of the connections between this migration that marks the Earth season and what is happening in our liturgical season. People seemed very pleased that we recognized the experience of the crane migration as a spiritual experience.

A Pastoral Letter
Right before the first day of spring – but after the last Green Sprouts post – the House of Bishops issued a pastoral letter. It starts out talking about the world financial crisis, then goes on to link it to the environmental crisis. The Bishops say that God is calling us to repentance for our preoccupation with internal affairs and for our narrow focus that has kept us from addressing the concerns of suffering people in our own country and around the world. It’s a remarkable and timely letter, one that speaks clearly about the links between environmental concerns and traditional justice concerns.

Extra bits
Posts to this blog have been biweekly. The plan is to continue regular posts on alternate Tuesdays, but also to supplement these longer posts that often center on the liturgical cycle or the Earth season with “extra bits” as they come along. These will be posts about recent events, or highlighting items culled from the abundance of material related to religious environmentalism -- items such as the letter from the House of Bishops, or environmental news such as the recent report that one-third of all bird species in the United States are endangered. (The report is hopeful since it tells about some things we all can do to help these species survive.)