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Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, and the rest of the Blessed Earth team, want to thank you for your prayers and encouragement surrounding our huge weekend of events in the nation”s capital. It all went better than we could have imagined and we are excited for the next phase of work around the Seminary Stewardship Alliance and the Blessed Earth Year with the National Cathedral.
In case you missed the events last weekend, here are the links to the video from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Feel free to watch these links in your church or small group. If you do, please let us know your reflections and how your faith community is practicing Creation Care.
What an incredible few days! Matthew and Nancy and the Blessed Earth team hardly stopped this past weekend and we are so very grateful for our partners and the National Cathedral for long hours of preparation. We will be releasing photos and video as well and reflections on what comes next. As we launch the Blessed Earth Year and follow up on the Seminary Stewardship Alliance we will have tons of news and exciting updates. But for now, we pause and give thanks to our Creator God for a marvelous Earth Day weekend in Washington D.C. Here are some selected images from the major events (you can click on the image for a larger view).
We are excited to announce the re-release of our film series. You can buy the new DVD and guidebook curriculem by clicking here (just $26 for complete guidebook and twelve beautifully made short films). You can watch the Blessed Earth Film Series trailer here. To learn more, please click here. These materials are wonderful resources for any church or study group…especially as we encounter Earth Day and Christians are wondering about their role as stewards of God’s good earth.
Nancy has been inundated with reviews and interviews relating to her new book, Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, and more Sustainable Life. This review is typical of
the positive response. Nancy and the Blessed Earth team are most grateful.
Speaking from experience, Sleeth challenges us to simplify in every area of life in our homes, technology and finances. She then gently encourages us to spend time focusing on what really matters nature, service, security, community, families and faith. Using the Amish communities as an example, we are given practical examples of how to achieve simplicity in a modern world. No, she does not recommend living off the grid and giving up our cars in exchange for horses, but she does show us how to tread lightly on the earth and readjust our priorities to become ones who live a life actively seeking after God and showing him to others through our actions.
Short chapters and a down-to-earth writing style made Almost Amish easy to devour in a day. I have started to ponder the changes necessary to make life less frantic once again and, although it will be a slow process (my daughter informed me that she cannot live without technology), I know that the benefits will far outweigh the sacrifices. I encourage you to slow down enough to readAlmost Amish it just might change your life.
I give this book 5 stars out of 5.
(I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)
By Nicole Neroulias
Religion News Service
(RNS) The constant loop of disheartening images from the Gulf of Mexico–oil-covered pelicans, dead sea turtles, despairing fishermen–has prompted many Americans to seek ways to do something, anything, to take better care of the Earth.
But what, and how?
While the political debate over the oil spill”s cause and ripple effect remains polarized, Christian environmentalists pondering the familiar question “What Would Jesus Do?” believe part of the answer includes cutting back on fossil fuels.
“He would probably take the bus,” said Matthew Sleeth, co-founder of Blessed Earth, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading environmentalism among churches.
In the weeks since the April 20 Deepwater Horizon disaster, religious leaders and faith-based organizations have issued an array of responses, both in words–prayers for help, comfort and wisdom–and deeds, such as organizing aid and urging people to reduce energy consumption.
Regardless of the response from the government and private sector, the solution must involve changing individual behavior to recognize and respect the divine gift of creation, and the costs of carelessly pushing its limits, they agree.
An online petition from the Summer Institute at Duke Divinity School”s Center for Reconciliation urges Christians to observe an oil fast on Sunday (June 20), the two-month anniversary of the spill. The Sabbath observance includes abstaining from motor vehicles, adopting a local-food diet, and “reflecting on the aspects of our lives that are so entrenched in the oil economy that we cannot even quit them for one day.”
Nature-based religions welcome this growing recognition that caring for the environment is a spiritual calling, and that the oil spill is “a wound in the earth,” said Selena Fox, a high priestess at Circle Sanctuary, a Wisconsin-based pagan resource center.
Fox said she has been meditating and conducting outdoor prayers several times a day, lighting a pentacle of ritual candles to channel her energy toward five areas: stopping the leak, helping the cleanup, healing the impact, learning from the disaster, and hoping that people become more respectful of the circle of life.
Prayer is an important part of the response, particularly for distant viewers who feel helpless about the images of tarred beaches and frightened fishermen, said the Rev. Mitchell Hescox, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, which is leading a prayer walk through Gulf Coast communities directly impacted by the spill.
“The first thing we have to do is pray for the people, pray for the engineers and technicians who are trying to figure out how to stop this mess, then pray for the nation to find a way to find renewable and clean energy,” he said.
“There”s a tremendous emotional and spiritual need there, and the best thing we thought we could do as Christians would be to go and spend our initial resources listening and praying with the people to find out how the church could help those in need.”
Beyond BP”s obligation to plug the leak and pay for the damages, and the government”s responsibility to ensure this does not happen again, all Christians have a sacred duty to take care of the environment, said Russell D. Moore, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a native of Mississippi”s Gulf Coast.
Though he hesitates to call it a silver lining in the murky underwater plume, Moore believes this oil spill may finally be the “apocalyptic” disaster that rallies Christians behind the environmental movement, just as Roe v. Wade brought together people of faith opposed to abortion rights.
“Ultimately, the issue is the same–if you believe that human beings are creatures and not gods, then that means that human beings have limits, and so we must respect the dignity and sanctity of human personhood and we must respect the world that God has created around us,” he said. “Evangelicals have to reclaim our emphasis on protecting God”s good creation.”
Politically, the environmental movement”s long-term impact remains unclear–abortion remains the predominant issue for many Catholics and evangelicals. But protecting the environment is consistent with protecting all stages of life, explained the Rev. Jacek Orzechowski, a Catholic friar active in the Franciscan Action Network, which has dedicated June to prayers and deeds in response to the oil spill.
“Nature is a window onto the divine,” he said. “When we contribute to the harm that is done to creation, it”s a sin and we need to repent, by changing our individual habits and by becoming much more involved in the political process, as well.”
Orzechowski”s Maryland congregation, St. Camillus Church, recently held a prayer vigil about the spill and has been phasing out use of plastic bags and disposable water bottles; some members are also active in green-gospel lobbying efforts in the nation”s capital.
While the rituals of confession and repentance are more closely associated with Catholicism, green-minded leaders from other faiths make similar references when preaching personal responsibility for the oil spill and urging more conservative use of nonrenewable resources.
“When I fill my car up, if I”m not combining my trips, I am part of that oil spill in the Gulf. It is a reminder that we live with the consequences for the way that we obtain energy,” Sleeth said.
“The church is waking up,” he concluded. “We”ve forgotten that nature is how God communicated–through bushes that didn”t burn, through waters that parted. God cares about these dolphins and birds, and we should too–period. It”s a biblical responsibility.”
This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post and syndicated via the Religion News Service. Read it .
Nancy Sleeth, program director of Blessed Earth, discussed the oil spill and other creation care topics last Sunday, June 13, with the Women’s International Perspective.
We will post a link where you can listen to the podcast when it becomes available. Learn more about the Women’s International Perspective by clicking HERE.
Greening My American Dream
By Nancy Sleeth
I knew we’d been the talk of our neighborhood for quite some time—right around the time we’d learned how much electricity the dryer used and we’d begun hanging our clothes out on a line in the backyard.
That was something only poor people did—not a respected physician and his wife in an upscale neighborhood on the coast of Maine.
We’d also given away about half the stuff we owned—furniture, clothes, appliances, even one of our cars. Some kids at school teased our daughter Emma for wearing her brother Clark’s hand-me-downs. And now, on top of everything else, my husband wanted to quit his job.
No one seemed to understand what we were doing—maybe least of all me.
It had all started with a rough week in the ER for my husband Matthew. Three of his patients had died in the span of a few days. Though they’d all suffered from fatal diseases and though Matthew had done all any doctor could do for them, he was shaken; I’d never seen him so helpless, so defeated.
One night after the kids were in bed, Matthew and I sat up together. “The world’s a mess, Nancy,” he said.
“I know it’s hard for you when your patients die,” I replied, taking his hand.
“It’s like the whole world is getting sicker,” he said. “Do you know how many more cases I see now of cancer, or of asthma and other respiratory problems than I did just ten years ago? And it’s not just people. The whole planet is dying. Think about it: there are no elms on Elm Street, no caribou in Caribou, Maine. Species of fish are becoming extinct right and left.”
“There are a lot of problems facing the world today,” I agreed.
“Don’t you see? Pretty soon we won’t even have a world, and then none of the other problems will matter.”
Matthew became consumed with researching environmental issues and doing our part to help solve global problems in our own backyard—literally. He asked me to help plant a garden so that our food could be as “locally grown” as possible.
“If everyone did this, just think of the fossil fuels that would be saved from not having to transport food,” Matthew explained. “The pesticides that wouldn’t go into the ground water, the refrigeration that wouldn’t be necessary.” He was so excited. “And isn’t this great? A family, working together in a garden, just the way God intended!”
I smiled and went along with him, figuring I’d humor him until he got over whatever kind of kick this was. But it was so much easier when I could just run out to the grocery store and pick up whatever we needed, and I hated how stiff our towels and clothes felt when we dried them on the line. Still, I guess I was kind of congratulating myself on being so agreeable. How lucky my husband was to have such an understanding wife!
But what Matthew asked of me next didn’t leave me feeling so understanding. “We’re part of the problem,” he said one night a few weeks later.
“What?” I asked.
“We’re part of the problem. Resource usage is directly proportional to wealth. People who live in wealthy neighborhoods use more energy than people who don’t.”
“But I’ve done everything you’ve asked—I’ve used the clothes line, tended the garden, recycled, cut down on driving…what else is there?”
“I want to quit my job.”
“Is there another hospital you have in mind? Or are you thinking about private practice?”
“I think it’s time I started practicing a different kind of medicine,” he said. “Global medicine.”
Matthew explained that he wanted to quit working as a doctor and devote himself full time to saving the planet.
“Why are you doing this to us?” I demanded. “We have a comfortable income, a nice life! This doesn’t make any sense! Being a doctor is a good work; it’s nothing to be ashamed of. How will
we put food on the table?”
“God will provide, Nancy,” Matthew said.
God has already provided you with a good job to support your family, I thought. Have you lost your mind? But Matthew looked so earnest that I couldn’t bear to break his spirit. “I’ll think about it,” I said.
I stayed up much of the night praying, then went outside the next morning and prayed some more while everyone else was asleep. Matthew’s plan offered no job security and no benefits or salary. To follow him would be a complete leap of faith.
As I looked around in the morning light and contemplated the amazing planet God had given us, I knew what I had to do.
We sold our big, beautiful home, packed up the few things we hadn’t given away, and moved to a smaller house. Much smaller—the whole place was the size of our previous house’s garage.
I went back to work as a teacher while Matthew started up a nonprofit environmental ministry called Blessed Earth, an organization dedicated to educating people about how God expects us to be good stewards of the planet. Matthew wrote a book about ecology and was soon in demand to speak to faith-based groups about environmental issues.
I won’t lie to you: it was hard at first. Even though I believed in my husband and what he was doing, changing our lives so drastically was difficult. Matthew promised that if I gave his way a chance, I’d understand that it was the right choice, and because I love my husband, I’d taken that leap of faith.
Sometimes, though, I missed that beautiful home that represented for me the American Dream; I missed fluffy, warm towels right out of the dryer; I missed driving around to clear my head or vegging in front of the TV.
One morning in our new home, though, I woke up a little later than usual. Clark and Emma were already in the garden, working in the cool mist, weeding in companionable silence. In the field behind our new house, a half dozen deer silently watched them work. I rushed outside to join them.
Clark hoed between rows while Emma and I concentrated on thinning the carrot seedlings and pinching new suckers off the tomato plants. Before the sun got hot, we had the garden in good order and were ready for breakfast. As we walked back to the house together, Emma laughing as Clark chanted an old gospel song in his most exaggerated baritone, I knew that everything was going to be okay. More than okay.
That evening, Emma helped me pull together a simple dinner of soup and bread, while Clark set the table and Matthew lit candles.
As we sat around the table holding hands, Matthew said a blessing of thanks for the roof over our head, the food on our table, and God the Creator who makes everything possible. Matthew squeezed my hand before releasing it, and I felt every remaining fear and anxiety float away.
The journey that Matthew was leading us on had changed our lives, but this new life was good. Very good.
View the original story here.
By Jessica A. Knoblauch
The Sacramento Bee/MNN.com
Everyone knows Jesus was a carpenter, but did you know that he was also an environmentalist? And that the Bible, with its calls to care for the environment, can serve as a handbook for environmental stewardship when read through a green lens?
Author Matthew Sleeth examines these ideas in his new book, “The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book,” an eye-opening look into the many characters and passages in the Bible that espouse common themes of environmentalism, such as stewardship of the land and conservation of resources.
In some ways, the environmental movement has been so co-opted by elitist entities (Whole Foods, anyone?) that it’s easy to forget that the basic tenets of conservation and environmentalism can be found in one of the oldest, most widely read books to date – the Bible. The most obvious case is that of Adam and Eve, who were tasked with tending the Garden of Eden. As Sleeth points out, God’s first commandment to humankind involves gardening: “the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. In the Hebrew tongue, ‘dress’ and ‘keep’ roughly translate to ‘tend’ and ‘care.'”
Another cue that the Bible is a sort of green guide to the world is the organic nature of Christ’s language, which is found throughout the Gospels. Take John 15:1, 5, for example, which Sleeth cites.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower …. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” If that’s not a call to provide and care for the Earth, it’s hard to know what is.
These and other compelling examples give readers a fresh and intriguing perspective on an old and often controversial story. Along the way, the author mixes in helpful tip lists adapted from the book “Go Green, Save Green: A
Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money and God’s Green Earth,” written by his wife, Nancy. The straightforward and fairly simple tips cover a wide variety of subjects, such as ways to combat consumerism and promoting more responsible food practices, and complement the book nicely.
Most notable, though, is Sleeth’s ability to provide readers with a convincing argument to consider a simpler, more respectful way of life without coming off as preachy, a welcome relief to those whose eyes glaze over at any sign of sermonizing. At the same time, Sleeth avoids offending the more devout by presenting an alternative view without watering down or cheapening the overall message.
Religious or not, Sleeth’s commonsense approach will likely leave readers feeling like there’s so much to gain and so little to lose by taking care of the environment, but the key is to start before it’s too late. As the author points out, “Everyone believes that ark building is a great idea once it has begun to rain. The trick is beginning an ark six months before the flood.”
Read the original article here.
Blessed Earth To Host Live Simulcast from Northland Church in Orlando on April 21; Thousands of Churches To Participate In Unique Interactive Experience
Wilmore, KY — One night, one message: The Church United. On Wednesday, April 21, 2010, the eve of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, the non-profit organization Blessed Earth and other prominent partners will host a live, one-night-only simulcast event, “Hope for Creation: A Live Simulcast Event.” View the event trailer at www.blessedearth.org.
Thousands of churches and religious leaders of various denominations will participate in the largest faith-based gathering that will include live musical performances, interactive audience participation, and a 45-minute exclusive preview of forthcoming Blessed Earth video series “Hope for Creation,” which explores the biblical vision for care of the planet.
The simulcast will be broadcast from Northland Church in Orlando, FL, the 12th largest church in America, with its lead pastor Dr. Joel Hunter serving as the moderator. Dr. Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, the founders of the environmental nonprofit Blessed Earth, will host “Hope for Creation,” which will include biblical teaching on caring for the God’s creation, fellowship and call to action regarding caring for the Earth.
“This is not a political issue. It has nothing to with national boundaries or church denominations. When we’re not using resources responsibly or being good stewards of the resources God has given us, we’re harming our neighbors and we’re not showing love and respect for God the creator,” says Nancy Sleeth.
“The church has reawakened to the call to tend and protect the garden,” Dr. Sleeth said, referencing the Garden of Eden from the book of Genesis. “This is a night to spend together in the garden — worshipping God, dedicating ourselves to be good stewards, humbling ourselves in awe of what we have been given, and understanding our role in caring for the earth.”
Asbury Theological Seminary, one of the world’s largest seminaries, is partnering with Blessed Earth on the
event. Churches, colleges, small groups, families and individuals are encouraged to register at www.blessedearth.org, and also preview the event trailer.
Blessed Earth is an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips faith communities to become better stewards of the earth. Through outreach to churches, campuses and media, they build bridges that promote measurable environmental change and meaningful spiritual growth.
Dr. Matthew and Nancy Sleeth are available for interviews. Dr. Sleeth resigned from his position as chief of the medical staff and director of the ER to teach, preach, and write about faith and the environment throughout the country. Dr. Sleeth is a graduate of George Washington University School of Medicine and has two post-doctoral fellowships. He is the author of Serve God and Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action (Zondervan, April 2007), the introduction to the Green Bible (2008, HarperOne), and will release a second book, The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book, in spring 2010.
By LIZ SWITZER, The Daily News
Western Kentucky University’s Community Religious Literacy Project is partnering with area churches and community organizations to sponsor an interfaith conference designed to create dialogue and foster awareness of spirituality as it relates to the green movement and sustainability of the Earth — the first of its kind here, according to event organizers.
The Interfaith Dialogue on Earth Care will be Feb. 19 and 20 with presenters and participants exploring the faith community’s response and responsibility in protecting people, species and the environment.
During conference sessions, participants will examine the relationship of humans to the Earth in religious traditions from around the world. One goal is to plan for cooperation among faith communities as it relates to sustainability, according to conference organizers.
“This conference will not be studying whether human activity has seriously upset the balance of Earth’s ecosystems. Rather, we will explore the directive to humans in four world faiths, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, to care for and maintain Earth’s ecosystems for now and the future health of humanity and the Earth,” said Margaret Bowker, a WKU biologist and Christ Episcopal Church member.
“My faith tells me that all God’s creation is beloved by Him, and that to please God we humans should be caring for all of the Earth and life,” Bowker said. “My biology tells me that all life is interconnected and dependent on the health of the Earth.”
The conference is the result of efforts by Bowker, along with Eric Bain-Selbo, department head of
the philosophy and religion departments at WKU and organizer of the Community Religious Literacy Project, and Isabel Mukonyora, also a philosophy and religion department faculty member, along with broad sponsorship from WKU and area churches and organizations.
“This is a unique opportunity for folks at WKU and in the local community to reflect upon and discuss the relationship of the world’s religions to current Iso osuus peleista, noin kolme neljasosaa, edustavat kahta kasinopelia ( hedelmapelit ja blackjack), mika on toisaalta erinomainen uutinen juuri naiden pelien ystaville. environmental crises,” Bain-Selbo said. “The kind of dialogue that we will have is critical across the globe if we hope to achieve a more sustainable future.”
The event dovetails with WKU’s efforts to green its campus for the last two years, according to Mukonyora.
“A lot of this work has been made possible by businesses and interest groups in the city of Bowling Green. Now, there are a number of courses now being offered by different members of the university in responding to problems of climate change,” she said. “In short, let’s have a citywide dialogue because, unlike a lot of other universities one comes across in America, WKU has made it official policy to relate to the wider society, starting with the environs of the city of Bowling Green.”
Dr. Matthew Sleeth, a nationally acclaimed speaker, author and executive director of Blessed Earth, an educational nonprofit that works with faith communities on sustainability, will give the keynote address, “Serve God, Save the Planet,” at the Mass Media and Technology Hall Auditorium at 7 p.m. Feb. 19. The event is free and open to the public.
Sleeth’s books include Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action and The Gospel According to the Earth: Why the Good Book is a Green Book.
The conference on “Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Earth Care” will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 20 at Christ Episcopal Church, 1215 State St. On-site registration will be $25. Limited scholarships are available. The registration deadline for the discounted rate of $20, which includes meals, is Feb. 15, but participants may register up until Feb. 19 at the $25 rate.
The event is sponsored by the Community Religious Literacy Project, the WKU Office of Sustainability, the WKU Provost’s Initiative for Excellence Grant, WKU Departments of Biology, Philosophy, Religion, Geography, Geology and Sociology, the Potter College of Arts and Letters, Ogden College of Science and Engineering, College of Health and Human Services, Graduate Studies, BGGreen, Southern Recycling, Islamic Center, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, The Presbyterian Church, State Street United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Church, State Street Baptist Church, First Christian Church and Christ Episcopal Church.
By Alyce Gilligan, Relevant Magazine
Nancy Sleeth’s mission, along with Blessed Earth, is to inform people of the spiritual benefits of living an environmentally conscious life. We spoke to her about how conservation creates community, small changes that make a big difference and her response to those against talking about creation care.
RM: You say that one of the main incentives for people to conserve resources is that it adds to community activities and family time. Can you explain what you mean by that?
NS: Yes, community has been lost. We have a culture now of hyper-individuality. And part of that is because of money. Part of us thinks that because we have money, we can do everything ourselves. We are an incredibly rich society in America. It’s good to learn to receive as well as to give, and that it’s OK to ask for help. Those relationships are what the body of Christ is. When it’s all about us, it’s not a community of Christ. If you look back at the language of the OT, it’s our God, it’s a plural language. It’s not about my God.
RM: What is the one major change people should make if they want to begin a sustainable lifestyle and conserving resources?
NS: The answer I’m going to give you is not the one you’d expect, but they should start observing Sabbath. People in their 20s are just so focused on this 24-7 life that needs to be a 24-6 life. That’s the life God has set up for us and there’s a reason for it. It’s our mental health prescription, and it’s the most important thing they can start doing right now. We generally save 10-14 percent of the resources you use by observing Sabbath. So yes, it does have an environmental effect, it does have a monetary effect, but the most important effect is that it gives you time to be still and know God, to get to know your neighbors, to spend time in community, to have people over for dinner, to take a walk in nature and see the face of God. Romans 1:20 says that we are without excuse, if we just spend time in the world of nature, we will get to know God. And those things happen on
the Sabbath. You know, it’s about guiltless naps. I take a nap almost every Sabbath and I could not get through the other 6 days of the week if I did not have the Sabbath to look forward to.
RM: What are some of your most practical and effective tips for going green?
NS: There are many people around the world who do not have access to clean water. Change the way you use water. Turn the faucet off while you’re brushing your teeth. Anybody can do that. Just think before you use this precious resource called water. Transportation is the biggest use and it’s also something you can control. Can you hop on your bike instead of driving two miles that you don’t really don’t need to get into a car for? Can you slow your life down just a bit so you can hop on your bike and run that errand, or can you combine errands together so you’re not running all over the place and so you just do all your errands once a week? If you live in an urban area, absolutely, use public transportation. Again, there’s community involved in that.
RM: What do you feel the Church’s responsibility is regarding creation care?
NS: Any time that you make a decision or are about to purchase something, we recommend that you ask two questions: Will this help me love God, and will this help me love my neighbor? And if you’re even asking those questions, you’re on the right track. You’re at least thinking about it. You’re living a conscious life. God does not want to find us sleeping. He doesn’t mean physically asleep—He means not using our brains, not living a conscious life, not making conscious choices.
RM: What is your response to Christians who don’t feel as passionate about creation care, or who even seem to be against it?
NS: In the last three years, we have seen a remarkable change within the most resistant churches. Most of our time is spent speaking in what people would call “conservative” churches now. This is not a political issue, and it has nothing to with national boundaries, and it has nothing to do with denominations. We all drink the same water and have rights to the same quality of life. And the people who are being hurt the most and the soonest are the poorest. The people we are told to take care of are the least among us. So when we are not using resources responsibly, when we are not being good stewards of the resources that God has put under our responsibility, we are harming our neighbors and we are not showing love and respect for God the creator.
Greetings, brothers and sisters. May the joy and peace of Christ find you all well and with loved ones in this season of hope.
This is the time of year when we at Blessed Earth look back on the past year and celebrate the doors that God has opened and look forward to our work in the year ahead. This is also the time that we make our one and only yearly request for your financial support. Last year, we had a matching grant opportunity, which, thanks to your generosity, we met. We are pleased that once again this year we have a matching gift—this time to double contributions made to the Blessed Earth film project.
While this has been an unprecedented year of growth and opportunity for Blessed Earth, the project we are most excited about is our twelve-film creation care series. The first six films, titled Blessed Earth: Hope for Creation, focus on the elements that God created—light, water, earth, the heavens, animals and finally man—and the biblical for us to steward them wisely. The second DVD, Blessed Earth: Hope for Humanity, focuses on actions—beginning
with Rest and ending with Hope. The series, along with action-focused individual and group curricula, will be released this spring in time for the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day. Partnering with the creative geniuses who made the NOOMA films (viewed by an estimated 45 million people), this project brings the highest quality production values that have ever been used to educate and inspire viewers to honor the Creator and his creation.
I had two “ah hah” moments during the weeks of filming. The first happened at the Los Angeles film site, where the previous 24 hours of set-up had been compressed on a film lasting 120 second. I watched in awe as dozens of workers, artists, grips, and electricians constructed a set that would allow us to communicate to millions of people rather than thousands. What seemed a far-fetched prayer a few years ago was coming to be: the church leading the way to heed the Genesis 2:15 call to protect and care for God’s creation!
The second moment came a month later when the crew assembled in an ancient redwood grove to film Hope for Humanity. Beneath the 360-foot-tall, thousand-year-old trees, I was struck by the miracle of so many friends like you around the country praying for the rain to hold off (and it did hold off, despite dire predictions).
Our hopes are now focused on developing a new 50-minute condensed version of the 12 films, which will be shown in hundreds of theaters and churches across the country. Already major churches, denominations, universities, and theology schools have agreed to partner in this project, and we will be launching a powerful new web-based social network to support the effort. We have been offered matching funds for getting this film to churches—but we need your help. Please give generously! Every fifty dollars contributed helps us get the film and the creation care message to one more church, campus, or youth group.
None of this would be possible without the Holy Spirit working through you who are praying for us, volunteering your time and talents, and supporting this project through your generous gifts. For this, and for all of God’s gifts, we are grateful.
By Rachel Sarnoff, Planet Green
With all the planning, cooking, and cleaning, the last thing you want to think about is greening your Thanksgiving, right? But this is the perfect time to reflect and reassess your holiday preparations with a nod to sustainability.
Top Green Thanksgiving Day Tips
Know your guests
For most families, tradition sets the precedent for who shares the Thanksgiving meal and a simple phone call can easily confirm the details. But a hand-lettered invitation (on recycled paper, of course), or even a clever Evite can set the tone for a truly special event. Whatever your mode of communication, make sure you determine any special food needs your guests might have. Are they vegan? Vegetarian? Pescetarian? Do they have food allergies? Simple questions now can save you a world of last-minute headaches. Timeline: Two weeks out.
Plan your meal
A simple rule of thumb for a traditional Thanksgiving meal is to include a main course, four sides and dessert. Some families add a soup at the start and a salad at the end (or vice-versa). Traditionally the main course is a turkey, but it can translate to a poached or grilled whole salmon for a pescetarian meal, or tofurky or vegetarian casserole for vegans and vegetarians — check in with Emeril to get some ideas and recipes for the big meal. Luckily, the spread is so broad that you can easily include something for everyone. Write down your selections, then make a shopping list, separating it into items that you can shop for in advance, and those you need to buy the day before. If you want a heritage and/or organic turkey, make sure you get your order in before they sell out. Timeline: Two weeks out.
Shop for your staples and non-perishable items
Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to hit up your local farmers’ market for organic, locally-sourced produce. Since these traditional recipes typically rely on food that’s in season, you can pretty much find everything you need in the way of root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams) as well as specialty items like honey or even beeswax candles to adorn your table. Timeline: One week out.
Maybe you’re doing it, maybe you have help. Either way, using non-toxic cleaners can make your house sparkle without chemicals. Run out of sink or tub scrub? Mix up some baking soda and water (here’s a recipe we like). Wondering how to get your windows squeaky clean? Try vinegar and newspaper. These household staples really work-and you won’t run the risk of inciting a synthetic-fragrance induced allergy attack in your guests. Timeline: The day before.
This is the fun part. Think outside the box when it comes to decorating your home. Eschew the traditional wreath in favor of one made from living, organically grown succulents and cacti. Recycle old wrapping paper or the funny pages and cut them into snowflakes to put in the window or hang from thread over your table. Make your table arrangements from organic flowers, or collect bouquets from your yard or neighborhood (adding herbs like rosemary and lavender make for gorgeous, fragrant bouquets). Got kids (or kids coming to the party)? Enlist them to set your table and place your candles. Timeline: The day before.
Shop for Perishables and Pick Up Your Turkey
Veggies, breads (unless you bake your own), and other perishables should be picked up from your local farmers’ market; depending on what day(s) of the week it’s open, you may have to fudge the timeline just a bit, and for most things, that’s okay. Root vegetables, squash, most fruits and other seasonal meal items will survive just fine for a few extra days. If you’re planning a mixed green salad or other highly perishable dish, you might have to bite the bullet and go to your local co-op or organic grocer. Timeline: One to four days before.
Pre-fab as much prep as you can
If you’re making stuffing, pre-mix it. If you’re mashing potatoes, skin and quarter them (if you leave them in a tub of cool water, they’ll be fine overnight). The turkey can be brined or prepped with olive oil, salt and pepper and left in the refrigerator until the next morning. Pies can be baked and set on a shelf. The more you get done today, the less you’ll have to worry about on the big day. Timeline: The day before.
Cook like you’ve never cooked before
But don’t just go into it blindly: You’re orchestrating a symphony of tastes! Sit down with a pencil and paper and plot out your finish times so that you know when your dishes need to go into the over in order to come out at relatively the same time. But don’t stress the timing too much: Thanksgiving is more about the experience of sharing a meal together, and less about that meal being piping hot. Make sure you build in a little time to relax before your guests arrive. Light your candles. Sample the organic wine. Pat yourself on the back. Timeline: On the big day.
Many families say a traditional prayer led by the head of the table before eating. Some go around the table, with each member saying what he or she is giving thanks for this year. Whatever happens at your table, make sure you’re conscious of the religious considerations of your guests. Timeline: On the big day.
Dispose of the leftovers
Scrape the plates and suds up-but wait! Is that a leek you’re tossing in the trash? Even if you don’t compost, you can separate the green scraps from the rest and toss them in your leaf bin. And you’re recycling your plastic bottles and aluminum cans, right? Timeline: On the big day (and maybe one day after).
Green Thanksgiving Day: By the Numbers
Green Thanksgiving Day: Getting Techie
Salmonella affects 1.4 million people every year, according to Medicine.net. Here’s how to stay safe: With a frozen turkey, defrost your turkey in the fridge, not on the counter. For a fresh turkey, remove innards immediately, rinse with cold water and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook. Wash your hands with soap before and after touching raw poultry. Designate a cutting board and knife for poultry, and wash them immediately with soap and hot water after use. Finally, don’t let the bird sit on the counter: Once you’ve served it, refrigerate as soon as possible, and eat the leftovers within a few days. We’ve got some more tips for a clean, safe Thanksgiving.
Where do turkeys come from?
Turkeys are indigenous to North America, but today’s turkeys are deficient in one glaring way: They can’t reproduce. They’ve been bred to produce the most meat at the least cost, and are now dependent on human intervention to fertilize their eggs. Heritage turkeys, in contrast, mate naturally, live outdoors and grow slowly. And, according to those in the know, they also taste better. Sustainable Table has the full story on heritage breeds, and Slow Food USA has a list of farms that sell heritage turkeys.
Organic, cage-free, free-range — the many designations of a green turkey
Organic turkeys are fed with grains grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers (yum!).
Vegetarian-fed turkeys are fed strictly vegetarian diet. These birds cannot go outside on pasture since foraging for “bugs” is not considered a vegetarian diet.
Cage-free turkeys are not confined to cages, but do not necessarily have ready access to outside.
“Free range” turkeys are not confined to cages, and have access to the outside, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they take advantage of this “free”-domturkeys can “free-range” on sand, dirt or even concrete.
Pastured turkeys are housed and/or ranged on pasture, with grass, legumes and insects comprising a significant portion of their diet. As such, they may or may not be “organic.”
Day range pastured turkeys are free to range outside in large rotating fenced pasture during the day, and are housed inside a permanent or semi-permanent coop at night, with an open floor (no cages).
Local Harvest has a database of farms with these (and more) various turkey options.
Read the original article here.
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky.— “How does God speak to you in your life?” asked Dr. Matthew Sleeth, former emergency room physician, at a Kentucky Heartland Institute on Public Policy (KHIPP) event at Campbellsville University recently.
Answers from the audience varied from sports, experiences, God’s Word, music and relationships, but Sleeth found nature to be his window to God’s voice.
While on vacation near the Gulf of Mexico, Sleeth told his wife the biggest problem in the world is that the world is dying. “I say this because of the changes I’ve seen in the world in my own life.”
At the time Sleeth discovered this problem, he did not have religion in his life so he didn’t know what to do about the issue. It was then that he read Matthew 7:1, which is similar to Ghandi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Sleeth said, “We’re capable of spotting flaws in others, yet we fail to recognize our own mistakes.” It was then that he decided to change his lifestyle.
“God calls us to make radical change and gives us the power to make radical change,” he said.
Through new awareness, Sleeth developed a theology on trees as a symbol of the Lord. He said, “If there’s a vine, a bush or a tree, God is there. Psalm 1 says ‘a righteous person is like a tree.’ Trees appear over one thousand times in the Bible.”
This theology is also seen through the life of Christ. “Christ was born and he became a carpenter. After He was raised from the dead, he was mistaken as a gardener… this was not a mistake.”
Sleeth encourages students to help the environment by cleaning up and by planting trees. He said a tree is “the only gift to give that can keep growing bigger, better and more beautiful.”
While on campus, Sleeth toured Clay Hill Memorial Forest, a 135-acre environmental center owned by Campbellsville University.
He was also interviewed by John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, on his show, “Dialogue on Public Issues” on TV-4, Comcast Cable Channel 10, Sunday, Dec. 27, at 8 a.m.; Monday, Dec. 28, at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Article written by Christina Miller, student writer at Campbellsville University
By Drew Dyck, Christianity Today
A few minutes into his talk on the church and the environment, Matthew Sleeth, MD, called up a young man
named David to share his story.
David recounted how he had recently suffered a grand mal seizure. After a trip to the emergency room, David received some devastating news: he had an inoperable tumor the size of a racket ball growing in his brain. He’s 27.
How does that relate to the environment? I don’t know. I tuned out
for a good 15 minutes after hearing David’s tragic story. I just sat there looking at the guy—passionate, articulate … and only a few years to live, according to doctors.
When I came to, I gathered that Matthew is making a film about David’s story. The film has something to do with time, about not having of it, and how that sobers us, and reveals what’s important.
Matthew sees a connection between our conception of time and our treatment of God’s earth. He didn’t mince words.
“How many of you take a Sabbath?” he asked the room of Christian leaders.
Not a single hand went up.
“You might as well just take the Ten Commandments and rip them out of your Bible,” he said.
Then he took a Bible and actually ripped them out! Yeah, it’s a little cheesy, but it got everyone’s attention.
“I’m a new Christian, so I still actually believe this stuff,” he said.
“By God’s grace we’ve been given 2,000 years. Shouldn’t we pray and act as though he might give us another 10,000?”
“Jesus doesn’t want us to change our light bulbs. He wants us to follow him.”
Then he added.
And if we follow him, we’ll probably change our light bulbs too.”
Wise words from a young man. May God extend his years.
By Michelle Rupe Eubanks
It was that “ah-ha” moment Betty McGee said she was hoping to get from members of First Presbyterian Church of Florence.
“It came when we put recycling into context,” she said of the Sunday morning experiment of separating trash from the pulpit into piles of what is garbage and what can be reused.
McGee said a recycling program has been in place at the church, the Shoals’ oldest organized congregation, since the 1980s, but this year, the decision was made to ratchet up the members’ commitment to the environmental cause.
Until the past few years, organized religion, Christianity in particular, has left environmental protection to activists, concerned scientists and political figures. Likewise, environmentalists have either ignored religion or complained that churches have been lukewarm about environmental causes.
Dr. Matthew Sleeth, emergency room doctor turned environmental author, said it’s an image that Christians, by and large, don’t deserve.
“Churches throughout history have addressed this, but we got away from it when we got away from our direct connection to the land,” he said. “But if you look at the first page of the Bible and the picture of paradise, there’s a tree smack in the middle with a river running by it. That’s no accident.”
Sleeth felt so strongly about Christians joining the cause of the environment that he wrote a book, “Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action.” He often visits churches to help members understand how they can adopt more ecological practices.
“When I started going to churches five or six years ago, it was a pretty hard sell,” he said. “Now, for whatever reason, I can no longer get to all the churches who want me to come and talk about this.”
Sleeth said he’s been to an array of churches, from Methodist to Southern Baptist to Episcopal.
Carl Gebhardt, minister at First Christian Church in Florence, said environmental issues became politicized in recent years.
“Christians in general, in the United States, have a serious and unfortunate habit of identifying political issues as either religiously conservative or religiously liberal,” he said. “So, with churches, you would think that conserving the environment would be a conservative agenda, but they have been against this. The battle rages from both sides; neither is innocent.”
When he entered the ministry more than 30 years ago, Gebhardt said the environment was a priority for the denomination.
“Churches have always considered environmental issues to be a matter of the faithful,” he said, but more often than not, “we do it quietly, doing our best to recycle and replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent, little things like that.”
At First Presbyterian, the push toward environmentalism took on a new life this year when McGee decided it was time to get members more involved. Paper plates replaced the church’s china for potluck suppers, a mug tree sprang up to rid the facility of Styrofoam cups, and old windows have been replaced with more energy-efficient ones.
“There was a little bit of a protest about using the glass dishes,” she said. “And, years ago, we had a mug tree, so it’s like we regressed on that. But overall, the members seem to be accepting it well.”
Stewardship of the earth is a component of a number of Christian denominations. In the Episcopal faith, global relief agencies fund and promote causes including the environment, according to the Rev. Andy Keyse, the rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Florence.
“As Earth Day became a much bigger deal nationally; you’re seeing the church tap into this,” he said.
But this has not always been the case.
“Christianity way back was consumed more with just promoting the cause of the gospel and not worrying about the resources that had to be used to do that; it was a sort of win-at-all-costs attitude,” Keyse said. “As the years progressed, we realized we were more dependent on those resources, so, as we’ve come through the centuries, we know we’re the ones to take care of those resources.”
Compared to other faiths, however, Christianity does seem to be late in assuming an environmental stance.
In Judaism, the Torah states that the land belongs to God and that humanity was given use of the land, said Stanley Goldstein, a member of the Temple B’nai Israel in Florence.
The renewed interest among Christians in the environment is turning back to their roots, he said.
“It’s come full circle,” Goldstein said. “Christians are rediscovering this past, especially among Protestant religions.”
Is this mission among churches sustainable?
Gebhardt believes it is because it’s good economics in addition to being good ecology.
“The practical issue is that the cost of energy is so much more than it was will push us to do what we should have done years ago, and that’s to go green,” he said. “Until we learn how to live without an environment, we’re going to have to keep this issue at the forefront.”
By Alyce Gilligan, RELEVANT Magazine
Who would have thought that one day you would see trendy T-shirts, TV programming and teenyboppers … begging you to save the planet? Consideration and conservation have gotten increasingly trendy, yet, as most movements go, the heart behind the issue can be lost along the way. Green living becomes more about an image or a catchphrase than an actual purpose. Nancy Sleeth and her husband Matthew, a former ER physician, are the co-directors of Blessed Earth, a non-profit organization that draws attention to the issue and the practice of creation care. It’s been a long journey for this eco-friendly couple, one which Nancy says was both environmental and spiritual in nature.
“My main goal is to have people love God and love their neighbors by taking better care of creation,” said Nancy. “That’s absolutely it. It’s about my journey, and sharing it with other people.”
The relationships that benefit from living with a fresh environmental mindset are perhaps the greatest incentive and reward the Sleeths share with teach others to seek.
“Community has been lost. We have a culture now of hyper-individuality. We have to learn to receive as well as to give,” encourages Nancy. “It’s okay to ask for help. Those relationships are what the body of Christ is. It’s not about my God, it’s about our God.”
And what of churches and conservatives who seem resistant to or unaware of an environmental consciousness? After all, the root of conservative is conserve …
“This is not a political issue, and it has nothing to with national boundaries, and it has nothing to do with denominations,” Nancy points out. “We all drink the same water and have rights to the same quality of life. And the people that are being hurt the most and the soonest are the poorest. The people that we are told to take care of are the least among us. So when we are not using resources responsibly, when we are not being good stewards of the resources that God has put under our responsibility, we are harming our neighbors and we are not showing love and respect for God the creator.”
So, if one wants to transition into a sustainable lifestyle, what is the first and most important step? Nancy’s answer is perhaps unexpected. “Start observing sabbath,” she says, adamantly. “People in their 20’s, they are just so focused on this 24-7 life that needs to be a 24-6 life. It’s our mental health prescription, and it’s the most important thing that they can start doing right now.” This is about more than napping and attending church, of course. “We generally save 10-14% of the resources that you use by [observing sabbath]. So yes, it does have an environmental effect, it does have a monetary effect, but the most important effect is that it gives you time to be still and know God, to get to know your neighbors, to spend time in community, to have people over for dinner, to take a walk in nature and see the face of God,” said Nancy, whose family prepares for their sabbath ahead of time by completing all tasks, cleaning the house, and turning off computers and other sources of electronic messaging.
Other changes that Nancy considers key to a green lifestyle include taking shorter showers and modifying your modes of transportation. She is an advocate of “Navy showers,” getting in and out as quickly as possible, to conserve water. “That’s something I can do for my neighbor every single day. If we just flush our toilet and brush our teeth, we’ve used as much water
as people in the third world have per day.”
She also recommends riding bikes for shorter trips, as well as utilizing public transportation and carpools to promote community while helping the environment.
Nancy acknowledges that living green starts with a mindset, and that the practical aspects will follow. She suggests that before making an decision, even a purchase, you should ask yourself two questions: By doing this, am I loving God, and am I helping my neighbor?
“Whatever our on ramp is, we should be encouraging each other. The point is not for us to feel guilt or shame,” explains Nancy. “It means that I’m living a more conscious life, it means that I’m being more focused on God, and more focused on being a servant to my neighbors.”
The story behind the activist
It hasn’t always been this cut and dry for Nancy. When she met her husband, he was a Protestant carpenter installing a bay window in her home … where she lived with her conservative Jewish parents. “No one was happy about us getting married,” explains Nancy, noting the irony. “But our attitude was, ‘Well, if that’s what religion is about, then forget religion.’” Despite their differing backgrounds and the protests of those closest to them, they fell in love, married, and began their new life together—a life that closely resembled the stereotypical “American Dream.”
“He became a physician, and we had two kids, and a beautiful house on the coast of Maine, and all the things that money can buy. But there was a hollowness inside,” admits Nancy. “And so when bad things started happening in our life, we didn’t have an anchor.”
Within a short period of time, both their personal and professional lives experienced great tragedy, provoking Nancy to approach her shaken husband one night with two questions: What do you think is the biggest problem facing the world today? And what are we going to do about it?
“He could have said poverty, he could have said war, he could have said AIDS, he could have said all sorts of things. But the answer that he gave me is that the world is dying,” says Nancy. Hyperbole? Maybe. But there was truth to Matthew’s response.
“The reasoning that he gave me is that we have all these other problems but if we don’t have a planet to sustain it, during things like abortion, things like AIDS, things like poverty, it wont even matter because there wont be a planet to sustain all of life,” continues Nancy. As for that second question … well, the Sleeths would soon be dedicating the rest of their lives to the answer. But first, they embarked on a religious exploration.
“We read all sorts of scared texts, we were open to anything. And eventually, through God’s grace, [Matthew] picked up an orange Gideon Bible one fall afternoon in the ER,” said Nancy. Before long, both Matthew and Nancy, as well as their two children, had come to realize the truth of God’s love. With this conversion came a new sense of responsibility. “We realized that we had to make some significant changes in our lives because the life that Jesus was calling us to was very different from the life that we were leading,” said Nancy, pointing to Christ’s own habits as the foundation of this opinion. “Jesus said if you have two coats, give one away. He didn’t have a place to lay his head, he didn’t have a home to live in, he only rode once, and that was on a colt. We had way more stuff than that.”
As with most life altering revelations, drastic and permanent change took place. After conducting an environmental audit, Nancy found herself residing happily in a home the size of their old garage, living on nine tenths of the electricity they were accustomed to using. Her husband decided to leave medicine at this time, believing he could make a greater impact by “working on this global health problem.” He wrote a book called Serve God, Save the Planet, and together they formed Blessed Earth. Requests for speaking engagements began coming in. It was soon apparent that a simpler and quieter life was actually more full than they could have imagined.
“We decided to share this message that is really just an old theology,” Nancy says of the mission of Blessed Earth. “People are realizing that something is very wrong in our lives, that we’re too
focused on stuff, that there is too much noise in our lives. We’re painting a better picture, of not just giving things up, but living a more joyful life, a quieter life.
Join Christian students around North America in standing together to pray for the renewal of God’s creation.
A special event, Renewal’s second annual Day of Prayer for God’s Creation, will spearhead the effort. The official focus of the prayers has been set: “Energy Stewardship & Climate Change: Recognizing the severe degradation of human and environmental health caused by poor stewardship of energy resources.”
Renewal’s Day of Prayer for God’s Creation will draw participants from Christian colleges, churches, and communities across North America.
Renewal believes that prayer is an important practice for all of us as we seek to reclaim and renew our Biblical calling to care for God’s creation. Once a year, in the fall, Renewal calls on Christians to participate in a day of prayer to seek forgiveness, wisdom, and leadership in caring for the whole of God’s creation. Renewal issues this call every year as an open invitation to all Christians.
This year, Renewal is calling on Christians to pray for energy stewardship and climate change. Renewal believes this expression of unity in prayer is vital during an age wherein our careless and irresponsible stewardship of energy resources has led to severe harm such as: air and water pollution, climate change, mountaintop removal, environmental injustice, and violence and economic instability.
By coming together in prayer, we stand in solidarity with the people and places that are being harmed by poor stewardship of energy resources. On October 21st 2009, we will collectively express our concern as Christians, acknowledge our participation in this broken and destructive system, and ask for grace, forgiveness, and guidance as we seek God’s help to address this crisis.
As Christians, we’re called to be “the light of the world,” and to demonstrate Christ’s vision of hope. In this time of darkness, we are called to pray for guidance, present solutions, and reach out to our neighbors who have been harmed by poor energy stewardship and climate change.
Overconsumption of our energy resources has led to great harm, but with God’s help we can make needed changes and offer practical solutions that offer hope to the people and places affected. The 2009 Day of Prayer for God’s Creation is an opportunity to shine a new kind of light, and demonstrate Christ’s hope for the world in this important area.
On October 21st, join Christian students around North America as we gather to fast and pray for God’s creation.
The students of Renewal are inviting all Christians to join us in fasting from one source of energy use for the day. Examples include: not driving for the day, shutting off lights, fasting from cell phones, television, computers, or other sources of electricity, eating vegetarian for the day, etc.
In the evening, Christian students on campuses across North America will demonstrate their unity and solidarity by turning off the lights for one hour, and hosting prayer vigils for a time of prayer for the people, places, and wildlife that are harmed through poor stewardship of energy resources. These prayer vigils should reflect your community and could include: a candle-lit service, a prayer meeting under the stars, a chapel or church service, a prayer walk, etc. Use your God-given creativity!
Renewal is inviting all Christians to participate in this day of prayer and fasting. We encourage you to join in the personal fast and organize a prayer event in your community!
For additional resources, click on the below links:
For more information or to register your event, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org