Goodbye to a Friend

 

IMG_0603This past Thursday, Dr. Ellsworth Kalas went to be with the Lord he loved and served for over ninety-two years. He was a faithful supporter of our ministry, and served on the Blessed Earth board for the past five years.

Many people knew Ellsworth as a homiletics teacher and the President of Asbury Seminary. Many more had the privilege of having him as their pastor during his four decades as a minister. Others knew him through his published works; he was the author of three dozen books and recorded the Bible on tape. David and Taddy knew him as a proud father. Janet knew him as a loving and supportive spouse. To me, he was a close and cherished friend.

I visited with Ellsworth on Sunday before his passing, and I felt as if we didn’t get enough time together. I cancelled work on Monday to go and see him again, as Nancy and I were leaving for the Asbury Seminary Board meeting the next day and would be working and traveling in Florida for a week. I’m glad that I made the change. We spent a beautiful time together. We held hands and prayed.  I read the Bible aloud, and Ellsworth sang a hymn.  We both thanked God for the special friendship that we have shared for years. Oddly, neither of us could ever remember how our friendship really began, but seven years ago we started meeting for a two-hour lunch every month. He presided at my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding.  Over the last two years, we saw a great deal of each other. He told me that he thought the gift of such friendship as ours was a taste of the fellowship between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We were not ashamed to say “I love you” when we parted.

Ellsworth was an example of the first Psalm:  a tree planted by God, who put down his roots in the Word of the God. He avoided silliness and scorners and sought the company of others who loved the Lord. He taught us what it was to live as a Christian and to die as one. I will miss him until I see him again.

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Thank you, God, for giving us John Ellsworth Kalas.

J. Matthew Sleeth

 

Announcement from Matthew About New Book

IMG_4140My son-in-law, Zach, gave me my Father’s Day present a little early this year. Before we moved into our townhouse, a large tree had died along the fence line dividing us from the neighboring apartment building. We got permission from our homeowner’s association to replant a tree. There was only one problem: a humongous stump–about three feet in diameter–was in the way.

That’s when it comes in handy to have a son-in-law. Zach went to a tree farm and picked out a beautiful sugar maple. Before heading out of town on a work trip, I suggested that Zach plant the maple beside the old stump, even though it was a less desirable position. But Zach wanted to do it right. He dug and dug and dug. Several neighbors came by to watch and encourage. It took all morning and half the afternoon to fully remove the remains of the old tree.

When planting time finally arrived, Zach backed up the pickup truck as close to the hole as possible. The root ball must have weighed a couple hundred pounds. Zach recruited Nancy to position the trunk while he backfilled. One of our neighbors gave us a water gaiter so we could keep the roots moist throughout summer. Zach returned later with a load of mulch to reduce evaporation and competition from weeds.

Every time I walk by that tree, I marvel. And every evening when I admire the tree from our bedroom window, I thank God for sharing His love of trees with me (and giving me a son-in-law with a strong back).

Last year, I read through the Bible underlining everything that scripture says about trees. From the Tree of Life in Genesis to the Tree of Life in Revelation, I discovered a forest with deep roots in faith. The first psalm says that a righteous person is like a tree. Abraham welcomes the angels under the oaks of Mamre; Deborah holds court under the palms; Zacchaeus shinnies up a sycamore-fig to see the Savior.

Most importantly, Jesus, the new Adam, plants a tree–the cross–on Calvary and waters it with his blood, sweat, and tears. The Apostle Paul tells us that in heaven the leaves of the Tree of Life will heal the nations and bear fruit in every season.

This summer, I have begun writing a book about trees and faith. Writing does not come easily for me. I rely on the Holy Spirit and the prayers of friends like you to help me.

It’s been a wet summer so far, and Zach’s tree is flourishing. I hope that in days to come, my writing will help the faith of others flourish as well.

–Matthew Sleeth

A Visit to Polyface Farm

unnamedThere is nothing as lovely as a road trip with someone you love. Just before Christmas, I went on a road trip with my son-in-law, Zach. We headed east to Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Joel recently asked me to write the foreword to his upcoming book, and I wanted to see his farming methods first-hand.

Also, I was taking a young farmer just starting out to see another farmer who has become the world’s best-known spokesperson for sustainable agriculture. Smart is when you learn from your own mistakes; wise is when you learn from others.  I was hoping to help Zach gain wisdom.

For those unfamiliar with where your food comes from, I highly recommend a fieldtrip to a farm. Many of us have a vision of farms gained from children’s board books and singing Old MacDonald. We envision a farmer tending a few pigs, chicken, cows, and sheep, with an oink, oink here and a cluck, cluck there. But what the typical farm has is soybeans here–period, or Black Angus there–period. Diversity is not the hallmark of the modern agricultural system: monoculture is.

The first thing that strikes the visitor to Joel’s farm is the diversity of the operation. There are cattle, sheep, chickens, rabbits, pigs, and people. Four generation of Salatins work and play along with numerous young people doing internships. Which brings me to the first rule of agriculture: a farm should be a place where people are welcome. It should be a place of community.

The Christmas story we recently celebrated reinforces this lesson. There may not have been room for Jesus upstairs in the crowded tourist town of Bethlehem, but the manger was a place of safety and warmth. In the typical Jewish house of the first century, the barn was the first floor of the home. It was a place of community. Which brings me to the second rule of agriculture: a well-run farm should not stink.

Joel took Zach and me all over Polyface.  He walked with us through the fields and hoop houses. He took us to where hundreds of cattle were munching contentedly under cover, standing on thick beds of fodder. Nowhere did it smell.  Animal stench is a sign of waste mismanagement and, too often, inhumane living conditions for the animals.

In my first creation care book, I wrote about being in a chicken house with 15,000 hens. I couldn’t wait to get out of it mainly because of the stench. More recently, I visited a feeding lot in the Midwest that could be smelled from a mile away. These confined feeding operations bear no resemblance to the barn in which I learned to milk cows as a youth, nor do they resemble Joel’s operation. They are inexcusable. Joel and other farmers like him have demonstrated that farming can be scaled up without becoming an olfactory–and, for the animals, living–hell.

Which brings me to the third rule of agriculture: don’t eat food that has ingredients with names you can’t pronounce. Because of the attention to hygiene at Joel’s farm, neither human nor livestock must be pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals.

The kind of farming my son-in-law and Joel do isn’t as cheap as factory farming. The food costs more than mass-produced agriculture. But I wonder what the real cost of our mass-produced food would be if we included the cost of treating the diseases correlated with chemical-laden diets?

If you need an incentive to spend a little more on food now and a lot less on medical treatments later, go on a road trip to two farms–one industrial and one like Joel’s. Then spend the money to support the one you’d want your Savior to have spent his first night in–the kind of farm where you would be proud to see your own son or daughter work.

–Matthew Sleeth

SSA News: Asbury Community Garden Feeds Both Students and Knowledge

Terry Smith and Garden Workshop

The Community Garden/Eco-Seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary is a fast-growing component of their creation care plan. We talked with Ryan Smith, manager for the Global Community Formation, about this exciting project:

“The Asbury Seminary Community Garden is a space where students and their families, staff, faculty and Wilmore community members can grow fresh, organic food and have opportunities for relationship, recreation, education and formation. There are now 20 community (4’ by 24’) and 35 individual (4’ by 8’) garden plots. All of the individual plots have been rented, and there 4 families on the waiting list. Every individual plot also has to have a back-up buddy gardener. This means that there are at least 70+ people now involved with the Community Garden Individual Plots. There are currently 5 plots being worked by residents of Wilmore not affiliated with the Seminary.”

The food from the garden is not being used to turn a profit; instead, it is donated to worthy causes:

” The food being grown in the Community Garden is 100% organic, and a portion of the harvest is delivered weekly to our Seminary dining services.  Students are being made aware of the fresh organic produce they are eating. It will also be given away to 5 different organizations/churches: Embrace Church, First United Methodist Church of Nicholasville, Wilmore-High Bridge Community Service Center, God’s Pantry in Lexington, and Lexington Rescue Mission.”

Lettuce from Garden in Dining Hall

Although still a work in progress, the garden has already offered learning opportunities for locals:

“The Community Garden Park elements (stone fence entrance, fire-pit, 1-mile nature path, prayer garden, preaching amphitheater, seating areas, etc) will be completed by the end of the summer and a Grand Opening will take place on Thursday, August 28th at 4:30pm with a Low Country Boil dinner to follow.

Asbury Seminary Community Garden Sketch 1

“Eight garden workshops were offered by local gardening experts to the seminary and Wilmore community members this spring in the months of March and April. Topics included: Early Season Gardening Best Practices, Starting Seeds, Soil Preparation, Planting and Transplanting, Everyday Composting Practices, Basics of Beekeeping and Setting Up a Hive, Organic Gardening Methods, and Reflections on Growing Food and a Family on a Farm. Average attendance was 10-12 people at each workshop, with a total of around 120 people involved.”

Saturday Morning Garden Workshops

One especially exciting element of the community garden is the opportunity it affords those who work in it:

“About 40% of the individual garden plots are being worked by International Students. By law most International Students are allowed to work only in on-campus jobs and these jobs are often very limited. Finances are the major concern for most International Students while studying in the U.S. Having an opportunity to grow food in the Community Garden helps provide for the financial needs of our International Students. The community garden has become a place where people from many different cultures gather, show hospitality, and celebrate with each other. By cooperating and working together, cross-cultural friendships are be formed as well as a growing sense of interdependence.  People are realizing how much there is to learn from each other.”

Community Garden Lettuce

Photos courtesy of Asbury Seminary

SSA News: AMBS Students Harvest Maple Syrup from Campus Trees

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Photo: Annika Krause and Katerina Friesen share their maple syrup for morning break. The lighter-colored syrup is from earlier in the season; darker syrup is from later, and the darkest is the result of the outdoor boiling at the fire pit.

On her recent visit to Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, SSA program manager Laura Leavell was deeply impressed by AMBS students’ harvesting maple syrup from campus trees. All over campus, small buckets hang waist-level from trees, signifying to the seminary community that the trees are both beautiful and useful. The Seminary Stewardship Alliance took the opportunity to interview the AMBS students who spearheaded this unique expression of campus creation care practices.

What process did you go through to begin tapping campus trees for maple syrup? Were any seminary faculty/staff members involved with the project?

Katerina Friesen: We really didn’t have any hoops to jump through at all. Everyone we asked was on board and very supportive. The idea began when I asked Janeen (Bertsche Johnson, SSA liaison) in her office one day last fall if we could tap Norway Maples, and she did a little research online to find out that it was possible. Then, we asked maintenance and they even gave us the tubing to use as connectors between the taps and the buckets, as well as a drill to borrow for the tapping. In terms of staff involvement, one of the librarians, Karl Stutzman, helped to boil down buckets of sap into syrup along with three other students and two campus volunteers, Adolfo and Betty.

Annika Krause: I think it is also worth noting that this was an experiment. As far as I know, this hasn’t been done on campus before. The intention was for this to be a test year and hopefully more people will be involved in the coming years.

About how much syrup did you harvest?

Katerina Friesen: Annika and I tapped one maple tree in early March to see how it would go, and because of the success, invited other students to join us to tap four more trees in late March. It’s hard to say how much syrup we got, since boiling was a community effort and volunteers kept some of the syrup they boiled. I would estimate that we ended up with about 2.5 gallons of syrup (which would have originally been conservatively 125 gallons of sap if the ratio was about 50:1).

Annika Krause: I would agree with how much sap we boiled down. Each 5 gallon bucket gave us 1-2 cups of syrup, depending on when in the season we boiled it. That means that at the beginning of the season we were at about an 80:1 ratio, and towards the end of the season we were at about a 40:1 ratio. I would say that 2.5 gallons of syrup made is an appropriate estimate.

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Annika Krause, AMBS student who initiated the syrup-making effort, told the seminary community that she was so excited about tapping the maple trees to make syrup that she bought the equipment months ago.

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The snow was still covering the campus when Katerina Friesen started taps on the Norway maple trees that line the lane into the campus.

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Syrup making became an opportunity for community, Katerina Friesen explained. She and Annika Krause started cooking down one batch of liquid and soon others joined them, including Gabe Pennington, AMBS student; Christa Pennington, an elementary school teacher; and children of Chaiya and Aranya Hadtasunsern. A total of 15 people were involved in some way in the season’s harvest and creation of syrup.

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Students and staff enjoy sampling the harvested syrup.

Photos by Mary Klassen

Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community

planted-by-leah-kostamo“Leah Kostamo’s elegant memoir shares the story of A Rocha, an organization that lives out the principles of Christian stewardship and community. With humility, grace, and candor, Leah takes her readers along the creation-care journey, sharing how many small acts can and do make a difference.”
Matthew and Nancy Sleeth

Using personal stories of a lifetime’s journey of learning to care for creation, Leah Kostamo shares the tale of A Rocha, an organization dedicated to earth keeping. If you enjoyed reading Dr. Matthew Sleeth’s account of his own journey, Serve God, Save the Planet, you will also find much to love about Planted. Buy your copy from Amazon today!

North Carolina Creation Care Year Continues to Inspire

2013-09-08 18.22.38 Dr. Matthew and Nancy Sleeth had a diverse and productive visit to Asheville, North Carolina in early September. On Thursday, September 5, Dr. Sleeth gave the keynote address for the Western North Carolina Alliance Annual Conference. The Sleeths spent the next several days hiking and exploring Asheville. On Sunday, Dr. Sleeth preached at First Presbyterian Church of Asheville. That evening, he shared 24/6 and Sabbath keeping with over 100 attendees at an evening discussion at First Baptist Church. After his lecture, he participated in a panel discussion with Anna Jane Joyner, of the Western North Carolina Alliance, and Dr. Guy Sayles, pastor of First Baptist. Dr. Sleeth wrapped up his trip on Monday morning by speaking about Sabbath practices with several dozen clergy at First Baptist Church.

Below are images of audience discussion and participation. 2013-09-08 18.33.01 2013-09-08 18.33.25 2013-09-08 18.33.11

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Summoned Toward Wholeness: Food and Faith Conference

EventLogoBlessed Earth, in partnership with Duke Divinity School, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and Anathoth Community Garden, is hosting a gathering titled “Summoned Toward Wholeness: A Conference on Food, Farming and the Life of Faith”. The conference will be held September 27-28, 2013, at Duke Divinity School.

Scripture portrays God as a gardener, farmer, and shepherd. It describes Jesus as “the bread of life” who invites people to the Lord’s table so they can learn to feed his sheep. It is hard to read the Bible and not see that God cares deeply about food and agriculture.

Join plenary speakers Ellen F. Davis, Joel Salatin, Scott Cairns, and Blessed Earth’s Will Samson, and 12 workshop leaders, as we explore multiple connections between food, farming, and the life of faith. Discover how a  concern for food and agriculture can deepen faith and heal our lands and communities.

To learn more, visit the conference website.

 

Going Green in Scotland

by Keith Jagger For my little family, we’ve joined the many who’ve had an “out-of-country” living experience. For the last two years we have made a home in Scotland, far away from our Midwest roots. When we leave, we’ll share some fond memories of our adventures here, and we’ve already come to love some of the many aspects of British life and culture, such as the sense of history marked by ancient and medieval architecture, long-standing traditions, greater sensibility about the environment, less consumerism, and national health benefits. But we are finding particular challenges here too, especially the trials that come along with renting a home. We ended up having to choose a lifestyle that wanted for many conveniences: no dryer, no car, no dishwasher, no microwave, and no cell phones. It is not the norm here in the UK to go without these luxuries, but a general atmosphere of more simple living made some of these challenges easier. They have guided us to some real lifestyle changes. Take life without a dryer, for example. While many households here have dryers, neither of the flats that we rented housed one (or even had the capacity to hold one). So in the short summer months, we washed our clothes in the washer and hung them on the lines outside. There’s something romantic about a sunny yard (“garden”, as they call it here) with clothes drying in the coastal wind. But there are also the bugs, which the dryer would have killed right away. We’d often find a buggy stowaway in the hamper. Then there are the long and dismal winter seasons that forced us into the hardships of laundering in the old ways. In the winter, we were strained to dry all of our clothes inside. We quickly learned that drying laundry this way would take twice as long, especially in a house with poor insulation and absence of central heating. You have to forsake totally that nice soft touch that clothes have when they come out of the drying cycle. You end up giving up one of your rooms to make a drying station, and you need spend the extra energy on radiators that serve as the drying mechanism. Loads have to be done almost daily because of the minimal amount that could be hung on small racks indoors. In fact, what used to be a simple task, soon took a huge amount of time out of our already hectic schedules. This should have slowed us down and helped us to reconsider the pace of our lives. But we pressed on. In the short run, it just made life more physically exhausting and more stressful. There’s nothing convenient about hanging your clothes, even when it is changing your habits for the better, bit by bit. But housework without a dryer was a small hiccup compared to life without a car. Central point: while our very generous friends learned to offer us rides to church and the grocery store, not having a car seriously limited our social life, especially our ability to fit in with a peer community who was on the go. Our friendship life suffered without a car. We would see families who were taking a short drive to the beach or the restaurant in the next town over; we couldn’t go. When we were invited over for dinner at a friend’s house who lived across town, the hustle of getting there and back, even with a semi-helpful public transport system had a three-fold effect: it diminished our desire to get there, lowered their interest in inviting us again when they saw how difficult it was to get there, and lowered interest on both sides of sending out future invites. You realize how far it is across town when it takes you 40 minutes to get where a car would take you in 5. Of course there were the exceptions, and these friends who endured through our car-handicap will be long termers. The positive, though, is that we got to know friends better who lived in a few blocks’ radius. On Saturdays we became more familiar and intimate with the trails and parks by our house. And we simply had to say “no” to frequent leisure travel and sightseeing in the region. In general, life without a car in this technological age is tough; it especially limits your social life in a world where people and families are enjoying fellowship over greater distances at a time. And yet all the while we were getting used to life without dependence on petrol. We also lived for two years without a dishwasher, and for the last six months––because of an unfortunate run in with the wash cycle––no cell phones. I don’t know anybody else that lives with this combination of technology anaemia. No dishwasher, not a big deal… that’s more normal. But no cell phone is near unheard of. Overall impression: life really doesn’t change all that much without a cell phone. I wish more people would realize this. Other technology such as Skype, email, and the Internet suffices. True, there are times when I’m running late. I can’t call my wife and tell her where I am. Or we have forgotten something or are lost with no means to call. There are friendships that I’m sure aren’t deeper because we can’t text. I wish I could snap a funny picture here or there, and I simply can’t. But life without a cell phone still goes on. Not to mention the community time we gained in the instances we had to walk actually over to a neighbour’s house to have a conversation in person rather than trying to call or text. Technology is supposed to make life easier; all it really does is make you more in need of more technology. If anything, we were detoxing from being connected literally to the world by our belt straps. While this all makes us honorary hippies, having to go without a dryer, car, cell phone, microwave, and dishwasher has not immediately harmonized our life. It has actually made us more inaccessible to a community on the go. And there’s real pain that comes with that. We’d love to announce that our “out-of-country” experience has inspired us to live life in America without these luxuries. That wouldn’t be the total truth. I can’t wait to have the privilege of a car again. I’m going to have a cell phone activated probably within days of arrival. But here’s the payoff. We know what it is like now to do technology detox, and while change is hard (luckily our living experiences in the last two years forced to change) change can come. While we plan to use the things that we left behind in the States, we will use them much more modestly with much more thought on their negative impact on our lives, rather than simply diving in headfirst. It has changed our view of when and how to use them. I think that this is a significance of what St. Paul realized when he said that all creation is waiting for “the revelation of the sons and daughters of God”. The earth and all its creatures are waiting in hope for us to get the memo; we don’t need to dry our clothes in machines, always seek oracles on Google or constantly speed around distances that should never be sped across. The life we’ve lived here in Scotland has been less of a burden on our planet than our lives in the US would have been and will be (even though it was not less of a “burden” on us). As of yet, we are still doing the grunt work of making good habits and letting go of selfish desires for convenience and luxury. But what we do know is that change is slow but can be made, even if it takes some external factors to get you motivated first.  


Keith Jagger first met the Sleeths when they were neighbors in Wilmore, Kentucky, and were brought together by their shared passion for creation care. After completing his studies at Asbury Seminary, Keith moved to Scotland to study with N.T. Wright. As Blessed Earth’s “Anglo Correspondent.” Keith writes both from the perspective a PhD student studying creation care and a husband/father/follower of Jesus struggling to incorporate creation care principles in his daily life. You can read more of his writing at keithjagger.com or urban-abbey.com.  

Blessed Earth and Friends Approach Earth Day with Creativity, Good Stewardship Practices

Blessed Earth and friends are finding creative ways to practice good stewardship this Spring as we approach earth day (April 22nd).  Keith Jagger (BlessedEarth.org contributor) sent us this photo from St. Andrews, Scotland where he is currently working on his PhD.

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From the press release to mark this tree planting effort:

 “The special event marked the culmination of a major effort to plant 600 trees across the University grounds.  Organised by Transition St Andrews, staff , students and local school children have been planting their individual contribution to the University’s living history – with each tree planted representing a year of the University’s history since teaching began in 1411.

The University is committed to developing sustainable solutions to global concerns at both theoretical and practical levels, and the 600 trees for 600 years project is a reflection of this focus on sustainability.  Transition hopes that the planting will reinforce their vision of an “edible campus”, with trees and shrubs planted for both practical as well as ornamental use.”

What a wonderful testament to stability, sustainability, and the role of institutions to demonstrate good stewardship. Click here to read more.

Closer to home, two different college groups visited Lexington on consecutive Saturdays to help plant and cultivate urban gardens.  On Saturday April 6th a team of students from Berea College travelled up to Lexington and planted trees at the London Ferrell Community Garden.  This was a shared initiative organized by Blessed Earth, Seedleaf, and Town Branch Tree Experts.

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Dr Richard Olsen and students plant 7 cherry trees.

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The urban orchard grows larger thanks to Berea students at the London Ferrill Community Garden.

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The following Saturday (13th) a group of 17 students and faculty from Asbury University worked with Geoff and Sherry Maddock at their Urban Farm (The 4th Street Farm).  Geoff works part time for Blessed Earth and he and Sherry serve as missionaries in the East End neighborhood in downtown Lexington.   The Asbury team were a great help tending and dressing trees with compost.  They also built a compost bin and thinned seedlings while learning about the intersection of Christian mission and agriculture.

We hope you are also finding ways to give glory to God by caring for creation this Spring.

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Asbury University students get a tour of the East End neighborhood.

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Peach trees bloom in the urban orchard at London Ferrill Community Garden.

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Students hear the story of the 4th St. Farm.

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After a morning of hard work: Dr Ray Smith, Dr Marty Bilderbach, and Ann Witherington with students from their Mission Farm seminar at Asbury University.

 

North Carolina Creation Care Year Off To a Successful Start

Blessed Earth’s partnership with North Carolina churches, for the Creation Care Year program, is off to a great start. In March 2013, Dr. Matthew Sleeth preached sermons at Centenary United Methodist Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Both are located in Winston-Salem. The two churches have been using Dr. Sleeth’s book 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life for their Lenten studies. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church reported that their Wednesday night attendance quadrupled during their “Sabbath Living” series, while Centenary United Methodist Church featured the 24/6 materials in 10 small groups. Knollwood Baptist and Centenary UMC each hosted a “Pastor’s Brunch” for area clergy. More than 40 pastors attended each event, from a variety of denominations. Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Moravians were all represented. Additionally, Dr. Sleeth was privileged to address 20 Moravian clergy at Home Moravian Church in Old Salem. Attendance was great at Dr. Sleeth’s Monday night 24/6 presentation at Front Street United Methodist Church in Burlington. The crowd was very engaged, and Matthew is looking forward to his return to this church next month. In addition to his second visit to Front Street UMC on April 14, Dr. Sleeth is also scheduled to preach at the Duke Divinity School chapel on April 10. North Carolina Creation Care Year events are supported by North Carolina Interfaith Power and Light, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and the Humane Society of the United States, via PR/sponsorship. Blessed Earth is looking for more churches in North Carolina to participate in this historic Creation Care Year. For more information, please contact Laura Leavell at laura@blessedearth.org. Photos: matthewnc Dr. Sleeth giving an evening presentation on 24/6 at Front Street UMC in Burlington. matthewnc2 Dr. Sleeth sharing with local pastors at a 24/6 clergy breakfast at Centenary UMC in Winston-Salem. matthewnc3 Dr. Sleeth signing books at Centenary UMC after his Sunday morning sermon. matthewnc4 Dr. Sleeth connects with parishioners at Centenary UMC on Sunday morning. matthewnc5

Dr. Sleeth speaks to Moravian clergy at Home Moravian Church in Old Salem.

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Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food

eatwithjoy God”s gift of food, professed in Genesis, is in need of redemption for many people. Busy schedules have reduced the number of meals we eat together, and confusing advertisements can make it difficult to choose a healthy meal option. Many of us have complicated relationships with food, feeling guilty when we indulge in anything less-than-healthy. In Eat With Joy, Rachel Marie Stone examines the current, complex issues in the food industry. More importantly, she discusses the spiritual side of food: What did God intend for us to feel about food? How can we use food to better relate to Him? Prayers and recipes are included to illustrate the points of each chapter. Those who seek an improved relationship with their daily bread will rejoice in Eat With Joy. Highly recommended!

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Summoned Toward Wholeness: Food and Faith Conference

EventLogoBlessed Earth, in partnership with Duke Divinity School, Wake Forest University School of Divinity, and Anathoth Community Garden, is hosting a gathering titled “Summoned Toward Wholeness: A Conference on Food, Farming and the Life of Faith”. The conference will be held September 27-28, 2013, at Duke Divinity School. Scripture portrays God as a gardener, farmer, and shepherd. It describes Jesus as “the bread of life” who invites people to the Lord’s table so they can learn to feed his sheep. It is hard to read the Bible and not see that God cares deeply about food and agriculture. Join plenary speakers Ellen F. Davis, Joel Salatin, Scott Cairns, and Matthew Sleeth, and 12 workshop leaders, as we explore multiple connections between food, farming, and the life of faith. Discover how a concern for food and agriculture can deepen faith and heal our lands and communities. ios software download To learn more, visit the conference website.

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Forty Days of Lent: An Almost Amish Journey Toward a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life

Use this Lenten season as a time to grow closer to God and simplify your life. Try a new suggestion from this list each day and experience the stronger relationships and calmer pace of an (almost) Amish lifestyle!

1. Start a giveaway box and add at least three items of clothes you have not worn in the last year.

2. Is there a form of technology that is ruling you like a master rather than serving you like a tool?  Unplug for 24 hours and rediscover the peace that passes all understanding.

3. Spend 5 minutes in nature where you can only see things that are God-made, not man-made.

4. Do you say grace when you consume energy (food) at the table?  Next time you fill up your car with gas, say a prayer for God’s sustaining hand.

5. Go out of your way to support a local business.

6. Purchase seeds for a vegetable garden, patio garden, or indoor herb garden.

7. Go through your inbox and “unsubscribe” from group email lists. You’ll have a lot less to sort through each day.

8. One day in seven, take a 24-hour day of holy rest.

9. Invite someone new into your home to share a homemade meal.

10. Bake a loaf of bread.  Use a bread maker for the first rising, or simply allow artisan bread to rise slowly while you are at work.

11. Set aside ten percent for the Lord before you pay the other bills. Already tithing?  Up it by one percent.

12. Before you make a major purchase, wait a month to see if you still need it.

13. Add unused sports equipment to your giveaway box.

14. Turn table scraps into nutrient-rich soil by starting a compost pile.  Live in the city? Investigate a worm composter or solar cone.

15. Prevent catalogs from cluttering up your home. Visit the Direct Marketing Association (www.dmachoice.org) and Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) to remove your name from mailing lists.

16. Sign off from your Facebook and Twitter for the day. If you want to know what your friends are doing, call them and have a real conversation.

17. Avoid eating out at restaurants; donate the money you save to the local food bank.

18. Use your money to back up your beliefs. Talk to your financial advisor about socially responsible investments.

19. Pack a picnic and invite a family member or friend to dine outside with you so you can appreciate God’s creation together.

20. Take a walk and clean up trash along the way.  Take someone with you so one of you can collect recyclables.

21. Plant a tree. Trees clean the air, provide shade, and beautify the landscape.

22. Visit your local farmer’s market and start buying your vegetables there. You’ll support your local economy and reduces the number of miles your food travels from farm to plate.

23. Make an effort to reach out to a neighbor today. Wave, say hello, or invite your neighbor for a visit on the porch.

24. Brainstorm about friends in your life that might want to begin meeting and studying the Bible together.

25. Just like the Amish help each other build barns, help a neighbor weed their yard, sweep their stoop, or cut their grass. Or, visit a local non-profit to learn about volunteer opportunities there.

26. Switch out a few bulbs to super energy saving LEDs (now available in warm tone and dimmable).

27. Set up croquet or badminton in your yard. Walk to the park and swing. Invite your children to play a board game.

28. Start a book group or take your children to the library for story time.

29. Invite a child or teenager over and teach them how to bake, sew, or craft.

30. Hang your clothes on the line to dry. You’ll save on electricity costs and your clothes will last longer.

31. Bring your own mug to your office or the coffee shop.

32. Organize your junk drawer or a kitchen cupboard.

33.  Set your home office equipment to energy-saving modes.

34. Drink tap instead of bottled water.

35. Bike when running local errands.

36. Invite neighborhood children to color on the sidewalks with sidewalk chalk.

37. Write encouraging notes to family members and friends.

38. Think about how you can better support and connect with your spouse, child, or colleague. Brainstorm something small that you can do to make their day.

39. Bring your (overflowing) giveaway box to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or local refugee ministry.
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40. Give thanks for the beauty of God’s creation and the gift of his Son.

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About Blessed Earth

Blessed Earth – Catalyzing for Change from Matthew Sleeth on Vimeo. Blessed Earth is an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth. We serve as catalysts for change through two major programs: The Seminary Stewardship Alliance (SSA) brings together seminary leaders who covenant to teach, preach, model, and hold each other accountable for good stewardship practices. Serving as a powerful catalyst for change, the Alliance helps prepare the future pastors of our 300,000 houses of worship to take a leadership role in caring for God’s creation. Creation Care Year partners with influential churches across America to dig deeply into a wide range of stewardship topics. In this historic first year, Blessed Earth is partnering with The National Cathedral in Washington, DC, to offer sermons, forums, small group studies,

lectures, panels, and creation care models that can be used by churches throughout the country. In addition, Blessed Earth plants seeds through our: Bible Project (beginning fall 2012) provides free bibles with creation care content and resources for those who want to dig deeply into the scriptural call to love God and love our neighbors by caring for creation. Blessed Earth builds bridges in two directions — helping those who love the Creator connect with loving His creation and helping those who love creation connect with the Creator. Tree Planting is a win-win-win: they clean the air, beautify neighborhoods, provide shade, and decrease rainwater run off. Each spring and fall, Blessed Earth partners with churches and neighborhood associations to plant trees, primarily in low-income neighborhoods. Click here if you would like to dedicate a tree in a loved one’s honor.

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The Blessed Earth Story Matthew Sleeth was an ER doctor and chief of staff at a New England hospital when his wife, Nancy, asked him a life changing question: “What’s the biggest problem facing the world?” After thinking for a while, he replied, “The earth is dying.” Nancy’s second question was harder to answer, “If the earth is dying, what are we going to do about it?” Leading by example, Matthew left his medical career and moved with his family to a house the size of their old garage, reducing their energy usage by more than two-thirds and cutting back their trash production by nine-tenths. Recognized as national Christian leaders, the Sleeths started the educational nonprofit Blessed Earth to “serve God and help save the planet.” Since 2008, Blessed Earth has been invited by more than 1,000 church, educational, media, and environmental groups to share the biblical call to care for God’s creation. Explore the Blessed Earth website to learn more about creation care books and films, download practical tools, sign up for the monthly e-newsletter, and share inspiring stories.

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About Blessed Earth

Blessed Earth is an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth. We serve as catalysts for change through two major programs:

The Seminary Stewardship Alliance (SSA) brings together seminary leaders who covenant to teach, preach, model, and hold each other accountable for good stewardship practices. Serving as a powerful catalyst for change, the Alliance helps prepare the future pastors of our 300,000 houses of worship to take a leadership role in caring for God’s creation.

Creation Care Year partners with influential churches across America to dig deeply into a wide range of stewardship topics. In this historic first year, Blessed Earth is partnering with The National Cathedral in Washington, DC, to offer sermons, forums, small group studies, lectures, panels, and creation care models that can be used by churches throughout the country.

In addition, Blessed Earth plants seeds through our:

Bible Project (beginning fall 2012) provides free bibles with creation care content and resources for those who want to dig deeply into the scriptural call to love God and love our neighbors by caring for creation. Blessed Earth builds bridges in two directions — helping those who love the Creator connect with loving His creation and helping those who love creation connect with the Creator.

Tree Planting is a win-win-win: they clean the air, beautify neighborhoods, provide shade, and decrease rainwater run off. Each spring and fall, Blessed Earth partners with churches and neighborhood associations to plant trees, primarily in low-income neighborhoods. Click here if you would like to dedicate a tree in a loved one’s honor.

_______________________________________________________

The Blessed Earth Story

Matthew Sleeth was an ER doctor and chief of staff at a New England hospital when his wife, Nancy, asked him a life changing question: “What’s the biggest problem facing the world?” After thinking for a while, he replied, “The earth is dying.” Nancy’s second question was harder to answer, “If the earth is dying, what are we going to do about it?”

Leading by example, Matthew left his medical career and moved with his family to a house the size of their old garage, reducing their energy usage by more than two-thirds and cutting back their trash production by nine-tenths. Recognized as national Christian leaders, the Sleeths started the educational nonprofit Blessed Earth to “serve God and help save the planet.”

Since 2008, Blessed Earth has been invited by more than 1,000 church, educational, media, and environmental groups to share the biblical call to care for God’s creation. Explore the Blessed Earth website to learn more about creation care books and films, download practical tools, sign up for the monthly e-newsletter, and share inspiring stories.

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Relationship Building Leads to Seminary Alliance

“Green thinking” is beginning to percolate throughout many of the nation’s churches. But how do you build on the momentum? How do you speed up the process?

In spring 2011, Blessed Earth co-founders Matthew and Nancy Sleeth felt like God was leading them to the answer: Build an alliance of seminaries that will commit themselves to creation care and sustainable practices. Following God’s calling, the Sleeths brought together a coalition of seminaries whose leaders have signed a covenant promising to implement specific stewardship initiatives.

The result is the Seminary Stewardship Alliance — a diverse coalition representing a broad spectrum of theological thought. The SSA, whose members include many of the nation’s largest seminaries, is an exciting illustration of God’s desire to see the church embrace creation care. The 12 member seminaries came together on April 22, 2012 — Earth Day — to sign the covenant at the Washington National Cathedral.

“Since many seminary students pastor or work within the church setting while in school, we believe the effect will be immediate,” Nancy says. “In fact, we already see it happening as our books and films are being used at seminaries across the nation. The new SSA website, www.seminaryalliance.org, also provides resources that can help churches immediately.”

The SSA is an outgrowth of the Sleeths’ work with Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, where Blessed Earth is based. For years, the Sleeths lived just two blocks from campus, which made it easy for Matthew and Nancy to build a relationship with Asbury.

After Matthew began guest lecturing at the seminary and speaking at chapel services, Asbury asked the Sleeths for help in making their new family housing units more sustainable. Geothermal heating and cooling, super-insulation, and community gardens were just a few of the ideas adopted by the seminary. The Sleeths also helped Asbury start a Creation Care Covenant community, where students used Blessed Earth’s film series to study what the Bible has to say about stewarding God's creation in the context of community.

But God’s vision was even bigger.

“At a certain point, I felt God asking me a question,” Matthew says. “Why just Asbury? Why not another seminary? Why not all seminaries? We prayed and felt called to act boldly.”

Step One was to meet with Asbury's President, Tim Tennent, and Fuller Theological Seminary’s President, Richard Mouw. They both immediately gave their full support to the project, helped write the covenant, and began calling other seminary presidents. Once this initial group supported the project, the pieces quickly fell into place. Shortly thereafter, in another example of God’s blessing on the project, the SSA received funding for its first five years.

“Our hope is not only for seminaries to make changes within their institutions, but to encourage and hold each other accountable in the years ahead,” Nancy says. “We also know that the seminaries work with denominations, churches, missions, and their surrounding communities.”

On April 22, 2012, the Sleeths watched as God’s vision became reality: Leaders from the flagship seminaries came to Washington, D.C., to sign the covenant and launch the SSA.

“Some of the most important conversations happened the night before, sitting around a table and sharing a meal,” Nancy says. “We believe that such conversations and relationships are a critical part of the SSA's success.”

Beginning next fall, Blessed Earth will bring together faculty and administrative leaders from each member institution to encourage each other, share successes, and hold each other accountable. This SSA leadership program — and the bonds it fosters through regular meetings and on-going relationships — will be an important part of the SSA’s long-term outcomes.

“With these 12 seminaries on board, we have already reached a tipping point in terms of number of students and churches affected,” Matthew says. “It's exciting to see change happen; it's even more rewarding to watch the tide turn.”

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And What Does God Require?

And what does God require regarding the domestic animal? Once again, the law codes of ancient Israel are full of instruction. God says in Deuteronomy: But the seventh day is a sabbath belonging to Yahweh your God; you shall not do any work, not you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your domesticated beasts … And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that Yahweh your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, Therefore, Yahweh your God has commanded you to keep the day of the sabbath. (Deut 5:14-15) So right here in the ten commandments, because God has saved his people, his people are commanded to honor Him by allowing their livestock to rest. As is true today livestock were maintained in Israel exclusively to facilitate the well-being of humanity. In Israel sheep, goats, cattle, oxen, and donkeys served the populace with wool, milk, meat, and sweat respectively. And of course, a 24-7 work week for those animals would have seemed the most advantageous economically from a human perspective. But in contrast to that assumed reality, these creatures are allotted a place in the sabbath ordinance of God. An Israelite was forbidden to consume the life and energy of his beast without compassion and care. Deut 25:4 is another law which addresses this topic. Here the Israelite is commanded not to muzzle his ox while he drags the threshing sledge for his master. In the smallholder farms of the Central Hill Country, the cereal crop was absolutely crucial to the survival of the community. And the Iron Age farmer relied heavily upon the labor of his beast for the long and arduous task of threshing (extracting the precious grain from the stalks in which it grew). Once cleaned and stored, this grain would serve as the primary food staple for man and beast. And in this subsistence economy, every kilo counted. Baruch Rosen, an Israeli archaeologist of notable reputation, has done an arresting calculation of exactly how many calories were necessary to sustain the average Israelite village of 100 souls. Operating off of data culled from the known Iron I villages, Rosen estimates that the typical village would experience an annual shortfall of 15,000,000 calories a year.[1] Anticipating that the average family included five souls, this would mean an annual shortfall of sixty days of food for the family. Why is this significant? Because it means that the three to four kilos (5-7 lbs) of grain that an ox might consume over the course of a day of threshing made a difference. Yet God commands Israel to allow the beast who served them the opportunity to enjoy its life and work and to benefit from the fruit of its labors. In other words, even the ox was allowed to feast on harvest day. Note that in Israel’s case, allowing their beasts the opportunity to enjoy the benefit and joy of their own labor would necessarily cut into the farmer’s profits, and in many cases even their essential food supply. So now we are forced to ask, how might these deuteronomic laws reflect on current practices in America—specifically the billions of animals who serve us in America’s factory farms? Factory farming is the practice of raising middle school boarding schools North CarolinaJake Housecomes to Citizen middle school boarding schools with a proven track record in both the private sector and education. href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm_animals”>livestock in confinement at high-stocking density, where the farm operates essentially as a factory whose end product is protein units. Confined animals burn fewer calories, their excrement is mass-managed (or mismanaged as many argue), and their fertility and gestation fully controlled. As regards America’s most lucrative agricultural product, pigs, confinement has been distilled into an exact science: twenty 230 lb animals per 7.5 foot-square pen, housed upon metal-grated flooring, in climate controlled conditions, who are never actually exposed to the light of day. These animals are sustained in such crowded and filthy conditions that movement is difficult, natural behaviors impossible, and antibiotics are essential to the control of infection. Sows (typically a 500 lb creature) are separately housed, living out their lives in 7-foot by 22-inch metal gestation crates from which they are never released, even in the process of giving birth. They are artificially inseminated to deliver an average of eight litters, litters inflated beyond their natural carrying capacity by fertility drugs. A staple of their diet is the rendered remains of their deceased pen-mates. Surely if God is offended by boiling a kid in its mother’s milk (Deut 14:21), we should be concerned that dead sows are routinely ground up and fed to their offspring.[2] Reading of the standard treatment that these animals endure, one cannot help but think of Ezekiel’s outcry against the shepherds of Israel in Ezek 34:3-4: “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, those with fractures you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.” But as the “New Agriculture” reports, all of these innovations make these production units (i.e. animate creatures) easier to manage, maintain, medicate and slaughter. And the rapidly escalating market for meat for human consumption, in the third world in particular, is voiced as the rationale for mass-confinement animal husbandry. As Matthew Scully painfully illustrates in his 2002 exposé of the industry, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy,in our country, the abuses to which domesticated animals are routinely subjected are nearly too horrific to report. This forces my heart to ask, is this what Yahweh intended for the creatures he entrusted to humanity’s care?


[1] Images of factory farming for beef, pork, and poultry may be found at http://www.farmsanctuary.org/

[2] “Subsistence Economy,” 348-49; cf. Rosen’s more detailed presentation of the same data in ; “Subsistence Economy of Stratum II,” Izbet S?artah: An Early Iron Age Site near Rosh Ha’ayin, 156-85); David C. Hopkins, “Life on the Land.”


Sandra Richter is Professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary and Affiliate Professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Harvard University’s Near Eastern Language and Civilizations department. She is a popular speaker and has published on an array of topics. Her most recent book is The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (InterVarsity Press, 2008).

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