Working with religious leaders and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Mitch Hescox and others worked on a study to find ways for congregations to become more renewable energy friendly. Their work resulted in a guide called “Energy Star Action Workbook for Congregations” which outlines effective and achievable actions faith communities can take to improve their energy efficiency and in this way save money which can be used to serve the church in other areas.
To be taken to energystar.gov where the free pdf of the workbook can be found, click here.
To see a general overview of Simpler Living, Compassionate Life click here.
In this section: “Excerpt from The Overworked American” by Juliet Schor (33-37); “The Spirituality of Everyday Life” by Cecile Andrews (37-41); “Entering the Emptiness” by Gerald May (41-51); “Contemplation and Ministry” by Henri Nouwen (52-58)
This section invites the reader into a greater thoughtfulness in conception and use of time. The opening excerpt from The Overworked American reveals the age of this collection in a way that few other essays throughout the work do. Written in the earliest years of the technological revolution, it fails to address the multitasking and attachment to technology that we experience in everyday life.
Cecile Andrews and Henri Nouwen offer insightful reflections on the need for mindfulness and contemplation. Nouwen believes that those involved in pastoring need contemplation to see and respect the complexity of the world and to position one’s obedience toward God.
Gerald May’s essay on emptiness and “the myth of fulfillment” speak to the universal experience of longing. He critiques popular religion that offers false promises of blissful contentment, arguing that “we were never meant to be completely filled..In this way we participate in love becoming life, life becoming love.” (47) While I found a number of May’s arguments to be compelling, I was deeply troubled by May’s note that “oppression by other humans…can teach the secret (hope of emptiness).”(48) He goes on to quote Frederick Douglass, but does not condemn oppression seen throughout the world as an incarnation of evil. There seems to me to be a very dangerous romanticization of oppression and failure to confront the horrific history of slavery in this statement, which could fall dangerously into ideology asserted by many in the nineteenth century that somehow slavery was “beneficial.”
Despite my concern with May’s essay, this section on the whole encourages individuals to embrace and cultivate quiet time and space in their lives. Its placement within the book suggests that simple living needs reflection on how a lifetime is spent.
I Love God’s Green Earth is a three-month devotional for kids who want to connect their Christian faith to learning more about the world and how to care for it. The devotional offers ninety days of exploration of the creation and faith. Each day begins with a Bible verse and short devotional on the topic of the day. Daily connections link the devotional to personal faith and “What can I do?” gives examples of easy actions to take care of God’s creation. “Crazy facts” and jokes sprinkled throughout the devotion break up the serious topics.
A wide range of topics are covered including energy production, endangered animals, and creative solutions to recycling. In the first ten days, I was disappointed that many of the “What can I do?” sections recommended reflecting and “relaying” thoughts to God instead of specific actions that can be taken. However, after the early days, the book managed to find a balance of action and reflection in its recommendations. It also offered many websites for readers to learn more about topics they were of interest and take their own initiative in creating change. This section of the devotional also gives space for children to reflect and engage big conversations around creation care from nuclear power to endangered animals.
While it does not take as strong a stance on global warming as I would have liked, it recognizes the changing climate and acknowledges human influence on the changing climate. I was impressed by the range of topics it covered and pleased with the action suggestions. Though it was published in 2010, this book’s introductory approach to faith and care for creation has prevented it from becoming outdated. This is a wonderful resource for families and Sunday school leaders across Christian denominations. It can be purchased through most major retail sellers as well as the publisher’s website directly, which offers discounts for single and bulk purchases.
To visit the publisher’s website click here. For a 25 page excerpt of the devotional including the table of contents click here. A brief bio on author Caroline can be found here and one on Michael can be found here.
Acclaimed public theologian, Diana Butler Bass’s 2015 book Grounded explores the connection of contemporary spirituality and nature. In opposition to many voices within the church who run in fear from the changing American spiritual landscape, Bass sees an invitation to participate in a spiritual revolution. Throughout the book, Bass deconstructs a vertical theology in which the divine is above and separate from humanity and the Earth and turns instead to an understanding of the divine’s immanence. She also recognizes the need for something stable in an age of change. She turns to the presence of the divine in dirt, water, and sky to find her own ground.
Bass recounts her conversation with a man who was a writer and farmer whose own experiences in close encounter with the ground had led him to a profound spirituality. In the chapter on water, Bass looks at current events and argues that water is vital to a flourishing spirituality. Bass gracefully reconciles the big bang theory with the book of Genesis in her chapter on sky. For the second half of the book, Bass considers more specific structures of human experience, finding the presence of the divine in roots, home, neighborhood, commons, and revelation.
This book is a bridge from a disconnected church and culture to an Earth created in beauty. Bass’s utilization of memoir contextualizes her theological analysis making it remarkably accessible. For those questioning where to turn in an unstable spiritual time, Bass offers a hopeful perspective that uplifts a twenty-first century faith firmly rooted in human experience of the natural world. The ecumenical approach found in this book makes it a wonderful choice for book groups across Christian denominations.
To be directed to Diana Butler Bass’s website click here.
Grounded and Bass’s other works can be found on ebook or in print through Amazon, other major booksellers, and your favorite independent bookstore.
In June 2014, the University of Dayton became the first Catholic university in the United States to announce their divestment from coal and fossil fuels. Members of the university staff see this move as part of the university’s commitment to “being a responsible steward of the Earth’s natural resources.” This decision was commended by the president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Their decision was one inspired by faith reflection as well as a commitment to financial stability for the university.
Beyond divesting from coal and fossil fuels, the university has taken further steps to move their campus toward efficiency and sustainability. A signatory of the of The American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACU PCC) and a member of other sustainability committees, the university now has two full time employees who work to improve campus sustainability and offers academic programs in these areas as well.
The University of Dayton is also home to the Hanley Sustainability Institute.
Click here to be linked to The University of Dayton’s site on their efficiency and sustainability initiatives. Click here to be directed to the Hanley Institute homepage.
Image courtesy of NYT and CreditMaurizio Brambatti/EPA, via Shutterstock
Pope Francis continued his efforts to uplift climate change as a focus of global Catholic action with a conference of oil company executives at the Vatican in early June 2018. The pope, who has called for a swift energy transition away from fossil fuels and to more renewable energy sources, praised progress made by big oil companies while pushing for even further change.
In his statements on climate change, Pope Francis argues for our present duty to care for the gift of the earth for ourselves as well as future generations. He also recognizes that the poor will be disproportionately affected by global warming.
The Global Catholic Climate Movement has followed the pope’s directive and removed funding from organizations which support fossil fuel. Catholic universities, like Notre Dame, are working on plans to remove fossil fuels from their own energy production.
For more on Global Catholic Climate Movement click here. To be directed to the article originally published on the New York Times click here.
Overwhelmed by the excess in her own life, Jen Hatmaker and her family set out on a project they called “Seven.” Highlighting seven areas of excess, they committed to living a little more simply every month. Originally published in 2011 and updated in 2017, 7 has been utilized for book studies in many Christian faith communities. For those overwhelmed with the task of implementing creation care in their own lives, Hatmaker’s memoir tells of her family’s practical and faith inspired experiment. More information about Hatmaker’s project can be found on her blog.
Hatmaker’s book can be found hereand through your favorite book retailer.
Young Minds Big Questions (YMBQ) describes itself as a podcast “about challenging Christians to wrestle through doubts, fears, and questions. We talk apologetics, theology, and philosophy.”
“Climate Change and Christianity – An Interview with Brian McLaren” was released on April 26, 2017 and is part one of a two part conversation on climate change and Christianity. Guest, Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. His work as a pastor led him to begin writing, and he has published numerous books on faith and Christian life.
McLaren unpacks some of the science of global climate change, and its everyday effects for human life around the world. Looking at the dangers of a changing climate, McLaren turns to faith as the inspiration for advocacy and change. In his own words, “Ultimately, climate change is a spiritual matter.” McLaren attributes reluctance to accept or take action to prevent climate change in part to a certain kind of eschatology. He then goes on to discuss instances in which average congregations inspired by care for God’s world made real changes to combat climate change. The podcast concludes with McLaren’s own recommendations for any Christian wanting to learn more about creation care.
Find this episode of YMBQ on apple podcasts here, Youtube here, and on other podcast providers. For more information on Brian McLaren, click here to be directed to his personal website.
Ecospirituality Resource is a website that connects concern for creation with growing faith, integrates new scientific discoveries with beliefs and lifestyles, and deepens the understanding of threats to Earth’s life systems and the call to respond. Everything on the website is free and downloadable. To read more about Ecospirituality, click here.
Faith Climate Action Week created a resource for creation centered hymns. This list offers hymns on a variety of topics including equality of creatures, the beauty of the earth, and more. To view the entire list, click here.