A word from Interim CCA Coordinator Jane Laping:
Congratulations to CCA Covenant Partner Congregation, Grace Episcopal Church In The Mountains in Waynesville. Interfaith Power and Light honored their garden with a Sacred Grounds Award. When you learn about all that the Grace Church volunteers have done, you’ll agree that they certainly deserve this national award.
What started as a children’s garden on the church’s well-kept lawn grew into a “Grace Giving Garden,” producing organically grown vegetables for their food pantry. The redesign of the lawn also includes an outdoor worship space and a classroom. Sustainable gardening methods such as composting and native plants attract pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Their methods have also attracted certifications from the National Wildlife Federation, Monarch Watch, and Million Pollinator Garden. Grace Church’s project had the added benefit of increasing church volunteers from 3 to 50! View the photo gallery below to see these wonderful volunteers in action (photos courtesy of Grace Church).
Connect with Grace Church on Facebook and Instagram to stay in the know about their ongoing projects and upcoming events. Read the featured press release below to learn more about Grace Church’s recent achievement:
Grace Church in the Mountains, Waynesville, NC is one of 6 National Winners in Interfaith Power and Light’s Cool Congregations Annual Award for Leadership and Sustainability
Interfaith Power and Light Announces ‘Cool Congregations Challenge’ Winners as Faith Communities Prioritize Energy Efficiency, Renewables, and Sustainability
OAKLAND, Calif., February 28, 2023 — Grace Church in the Mountains, Waynesville, NC is one of the six national Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) 2023 Cool Congregations Challenge winners awarded a $1000 prize. The annual contest accepts applications from religious congregations around the United States who are doing work to address climate change by reducing their carbon footprint as they create models of sustainability within their communities.
Grace Church in the Mountains won the Sacred Grounds award for transforming a traditional church lawn into “Grace Giving Garden,” a wildlife haven and organic vegetable garden serving their food pantry. The garden became an organic haven with composting, native plants, pollinator and wildlife certifications, an outdoor worship space and classroom for lessons on the natural world. They achieved certification as a Monarch Waystation, Million Pollinator Garden, National Wildlife Federation Habitat, NWF Sacred Grounds Garden and in the process increased their garden volunteers from 3 to 70. Gardener Mary Alice Lodico said, “Our vision was inspired by our Appalachian mountains, a beautiful biome which serves as a model for raising a generation of children to revere God’s creation and become lifelong stewards of the Earth. Our work has been to restore native ecology and open others’ eyes to the majesty around us. Our mission – to grow and share God’s bounty and steward his creation in learning and fellowship with all – guides our vision and work.“
Grace Church rector Joslyn Schaefer said, “God provided us with this incredible garden, the Earth, to farm it and take care of it. In our technological and industrial age, it is easy to forget that our first vocation is to be good farmers: to stay close to the Earth, attend to its rhythms, honor its limits, and to feast from its abundance. The people of Grace Church have helped me, and others in our region, understand that care for God’s creation is a form of reverencing the Lord and a sure, reliable pathway to divine praise. My hope is that this award may inspire other faith communities to find as much delight in caring for God’s garden as we have.”
“Grace Church in the Mountains and the other national winning congregations are casting a vision for the kind of world in which they want to live, and then carrying out that vision with practical actions that make a real difference in creating lasting solutions to climate change,” said Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light.
The Cool Congregations Challenge shows that people of faith are united by concerns about climate change and are taking action. The winners provide strong moral role models for their communities, and their activities have a ripple effect with people in their own homes, demonstrating that acting on climate is a moral issue.
Interfaith Power & Light is mobilizing a religious response to global warming in congregations through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. www.interfaithpowerandlight.org Twitter: #CoolCongregations @interfaithpower Facebook: facebook.com/interfaithpowerandlight
Join us for an eco-grief circle this March. This seven-week online experience will be offered in sessions that last about 1 hour and fifteen minutes. Together we will explore grief and sorrow, anxiety and fear, guilt and shame, anger, and despair. This is designed to offer mutual support, healing, insight, and love but this is not a grief therapy experience. Past participants expressed profound gratitude for being among people who could talk honestly about grief, suffering, and the ecological and social challenges of our time. The leadership team includes counselors and environmental advocates, Connie Burns, Mimi Hudson, Maureen Linneman, Martha Frame and Sydney Stone. There is limited space for this online experience. In order to support trust and stability within the circle we ask that you plan to attend all classes March 7-April 18 if you register. The fee for this 7-week experience will be $20 per person with scholarships available. Contact Connie Burns firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Register here: https://creationcarealliance.org/event/eco-grief-circles/2023-03-07/
This week marks the last week to register for our February 6th and 7th winter retreat and symposium. We hope you’ll join us then!
Led by faith leaders, activists, counselors, nonprofit professionals, scientists, and artists, this event will provide meaningful learning and community building opportunities as we gather to discern what it means to care for creation, love our neighbor, and build resilience during this time of climate and ecological crisis. Here is the agenda for both days of our gathering. Below you’ll find additional information to help you consider and/or plan your attendance.
More about Monday’s retreat (2/6): Our gathering on 2/6 is designed with clergy and faith leaders (non-ordained congregational staff/leaders, faith-based nonprofit professionals, faith leaders working in nontraditional contexts, chaplains, and teachers/students of theology and religion) in mind. Our time together will be led by our keynote speaker, Avery Davis Lamb of Creation Justice Ministries, and will focus on what it means to practice radical welcome within a climate-changed world. We will consider the question: how can we build beloved community and lead with courage and hope during this particular moment in history? Read more about Avery’s keynote addresses here. Though formal programming will not begin on Monday until 1:00 pm, Rev. Kevin Bates of the Way in the Wilderness Community will lead an optional hike for attendees beginning at 9 am. This morning saunter will focus on restoration and filling one’s spirit in preparation for the day.
More about Tuesday’s symposium (2/7): Our full-day gathering on 2/7 is open to all community members and creation care/ecological justice advocates. In addition to community building opportunities and a keynote address from Avery (which you can read more about here), participants will have the chance to attend a variety of workshops covering topics of importance—from solidarity with Indigenous communities to creative land stewardship, children’s activities, organizing a movement, and more. Learn more about our Tuesday workshop offerings here.
Registration closes on January 30th. The cost to attend Monday’s retreat is $50 per person. The cost to attend Tuesday’s symposium is $75 per person. Scholarships and student discounts are available for both days of the conference. Group rates are available for Tuesday. To inquire about a scholarship, please email Sarah at email@example.com. To inquire about Tuesday group rates, please email Susan at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those traveling from out of town, a limited number of rooms remain available at the Montreat Conference Center. To learn more, click the registration link below. We hope to see you soon!
Creation Care Alliance of WNC & MountainTrue:
The Creation Care Alliance of WNC (CCAWNC) is the faith-based program of MountainTrue. MountainTrue is a non-profit organization that works with communities across 26 mountain counties in western North Carolina and in Towns and Union counties in north Georgia championing resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities in the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. For more information: mountaintrue.org. CCAWNC is a network of people of faith and congregations who have united around a moral and spiritual call to preserve the integrity, beauty, and health of God’s creation. For more information: https://creationcarealliance.org/.
The interim CCAWNC coordinator will aid CCAWNC volunteers, the CCAWNC steering team, and MountainTrue staff in completing the mandatory tasks of the CCAWNC director while she is on maternity leave. This will include planning, promoting, and facilitating various programmatic offerings of CCAWNC, overseeing organizational social media pages, completing administrative tasks (email correspondence/phone calls), attending internal staff meetings, writing the monthly organizational newsletter, and helping with community outreach. The interim coordinator will report to MountainTrue Deputy Director of Strategy & Communications.
Additional requirements: Access to a personal computer and reliable internet service. Flexible schedule and flexibility around start date.
Start date/end date: Training for this position will take place in mid-late February 2023. The start date will rely upon when the CCAWNC director begins maternity leave (likely beginning in late March). Maternity leave will last 14 weeks. The end date for this position will be 14 weeks from the first day of the director’s maternity leave.
Work schedule: Approximately 20 hours per week. Flexibility in work schedule, though events and staff meetings will require availability on the scheduled day (sometimes including weekends). Staff meetings are held every other Monday of the month from 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm (virtual or in-person). Steering team meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month from 10:30 am – 12:00 pm (virtual).
Location: This position will focus on communities throughout Western North Carolina and living in Western North Carolina is necessary for this position.
Compensation: $20 per hour. Mileage is reimbursed at approximately $0.47 per mile.
To learn more about the position and current openings/discuss this opportunity: Contact CCAWNC Director Sarah Ogletree at email@example.com or by phone at 828-506-9467.
Application deadline: Friday, February 24, 2023
To Apply: Please submit a resume and cover letter to CCAWNC Director (firstname.lastname@example.org) and MountainTrue Deputy Director of Strategy & Communications (email@example.com) with “Creation Care Coordinator” in the subject line.
This sermon was offered by CCA director, Sarah Ogletree, on Sunday, September 11th, at St. Mary in the Hills Episcopal Church in Blowing Rock. The lectionary passage for the day was Jeremiah 4: 11-12, 22-28.
Written during one of the most critical times in the history of Israel–a time ridden with conflict and marked by the downfall of Judah and eventual exile–the book of Jeremiah can be harsh. Jeremiah himself is heartbroken and enraged by his people’s refusal to repent and turn to God. He sees the worst coming, an army knocking at the door, and yet, God’s people will not hear him. They continue to walk toward destruction while Jeremiah watches and warns. In today’s passage, he declares the consequence of their inaction and failure to change their ways.
At this point, he’s had it. He is not kind. But prophets rarely are.
In this passage, Jeremiah speaks truth about what happens when we forget God and our calling to goodness. He says: [God’s] people do not know [God]… They are skilled in doing evil and do not know how to do good.” And it is true that when we forget that we belong to God and each other, that we are made to create God’s kingdom here and now through radical goodness, the consequences are often monumental and catastrophic. And that’s exactly what Jeremiah describes.
In his vision, the earth is a wasteland. The mountains are quaking. The fruit lands become a desert. The birds have vanished. The city is in ruins. The heavens are growing black…
Meant to be cosmic and unfathomable in proportions, Jeremiah’s message of disaster is not unfamiliar. In fact, it’s one we hear on the news nearly every week as we live in this time of climate and ecological crisis… A time of fruit lands becoming literal deserts through rapid desertification and birds vanishing at unprecedented extinction rates… A time when the heavens are turning black with wildfire smoke as super storms darken the skies… A time in which the stakes are so very high, and yet, like those in our scripture, we have often failed to act.
Like in the days of Jeremiah, it is hard to stare the world’s problems in the face. It’s hard to really look at what is happening to our planet, and our neighbors, due to our societal addiction to convenience and the bottom line. And if it’s hard to look at, it’s even harder to feel. More often than we might like to admit, we distract ourselves with platitudes and change the channel when the story about the most recent 1,000-year flooding event, or how ⅓ of Pakistan remains underwater, flashes across our TV or phone screens.
It’s easier that way and I’m guilty of it. But this kind of behavior is exactly what drove Jeremiah mad. The people’s refusal to see the problem, to feel the impending reality of conflict in their bones, was essential to their failure to take action or repent. This is what led to Jeremiah’s prophetic condemnation of his community.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We can come back to ourselves and to God. We can respond to the needs of this world, to the groaning of creation, and to our neighbors facing heatwaves, floods, and displacement as a result of climate change. There are ways for us to act with love, generosity, and courage in this time; we need only remember how. Jeremiah’s community was at a tipping point when he addressed them, and so are we. This moment holds within it a multitude of possibilities and listening to the words of Jeremiah, can help us walk the path of righteousness again. That is what I’d like us to consider today.
The first lesson of Jeremiah is the power of lament. In our passage, Jeremiah writes that the “earth will mourn” its destruction. I believe we should read this as an invitation into mourning. Because mourning is important. Mourning means that we aren’t changing the channel. That we aren’t distracting ourselves and that instead, we are encountering the problems of the world honestly–with open hearts and open eyes. We are letting those problems change us. Alchemizing them into the tears in our eyes and the pain in our gut. This is what Jeremiah desired for his people and it is what we have an opportunity to do now. The first step toward action and repentance is seeing clearly and being moved by what we see. I know this first hand.
When I first began environmental work, I was a student of sustainable development just over the mountain at Appalachian State University. After learning that it was the poor and systemically oppressed who bear the brunt of climate change and ecological collapse, I felt called to work in the environmental sector. My upbringing within the Chrisitan church taught me that the greatest commandments were to love God and my neighbor–and my neighbors couldn’t breathe the air in their communities, eat the food grown in their local soil, or drink the water coming from their faucet. To me, this was a clear issue of faith. And so, I threw myself into learning. But I was overwhelmed by my studies, and rather quickly, I found myself racked with anxiety and depression.
My story is not unique. Though I didn’t know it at the time, there are terms for what I was experiencing: eco-anxiety and climate grief. And many people are experiencing these complex and often misunderstood emotions. They are feeling the weight of the world that they love in pain. And they are moved by the pain that they are witnessing. Ultimately, as a college student, I attempted to silence my disquiet by turning to my faith–reminding myself that there is always hope in God. But what I didn’t understand at the time, and I thankfully have come to understand now, is that hope is not the only faithful response to a world in crisis. One of the greatest gifts that faith can offer the movement to care for people and planet are tools for lament.
In recognition of this need, the organization I direct, the Creation Care Alliance, began offering 7-week eco-grief groups in 2020. These offerings have been transformative. I have witnessed people come back from the brink of burnout and utter despair because they have a community that can be present with them. Friends, we need each other.
As a college student, I needed help feeling what I was learning. I couldn’t process the scale of the loss that I was reading about in my classes intellectually in the same way that it is nearly impossible to process the many tragedies that we scroll across on our Facebook feeds in any given day. I needed community for that. I needed the witness of the prophets and their permission to cry out. I needed someone to sit with me in the pain and tell me that God was there in that brokenness. I needed to be told that my tears were faithful and that my worry was a sign of my love… When we see our neighbors suffering, it is right to be heartbroken. This shows us that we still remember what it is to do good; that we have a finger on the pulse on the heartbeat of God.
This brings us to the second lesson of Jeremiah: the actual good-doing. In today’s passage, Jeremiah says that the people “do not know how to do good.” In order to respond to the needs of the world, we must act in response to those needs. In other words, we must remember how to “do good” and then do it. We have already identified that the first step in this process is taking time to feel, mourning the pain of all who have been harmed, and processing the loss of that which cannot be recovered. But from this place of heartbreak comes another offering–that of our time, resources, and gifts.
I cannot tell you exactly what your offering will be because it will be dictated by who you are. But this is an invitation. If you are a writer, use your gifts of writing. If you are someone who loves to be outside, get your hands dirty. If you are a teacher, teach wisdom and discernment. If you are an artist, make art. If you are a caretaker of children, shape your children to be loving. If you have financial resources, give generously, spend sustainably, and divest when necessary. The one thing that is certain is that all of us are called to act from that well of compassion that springs up in us when we encounter the need of our neighbors–human or non-human. And we are called to act as ourselves. With our particular gifts in our particular contexts. All of our gifts, in all their diversity, are needed.
For Jeremiah, doing good and knowing God were inextricably connected. And so, if ever there is a time when we don’t know what we should do, when the heartbreak of fires and flood and species loss is too much and we are unsure how to act, I think his sound advice would be to turn toward God through prayer. Pope Francis has said that “the one who listens attentively to the Word of God, and truly prays, always asks the Lord: what is your will for me?” I believe that this practice is wise and particularly useful in times of uncertainty about how to create change. If we continually take stock of our lives and the needs around us, and openly ask God what God’s will is for us, then we will likely find our path forward. Walking in faith in this time of ecological and social upheaval requires openness to the radical love of God–and all the unexpected places that God might lead us.
It is said that the task of the preacher is to preach good news. So let me say this. Later in the book of Jeremiah, after the people have been driven into exile in Babylon, Jeremiah tells them to: “[b]uild houses and live in them. Settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food you grow. Get married and have children.” Even after the world as the people have known it has ended, Jeremiah calls for them to start again. To grow food. To become acquainted with a new place. To be in community with one another. To become family. As the world around us shifts and changes, as we mourn and respond to the needs of the grieving, may we also plant our gardens and eat their fruit. Exile felt like the end of the world to the people of Israel. Wildfires, floods, and other climate impacts can feel the same. But if we have the courage to be community in these times–to show up for each other emotionally and physically–then we can weather the storms together.
And so, beloved, remember that your tears are holy. Try not to turn away. Allow yourselves to be fully awake. Be present with each other. And through your presence, offer the gifts of your heart to a world in need. Remember that what this particular moment needs most is you.
Join us on September 21st at 12:00 pm for our first meeting of our fall eco-grief group. Meeting weekly on Wednesdays, this seven-week online experience will be offered in sessions that last about 1 hour and fifteen minutes. Together we will explore grief and sorrow, anxiety and fear, guilt and shame, anger, and despair. This experience is designed to offer mutual support, healing, insight, and love but is not a grief therapy experience. Past participants expressed profound gratitude for being among people who could talk honestly about grief, suffering, and the ecological and social challenges of our time. The leadership team includes counselors, pastors, and environmental advocates. All times are Eastern time. There is limited space for this online experience. Sign up to let us know you are interested in joining us. Read about Climate Change and Mental Health in the Mountain Xpress Sustainability Issue here. Register here.
Join us in reading Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation by Fred Bahnson and Norman Wirzba this fall!
We will offer two reading groups for this study: one virtual and one in-person. Each group will meet weekly for seven weeks. Our virtual group will be led by Sarah Ogletree and will begin meeting on Monday, September 26th (7-8 pm). Our in-person group will be led by Rev. Kevin Bates and will begin meeting at the WNC Outdoor Collective in Black Mountain on Tuesday, September 27th (6-7 pm).
What is this book about?
This theological read dives into what the Christian tradition has to say about the care of God’s world, encouraging Christians to engage in ecological care and wellbeing as a central tenet of living their faith. This is a beautiful book that will inspire Christians to look more closely at their tradition and discover the richness of their faith and its many implications for caring for all our neighbors–human and non-human.
Learn more and register at the links below. There is limited space for these studies, so we encourage you to register soon!
Join us for the 2023 Winter Retreat and Symposium!
Posted on by CCA Admin
After a break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our winter retreat and symposium are back! We’re so excited to gather this winter and hope you will join us. This time is designed with creation care professionals, volunteers, lay leaders, and clergy in mind. Whether you’re new to creation care or a long-time advocate, you’ll gain new language and tools to inspire your congregation and community to care for the environment (people, non-human creatures, and the planet) interwoven with space for rest, relationship, and prayer.
The clergy retreat will begin on Monday, February 6th, with workshops designed specifically for clergy and faith leaders. This portion will run from 1:00pm – 5:30pm and will include presentations from our keynote speaker specifically tailored to how congregations can create more climate-resilient communities and practice climate hospitality in an effort to better care for their communities and love their human and non-human neighbors. There will also be time for those gathered to converse, build relationships, share their experiences, and learn from each other. An optional hike and centering time will be offered the morning of the 6th to those who are interested, led by Rev. Kevin Bates of the Way in the Wilderness Community.
We will open the symposium on Tuesday, February 7th, to all creation care advocates and leaders. Workshops that day will run from 8:30 am – 5:30 pm. Workshop titles/topics are listed below. We will also hear from our keynote speaker regarding climate resilience and hospitality, and have time to discuss our learnings through community conversation with an eye toward praxis.
Monday & Tuesday agenda located here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DW420y8GQ2Kl40t5x2juQIK_9x0zCCya/preview?fbclid=IwAR0x-DpPMNaQGGexElVxAzLNyDakO2eWqSM_irncONGbqZR4VnSdrljm2Bw
Snacks on both days and Tuesday lunch will be provided. Please indicate on the registration form (linked below) if you have any dietary preferences or restrictions. We will be hosted at the Montreat Conference Center in Black Mountain. If you would like to stay on-site at the Conference Center, we have a limited number of rooms reserved that you can book through a separate registration form found here: ROOM RESERVATION FORM HERE.
Our last in-person retreat and symposium sold out in 2020, so we encourage you to register early to ensure you can attend! Early bird registration closes on December 9th, 2022. Registration will close entirely on Monday, January 30th.
We are offering a group discount if 3 or more people from the same congregation will be attending the Symposium on Tuesday, February 7th. If you are coming with a group, the cost is $50 per person at the early bird rate, and after early registration closes on December 9th, the cost will be $65 per person. To register a group at the group rate, please contact Susan Bean at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to pay by check, please contact Susan Bean at email@example.com.
The Creation Care Alliance is also able to offer scholarships to folks. Please contact Sarah Ogletree at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about scholarships. Put “scholarship” in the subject line of your email.
We’re pleased to announce that our keynote speaker for both Monday and Tuesday will be Avery Davis Lamb, Co-Director of Creation Justice Ministries! Avery is a theologian and activist with a breadth of experience aiding faith communities as they take action for the sake of creation. He has previously worked for Sojourners and Interfaith Power & Light. He serves on the board of The Center for Spirituality in Nature and is a Fellow of the Re:Generate Program at Wake Forest Divinity School and the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at Duke Divinity School. Avery’s research focuses on the role of religious communities in building climate resilience and adaptation, with emphasis on the virtue of “climate hospitality.”
Monday retreat presentations:
Tuesday symposium workshops:
Tuesday workshop descriptions available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jy4ucoiI6d6bcEwgx1N7CRVvnqvpEAh_/preview?fbclid=IwAR3h4SCfvP3Hil7-1sEqdMYvi6RsArFLMWH6ql_EwcwZDl_WaHdtLIkpF7o
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