Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina

Braiding Sweetgrass Book Study Sign-Up

“Will you hold the end of the bundle while I braid? Hands joined by grass, can we bend our heads together and make a braid to honor the earth? And then I’ll hold it for you, while you braid, too.” – Braiding Sweetgrass

 

Please join Intern Aundreya and others from CCA in a book study around Braiding Sweetgrass. It will add an indigenous voice to our conversations around sacred land. We are planning to meet each Monday at 6 PM, beginning on Monday, June 21, over Zoom. Each week we will begin by discussing a specific essay within each book section. Feel free to bring any other interests that come up as you read!

Learning about Native Species Through Murals at Christmount

Christmount has been integrating educational murals onto the bathhouse at the camp in preparation for their Summer camp program! Different sides feature local wildlife and fauna for campers to learn about. The artists are Laura McNeel and Elizabeth Hatchett at Betty Hatchett Designs. It was finished up with volunteers’ help! To support Christmount’s ongoing efforts to educate and care for others, you can make donations, sponsor a camper, or volunteer to help with projects, like this mural.

This mural is of the Northern Saw-whet Owl, which is native to North America. They are some of the smallest owls and their size makes them easy prey for larger birds and animals. An isolated community of these owls in the Appalachian mountains is now declining due to the destruction of their habitat. The Northern Saw-whet Owl is now listed as a threatened species because of logging, developments, and pollution that harm our natural forests. These owls like thickets and dense forests, but if forests are being cleared, even if not entirely, it rids them of the thickets that provide this owl with safety and shelter. There is also a chipmunk as well as some native fauna in this photo including Trillium, Lady Slippers, and Rattlesnake Orchid.

Regional Gathering on June 17

While CCA transitions to a new Director, we will continue our Regional Gatherings on a bi-monthly schedule. We will meet by ZOOM on June 17 at 6:00 PM. Register HERE to get the ZOOM link.

The theme will be Food Justice and our summer intern, Aundreya Shepherd, will lead us in learning about why and where food justice is needed across Buncombe County. We will discuss how food justice, especially gleaning, is one way to connect with rural faith communities that can be integral in food ministries. There will be a time where you can share what your community is doing around food justice. How can we create more access for those in rural areas?

CCA Doing Justice and Loving Kindness- A Director Farewell

“God has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?”

― Micah 6:8  (Hebrew Scriptures)

Today as I step out of my role as Director I am reminded of Micah 6:8 from the Hebrew scriptures and the ways you have helped me and one another see this passage come alive over the years.

You are doing justice:

  • Planting seeds of tomatoes, trees, and wisdom for neighbors in need and for generations to come.
  • Embracing the interconnectedness of all creatures as expressions of the sacred.
  • Resisting dominion theologies and practice as well as the insidious cousins, racism and unbridled consumption.
  • Facing the challenges created by a changing climate with courageous sermons, steeples surrounded by solar panels, and spiritual care for all those impacted by climate change weather. Whether caring for families fleeing drought or storm or caring for children and adults swimming in eco-anxiety or depression, you are offering hope with its sleeves rolled up.

You show loving kindness:

You are teaching one another with your attractive ways bringing people from within your congregations and your communities into this good work. While you are honest about injustice and systemic challenges, you seek transformation without shame and a healing that is driven by love.

You walk humbly:

CCA congregations see the good created by hands, hearts, and resources and then you talk about it, not because there is a sense of competition, that your creation care is somehow better than the church up the street, but because after a while when you’re doing a good thing you simply cannot contain the light.  It is not your place to stifle the light.

As I have served as the director of Creation Care Alliance, your stories and our connections have deepened my understanding of Micah 6:8 and your work as people of faith and conscience. Your light has revealed much in the world and within my own heart. Thank you.

The CCA Steering Team and MountainTrue Staff are continuing this light-bearing work even as the search for a new Director moves ahead. In the interim please feel free to reach out to the Steering Team and/or MountainTrue Co-Director Bob Wagner at wagner@mountaintrue.org.

May you keep doing justice, seeking kindness and offering your light with humility. The challenges and your responses can be soul-crushing, You cannot do it alone. May you continue to find one another, hear your name as beloved, and find places of rest.

Grace and Peace,

Scott

You can find me at shardinnieri@gmail.com in the future if needed.

Summer Eco-Grief Circles are Open- Featured in the Mountain Xpress

Join us for an Eco Grief Circle this May Thursday, May 13-June 24, at noon ET. Sign up here.  You can read more about Eco-Grief Here.

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, pastors, and environmental advocates. All times are Eastern time. There is limited space for this online experience.  Sign up below to let us know you are interested in joining us.   Read about this Climate Change and Mental Health in the Mountain Xpress Sustainability Issue here.

Sign up here:  https://secure.everyaction.com/IQFZFznWbkyVJzESdATkag2

Read more about Eco Grief here.  

 

Creation Care Alliance featured in the Guardian “US pastor using scripture to mobilize climate action”

We are excited to share the article written by Mélissa Godin in the Guardian on behalf of Earth Day 2021.

“across the US, there is a growing movement of religious leaders who are trying to deploy faith as a vehicle for climate action. And Hardin-Nieri’s own journey toward climate activism began when he lived in Monteverde, Costa Rica, and witnessed how different faith communities – from Catholics to Quakers – came together to fight climate change. “It wasn’t a Republican or Democrat issue,” he says. “It was a life issue.”

Read More in the Guardian here. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/20/the-rev-scott-hardin-nieri-north-carolina-climate-action

 

Image of Scott Hardin-Nieri and Solar panels at the First Christian church in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Photograph: Mike Belleme/The Guardian

Easter’s fertile promise: Composting as parable of faith formation- Guest Blog from Ken Sehested

Easter’s fertile promise
Composting as parable of faith formation

I’ve never had a green thumb. My wife tends indoor plants and outside flowers. I’ve never had the urge to garden, though I wish I had.

But I’ve enjoyed making dirt for over 30 years. Soil, I should say. Dark, fertile, nutrition rich soil that growing things need to thrive, filled with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and a dozen other nutrients and organic matter.

I keep three compost stashes going. A two-gallon bucket next to the kitchen sink, where I deposit scraps from meal preparation, certain dinner leftovers, coffee grounds, napkins, and shredded paper. Once every week or so, when it’s full, I take it outside and empty it in a 96-gallon compost container, next to a mound of “brown” material—leaves and grass clippings—for covering each deposit. I’m not in a hurry, so I don’t turn the compost, which would speed up the process; I just let the weather and worms do their work.

Once each year I empty the composter and cover it with a layer of brown material, where it will sit, undisturbed. After “cooking” for a year, it’s ready to do its magic. So I shovel it into cardboard boxes, careful to remove the weed roots that encroached over the past year. The load comes to about a half-yard, filling my pickup bed for transport to our kiddos’ house up the street. My son-in-law, Rich, tends a large garden. It’s down payment for a bountiful harvest of vegetables and berries to come.

This is my substitute for an Easter sunrise service. (I’m not an early riser.)

Most of the brown material comes from my own yard. But if the leaf harvest in late fall is smaller than normal, I’ll patrol my neighborhood streets and collect bagged leaves set out for the city to pick up.

Composting isn’t hard, but it’s not convenient, either. It takes some work and persistent attention.

Sometimes the labor of spiritual formation is, in fact, hard. Grace sometimes takes us to places we would otherwise not be inclined to go; or be with people we’d otherwise avoid; or pay attention to news that we’d just as soon ignore.

Sometimes spiritual growth is like an earthquake, unsettling things we thought would always be certain and secured. Sometimes it’s a big screen drama, brimming with a scary storyline, and heroic gestures and heart-pounding action, with valor in the dark and near-catastrophes and undeserved affliction.

All the saints have scars and bruises and limps and even missing limbs. All had, like us, scrap material: peelings, bruised spots, wilted and other gone-bad produce, indigestible trimmings, rinds and seeds. The promise of compost, like Easter, is that nothing is wasted. Part of resurrection’s exultation is knowing God wants all of us. In one of his poems, Steve Garnaas-Holmes has this striking metaphor, “God licks the spoon of us.”

Spiritual formation can be wearisome, can place you in a storm-tossed boat, can demand more than you think you can bear. It is almost never convenient and can be unnerving. It is not risk-averse.

But most of the time, spiritual formation is much like composting. It requires persistent attention, intentional choices, and locating yourself in a community where some bring nitrogen, some phosphorous, some potassium and the like. Mostly there are no fireworks or theatrics, much less headline news, and almost never fame nor fortune.

Spiritual formation is quotidian work. In ordinary circumstances. Sweating the small stuff; showing up; giving attention, without the need for billboards, to the needs on the streets whose names you know. It requires constructing a custom-made rhythm of work and rest; of action and reflection; of listening and speaking; and making a nest with others—ordinary, non-saintly, sometimes eccentric others—who are attempting the same.

There is work to be done (not to mention merriment and sweet treats). But sustainability is not ours to engineer. There is a fecund Presence in Creation we can count on.

Dominion is not up to us. But cultivating is. Don’t mind the sweat and don’t neglect your gloves; but don’t postpone joy.

As Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, in his say-it-slant way, God longs to “easter in us.” Join your will to that Way.

Ken Sehested
Easter Sunday, 4 April 2021

Letter from Scott regarding moving into a new role and building on the foundations of compassionate climate action

The CCA Director is moving into a new role.

And the Creation Care Alliance is building on the foundations of compassionate climate action.

Dear friends and supporters,

After 6 years of wonderful work collaborating with individuals and congregations in Western North Carolina, it is with a mix of excitement but also sadness that I share the news that I will be leaving my role as Director of the Creation Care Alliance to accept a call into a position with The Bethany Fellowship to accompany congregations as they discern and act faithfully in these times.  I will serve as director until April 30, 2021, allowing me some time to finish up current projects and help with the transition. Our family will remain in Asheville. MountainTrue and the Creation Care Alliance are also my family, and I plan to volunteer and be involved with y’all in the future.

Over the past six years, the Creation Care Alliance has grown to become a vital program within the MountainTrue community. CCA and MountainTrue, working together,  are unique in their ability to combine science, faith, policy, economics, spirituality, justice, technology, and theology. We took risks partnering a faith-based program with an environmental advocacy organization, and those risks are paying off.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together. We currently work with over seventy congregations representing twelve denominations in about twenty different locations across Western North Carolina. Through the passion and dedication of the CCA Steering Team, MountainTrue Staff and our network of congregations and collaborators we have been able to offer transformative experiences like our Earth Day Vigils, Path to Paris Pilgrimages, and Creation Care Retreats; tangible results reflected in the hundreds of solar panels, LED lights and gardens installed at congregations throughout our region; and vital tools and resources through our Creation Care Guide, Eco-Grief Circles and Eco Justice Camps. Together we have accompanied congregations as they have addressed climate change and ecological destruction but equally important we have deepened the capacity for compassion, right relationship, and love in the midst of crises. This unique blend of mitigation, adaptation, and compassion is a hallmark of our work together and will continue to flourish in the months and years to come.

I’m excited at what CCA has planned for the future as well. Even as I prepare for my new job, I’ve been working with MountainTrue and the Creation Care Alliance Steering Team on a strategic plan for the next 10 years. We’re planning now to bring the good work of Creation Care to more congregations and communities throughout our mountain region, to shepherd more faith groups through the process of accomplishing zero-carbon footprints, and to train more leaders to take our movement of love and compassion to the broader public. I look forward to passing the baton to the next CCA director. We’ve posted a job description on the MountainTrue and Creation Care Alliance of WNC websites, and we are accepting applications now. The deadline to apply is May 5.

As supporters and partners with the Creation Care Alliance, you serve as vital parts of this ongoing work toward a more sustainable and just future. The needs in our communities are great and whoever steps into this work will be lucky to be walking with such a powerful collective of staff and volunteers.

It’s been an honor to work with you all for justice, our communities, and a better planet. I leave this position with a note of deep gratitude and a determination to continue this work together in the future. See you soon!

With Gratitude and Hope,