Voting your Faith Values in 2020
The election of 2020 is the most important election in our lifetime and will determine the future of life on this earth. Make sure that your vote gets counted. The Creation Care Alliance of Western North Carolina offers this voting information to help you make the best voting choice during this pandemic. As you consider your vote you might imagine that you are offering a vote for those who are often voiceless. As you cast your one vote you might consider the needs of: 1)the most vulnerable among us; the poor, sick, and oppressed, 2) the young and future generations who will face the brunt of our current and past environmental and social sins, and 3) creation itself; the animals, trees, oceans, birds and rivers that will never get a vote but will feel the impact of our policies and practices.
Check your Registration OR Register to Vote
Confirm that you are registered to vote. If you are not registered or need to change your address you can do it online. The deadline to register is October 9. You can also register in-person at early voting sites.
The images and the words spilling out around us are declaring troubling times. Friends from congregations in California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado have been sharing news of the catastrophic fires raging out West. These tragedies are heaped on top of continued racial injustice, a public health crisis, hurricane relief efforts and a country divided on many fronts. While we pray for those fighting the fires, experiencing trauma from evacuations and smoke filled skylines we recognize that what is happening out west today has happened in our forests closer to home and that our changing climate influences these fire seasons whether in the West or the East. This article from NOAA states it well. “climate change has driven and likely will continue to drive a wildfire increase. This increase not only can negatively impact human infrastructure but can also damage animal habitat and spread invasive plant species. Plus, the scars left behind by the wildfires can impact water quality and rainfall runoff for many years after the fire.” https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/colorado-summer-drought-wildfires-and-smoke-2020
As people of faith and communities of conscience we recognize that the most vulnerable in our communities are impacted first and worst by fires, floods, racially motivated violence, and economic downturns. Many congregations connected to the Creation Care Alliance and beyond are seeking the health and wellness of their communities and are aligning with moral integrity and God’s grace. CCA seeks to support these efforts and will continue to hold fast to hope and love as guiding principals. See below some ways to connect to one another and these efforts. Cameron Peak Fires, CO Photo by Erin Tyler
Two counselors, two pastors, and a chaplain developed a seven-week experience to support community members and allow a space to honestly discuss grief and suffering amidst the ecological and social challenges of our time. This started as a response to climate anxiety but has expanded to support people as they experience a variety of reactions to Covid-19, injustice and economic instability. To learn more about the pilot program offered this summer, read this blog post by CCA’s Director Scott Hardin Nieri here. https://creationcarealliance.org/2020/08/10/blessed-are-those-who-mourn-congregational-support-for-eco-grief/
The Fall classes are almost at capacity. Sign up here soon. https://secure.everyaction.com/04Z-umcpskKjVuK4sPjzNQ2?emci=338b6e26-fce3-ea11-8b03-00155d0394bb&emdi=4434892b-3ee6-ea11-8b03-00155d0394bb&ceid=561638
with guest Chris Joyell- CCA will be offering a gathering time to connect with one another and talk about congregational efforts in creation care. We will meet on Thursday, Sept. 17 at 6pm via ZOOM. This will include congregations and people from all regions of the Mountain Counties and will include time together as well as regional break out rooms so you can get to know your creation care neighbors a bit better. Our featured guest Chris Joyell of the Asheville Design Center will explore economics, urban development and racism.
You can register for the gathering HERE. If you are a CCA Covenant partner, please send a representative to this meeting. We will be meeting monthly on the 3rd Thursdays so watch the CCA website for upcoming meetings. https://secure.everyaction.com/sMHYrxuBkkGsfJ7M2BM4Jw2
Join us on September 23 for a conversation between Reverend Tami Forte Logan, Missioner of Faith4Justice Asheville, and Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director of the Creation Care Alliance. They will be exploring issues of faith, ecology and race while talking about how their individual programs and efforts to promote justice in our community complement each other’s efforts. These two individuals have been partnering in various ways for the last few years and the discussion promises to be both rich and timely! Register Here. https://mountaintrue.org/event/mountaintrue-university-faith-ecology-race/
Land of the Sky United Church of Christ and the Creation Care Alliance are collaborating to host a four-week movie discussion group. We will connect with one another for 4-weeks, watch portions of the film, and explore connections across economics, climate change, racism and our spiritual lives.
“We are squarely in the middle of the greatest transition in history. There are reasons to see this planetary crisis as an opportunity to create a just and livable world.” DRAWDOWN: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming offers 100 solutions to understand the “substantive ways we can REVERSE global warming.”
Drawing on the Drawdown text, as well as Scripture and our own spiritual experiences with creation, we will examine several concrete solutions to the climate crisis. During our six weeks together, we hope to foster interactive discussions with one another while also inviting community leaders and activists to share their wisdom and practical advice. Come to learn, to recharge your commitment to our good earth, and to fellowship with fellow earth lovers in our community. Find the Link to the Class Here. https://creationcarealliance.org/event/drawdown-engaging-our-faith-to-reverse-the-climate-crisis/2020-09-20/
Some congregations within the Christian tradition have intentionally explored the connections within faith, care for the earth and love of our neighbor. We are entering a time in the church calendar that some call the Season of Creation which falls before or after the feast of St. Francis in early October. You can find resources, prayers and scriptures on the CCA website here. https://creationcarealliance.org/2019/09/01/world-day-of-prayer-for-creation/ Rev. Scott Hardin-Nieri or other CCA volunteers are also available to guest preach via ZOOM or other method if that would be helpful. This collaboration/preaching may be to accompany a creation care Sunday or it may be to support a needed week off for preachers. You can email Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org to explore best dates or options.
Co-operate WNC is organizing a bulk-purchase of outdoor space heaters to support outdoor fall & winter gatherings, and would like your feedback in this short survey to help them get heaters that best support your community’s/church’s needs. Heaters are in high demand, and we hope to place the order soon. Fill out the 3 question survey here. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf-A1Udp5FP415uqm2mhA1QaUYD44W4iu45GZZQDVKQqosLRA/viewform?usp=sf_link
While some congregations do not plan to meet in person in the near future, some churches and faith communities are considering ways to feel connected during the winter months with outdoor worship and gatherings being an option. One strategy is to use outdoor space heaters, similar to the ones restaurants use, to hold services safely through the winter months. A bulk order in this way will help ensure that heaters are more available despite limited supply and there is a discount.
CCA has been exploring ways to connect with the work of Co-Operate WNC for some time now. Co-operate WNC is an emerging mutual aid network connecting communities using cooperative economic tools and ecologically regenerative practices to transform institutional systems of oppression and violence, create deep climate resilience, and take back our collective power for shaping our destiny. For more information on their approach and programs, visit http://www.co-operatewnc.org
Peace and Grace,
Faith communities have a complicated history when it comes to mental health and wholeness. In some ways faith communities have failed by ignoring mental health challenges that are present within our communities and among clergy people. Oftentimes the stigma that has been placed upon the shoulders of those who are experiencing a variety of temporary and chronic mental health challenges has been ignored and even increased by communities and people of faith. REGISTER FOR SUMMER 2021 ECO GRIEF CIRCLES
At our best, faith communities have encouraged people to face suffering and loss with heart, mind, and body by using rituals, encouraging conversation, and honoring sacred stories from ancestors and community members. I am encouraged to see more and more clergy seeking professional mental health care, and more congregations offering opportunities to not only express and explore experiences of grief but to engage in caring for those with mental health challenges.
The climate crisis offers yet another opportunity to be our best, and to lovingly accompany one another in the midst of suffering and grief. In my work at the Creation Care Alliance I have seen a recent increase in the ways that climate change and ecological degradation has impacted emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
Over the past six years I have had the opportunity to listen to people of faith as they grapple with the realities of our changing climate. I have heard the fear of the threats made to God’s good creation, felt the anger of those standing against a fossil fueled future, seen the tears of grandparents on behalf of their grandchildren.
This is not new – the reality is that ecological destruction in Western North Carolina has been impacting our community for many years. For many, these stories are intertwined with stories of blatant racism, economic oppression, and food insecurity. Ecological grief is not a new experience, however climate anxiety and eco-grief are being more widely recognized as another component of climate change.
Back in the 1950s, environmentalist Aldo Leopold described environmental grief when he said “one of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” More recently, Dr. Glenn Albrecht coined the term “solastalgia” to describe mental distress caused by environmental change, a kind of “homesickness” without leaving home that we feel as our common home becomes more unrecognizable.
We see grief showing up in a variety of ways. One way is for people to be experiencing grief and suffering due to past or current eco-challenges. These mental health concerns are the results of climate phenomena like increased heat indexes, displacement due to flooding or storms, increased stress due to illness and food insecurity. This kind of grief would be a natural response to well water being rendered toxic, beloved forests being burned, or generational farmland drying to dust.
Another way that grief shows up is in anxiety about a future that is inhospitable to people and creatures. As people learn more and more about the climate crisis and see the decade- long predictions from scientists beginning to come to fruition, we become increasingly aware of the fragility of our common future. With this awareness comes anxiety and even despair.
After hearing story after story of these (and other) kinds of grief, people within the Creation Care Alliance network – two counselors, two pastors, and a chaplain – began to plan ways for people to care about one another in their grief. The result was a pilot project called the Eco-Grief Circle.
This six-week experience offered hour-long sessions that explored grief and sorrow, anxiety and fear, guilt and shame, anger and despair. The pilot project included 16 people who were connected with environmental and justice work. This was not a grief therapy experience, yet healing, insight, and love were present. Participants expressed the profound gratitude of being among people who could talk honestly about grief, suffering and the ecological and social challenges of our time. In the particular six weeks that we gathered, we not only faced the climate change challenge but also grappled with the pandemic and the deep brokenness of racism in our society. It was a powerful six weeks to be sure.
The leadership team will launch two more eco-grief circles in mid-September, and is currently finalizing the curriculum and receiving inquiries from a variety of people and faith communities that are interested. We will have limited space available in these initial classes, but let us know if you are interested in participating in the future by emailing email@example.com.
Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: American Psychological Assoc. and Eco America, March 2017
Majority of US Adults Believe Climate Change Is Most Important Issue: American Psychological Association, Feb. 2020
Ecological grief as a mental health response to climate change-related loss: Nature Magazine-April 2018
How scientists are coping with ‘ecological grief’-The Guardian, Jan. 2020
Hope and mourning in the Anthropocene: Understanding ecological grief – The Conversation, April 2018
Ecological Mourning Is a Unique Form of Grief- Psychology Today, March 2019
Embracing Pain- 3 minute video by Joanna Macy, 2012
As someone born and raised in Los Angeles County, my experiences with ‘small’ and ‘rural’ are far and few. Furthermore, when I read books on sustainability and agriculture, I typically pick up books written in universities by professors who spend their lives writing, researching, and teaching indoors in a classroom. While there is certainly great content in books like these, perhaps a better place to learn about sustainability and agriculture is in a community that practices it. Although Los Angeles can teach us many things about culture and diversity, the mountains of western North Carolina is one place we can learn about the intersection of eco-justice and faith. Blackburn’s Chapel is a very small community of people in a town called Todd. Todd is a stretch of land that sits on the line between Ashe and Watauga county. This area is so small, there are about 4 buildings that form the center of town. One of these buildings is the local church, Blackburn’s Chapel. On most Sundays, the church has about 20-30 members who join together in worship. Although Blackburn’s is small in number, when it comes to caring for God’s creation, they are mighty. Read More
Share your faith and passion for a clean energy future. Learn more here. On July 21, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether or not to move forward with a plan to install solar panels at 40 sites of county government, city and public school and community college properties. The project is the equivalent of powering 677 homes entirely with solar. The solar energy systems will save county taxpayers $27 million by reducing electricity payments to Duke Energy over the next 30 years. This vote is a huge opportunity to move our county forward to a renewable energy future. In addition, the prices offered to install these solar projects are millions of dollars cheaper than expected, and the energy savings from the solar panels would actually save the county and schools money.
To make this happen, we need at least 4 out of 7 County Commissioners to vote YES to this proposal on July 21. We are asking people who value renewable energy to write personalized letters to the County Commissioners to encourage them to vote yes.
Sharing how your faith or spiritual life informs your beliefs about clean energy and creation care is a unique and helpful way to communicate values that we all hold dear regardless of political affiliation. You can also spread the word to your friends and family about the need to make your voice heard before this vote.
Geared for high-school students, young adults, and adults, we invite you to seek shalom with us, joining other groups/families in stimulating discussion, prayer, and brainstorming about how they are turning challenges into opportunities, how to re-frame our daily lived practices, and how to foster a fuller imagination for our world! We want this experience to meet you where you are, so if attending all the sessions is not a possibility, let’s be in touch about creative alternatives! Sliding scale registration can be found at: https://christmount.
With passion, wisdom and wit, Dr. Orr offered insights into some of the symptoms of our sickened Democracy. The interplay of his conversation included climate change, spirituality, racism and the role of government and the commons. He reflected the concern for a lack of curiosity, compassion, and connection with others as he spoke. You can see the entire talk with the questions and answers on the Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church YouTube Channel.
Here is a response to a question about faith in these times.