Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ

Environmental Stewardship

Prayer Vigil for the Climate – Saturday April 29th

Bishop Scott Barker, Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett, and Brother James Dowd invite the Diocese to join us in a vigil of prayer for the climate.

On Saturday, April 29th, people will be marching in Washington, DC and in cities across the country to advocate for stronger policies to address climate change. Participants will advocate for climate change policies that not only effectively mitigate climate change and its effects, but that will also open up new jobs that bring justice for poorer communities in the United States and around the world where the effects of climate change are often experienced first and worst.

Our suggestion is to pray at home, at your church, or wherever you might be between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM CT, or 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM MT. Suggestions follow as to how you might mark this event with prayer.

For those who might want to participate in a march in Nebraska, Lincoln will host a climate march beginning at 10:30 am on Saturday at the UNL Student Union, and Omaha has a march beginning at noon at the Gene Leahy Mall.

Suggestions for prayer:

  • Gather around a candle, light the candle and pray this from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 827)
    Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
  • Pray for the leadership of our country that they may come to understand the seriousness of climate change.
  • Pray for the safety of the marchers.
  • Meditate (Centering Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, etc). for some or part of the three hour period.
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Environmental Stewardship – Praying the Earth’s News: March 23, 2017

We pray this week for people affected by floods and fires that have been made worse by warmer global temperatures, and we pray for our planet and the future of the human race as warming takes us into “uncharted territory”.

Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect For the Conservation of Natural Resources (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)

Please pray for:

People in Peru affected by severe flooding. Unusually intense rainfall — “the deadliest downpours in decades” according to this story from Reuters — has resulted in severe flooding in Peru. More than sixty people have died, and the rains and flooding are expected to continue.

People affected by wildfires in the Great Plains. Fires in the Great Plains have contributed to a “furious start” to the wildfire season in the United States. Dry conditions and very warm late winter temperatures contributed to the fires. Ranchers lost cattle to the fires, leading ranchers to call the fires “our hurricane Katrina”. Here in Nebraska this week, a wildfire near Lake Mcconaughy burned 800 acres and destroyed eight homes.

The earth as we enter “uncharted territory”. The Guardian reports on a World Meteorological Association report on the 2016 global climate, which reports that we have reached a level of warming that takes the planet into “uncharted territory”. NASA reported that on March 7 sea ice extent at both poles reached record lows. The need for action on climate change has never been clearer, but political prospects for such action in the United States at least look slim.

O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer For the Future of the Human Race (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 828)

As we pray for others, we might also pray for our own hearts to be open so we can see the needs in the world around us and gladly respond to those needs:

O heavenly Father, who has filled the world with beauty; Open our eyes to behold your gracious hand in all your works; that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for Joy in God’s Creation (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 814)

 

Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett

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Exploring a Creation Connections Community

Experiencing God deeply through experiencing the wonder of God’s creation leads many of us to have a passion for caring for God’s creation. Throughout our diocese, there are people who share both a spiritual connection through outdoor experiences and a passion for environmental justice and environmental stewardship. Because we are scattered throughout the diocese, though, we may find that while our connections with God and with God’s creation are profound, connections with others who share similar experiences and passions are more tenuous because others in our local parish don’t necessarily share the same passion.

Some folks in the Diocese of Nebraska have begun gathering via email, phone, and video conference to create ways for us to better connect with God, one another, and God’s creation that are spiritually nourishing, sustainable over time, and possible in our geographically large diocese. Our initial efforts have yielded ideas about worshipping together in a beautiful outdoor location, creating opportunities for people to participate in outdoor activities in community, praying for one another and for the earth, supporting each other in local efforts to build awareness about environmental stewardship, and sustaining community through a combination of electronic communications and in-person get-togethers. People in the Diocese of Nebraska will be invited to plug into whatever pieces of this best fit you.

If helping to create a new kind of community that gathers around a love of God and God’s creation is something you would like to explore, please contact Archdeacon Betsy Bennett:

deaconbetsy@windstream.net

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An Invitation to Stand with Standing Rock

add11cd788A resolution from the Executive Council  of the Episcopal Church asks the Episcopal Church at all levels to prayerfully and financially support the planned winter encampment of the people bearing witness to and peacefully and prayerfully protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The route under construction intrudes onto the sacred grounds of the Sioux Nation, and the pipeline endangers the water supply from the Missouri River.

 

To show our support of our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of North Dakota, people from across the Diocese of Nebraska are invited to show their solidarity in a variety of ways.

We encourage people throughout the diocese to be part of the Tuesday, November 15 at the Nationwide Day of Action.

In DioNeb, we invite you to create and share a video via Facebook or Twitter of a person or group of people reading Psalm 18:1-20 and/or the prayer For the Conservation of Natural Resources on p. 827 in the Book of Common Prayer to be posted the week of November 14th.

Use the hashtag #DioNebStandsInPrayer when you post your video.

We will combine all the videos into a final DioNeb video to share with the parishes and people at Standing Rock to show that people in the Diocese of Nebraska are standing with them in prayer.

If you want to create a video, but prefer not to share it on social media, please contact the diocese at dioadmin@episcopal-ne.org for information about sharing your video privately, but keep in mind the finished video will be shared publicly.

 

Additional Acts of Solidarity:

If you are in the Omaha area, join fellow Episcopalians as we stand together in prayer and solidarity with Native allies at the Army Corps of Engineers office (1616 Capitol Ave.) from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.  We’ll stand peacefully on the sidewalk as drummers and singers pray with us, calling on the Army Corps and President Obama to revoke the permits for this dirty oil pipeline. Please bring art and banners. (Some sample messages for art: Stand in Prayer. Stop the Pipeline, Solidarity with Standing Rock and Iowa #NoDAPL, or Pres. Obama: Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

 

The Diocese of North Dakota is accepting monetary donations for supplies needed by the people camped at Standing Rock. Go to the Diocese of North Dakota website and look for the Donate button in the lower right corner. This will take you to the donation page, where you can add special instructions that your donation is to go to support the Standing Rock water protectors.

 

Include the people of the Standing Rock Sioux and the people camped there to protect the water in your daily prayers, and encourage your parish leaders to include prayers for Standing Rock in the Prayers of the People.

 

Use the resources below to learn more and then stay up-to-date on the situation at Standing Rock. Help us all to remember what is happening there by sharing news stories on social media and talking about it with other people. When we are asked to write, or call government officials on behalf of the people of Standing Rock, take the time to follow up on that request.

 

Resources

 

Statement by the North Dakota Council of Indian Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Dakota Access Pipe Line (August 19, 2016)

 

Presiding Bishop tells Standing Rock protectors ‘the way of Jesus honors the water’

Presiding Bishop tells Standing Rock protectors ‘the way of Jesus honors the water’

 

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: Statement in support of the advocacy of the people of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/presiding-bishop-michael-curry-statement-support-advocacy-people-standing-rock

 

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Environmental Stewardship: St. Francis Day – Extending the Circle of Compassion

Maybe it’s just that social media has made it easier to know about what is happening in parishes across the country, but it seems like St. Francis Day is celebrated more widely than it used to be. Parishes bless pets on or near October 4, and people remember some of Francis’s words or share images of St. Francis with their friends.

 

 

Once we get past the sentimental side of St. Francis, we see a saint who showed great compassion to poor people, giving up his own privileges to live in solidarity with the poor. While it is nearly as easy to romanticize or sentimentalize his poverty and his compassion for the poor as it is his compassion for animals, when we set aside the sentimental side, his story is very striking. Francis took Jesus’s teachings seriously, and his life shows us what following Jesus can look like.

Francis’s compassion flowed out of his love for Christ. Francis did not neglect worship, and his attention to the words of Christ in the Gospel guided his heart and his mind, but he also did not neglect action in the world. As Francis understood as a deacon, when the Gospel works long enough on someone’s heart and mind, the natural result is compassion that extends in an ever-widening circle.

The great work for Christians today is to extend that circle of compassion not only in wider and wider circles in our present world, but also to extend that circle to future generations. Compassion says that if we see the potential for living things to suffer now or 10, 20, 50, or 100 years from now, we should do whatever we can to alleviate
that suffering.

We are told that St. Francis preached to the birds, and he is often depicted as a friend to the birds. The reality this St. Francis Day is that climate change is endangering the birds. Climate change is threatening all living things, but we are so paralyzed by this that this evening’s debate for vice-presidential candidates did not include a single question about dealing with climate change or its effects. We spend much of our lives acting as if nothing is happening.

 

 

Bill McKibben recently wrote Recalculating the Climate Math, which very clearly explains why we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and rapidly develop clean energy sources. Using new information from Oil Change International, McKibben’s essay argues that to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C. “we’ll need to close all of the coal mines and some of the oil and gas fields we’re currently operating long before they’re exhausted”.

We are nowhere near doing that. We may admire St. Francis’s compassion for the birds and for the people who stand to suffer first and worst from climate change, but our compassion is not yet great enough to overcome the fear of change that keeps us from doing what we must to address climate change in any meaningful way or even to talk about it very often.

Perhaps next St. Francis Day our churches could honor Francis by hosting serious discussions about climate change and its impacts, or by encouraging parishioners to advocate for action on climate. If we can find as much compassion for people suffering the effects of climate change and for the birds and wild animals and plants as we have for our domestic pets, we all might stand a chance of surviving this century.

– Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett

Follow Archdeanon Betsy’s blog at https://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com

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Environmental Stewardship: How Are the Scallops?

The Feast of Saint James the Apostle

scallopsSt. James Day is here again — time for this blog’s annual look at ocean acidification and its effects on shellfish. The concerns we had last year are still there, but one year farther into increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere that produce both global warming and ocean acidification. The data from the Mauna Loa observatory shows the carbon dioxide concentration for June 2016 averaging 406.81 ppm; the concentration for June 2015 was 402.80. Scientists think that we have now passed 400 ppm permanently; it will never be near the target of 350 ppm in the lifetime of anyone now alive.

Americans are bombarded with political messages this summer as the two major parties hold their conventions. So far, very little has been said about climate change, and its evil twin of ocean acidification seems to be off the political radar screen for the media, an awful lot of politicians, and many voters. Next Sunday’s Gospel lesson (Luke 12: 13-21) warns us against greed, against the accumulation of wealth and possessions with thought for nothing else. The reality of the unsustainability of our world gets dwarfed again and again by our greed, our desire to accumulate more while ignoring — remaining ignorant of — the price we will pay and that our children and grandchildren will continue to pay.

How are the scallops and other shellfish? They are threatened by our failure to put strong controls on carbon dioxide emissions.

The Paris talks we were anticipating at this time last year are history. The challenge now is to make the targets from these talks more than a nice ideal. The challenge is to take climate change and ocean acidification seriously and to have the will to do what we need to do to significantly and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This St. James Day is a good time to commit ourselves to advocacy for meaningful public policy to get us — and the shellfish and other living things — a chance at a sustainable future.

Here is last year’s post for the Feast of St. James:

St. James Day and the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Since the scallop shell is a symbol for Saint James, this blog has taken the feast day in the past to look at the future for sea scallops given the increasing acidification of the world’s oceans. [See St James, Scallops, and Drought from 2012 and Feast of St. James: Scallops and their Companions from 2015.] The same carbon pollution that contributes to global warming is also increasing the acidity of the world’s oceans, changing the chemistry of shell production for scallops, oysters, clams, and other shellfish.

So how is our fight against ocean acidification going? How are the scallops this day, this year, and how are they likely to be in the future?

When I looked over information about ocean acidification and shellfish from the past few months, the answers to these questions did not surprise me, yet I can’t comprehend them. The scallops are not doing well, and they are likely to do worse in the future. Moreover, the economic impact of the loss of shellfish seems to be growing more apparent to more people. Yet ocean acidification is increasing, not decreasing. We know it is happening, we know a lot about the harmful effects of ocean acidification, but we haven’t done anything significant to stop it. Because we allow all sorts of short-term concerns to prevent significant action on global warming, it’s not surprising that we treat ocean acidification, its evil twin, the same way. But why do we do that? Why do we prioritize our immediate, short-term comfort and our fear of change over the preservation of life? That’s the part I don’t comprehend.

A new report on research done jointly by NOAA, the University of Alaska, and an Alaskan shellfish hatchery indicates that without mitigation, the ocean waters they studied in Resurrection Bay may not be able to support shellfish hatcheries by 2040, only 25 years from now. Ocean acidification and warming waters also threaten the lobster industry in Maine. Another study released this year looked not only at the vulnerability of the shellfish but also at the social vulnerability of the coastal communities that will be most affected by the loss of shellfish. Several coastal states are looking at changes in policies to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification on the shellfish industry and the communities that depend on the industry economically.

It’s all very discouraging. However, Joe Romm reported yesterday on the probable end to the global coal boom. China’s use of coal has helped fuel the coal boom, but now awareness both of the health effects of carbon pollution coupled with a growing awareness of the threat of climate change to China’s future has resulted in policy changes to transition away from coal-intensive industries in particular and energy-intensive industries in general. Joe Romm’s post suggests that China’s transition to cleaner energy sources should in turn make clean energy sources more available to developing countries. All of this makes real progress from the Paris climate talks a little more possible: “The Paris talks should also make obvious to all what the world’s top climate scientists and governments already know and have stated publicly: The world has to go to zero total carbon pollution long before 2100 and indeed as close to 2050 as possible — before actually going carbon negative.”

While the focus of the Paris talks is mitigation of climate change, a serious commitment to decreasing carbon pollution will mitigate the evil twin of ocean acidification as well. Will it be enough? Is it worth the attempt?  The Gospel lesson this Sunday morning is John 6:1-21, which includes the version of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes in which a boy offers his five loaves and two fish, an offering that seems too small to feed the crowd but ends up being sufficient. All we can do to save the shellfish and keep climate change somewhere below the catastrophic category is to offer what we have, to make the attempt and find out later whether the attempt was enough.

We have about four months until the Paris climate talks begin. We can offer our prayers and advocate with our nation’s leaders for a truly significant commitment to phase out carbon pollution soon enough to make a real difference. And even though it’s difficult to think about, we can make the effort to learn more about what is happening, talk about it, and pray and reflect on it, and then perhaps find it within ourselves to make it clear to all those in power that preserving life, including preservation of as many ocean species as possible, takes priority over our short-term concerns and our fears of change.

– Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett

[Follow Archdeacon Betsy’s blog at http://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com]
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Environmental Stewardship: Guided into the Faith – Trinity Sunday

 

 

Trinity Sunday – Guided into the Faith

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 15:13)

Much of what we read in John’s Gospel about the Spirit of truth, the Advocate, is hard to grasp. One thing we do know about the Spirit of truth, though, is that the guidance from that Spirit will help us see what is real — what is really real — and what is merely imagined or supposed. If we follow the guidance of the Spirit, we are grounded or anchored in reality.

The past several months have been stressful ones for me. Part of that stress is personal: I’ve been sick much of the time, family members have been sick, and two family members died. However, feeling extra stress seems to be widespread this year. Our national political conversation — if it can even be called a conversation — is unlike anything I remember experiencing before, and the lack of civility and the frequent lack of reason in our political speech seems to have seeped into other areas of our lives. Fear of where all of this might lead seems to be pervasive among people across the political spectrum. And those of us who are keenly aware of what scientists have been telling us about climate change from anthropogenic global warming realize that our decisions in this century — certainly our political decisions, but also our decisions in many other areas of our lives — have greater potential for good or ill than at any other time in human history.

I mentioned to my spiritual director this week that I have been feeling disoriented in time and thought it had to do with all the crises of various sizes that have disrupted my life over the past year. Because of everything else that has been happening, the rhythm of my weeks and the rhythm of holidays and of nature’s seasons have been disrupted frequently. I was surprised when my spiritual director said a lot of people have been reporting the same thing. This has been an unusual spring where we live, with many spring blooms appearing much earlier than usual, but with a couple of spells of unusually cool weather as well. Some days so far this May have seemed like perfect “What is so rare as a day in June?” days, while others have felt like late October.

But as I thought about feeling disoriented in time, I realized how disoriented many people are in space as well. How often does someone nearly walk into us — and how often do motorists hit something — as a result of being distracted by electronic devices? One thing I like about my iPhone is the escape it can provide if I’m sitting in a waiting room, but an “escape” that in reality leaves me right where I was is of course not a true escape at all; it’s merely a purposeful disorientation, a means of making myself feel like I’m someplace else. And it’s not all about electronics. We can travel around the country, for example, and never experience local food or culture thanks to chain restaurants, hotels, and stores. We can easily imagine ourselves to be someplace other than where we are.

For a variety of reasons, we find ourselves unanchored or ungrounded in all sorts of ways at precisely the point of history when we most need to connect with and understand the reality of what is happening in the world. We need to remain ever open to the Spirit of truth instead of trying to escape into a false reality, but instead of experiencing the guidance of the Spirit we often find ourselves instead in a swirl of thoughts, claims — many of them false claims — and events that seem all important one day and are forgotten the next. I suspect that one of the reasons we allow our leaders to get away with an inadequate response to global warming is that most of us are untethered enough from reality to believe it is less urgent than it is.

Staying grounded or anchored in reality is a necessity for spiritual health. If we become ungrounded, we forget who we are (and whose we are) and we forget what we really believe deep down in our hearts. The state of ungroundedness allows just the sort of political chaos we are witnessing now, one major piece of which is the way we have collectively lost sight of the important task of caring for our one and only planet.

 

Late spring is a great time to reconnect with the seasons and experience a deeper connection to our locale. Tending to the soil and growing some of our own food whether in a large garden plot or a container on a front stoop makes us aware of the season and the weather while it helps us slow down. Walking outdoors gives us a chance to look around and see where we are; walking lets us see the shifts in light as the day or the season unfolds. It lets us see which flowers are blooming and what sorts of birds, insects, and other animals are around. When we walk outdoors, we might hear the birds singing, a sound that is restorative for souls that have become unanchored.

Gently reconnecting ourselves to reality through intentional practices like gardening and walking allows us to be resilient in the face of the harsher truths of our world. Staying connected, allowing the Spirit to guide us in the truth, helps us find the strength, wisdom, and compassion to respond to the world’s needs as effectively and compassionately as we can. When we make a connection with the real world around us, we will find Jesus in that connection.

Trinity Sunday reminded us that God is relationship. If God is relationship, it isn’t surprising that we find God when we turn away from the false perception of ourselves as beings independent of one another and independent of our biosphere. If God is relationship, then of course we grow closer to God when we realize our interdependence and realize our true place in time and space.

— Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett

Follow Archdeacon Betsy’s blog at http://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/

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Environmental Stewardship: Rogation Days – Praying the Bounds of a Warming World 2016

Rogation Days: Praying the Bounds of a Warming World 2016

This 2016 version of what has become an annual Rogation Days post includes an update on CO2 emissions and a look at our trend of record-breaking warmth. While the past year has seen some encouraging developments — the Paris talks on a global scale and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church voting for major funds to divest from fossil fuels on a smaller scale — the importance of these developments lies more in the realm of increasing awareness and acknowledgment that we do have a crisis on our hands rather than in the realm of the sorts of big and enforceable changes in policies and practices that would be most effective in mitigating global warming.

The great hope is that we might reach a tipping point of social and political will that precipitates those big changes before we reach more tipping points in the unfolding rise in global temperatures. Along with praying the bounds or limits of our biosphere, we need to be praying fervently for collective wisdom and courage in our common life.

Rogation Days: Praying the Bounds of a Warming World

 

The traditional English celebration of Rogation Days, the three days preceding Ascension Day, included a procession around the boundaries of the parish (often coextensive with the boundaries of a village). At stops along the boundaries, the congregation prayed for the welfare of the village and especially for a good growing season, and the priest blessed the fields. The procession stopped several times for these prayers and blessings, often at important landmarks along the boundaries of the parish. Along with an occasion for prayer and blessings, walking the bounds or beating the bounds also ensured a public memory and a clear public proclamation of exactly where boundaries lay. Ensuring clarity of the boundaries eliminated disputes and gave everyone a common understanding of the bounds of the parish.

The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church adapts the tradition to our time and place by focusing on traditional rural concerns for the growing season the first day, commerce and industry the second day, and stewardship of creation the third day. In this way, the custom of offering prayers and blessings on the Rogation Days has been preserved in a meaningful way for our context. But since we aren’t living in old English villages, the traditions of creating awareness of boundaries and blessing the bounds has been lost along the way. Some Episcopal parishes process around a neighborhood, community garden, or large church property or drive out into the country to bless a parishioner’s fields, allowing the tradition of praying these prayers outdoors with a festive procession to continue, but any “bounds” that are walked lack the importance of the boundaries that were both declared and blessed in earlier times.

In this era of accelerated global warming, however, we might begin a new Rogation custom of observing and praying the bounds or limits of our biosphere. Through our lack of awareness of the limits of the amounts of greenhouse gases that can be released into our atmosphere without jeopardizing life on Earth, we have made our bounds smaller. Each year the world fails to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions and acknowledge the laws of chemistry and physics that determine the limits of our biosphere for human life, we leave ourselves less room for solutions that allow us to continue to live and live well. Our inaction is pulling the bounds tighter, leaving us less and less wiggle room.

During the Rogation Days, we might prayerfully study the current state of global warming and pray about the bounds or limits we discover.

Here is a place to start in considering our bounds or limits. It’s too early in May to have all the averages for the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for April, but we do have some sobering information. (Remember that the upper safe limit of atmospheric carbon dioxide to sustain life as we have known it on this planet is 350 ppm.) The highest-ever daily average of CO2 recorded at the Mauna Loa observatory was 409.44 ppm on April 9 of this year. (Second highest was on April 8: 409.39 ppm. The highest daily peak recorded at Mauna Loa for all of 2015 was 404.84 ppm on April 13 of that year.)

Ralph Keeling, the director of the Scripps CO2 Group, commented on the April record-breaking CO2 concentrations:

The larger story remains that Earth hasn’t seen levels this high in at least several million years.  Unless fossil fuel emissions soon drop significantly below current levels, I expect CO2 levels will surpass the 450 mark by around 2035 and the 500 mark around 2065.

 Barring some major breakthrough that allows excess CO2 to be scrubbed from the air, it is currently an impossibility for us to reach the target of 350 ppm that many consider the threshold of dangerous climate change effects.  I expect it will take at least 1,000 years before CO2 drops again below 350 ppm.

NOAA’s State of the Climate report for March 2016 tells a story of record global warmth. Globally, the first three months of 2016 were the warmest January-March period on record. Even more striking is this:

January–March 2016 also marks the highest departure from average for any three-month period on record. This record has been broken for seven consecutive months, since the July–September 2015 period.**

Our bounds are indeed being pulled tighter, and yet the urgency of the situation does not seem to be reflected in our national conversation either in the political sphere or in the religious sphere.
We need to put significant limits on emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases around the world to mitigate global warming. We can acknowledge the need for those limits and pray about them. As temperatures rise we are experiencing all sorts of big changes that place further limits on human activity. Agriculture is impacted, marine ecosystems suffer, and people are forced to leave places that have become uninhabitable because of rising seas, extreme temperatures, or lack of water. These are our new bounds, the limits within which we will try to live and continue to love one another and love God. Prayer and mindful meditation about those limits is one of the great gifts people of faith can offer now.

If we pray about those bounds and mindfully accept them, we may be able to find blessing there as well. A clear public proclamation of these limits coupled with a blessing of all living things inside these new bounds brings Rogation Days out of the realm of quaint Anglican history and into the heart of what Christ calls us to do today.

For stewardship of creation
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit live and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 259, Collects for Rogation Days)    
 
 
– Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett
(You can follow Archdeacon Betsy’s blog here : http://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/)
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**NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Analysis for March 2016, published online April 2016, retrieved on May 3, 2016 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/201603.

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Earth Day Celebrated at St. Andrews, Seward

Part of the presentations in the undercroft included information on natural cleaning supplies

Part of the presentations in the undercroft included information on natural cleaning supplies

St. Andrew’s in Seward celebrated God’s creation with an April 24 worship service that recalled the traditional Rogation Days in England, when the fields were blessed at planting time.  Mother Verneda Kelly blessed a vessel of soil, and parishioners were encouraged to take a scoopful home to their own gardens. And yes, the congregation sang, “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”

 

About 40 people — from the church and the community — attended the Earth Day celebration that afternoon in and around the parish hall. There were locally grown plants for sale, along with “green” products such as homemade laundry soap, and tote bags and hats made of “plarn” (recycled plastic bags).  Some of the most eye-catching of the recycled products were beautifully hand-braided “rag rugs” made by a 96-year-old friend of St. A.  Just think, she has been recycling for nearly 80 years!

 

 

Locally grown plants for sale

Locally grown plants for sale

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Environmental Stewardship: Good Friday – Darkness Coming Over the Land

From noon on, darkness came over the land until three in the afternoon. (Matthew 27:45)

xxEarth hi res medI spent some of the time between noon and three o’clock this afternoon reading and thinking about the darkness that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include in their accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. John’s Gospel account of the Passion, the one we will hear in churches using the Good Friday liturgy from The Book of Common Prayer, doesn’t mention this. But the synoptic Gospels all do, with Matthew and Luke (Luke 23:44-45) adding that the curtain of the temple was torn in two when Jesus was crucified. Matthew adds (Matthew 27:51) that “the earth shook, and the rocks were split.”

Commentaries disagree on the meaning of all of this. Some argue that this was a solar eclipse, while others say it is was a different kind of gloom. As thunderstorms and snowstorms swept across Nebraska on Wednesday, lots of us saw streetlights come in during daylight hours; we know that darkness at noon doesn’t necessarily mean a solar eclipse. Commentators also disagree on whether the Greek should be translated to tell us darkness came over the land or over the entire earth. And then there is discussion about the earthquake mentioned by Matthew: are we to understand that there was the sort of earthquake that today would be recorded by a seismograph, or was this report of a shaking of the earth more a way to describe the meaning of Jesus’s death?

No matter which combination of Gospel accounts and commentaries strike us as the best interpretation of this piece of the story of Jesus’s crucifixion, what stands out is the underlying claim that the crucifixion and death of Jesus was not only experienced in the hearts and emotions of the people who witnessed it, but was also felt or experienced in some way by all of creation. This is an important claim, because if we put any stock at all in the claim of darkness coming over the land (or the earth), we agree that the connection between Jesus and creation is such that the suffering and death of Jesus was echoed in the nonhuman world around him. In this, we affirm that our relationship with Jesus not only can’t be isolated from our relationships with one another, but that our relationship with Jesus can’t be isolated from our relationship with all of creation.

The Catechism in The Book of Common Prayer (p. 848) answers the question “What is sin?” this way:

Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.

Given that, it is difficult to understand why we in the Church don’t pay more attention to what is happening to God’s creation, especially since people who are marginalized by virtue of economic status or race more often than not experience the effects of pollution and climate change first and worst. Environmental degradation is still a side issue for many in the church, and we continue to pray, preach, plan, and act as if we were living in a world unaffected by the great changes happening today.

This Good Friday, this deacon finds it important to share something that got mention in the news this Holy Week but may not make it into the hearts and prayers of many worshipers on Easter Sunday. I share it in the hope that we might be moved to include the changes in the earth’s climates and its effects on us and other living things in our prayers, our conversations, and our moral choices.

A paper published in the European journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics looks at effects of melting ice beyond the effects of sea level rise. Sea level rise itself might happen sooner than earlier predicted because of the sort of feedback loops scientists are studying. The paper claims that beyond the obvious dangers of sea level rise, cold meltwater entering the ocean can lead to changes in the circulation systems such as a possible shutdown of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation. One result of a slowdown or shutdown of this system is an increase in extreme storms.

Here is Dr. James Hansen discussing the main points of the paper:

In the transcript of the video, Dr. Hansen includes this preface:

The main point that I want to make concerns the threat of irreparable harm, which I feel we have not communicated well enough to people who most need to know, the public and policymakers. I’m not sure how we can do that better, but I comment on it at the end of this transcript.

Climate Progress has a piece by Joe Romm that both clarifies the main points of the paper and discusses some of the implications. (See Leading Climate Scientists: ‘We Have A Global Emergency,’ Must Slash CO2 ASAP)

Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake with him while he prayed the night before his crucifixion, but the disciples were unable to keep awake. Can we stay awake and aware in our own time to witness the suffering unfolding around us, or will we sleep unaware through this “threat of irreparable harm”?

— Archdeacon Betsy Blake Bennett

Follow Archdeacon Betsy’s blog at http://nebraskagreensprouts.blogspot.com/

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