Friday, October 08, 2010

Loving The Earth

Holy days provide an annual opportunity to reflect on themes of our core values. The feast of St. Valentine was first established in Feb 14th 496 by Pope Gelasius I. Not much is known about Valentine except that he was a martyr that about 270 chose to die rather than deny Christ. St Valentine's day is associated with love.

In my concordance of the Old and New Testament love has a longer entry than salvation, sin, forgiveness, law or anything else except God, Lord and Jesus Christ. It has different meanings depending on where it is used. To Yahweh love is loyalty and obedience. To love your neighbor is to consider their interests to be equal to your own and to help out when they are in need, even if you don't like them because some day you may be in need. These were both means of achieving the religious function of creating and maintaining tribal cohesion in order to survive. Jesus used the Good Samaritan parable to show that the neighbor includes everybody that you meet even if they are outside the tribe. Now, after poets and theologians have filled libraries, some, notably our own local Dr. Sally McFague are saying that we need to think of other species and even the environment as "neighbors" and to love the world.

Love is more than rules for social cohesion, feelings, or something that fulfills a desire. There are lots of kinds of love and the term is used so often and in so many aspects of our lives that it is possibly the most complicated subject to describe, and at the same time it can be the easiest to experience. Love is a verb. Love involves an exchange of giving and receiving between yourself and an other, and to experience all the different kinds of love requires a community. Love is not a solitary endeavor, it requires a relationship. The beloved is rarely far from your attention and you will do what you can to keep them from perishing.

Small groups of people, working within larger groups, can not only develop their own social capital, but are also able to reach out and engage with the neighborhood, government and world at large. One example appropriate for today involves global warming and the religious community.

Today in the United States the sermon in hundreds of churches will be about global warming. This event was organized by "Interfaith Power and Light", whose objectives are described by president and founder the Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham in the following quote.

"Interfaith Power and Light is mobilizing a religious response to global warming in congregations through the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation.

Global warming is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. The very existence of life — life that religious people are called to protect — is jeopardized by our continued dependency on fossil fuels for energy. Every mainstream religion has a mandate to care for creation. We were given natural resources to sustain us, but we were also given the responsibility to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations.

We focus on tangible results in congregations–putting our faith into action. This work includes educating congregations and helping them buy energy efficient lights and appliances, providing energy audits and implementing the recommendations, encouraging people to buy more fuel efficient vehicles and to drive less, supporting renewable energy development through “greentags,” working on large-scale renewable energy installation projects such as rooftop solar and advocating for sensible energy and global warming policy."

There is more information and resources at It is encouraging to see the growing numbers of green congregations that are educating themselves and organizing to participate in loving the world through engagement of community. I am looking forward to all of the projects that will be happening here at Christ Church Cathedral during the coming year.

Have a happy Valentine's day and remember to send some love to Mother Earth.

Another "Caring for Creation" page in the Christ Church Cathedral's weekly chronicle for Feb 14th.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Community Kitchens

"[The Lord] cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart, oil to make the face shine, and bread to strengthen the human heart." Psalms 104:14-15

It doesn't get much greener than food. Almost every other aspect of our life can be plastic and artificial but to keep our body alive we need food grown from the earth.  Taking care of Earth, caring for creation, and securing our continuing food supply should have a higher priority than the myriad activities that occupy our time, but it often seems to be a maintenance chore that gets in the way of life. Ironic. Time to reflect on where our priorities lie.

Since this is the first Sunday of a new year I'm going to take my theological angle from some creation mythology commented on by Claus Westermann. Judea-Christian attention is focused on the first three chapters of Genesis, with God's creation of the world and our fall through the sin of disobedience, but less focused on the chapter four through eleven side of the story where man is expected to learn how to live in community, and which contains the primeval themes common to all preliterate cultures. The Babylonian creation myth was recited at a New Year's feast to commemorate the renewal of the world, and had the function of preserving the world and giving security to life. It's an existential theme that is still with us.

There is an ancient tradition of moving into the future by reconnecting with our origins. Which brings me to Jesus Christ and how one of the main components of his ministry was the shared meal as a means of finding common ground and building community. The Eucharist in the first few centuries after Christ was a full meal deal with lots of food, wine and conversation. It's how they organized and got things done.

At the end of November I attended a community kitchen workshop put on by the Food Bank. It's a simple concept where a small group of people (6-18) locate a public kitchen in their neighborhood and then get together about once a month to share in the cooking, eating and cleaning up after of a communal meal. There is usually enough made for everybody to take home a meal or two. The total cost is less than ten dollars per person.  My original intention was to gather information for a course on how to "cook frugally" for poor people, but it soon became clear that this would be reinventing the wheel  since there are already so many good resources for this as can be seen at the website.  As the day progressed and I heard more and more stories about the social relation building, and how from this political action emerged, I started thinking of how community kitchens could be used to build communities within our congregation, and that we could also have a lot of fun in the process. So let's talk about this over coffee and cookies.


This was my submission to the church Chronicle for Jan 3rd. It was for the Green Group's page called "Caring For Creation." I was trying for a green message, with a theological slant that would inspire a call for action. Unfortunately nobody wanted to talk about it let alone try and get anything started. I still think that having a food center is one of the best ways of building community groups. Perhaps I will be able to get together a group sometime in the upcoming year.