Meet The Eco-Stewards Interns: Sabrina Jurey

Sabrina Jurey is an Eco-Stewards Intern for Bluestone Camp & Retreat and First Presbyterian Church of Hinton, West Virginia

It has not quite been a month since I first saw the full description of the Eco-Stewards Program internships– and I have now been in West Virginia for a week. Five months ago, I walked across a commencement stage and was given my master’s degrees: one in divinity, one in English. I have not quite figured out what I am going to be doing with these degrees (not in terms of how to hang them on a wall, but rather how I am going to use the knowledge gained in the process of earning them), and so I have spent the time between then and now working in a restaurant and largely trying to ignore the future.

I read through the placement descriptions, and was (I will admit) a little amazed by the thought of an eco-theological ministry; so often ministry is limited to the work done in the local church, to pastoring or preaching or working with the youth of a congregation. This, though, was something different. Working with a Christian camp and a church not just to “save souls” (whatever that may mean), but to work towards saving the earth as well? My first thought was, “Wow. This sounds really interesting–this sounds like something I would love to do.” The second thought was a realization that the application deadline was two days away. (The third thought noticed the start date of the internship.) I figured that if I could get in a good application, and go through the whole process and be accepted to the internship, I would chalk it up to God and head to West Virginia. I hadn’t spent any time off the freeways of West Virginia, but I figured that if God
wanted me there, God would shove me, and do some tugging on the other end to work things out the best God could. And so, here I am, considering myself duly shoved.

The combination of divinity and English master’s programs has given me a passion for justice–for people, for the environment, and for just theology. I have a sort of Superwoman mindset, in which I want to save the world (or whatever small corner of it I can actually influence), and I feel like this is a step in the right direction. I want to find new ways of doing ministry, within and without church walls. I want to experience and be influenced by the ministries of others, and to find where and how we can do the most good in the world.

It excites me that there are others who are interested in the same sorts of issues, and churches (and church-related camps) that are willing to take steps to care for all of creation, and not just humanity. I look forward to helping Bluestone Camp & Retreat and First Presbyterian Church of Hinton research their options in “greening” their respective facilities, and finding viable ways to go forth. Working at Bluestone in particular means working with youth, with the next generation of potential Eco-Stewards, and trying to help shape their perceptions of the world around us and our respective places in it.

Sabrina Jurey, 25, of Auburn, Washington recently received a Master’s of Divinity and a Master’s of English from Gardner-Webb University. This summer she will serve two intern roles, one with Bluestone Camp & Retreat and the other with First Presbyterian Church of Hinton, WV.

Meet the Eco-Stewards Interns: Joanna Rittmann

Eco-Stewards Intern Joanna Rittmann will help with the McGraws/Ravencliff Food Bank Garden

I became interested in the Eco-Stewards Program through an e-mail that was sent through my seminary campus. When I read it, I loved what the e-mail had to say. This is in large part because I am from West Virginia and was born and raised in Braxton County. I feel called back to this place to give back to my community and to learn a little about what mountain top removal can do to communities. I also love to do work that has palpable results. Eco-stewardship puts faith into practice in a very concrete way, and I long for concrete ways in which to make a difference.

Care for one’s environment is care for those with whom you share it. It is care for the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer’s work in and through us and all of creation. We all need each other to survive. A Bible verse comes to mind, Romans 8:22: “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” The text seems to be referring to the effects of the fall. I would take it a bit farther in my own interpretation and say that it is also about how humans can and often do degrade our world and fellow creatures.

As an Eco-Stewards Intern, I hope to learn how to lessen the groan caused by the negative behaviors of the human race and how to live more simply. I also wish to learn more about gardening, as helping to begin a community garden will be one of my primary roles of my work with the McGraws/Ravencliff community. I can’t wait to get started.

Joanna Rittmann, 24, is pursuing a Master’s of Divinity degree at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. This summer, she will work as an Eco-Steward Intern on the McGraws/Ravencliff Foodbank Garden project, which seeks to provide fresh produce in season and engage community volunteers in helping their neighbors.

Meet the Eco-Stewards Interns: Bolton Kirchner

Eco-Stewards Intern Bolton Kirchner will work with the West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps

This introspective quote was on a card given to me recently:

“Be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars… In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” – Max Ehrmann, from Desiderata

Just reading it brings a sincere calmness; it reminds me of The Creation Story.  God made Adam and Eve last, and extremely special, yet it does not mean we are any different in value than the plants and animals around us.  We have responsibility, yet what we are tending has great importance.  This quote also reminds me, that we must nurture ourselves.  We are a part of this universe and have a large part to play.  To harness our best, we must take a breath.

As social beings, humans crave connections, and it seems sustainability thrives when people feel connected to their surroundings.  I look forward to exploring these connections and more during my time as an Eco-Stewards Intern in West Virginia this summer.  It seems, the more I acknowledge these connections with people and the environment around me, the bonds seem to grow.  It can seem chaotic, yet the intensity and fullness of life makes it that much greater.

I enjoy working with my hands, being apart from the ordinary, and feeling inspired. These three traits and more led me to the Eco-Stewards Program and to my summer internship with The West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps (WVMAW) and Montgomery Presbyterian Church.  This summer is going to be an adventure of connections.  I was led to this program through a connection with and a helpful email from a minister at my home church, the Rev. Karen Akin of Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, AK.  The deep connections between sustainability and faith also inspired me to join this program. In addition, the connections to those I am beginning to know in West Virginia have created a clear image of the greatness of this experience.

I look forward to great adventures this summer.  Creating connections with all those around me, by learning to harness great things to do great things for others. I especially look forward to the connections the volunteers and I will make with materials, people and the environment around us through building relationships and structures at WVMAW.

Bolton Kirchner, 21, is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He is majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Faith and Work. Kirchner will intern this summer with Montgomery Presbyterian Church and West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps, a Christian ministry supported in part by the Presbyterian Church (USA) that offers the opportunity for discipleship by partnering with those in need whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters or by the disaster of poverty in areas of West Virginia.

Meet the Eco-Stewards Interns: Trevar Simmons

Eco-Stewards Intern Trevar Simmons, 26, has accepted a summer internship with Fayetteville Presbyterian Church in West Virginia.

I was walking through the seminary halls the other day when an internship flyer caught my eye. I had missed the deadline, but promptly decided a Google search was in order to make some summer plans. Among other things, I typed in “paid summer internship social justice” and eventually, the “Eco-Stewards Program” caught my eye.

My eyes have looked for the ever-popular “eco” prefix ever since I started graduate school four years ago. My first English class was on literary theory, which was a pivotal class in my life. Literary theory tuned my ears to listen for the silenced voices of the oppressed and to fight against their oppression with my voice. While beginning to appreciate social justice intellectually at divinity school, my faith began to flourish in a way it never had. After what had been much too long, I finally learned how much the Bible cares for social justice.

And in my mind, social justice is eco-justice, so the Eco-Stewards Program filled all the requirements of my Google search. As I read more about the program, I fell in love: community gardening, traveling, writing, taking pictures, the outdoors, people, ecological stewardship and faith. I really look forward to gardening, sharing and selling the fruits of the soil; visiting different churches in the Presbytery and learning how they are “greening” their faith; and finally, bringing this knowledge not only to those who will read my reports, but also to my current and future faith communities, be it back in Maine where I grew up, in South Florida where I attended college, in North Carolina where I am doing Master’s work, or wherever I might travel with the Spirit in the future.

Trevar Simmons is pursuing a Master of Divinity and Master of Arts/English at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. This summer he will serve as an Eco-Stewards intern for Fayetteville Presbyterian Church in West Virginia, ministering and doing outreach to the outdoors community through eco-stewardship and community-building projects, including a community garden and a farmer’s market. Simmons will also serve as the “roving reporter” for the Presbytery of West Virginia’s Stewardship of Creation Ministry team, visiting and reporting on faith-based organizations throughout West Virginia that are engaged in projects to preserve, protect and restore the Earth’s resources.