Eco-Stewards Explore Climate Activism

The June 2012 Eco-Stewards trip brought us to Boston and Vermont to focus on climate change and Christian activism. Our opening service at Church of the Covenant in Boston was followed by an engaging dialogue with panelists Dr. Willis Jenkins, an environmental ethicist at Yale Divinity School, and Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, president of the Massachusetts Conference UCC. Later that afternoon, we toured the former Occupy Boston site in Dewey Square with Protest Chaplain Sarah King, a Harvard Divinity School student who recounted her experience with the movement. We finished our full day with delicious food and conversation served up by the Cambridge Cooperative Club, an intentional community dedicated to ecological sustainability, peace and justice.

Dr. Willis Jenkins of Yale Divinity School speaks during a Climate Change & Christian Activism Forum at Church of the Covenant in Boston.

We awoke early to prepare and serve breakfast to homeless women at the Women’s Lunch Place, a nonprofit organization housed in the basement of Church of the Covenant. The rain kept us inside for a talk by BU biologist Caroline Polgar, who discussed her research, which uses Henry David Thoreau’s journals to track how climate change is contributing to earlier leaf-out dates in the trees around Walden Pond. Her talk was followed by a soggy visit to Walden, where we participated in a silent, meditative walk before beginning our road trip to Vermont.

Our soggy hike through the woods of Walden Pond.

We arrived at the Bishop Booth Retreat Center in Burlington in time for dinner with UVM field naturalist Ryan Morra, who introduced us to the local ecology of the Lake Champlain area, including the famous thrust fault at Rock Point. In the morning, we hiked up to the peak of Buck Mountain to survey the agricultural landscape of the Champlain Valley. We ate an entirely locally-sourced lunch and then descended the mountain in time for a Skype call with 350.org founder Bill McKibben, a Christian environmentalist working at the forefront of climate change activism. The day ended with a nourishing dinner with our Middlebury hosts– Dave, Claire, Andrea, Avery, Innis & Rupert. We sang songs around the campfire before retiring to our tents.

Vermont-made cheese and kale sandwiches…mmm!

The next day found us working on a service project in Waitsfield, a town on the Mad River that experienced devastating flooding during Hurricane Katrina. With shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows, we spent the day leveling the yard and creating  natural drainage for the reconstructed home of a local family. Our last day in Burlington was celebrated with a zero-carbon day as we traveled by foot and bike around the shores of Lake Champlain, down city streets and through the farms of the Intervale. Collectively, we shared our eco-faith journeys, recounting moments in our lives when issues of faith, justice and environment shaped our identity.

Biking through the Burlington Intervale.

Upon returning to Boston, we met with John Bach, Quaker peace activist and Harvard Chaplain, who shared his personal experience around non-violent activism for peace and justice. That night we returned to Church of the Covenant for a closing service, where we reflected upon on our week and shared communion, realizing once again the interconnection of our lives and the world around us.

Our closing service, from processing the week on Post-its to bracelet-making to communion.
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