Greetings Eco-Stewards Community,
We are still accepting applications from young adults (age 20-30) for Eco-Stewards Richmond: Water is Life– Journeying Toward Justice on the James River. Please continue to spread the word! Our second application deadline is April 15, and we are looking for more young adults to enjoy this time of community building, vocational discernment, place-based learning, eco-faith discovery, spiritual reflection and outdoor recreation! We’ve lined up an excellent team to lead this exciting adventure from June 5-10, 2017. Read their bios below.
Meet the Eco-Stewards Richmond Program Leaders
Rev. Rob Mark serves as a Presbyterian pastor at Church of the Covenant in downtown Boston, and has coordinated the Eco-Stewards Program since its inception in 2006, leading programs in California, New Jersey, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Florida and Washington. In November 2016, he responded to a call from indigenous leaders to join 500 clergy from around the country in a historic witness of solidarity at Standing Rock. Rob is passionate about grassroots programs like the Eco-Stewards Program that affect lasting change. He also likes coffee, ultimate Frisbee, stringed instruments and the joy of stewarding his 3-year-old son Rowen who is named after a Scottish tree.
Kathleen Murphy is from the great city of Richmond, Virginia where she works for the Center for Healthy Communities at Virginia Poverty Law Center. She currently attends Second Presbyterian Church and has become active with their young adult group. When she’s not working she loves to cook, garden, spend time outside, and go to various festivals and events around Richmond. She is an alum of the Eco-Stewards Seattle Program and the Boston Food Justice YAV Program.
Alex Haney is a graduate of James Madison University and has taught all kinds of nature-related things at camps in Virginia, Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Tennessee. He loves being able to call the Appalachian region his home for its rich culture and history. He currently works as a solar panel installer with a construction company in Central Virginia and describes himself a rookie guitar player who gets excited about wild edible and medicinal plants. He is an alum of the Eco-Stewards Seattle Program and the Boston Food Justice YAV Program.
Colleen Earp is serves the Presbytery of The James as the Director of Youth, Environment, and Service Ministries at Camp Hanover, and is an M.Div. student at Union Presbyterian Seminary. She is a geographer with interests in natural resource conservation and education. Colleen lives in Richmond, VA with her spouse and two cats, but will always love her home state, New Jersey, more than anyone else in the world possibly could. She is an alum of Eco-Stewards Gainesville and of the YAV Program in New Orleans.
Vickie Machado is a third generation South Floridian. While pursuing her masters, she lived and worked at the Gainesville Catholic Worker house and later helped to host the EcoStewards Gainesville trip. Upon graduation, she worked as a an environmental organizer, pushing for a ban on fracking. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Florida, studying Religion & Nature. Vickie is still passionate about water issues and loves being in the ocean. She is an alum of the Eco-Stewards Montana, Boston/Vermont and Portland programs and served as a program leader for Eco-Steward Seattle.
Becky W. Evans is a New England Presbyterian with a passion for storytelling. She’s worked as an environmental reporter for The Standard-Times of New Bedford, Mass., a communications writing professor at Boston University, and an ESL instructor for adult immigrants at the Community Learning Center in Cambridge. Currently, she serves as a food justice educator for the Boston Food Justice Young Adult Volunteer Program. She loves her role as storytelling mentor and communications coordinator for The Eco-Stewards Program.
Dear Eco-Stewards Community,
We need your help recruiting young adult leaders to explore the James River Watershed with us this June 5-10 for our 2017 Eco-Stewards Richmond, Virginia Program. Virginia residents and Eco-Stewards alums Kathleen Murphy, Alex Haney and Colleen Earp have helped our planning team put together an amazing program around the theme of “Water is Life: Journeying Toward Justice on the James River.” The deadline for our second round of applications is May 1, 2017.
How can you help? Please make a direct invitation to a young adult (age 20-30) who cares about the intersection of faith and the environment. Or share the information with pastors, professors, teachers, camp directors, mentors and others you know who work with young adults. Also, download and print our beautiful promotional poster here and post it on church, camp, college and coffee shop bulletin boards as well as your social media communities.
What impact can our week-long, place-based Eco-Stewards Programs have on young adult lives? A lot! Find out by reading these Eco-Stewards alumni testimonies published recently in Presbyterians for Earth Care’s February EARTH newsletter:
by Vickie Machado, Eco-Steward Alum & Leader
I had not planned on attending the Women’s March on Washington. I wasn’t even sure about attending one of the sister marches in Orlando or Tallahassee. My plate was full of books to read and papers to write, but at the last minute, I thought why not? Feminism had been on my mind a lot, with my studies centered on gender issues and ecofeminism, and I had introduced late 19th-century feminist literature to my writing students. This was an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the justice issues of today as well as those of the past.
The Friday before the buses were set to leave for D.C., I emailed an organizer to see if there was space for one more person on the 36-hour, round-trip tour. There was. And by Tuesday, I knew the details for my bus and the reality of the situation began to sink in.
Why did I march? I marched because I could. I had the opportunity, energy, and time to get on a bus, drive 12 hours, march, and ride 12 hours home. When opportunities allowing for faithful solidarity arise, you do your best to take them. On the long ride back, I uncovered five lessons the Women’s March on Washington taught me:
- Strength does not equate aggressiveness, anger or force. I’m a fairly small person and in that whole group, of what some estimate to be up to a million people, not once did I get stepped on or pushed around. Not once did someone mindlessly bump into me or even step on my toe. There is a way to be strong—to march with power and drive— without belittling those around you. There is a way to assert your power and take a stand without hurting others in the process. Our world does not portray this. It says you can’t share and win. But what if you can? What if you can powerfully look after those around you?
- Look after your neighbor. During the middle of the March a woman passed out and within seconds there were women offering water, snacks, fruit and comfort. It’s those who were looking after her as a neighbor who seemed to offer the most help. I saw yet another example when bathrooms were low. Women built a shield of coats in order to shade those who needed to relieve themselves in a corner by a building. These small acts of kindness showed a sense of care. The various actions I witnessed displayed how the participants looked after each other.
- Stick with a buddy. I met Lori, a new mother, on the bus ride to DC. We were both riding solo and pretty late on deciding to go. After our bus accidentally forgot to call each of our names in roll call, we decided we needed to implement the buddy system. (Someone was going to know my name and if I got left behind!) We stuck together throughout the entire March. In crowds, we held hands and always had an eye out for one another. At one point, I turned around and saw she was gone. I’m sure my face instantly turned to shear panic. A woman nearby waved vigorously at me, while pointing to the right. The panic turned to gratefulness as I spotted Lori. “Thank God! She’s my buddy! I can’t lose her!”
- Be observant. This march worked so well because it was full of observant, detailed-oriented people. We knew who was with whom. Without instruction, everyone knew their role to play. Groups chained together to create a steady flow of movement through streets gridlocked with people. Patience was implemented as we took our turns while waiting for the moment to march. Grace was given.
- We make history every day with our decisions. When I worked as an organizer I learned about the relationship between power, structure and society. I learned how people are intentional about their actions and that social movements are created and made by hard working people. Little did I know a week prior to boarding the bus that I would be in the midst of historical change. However, in actuality, every day we choose whether or not to be a part of history through the actions we take, the people we engage with and the world we choose to create. We choose whether or not to get on the bus.
This particular event was unlike any I have ever attended, far outweighing the local marches and rallies I have been involved with through attendance, energy, and magnitude. However, most of all this experience showed me that there is room for peaceful resistance. It showed me we still have a long way to go, but collectively we must mindfully care for our neighbors on a daily basis and stand strong in our quest for a more just society.
Vickie Machado was one of many Eco-Stewards alumni and leaders participating in Saturday’s women’s marches across the globe. Here’s a “reprint” of some Facebook posts from the wider Eco-Stewards community.
In Boston, Rev. Rob Mark and Becky Evans (Eco-Stewards Program Leaders) attended a centering prayer vigil before participating in the Boston Women’s March. Becky wrote: Inspiring day with Boston’s peaceful marchers. Amazing to hear from Elizabeth Warren and to march alongside both my dear friends and my mom’s dear friends from CT! “Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant”- MLK, Jr. #bostonstrongandkind
In Santa Cruz, Cali. Heather Lukacs (Eco-Stewards Program Leader) marched for these reasons: To not feel alone. To connect with friends and strangers in my Santa Cruz community. To stand in solidarity with friends from WV and elsewhere traveling to DC to march. To be united across distance with friends in DC, Boston, Portland, Idaho, and so many more places who are marching. To reinforce what I work for everyday – for human rights, for a world and country where all people have human rights – safety, education, clean water and air, and so very much more – Women’s March Santa Cruz County, Women’s March on Washington, Boston Women’s March for America Women’s March on Idaho, and so many more #humanrighttowater #womensrightsarehumanrights #manymorereasons
In Indianapolis, Amber Porter (Eco-Stewards West Virginia) reflected on her day: I’ve always had negative thoughts about the word “protest” and even “rally” especially if it was politically motivated. But today I felt called to attend the Indy Women’s Rally and it was an amazing (and peaceful!) experience. My favorite speaker was a female Episcopal priest who spoke of God’s incredible love for ALL humans, regardless of their race or sins or gender or sexual orientation. It was such a good reminder!! I’m also thankful that I have a husband who is supportive of women in general and always supportive of me. I also have amazing friends who are open-minded and live their lives with Christ-like love! Feeling grateful and hopeful in our future knowing there are so many people who care. Now to determine what’s next!
Emily Kinsel (Eco-Stewards Boston/Vermont) joined the 5,000 strong marchers in Copenhagen, Denmark. Kelsey Stone (Eco-Stewards Seattle) marched in Jackson, Miss, while Rev. Liz Leavitt (Eco-Stewards Program Leader) joined the Women’s March Oahu in Honolulu, HI. Kathleen Murphy (Eco-Stewards Seattle), Colleen Earp (Eco-Stewards Gainesville), and Mary Schmidt (Eco-Stewards Boston/Vermont) made history marching on Washington. And I’m sure there were others not listed here. Feel free to add your story in a comment to this post!
And don’t forget to spread the word to young adult leaders about our Eco-Stewards “march” on Richmond, VA, June 5-10 when we “Journey toward Justice Along the James River”— help us recruit the next generation of Eco-Stewards!
Seattle EcoSteward Caroline Hament recently won first place for her essay “The Trees Will Probably Clap Their Hands At This,” a reflection on environmentalism, urban forestry, and faith. Her full essay was published in the September issue of Reconsiderations. Below is an excerpt.
It became pretty obvious that we were supposed to protect and restore the natural world when God once called it good and handed it over to the humans in the Genesis story. Plus, of course, our entire livelihood depends on the clean water, oxygen, and many other resources it provides. Still, people are suffering. People dying is worse than trees dying. So for a while, I felt really guilty about caring so much about trees when I knew people were more important. This reality of human suffering was smudging the perfect Bob Ross painting of my future.
Still, Jesus’s work on earth reflected redemption at every turn. A blind man sees, tables are turned, and bread is broken. It’s all finished off with the story of death and resurrection. There’s death and life; brokenness and healing. It’s similar to language used for ecosystems—degradation and restoration; succession and transition. As N.T. Wright puts it, “The created order, which God has begun to redeem in the resurrection of Jesus, is a world in which heaven and earth are designed not to be separated but to come together. In that coming together, the ‘very good’ that God spoke over creation at the beginning will be enhanced, not abolished.”
To read her full essay check out: http://christianstudycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Reconsiderations-Vol-16-No-2-Sept2016.pdf
And did you hear Eco-Stewards is going to Richmond, Virginia June 5-10, 2017? Join us for Water is Life: Journeying toward Justice on the James River or spread the word to a young adult leader in your midst! More info here.
Good morning! We’re excited to unveil our June 2017 program in Richmond, VA for young adults (age 20-30) who want to connect faith and the environment during a week of place-based learning. Our theme is Water is Life: Journeying Toward Justice on the James River. Please help us spread the word to young adult leaders in your midst! You can download our awesome promotional poster here. and share it with young adults on social media and on bulletin boards! And now here’s more about what’s planned for Richmond…
To apply, please download the 2017 application here. (Rolling admissions; Apply early so you can plan your summer.)
Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Alex Haney, Eco-Stewards Seattle ’16 Alum
On the windy, rocky, sunny shore of the Salish Sea, we listen as Lummi Nation artist and activist Jewell James shares a very honest history of the Lummi land, waters and people, and their many conflicts with the US government. Then he tells us of a vision or dream. As he speaks, I look across the water to the resort homes recently built on ancient islands that contain Lummi ancestral artifacts used before the glaciers melted. In the dream, he explains, the ancestors’ spirits came across the waters from this traditional tribal territory with the spirits of the children yet to be born. The spirits encouraged the Lummi to continue the stand against the destructive powers of energy markets, profits, and business. The spirits told the Lummi a message, which I am paraphrasing, “Keep fighting for the land; tell them the land is sacred; they will listen; and if they do not, we will change their hearts.”
The Lummi are connected to this land and to the ancestors who once lived there and who were buried there– buried on land that has since been torn up for business development. Jewell and others I met in Seattle re-framed my understanding of what is best described from this line of our Seattle theme song, Rabbi Shoshana’s The Tide Is Rising: “the land is holy and so are we.”
Six months ago, I was wonderfully privileged to join the Eco Stewards Seattle Program. Gifted with just a week among fellow young, ambitious, passionate Eco-Stewards I gained more than enough zeal and love of God, God’s people, and God’s natural world to empower my faith for years to come. It was worth the long trip for simply the fellowship and study of Pope Francis’ encyclical Ladauto Si. In addition to spending time with Josh, Ashley, Kathleen, Vickie, Kelsey, Melissa, Caroline, Liz, Becky, Rowen, Rob and Dawn, we spent time with several Seattle-based environmental activist groups, including the Sightline Institute and the Backbone Campaign, who are fighting fossil fuel extraction, transport and export activities in the Pacific Northwest. (It’s a lot to summarize, but here’s a teaser: some “kayaktivists” may have successfully taken on an oil rig in their kayaks…). During our trip to the Lummi Nation, we learned about the tribe’s successful defeat of a proposed coal export terminal that would have violated the tribe’s treaty fishing rights.
After the typical faith gathering, you leave realizing that if we just put first things first, such as God, prayer, love, our common home, the home of our future generations, etc., we will indeed be more holy and happy than if we seek those idols like money and a lifestyle of consumption. Since returning from Seattle to my work as a solar panel installer in Virginia, however, I feel a challenging conflict of being bound to fossil fuels and money even while working in the renewable energy industry. I’ve noticed that when money is involved, it can easily change from “the land is holy” to “the land is materially valuable.”
I drive solar panels and heavy racks in a giant, gas-guzzling Ford F-250. I commute in my older, gas-burning car rather than waking earlier to ride the bus or bike. My computer design programs run on electricity (which is still derived from 66% coal and natural gas in the US). Even working in the solar business, I am supporting the market for coal trains and pipelines. I also can’t avoid that demon dollar. In my company, all of us need money for one reason or another: to pay off debt, to pay for kids’ food and shoes, the car, the house, health insurance. Some of us have a passion for renewable energy ,but if you look at everybody, it’s the money that brings us to work each day. While making bids for solar jobs, I need to consider the time, equipment, fuel, labor and materials, which all cost money. Even the customers care about the payback period and return on investment. For better or worse in some cases, money is driving better environmental stewardship practices. That same love of money that keeps my solar company afloat is the love of money that drives the coal export terminal construction, the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Deep Water Horizon, the mountain top removal…. We are but victims of ourselves.
Yet, the Lummi and the Eco-Stewards Program challenge me to break the mold. To not let money lead the way. To seek out faith, and something out there beyond ourselves, beyond our money, likely beyond our convenience and comfort. There is a far better way. “But strive for the greater gifts, And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:1)
We invite you to read this inspiring letter written by Jewell James and Kurt Russo as a thank you to the Seattle Eco-Stewards for visiting the Lummi Nation at a “historical moment” this summer: Lummi Nation Thank You Letter
Meet the author, Alex Haney (Eco-Stewards ’16 Seattle Alum):
I am a novice guitar player and work as a solar panel installer with a construction company in western Virginia. I get excited about wild edible and medicinal plants. “O Brother Where art Thou” and “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” are two of my favorite movies. I am a JMU graduate who has taught all kinds of nature-y things at camps in Virginia, Massachusetts, Arkansas, and Tennessee. I love being able to call the Appalachian region my home for its rich culture and history. I’ve always loved the natural world, and God, and only recently in the last several years have I begun to see that those both actually do fit together well. I am excited to be part of the Eco-Stewards Program. I am helping to plan our 2017 Eco-Stewards trip to Richmond, Virginia. Stay tuned for more details about this exciting program!