Meet Our Richmond Trip Leaders!

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.

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Seattle Deadline Extended-April 13

Dear Eco-Stewards Community,

We’re happy to share that we’ve received some wonderful applicants for our upcoming Seattle Eco-Stewards Program in June!

We can admit a few more candidates, so please keep spreading the word to young adult leaders in your midst! We’ve extended our application deadline to April 13.

Our focus this year will be on Creativity and Power: Theological Reflection and Action on Climate Change. Please be in touch with Rev. Rob Mark (revrobmark@gmail.com) with any questions.Here is a link to the 2016 application.

Yours,

The Eco-Stewards Leadership Team

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Eco-Stewards Seattle: Apply Now!

The April 1st deadline for Eco-Stewards Seattle is quickly approaching and we need your help recruiting some young adult leaders (ages 20-30) to participate in this amazing program that will focus on creativity, climate change and theological reflection on Pope Francis’ encyclical on caring for the environment. Applications are due April 1 and some financial aid is available to help with travel expenses. Better yet, help us by sponsoring a young adult to attend the program! Download the the 2016 application. Email revrobmark@gmail.com with any questions.

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Eco-Stewards Program Heads to Seattle in 2016

Dear Eco-Stewards Community,

Help us spread the word about our upcoming 2016 program in Seattle.  We have an awesome new poster that you can download here. Read on to learn more about our exciting program that connects Pope Francis,  climate change and the power of organizing.

In peace,

The Eco-Stewards Leadership Team

Eco-Stewards 2016: Seattle, Washington: June 13-18, 2016 “Creativity and Power: Theological Reflection and Action on Climate Change”

Join us in the beautiful Pacific Northwest as we gather and delve into the climate justice movement through the lens of faith. This unique part of our country stands at the current nexus of energy debates and hopes for a more sustainable tomorrow—battling powers of coal, oil and gas with the new alternative powers of wind, sun and water. We will dive into these issues to contemplate our call to address climate change as people of faith newly inspired by Pope Francis’ clarion invitation to care for Our Common Home. We will spend this placed-based learning week listening to local faith-based communities who are responding to the challenges of energy in creative, inspiring and powerful ways. A good portion of our time together will also focus on daily theologically reflection of the Pope’s encyclical and sharing our own Eco-Faith Journeys with one another. Applications are forthcoming. For more info, email revrobmark@gmail.com

Poco a Poco: In Cuba with Pope Francis

By Vickie Machado, Eco-Steward Leadership Team

Last weekend Vickie Machado took part in the Archdiocese of Miami’s Young Adult Papal Visit to Cuba. Below are some of her reflections on Cuba and her pilgrimage to see Pope Francis.

We arrived Saturday late morning into La Habana, eager to take part in Pope Francis’ momentous journey. None of the young adults in my group had been to Cuba. For me, this was not only my first time to this island, but it was also my first real experience outside the United States. Though less than an hour’s plane ride from Miami, Cuba seemed new and untainted. All eyes were on this small country, a place devoid of advertisements, saturated with infrastructure from the 1950s, and crawling with news cameras expectantly awaiting the Pope’s arrival. Like the other pilgrims, I was greatly looking forward to seeing Pope Francis and hearing the message he carried with him.

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After checking into our “vintage” hotel, we hit the streets of Vieja Habana, exploring plazas, snapping photos, grabbing lunch at a nearby paladar and purchasing our allotment of Cuban cigars. The shock set in when we drove to Calle 30 y 31 in Miramar to wait for the Pope’s motorcade. The media was everywhere. Everyone wanted to take part in this historic moment. NBC National followed our group, taking photos, filming video and conducting interviews as we waited for a glimpse of the Holy Father. As Pope Francis rode by— a bit faster than expected—the hype increased. The crowd was flooded with energy and the media was quick to start their questioning. Michael Williams of NBC News asked me if this was a life changing experience. With hardly a minute to reflect, I responded that it was definitely life enhancing. It was a less than ideal answer and didn’t make the news. I thought about this question more at dinner and into the night. Do I consider the few seconds it took for the Pope’s caravan to drive by, a life changing moment?

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I continued to ask this question as I listened to his Mass on Sunday morning in the Plaza de la Revolución packed with thousands of Cubans and other pilgrims. A beautiful Cuban choir led up to his Mass. Gaining bits and pieces, the leader of my group, Rosemarie, translated his sermon about the importance of service. Still, I wondered if this was a life-changing experience.

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Vickie Machado, an Eco-Steward alum and leadership team member, awaiting Pope Francis. Machado traveled to Cuba with a young adult program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Miami.

It was the young adult gathering Sunday evening where the magnitude and importance of Pope Francis’ presence and my own journey set in. After distributing rosaries, bracelets and t-shirts, my group found a shady spot under a tree to await the Pope’s arrival. We had plenty of time— arriving at 2:30 pm, four hours before Pope Francis was scheduled to address the crowd. During this time, I started talking with a couple young people, a 26-year-old former bartender and a 20-year-old student studying information technology. They practiced their English, which was quite good, while I worked on my Spanish. I learned a great deal about life in Cuba: jobs, wages, rations, past times, music, and general understandings. Although Cubans make roughly a dollar a day, goods such as cars, clothing, cell phones and travel are still incredibly expensive: $30-92 for shoes; $25,000-250,000 for a car; $200 for a passport. More than once I was told the math used in the States does not apply to Cuba, since one US dollar converts to one CUC or 25 CUPs  (used for purchasing rationed food).

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Furthermore, it blew my mind to hear the Internet was only recently introduced (my new friend said in January 2015!). Still people must go to WiFi (pronounced “weefee”) spots and pay $2 per hour to gain web access. While change may seem slow to me, it is rapidly increasing and it seems to be commonly felt among many young Cubans. Pope Francis’ visit further extended this feeling as he has repeatedly voiced his stance concerning the U.S-Cuban embargo.

Talking with these young adults added tremendous depth to my pilgrimage. My journey meant so much more to see the passion in their eyes and understand the hope in their hearts. There was so much joy, love, and kindness in their stories, reflecting the message presented by Pope Francis.

At 6:40 pm, the Pope spoke about hope to the young adult crowd of 5,000. Hope is hard work, but it is worth working for. It is the path of life and deeply within our faith. Meeting my new friends enlivened the Pope’s message. Though this was simply a moment—drawing from Pope Francis—it is memory and discernment, which makes the path of hope that we must follow.

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When practicing my Spanish, my new friends told me poco a poco, little by little. Often times we forget that change is a process. We don’t realize a life changing moment when we are in it. Sometimes it takes some reflection and understanding to connect the dots.

Poco a poco my journey began to make sense and hold a deeper meaning. Yes, seeing the Holy Father was an incredible sight, but it was the context—the young Cubans I met, gaining an understanding of their livelihoods, and connecting it to the Pope’s message and that of my own Christian faith—that carried the most meaning for me.

Like my pilgrimage, life is a journey. It is what we take from these moments that offer the impact. It is exciting to think how people will take this experience and enact it in their own lives, community, and world. The Pope is reiterating the Gospel—Love God and love others. Love is an action. Now, more than ever, faith in action is needed. It’s coming poco a poco.

Reflecting on Gainesville: 360 Degrees of Pig Frogs

by Jake Lawlor, 2014 Gainesville Eco-Steward

jakeIt’s been close to a year now since I headed down to Gainesville, FL with the rest of the Eco-Stewards crew, but I’ve found myself thinking back to it more and more these days as the 2015 visioning trip is in the works. I joined Eco-Stewards because of a recommendation from my boss at the time at John Knox Ranch, a Central Texas summer camp where I was filling a brand new position as Environmental Stewardship Director for the summer (great place – check it out if you’re ever in the area).

The Eco-Stewards group was comprised of an amalgamation of people from various backgrounds united in the common interest of Presbyterian Earth Stewardship. This offered a pretty unique opportunity for us all to meet and share ideas with people with similar interests, but different areas of expertise. Over the week, we got to experience some pretty incredible things, ranging from working on some organic farms to speaking with community members who were active in food systems sustainability, to learning about Florida hydrogeological systems with the Florida Springs Institute.

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We stayed in a  local church (located at the corner of 22nd and 22nd – hilarious Gainesville design flaw in my opinion) full of nicely broken-in couches and lots of character. We helped cook and serve meals at the Gainesville Catholic Worker House, spent some time taking in the smells of freshly-grown sunflowers and strawberries at local farms, and enjoyed a week in the Florida sun. Not to mention the group’s close encounters with the alligators, giant tree snakes, and sea cows of the Florida swamplands, all the time serenaded by the omnipresent songs (snorts, really) of the Florida Pig Frog.

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The week not only introduced me to some new ways of thinking about local food systems, but also familiarized me with the whole world of Presbyterian Environmental Ministries. As a unofficial-Presbyterian who had been working at a Presbyterian summer camp for a few years, I wasn’t fully aware that things like the Eco-Stewards Program, Young Adult Volunteers, or Presbyterians for Earth Care even existed. This great group of people at Eco-Stewards opened a whole bunch of new doors for me to consider in the next few years and were a pleasure to share time and space with.

In summary, this program both introduced me to loads of new people, experiences, and opportunities, and also helped me more fully conceptualize the true connection of food and faith. Furthermore, the broader connection of people and place. Connections like these will become increasingly important in coming years considering obstacles like urbanization, water shortages, and climate change. This one week spent analyzing food systems in Northern Florida won’t save it all, but it’s certainly a place to start.

Glimpses of Creative Resistance

by Rev. Rob Mark

(Excerpted from Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice)

Some­times, upon wak­ing, the weight of a wounded planet is pal­pa­ble. We are beset by extreme weather events that con­tinue to raise high the warn­ing flags of the new nor­mal that is cli­mate chaos—and by a shame­fully decreased polit­i­cal will to be the least bit prophetic (or at least respon­sive). It is enough to stymie even the most hope­ful per­son who claims faith in the Author of Hope. And often, even the best efforts from for­ward think­ing churches, who reg­u­larly weave in all-things eco, don’t seem to be enough to curb the tides of depressed inactivity.

We are over­whelmed into inertia.

This is why I wear an Eco-Stewards bracelet year-round.This sim­ple shock cord, given to each par­tic­i­pant in the pro­gram, reminds me there are peo­ple engaged in moments (if not move­ments) of cre­ative resis­tance. It reminds me that the anti­dote to this iner­tia is reg­u­lar expo­sure to sto­ries of cre­ative, alter­na­tive, grace-laced com­mu­nity resis­tance to the broadly accepted myth of con­sump­tion par­adise and fos­sil fuel inevitabil­ity. These sto­ries point to sim­ple moments of local­ized change we can believe in—and begin to embody. Shar­ing such sto­ries should become a val­ued spir­i­tual discipline.

Since its hum­ble yet ener­gized incep­tion in 2006, the Eco-Stewards Pro­gram has been striv­ing to cre­ate such forums for a grow­ing com­mu­nity of shock-chord bracelet-ed souls. And it remains a true anti­dote against cyn­i­cal stag­na­tion for me: a fluid, con­structed the­ol­ogy of grace that encour­ages engagement.

Here are the basics: the Eco-Stewards Pro­gram is a Chris­t­ian com­mu­nity respond­ing to God’s call through applied eco-stewardship. It seeks to edu­cate, train, and inspire young adults (ages 20–30) in the ways of eco-stewardship within the wider con­text of Chris­t­ian faith. The pro­gram shares roots in and draws par­tial sup­port from the Pres­by­ter­ian Church (U.S.A.) Envi­ron­men­tal Min­istries, Pres­by­te­ri­ans for Earth Care, and the Pres­by­ter­ian Camp and Con­fer­ence Asso­ci­a­tion (PCCCA). The over­ar­ch­ing goal of this grass-roots ini­tia­tive is to help young adults con­nect and share their pas­sions for faith and envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship through par­tic­i­pa­tion in place-based learn­ing pro­grams that explore how faith com­mu­ni­ties are respond­ing to chal­lenges from cli­mate change to moun­tain­top coal removal. Dur­ing these week-long pro­grams, eco-stewards spend time reflect­ing upon and shar­ing per­sonal eco-faith jour­neys, tak­ing part in a hands on eco-project, explor­ing the out­doors, play­ing music, and expe­ri­enc­ing wor­ship together. Paid sum­mer intern­ships are also offered. Com­post­ing toi­lets and used tire earth-ships have been built; urban gar­dens have been vis­ited; and numer­ous con­ver­sa­tions with eco-faith-practitioners have been enjoyed…

Click here to read more about why Rev. Rob Mark is involved in The Eco-Stewards Program.

Click here to apply for our 2013 Eco-Stewards Portland, Oregon Program: June 1-8, 2013

Eco-Stewards bracelet power!
Eco-Stewards bracelet power!