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!
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Eco-Stewards to Visit Portland, OR

Greetings to all! We are excited to announce specific plans for our June 2013 Eco-Stewards Program in Portland, Oregon: Connectional Urban Living as Creative Response. We are eager to recruit a new crop of Eco-Stewards (Ages 20-30), so please help us spread the word by sharing the link to this blogpost with any young adults who care deeply about faith and environmental stewardship. You can find more information about the program below:

Connectional Urban Living as Creative Response

Portland, Oregon: June 1-8, 2013

PortlandPhotoDawn

This place-based learning program for young adults (ages ~20-30) will consider how people of faith in the Portland area are responding in creative ways to environmental challenges such as climate change (Oregon coal export controversy), food inequality and urban sprawl. We will spend the week exploring the city by foot, bike and public transport as we visit farmer’s markets, ecumenical partnerships, co-housing communities, food cooperatives and farms. Along the way, we’ll meet with community organizers, city planners, church leaders and environmental activists to discuss how they are laying connectional roots to build a sustainable urban community. During the week, we will also take time to reflect on our individual eco-faith journeys while staying at Menucha Retreat & Conference Center and hiking and recreating in the Columbia River Gorge and foothills of Mt. Hood in the Cascades. For more information, contact Rev. Rob Mark: revrobmark@gmail.com

Application Deadline: Applications still being accepted this week, so apply ASAP. (Rolling admission).

Eco-Stewards 2013 Application

Program Cost: $400* (Participants must pay their own travel expenses to/from Portland; *Financial assistance available)

 Want to host an Eco-Steward intern in Summer 2013? Click here to download a copy of our Intern Request Form. Send questions to revrobmark@gmail.com

Eco-Stewards Share Experiences

2011 Eco-Stewards enjoy a hike under the beautiful Montana sky.

Thanks to everyone who took time to take our program evaluation survey! We got some incredible feedback about  previous weeklong programs and internships. We’ve included just a few of the great responses below, and it gives anyone, past participants or newly interested applicants, insight into this meaningful and transformative program.

Just a reminder that you can apply for the weeklong program and summer internships.  You have nothing to lose and so much to gain!

Responses from past Eco-Stewards:

“I received some much-needed encouragement. I somehow manage to find myself in situations where people do not see the connections between earth and faith that I see–or situations where people simply don’t care about the earth. It is easy to let the loneliness turn into an impediment. The Eco-Stewards program & the internship, too, helped me not just realize, but experience that I am part of a larger network of people trying to make a difference around them in small ways and large ways. That experience still keeps me going, two years later.” Response to: Was your personal faith or religious belief(s) changed or impacted during the week? If so, in what way(s)?

“I think my desire to integrate faith with environmental concern was greatly supported by this program and the participants in it during a critical time. Hearing the stories of others and seeing the variety of ways in which people were engaging this subjects was deeply encouraging as well as thought and action provoking.” Response to: Was your personal faith or religious belief(s) changed or impacted during the week? If so, in what way(s)?

“The time spent listening to each others’ stories, working in small and large groups, making music. So good to hear the perspectives from such a diverse group of people.” Response to: Of all the activities and experiences you encountered during your week, what was the most meaningful part for you? Why?

“Your actions and choices have an impact. Your care for the earth is right and just. Applying and sharing what you learned is the ripple in the pond that will make change. Prayer is important in all of these issues.” Response to: “What was the most important idea you took away from your Eco-Stewards experience?

“I found the welcoming and ecumenical nature of the eco-stewards program to be particularly relevant to the current needs of our often divided society. I also found the presenters to be thoughtful and insightful as they engaged a variety of topics. The focus at the end on discerning one’s own specific calling in relation to faith and the environment was a particularly good way to integrate the activities of the week with the specific context of one’s life.” Response to: Any additional comments?

Apply Now for the Eco-Stewards Vermont & Boston Program

Applications are now available for our June 2-9, 2012 Eco-Stewards Program in Vermont and Boston. Spread the word! This program for young adults (age 20-30) will focus on Climate Change & Christian Activism in light of the recent surge in protest movements from Occupy Wall Street to Tar Sands Action to 350.org. Join us in Boston as we meet with Occupy Boston’s spiritual leaders and visit Walden Pond to discuss Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. In Vermont, we will help with Hurricane Irene relief projects in Vermont, talk with author and climate change activist Bill McKibben and his 350.org’s grassroots organizers, and discuss our individual eco-faith journeys while hiking in the Green Mountains or paddling the Connecticut River.  Questions? Send an email to revrobmark@gmail.com

Paid Summer Internships!

Interested in applying your eco-stewardship skills this summer? We are offering four paid internships hosted by faith-based organizations throughout West Virginia. (We are also offering a week-long, hands-on program from May 16-23, see earlier post.) Those interested in becoming Eco-Stewards interns are encouraged to apply now for internships, which begin May 24 and last for 8-10 weeks depending on the site. There will be ongoing supervision and community building opportunities for each Eco-Steward intern. Interns will receive a stipend of $200 per week and housing will be provided by the host location. The deadline to apply is April 25.

About the Four Internship Sites:

1. The West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps (WVMAW) and Montgomery Presbyterian Church are located Montgomery, West Virginia. WVMAW is 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. This Eco-Stewards intern will serve both WVMAW and Montgomery Presbyterian and their related missions. For WVMAW, the intern be involved with many aspects of the workcamp ministry – from greeting volunteer groups, introducing them to the home owners, helping with construction and teaching, making sure the work site is cleaned daily, keeping materials onsite, and volunteers busy, etc. At Montgomery Presbyterian Church (where the workcamp groups stay), the intern will be the “responsible adult,” making sure lights are out, water is not wasted, care is given for facility, work with adult leaders to keep youth in specified areas, lead debriefings as directed. The Eco-Stewards intern will have the opportunity to lead worship as desired, and participate in worship activities. In addition, this intern will dedicate time to Montgomery Presbyterian’s community ministry working with youth in the direction of life skills, alternatives to at risk behavior, stewardship of resources, responsible citizenship. The community ministry is a partnership with other Churches in the Montgomery area and the building a program to serve area youth is a passion of Pastor Joan Stewart and others in the area.

2. Fayetteville Presbyterian Church and the Town of Fayetteville are situated on the rim of the New River Gorge National River where tens of thousands of visitors and staff come each summer for whitewater rafting, rock climbing, bird watching, and other outdoor pursuits. Under the supervision of the outreach ministry team from Fayetteville Presbyterian, the Eco-Stewards intern will minister and outreach to the outdoor community through eco-stewardship and community building projects including extending a community garden onsite. In addition, the intern will sit with local youth each Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market as they sell produce and be responsible for organizing other community outreach events at the Church (possibilities include an earth stewardship Bible study, community dinners with produce from the garden, etc.). The Eco-Stewards intern will also work with the Presbytery of West Virginia Stewardship of Creation Ministry Team as a “Roving Reporter” traveling to visit faith-based organizations throughout WV currently engaged in projects to preserve, protect, and restore the Earth’s resources. This will include other intern projects and congregations in the Presbytery of WV. The reporter will interview people involved, take photographs, and gather data for newsletter articles and blog posts that will recognize the accomplishments of congregations and encourage other congregations to take action.

3. The McGraws/Ravencliff Food Bank Garden is a project of the Church of God Prophecy in Ravencliff, the Eco-Stewards Program, the Friends of Milam Creek, and the Rural Appalachian Improvement League, which seeks to provide fresh produce in season for the McGraws/Ravencliff Food Bank and engage community volunteers in helping their neighbors. The project will consist of a vegetable garden tentatively planned for the Milam Creek Park which will be cared for by volunteers and whose produce will be donated directly to the McGraws/Ravencliff Food Bank. The Eco-Steward will be responsible for organizing volunteers to put in a community garden which will provide fresh produce for the McGraws/Ravencliff food bank. The Eco-Stewards intern should have excellent interpersonal skills and flexibility. Knowledge of gardening is a plus, but is not required. However, the Eco-Steward should be ready to work in the garden side by side with volunteers. The Eco-Steward will need recruit and organize the volunteers to plant, tend, and harvest the garden during the growing season.

4. The Bluestone Camp & Retreat internship will be comprised of two experiences. The first half will be spent on location at Bluestone Camp & Retreat, serving during the time Summer Camp is in session. As a part of the staff, the intern will work in three areas. (1) Food Service — researching options for supplying Bluestone’s food Service with foods grown and raised locally and report a cost/benefit analysis to management. (2) Program — develop and implement an eco-education strategy that can be worked into the camp experience. (3) Facility Improvement — work with maintenance staff and volunteers to help Bluestone progress toward becoming a more eco-friendly facility.Bluestone Camp & Retreat will provide room, board, and the appropriate designated portion of the stipend. At the conclusion of the Bluestone Summer Camp, the intern will spend four weeks at the First Presbyterian Church in Hinton, WV under the supervision of Pastor Barbara Romfo. The focus in Hinton will be addressing ways that the Presbyterian Church can implement plans to be more environmentally sensitive in their day-to-day operations. Tasks will include researching “greener” options throughout the church (such as: cleaning and paper supplies, recycling options, and energy audit/upgrades). The intern would take responsibility for presenting his/her findings to the Session and the congregation. He/she will be available to meet with other interested churches in the area to share her/his findings and encourage good eco-stewardship. The intern will be interfacing with the community program run by the 4-H/ Extension Service; he/she will help with area projects the Extension Service/ 4-H has in place.

For more information about Internships, read here: Iternship Site Descriptions

To download an application form, click here: 2010 Eco-Stewards Program Application