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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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day from The Eco-Stewards Program! With Earth Day falling on Earth Sunday, it’s a perfect day to be thinking about the intersection of faith and environmental stewardship.  It’s also a great day to promote our five summer internships at PCUSA camps and organic farms around the country– please spread the word to anyone who might be interested in spending a summer harvesting organic crops, designing composting and recycling programs and educating youth about the connections between faith and food. Click here for more info about the internships.

We also have one more opening for a young adult to join our June 2-9 Climate Change & Christian Activism program in Boston and Vermont. Learn more about our June program here.

And finally, check out this article about how Presbyterians– including our own Rebecca Barnes-Davies, Associate for Environmental Ministries for the Presbyterian Church, USA and Diane Waddell, moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care–  are addressing climate change from carbon neutral policies to solar-powered churches. Our West Virginia Eco-Stewards should recognize Robin Blakeman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, who is also quoted in the article. We have Eco-Stewards West Virginia Program Leader Heather Lukacs to thank for pointing us to this very comprehensive article published by the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media.  Read the article here.

More Summer Internships!

The Eco-Stewards Program is happy to announce four wonderful summer internship opportunities working at organic gardens and farms around the country.

Love gardening? Camp Albermarle in Bogue Sound, North Carolina is looking to hire a paid intern who will maintain their new camp garden, start a composting and vermicomposting program, and create environmental education programming. Read more here.

Love farming? Camp Holmes in Holmes, New York is looking for an intern to help with the camp’s new sustainable farm project. The paid intern will harvest produce, care for farm animals, tend composting and vermicomposting, plan environmental education activities and more. Learn more here.

Love Montana? Greenwood Farm in Hardin, Montana near Crow Indian Reservation is offering an unpaid summer internship for someone with a passion for sustainable, organic farming in a Christian community. The intern will help with a variety of farm projects from fence building to weed control to free-range poultry to harvesting and stacking hay and much more. This position also provides opportunities for community service at a homeless day center, community garden and a new community health center. Read more here.

Love Nebraska? Calvin Crest Camp in Fremont, Nebraska wants to hire a paid summer intern to create activities for campers to get involved with the new camp garden. The goal is to get campers thinking about how the food they eat connects to their work in the garden. The intern will also build a sustainable composting program for the camp and encourage community involvement in the garden.  Learn more here.

Love New Jersey? Johnsonburg Presbyterian Center in rural northwest New Jersey is looking for a intern to tend the camp garden and create composting and recycling systems. Read more here.

Can’t commit to an internship? Then join our week-long Eco-Stewards Program in June and meet other young adults who are passionate about connecting faith and environmental stewardship in practical ways. Our theme this year is Climate Change & Christian Activism, June 2-9 program in Boston & Vermont. Click here for more info.

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