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…