Growing justice and faith, update thread 2

For previous entries in this series, click here

Update, July 12 2010
Our book study continued as we reflected upon and dialogued about children and youth developing eco-justice attitudes and behaviors as the important adults in their lives express the sacredness of all creation in prayer and worship, and model, advocate for and engage in positive actions for creation care and social justice. Likewise, where children live in neighborhoods striving to implement more sustainable practices, they gain first-hand experience in these practices, e.g. recycling, composting, reusing items, planting an organic vegetable garden; buying/eating organic, fresh foods, and foods lower on the food-chain, etc.

We also discussed how “voluntary simplicity” and being able to take the time to experience the sacredness of creation out in the natural world are privileges to participate in. That is, for individuals and families living at or below poverty level and those in oppressed violent situations, basic survival, multiple low-wage jobs, and single parent realities, challenge many youth’s optimum development. Youth who thrive through these challenges demonstrate inner and outer resiliency. These many factors are explored at Search Institute’s Center for Spiritual Development

In the spirit of Ubuntu, our discussion continues during our final session on Tuesday, June 13 about collaborating for the common good to transform daily lives toward justice, voluntary simplicity and environmental sustainability. We will connect the diverse book themes the group has been reading into Jubilee and Distributive Justice and explore our interdependence with nature and our neighbors, helping to heal God’s creation and assure ample and more equitable resource use for future generations.

Here are some local resources that promote social equity, justice and sustainability:
If you would like a copy of the book list we’ve been using to read to explore these themes on your own; and if you would like to assist the Simpler Living Ministry’s Growing Justice and Faith project, please contact

Our Closing Prayer is:

“When we live in hope, we commit ourselves to those great causes, those holy causes, because that is what is required of us. It is required in our calling to embody God’s shalom in the world. It is required in living out our personal discipleship. We may never see the results that we hope for, but we will live our lives in ways that are true to God’s reality. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” Rev. Peter Sawtell, Executive Director, Eco-Justice Ministries

Grace van Thillo

Reverend Woody Bartlett, Episcopal Priest (retired) from Atlanta, in “Love God, Heal Earth”, a compilation of religious voices on the sacred duty to protect the environment, discusses his awareness of the vast environmental threats we face. He became aware after a visit to the San Diego Zoo, made during a conference trip here in 1989. He was shocked to discover how many species were tagged “endangered”. And later to realize that the human race is responsible for 99% of that! He notes that during the period 65 million years ago when dinosaurs became extinct, 90% of the existing species became extinct. Now, 1000 species are becoming extinct each year. He asks when humanity will become extinct. These realizations brought tears to his eyes.

I am thinking about the recent global conference on the environment and the failure to accomplish much of anything. Even though some islands are already being lost to global warming and rising sea levels!

What will it take? More disasters, I fear, will be needed. I realize I don’t even have an “earthquake readiness” kit in my apt. Maybe I’ll get one when the next earthquake comes to San Diego. If it threatens me, of course! I’m hoping at least one person can start taking this more seriously…….ME

Stewardship can’t just be writing a check to St. Paul’s every month….as important as that is, it’s not anywhere near enough to honor God’s gift of divine earth to us, and to me.
Terry Kelly

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4 thoughts on “Growing justice and faith, update thread 2”

  1. Richard Louv in "Last Child in the Woods" use Rachel Carson's "reserve of strength" and Bernard Berenson's "spirit of place" to explain the "sustainable" attitudes that can be instilled in children through their interaction with nature. Children come to understand that "the quiet wisdom of nature does not try to mislead you."

    Nature is the place to use all the senses. You learn how things work and learn from your failures. You learn the relationship between the dimensions of your own body and the sizes and shapes of fellow creatures and objects found in nature. The multi-sensory experiences of nature help to build "the cognitive constructs necessary for sustained intellectual development." and stimulate "children's limitless imaginations."

    Luv uses Louise Chawla's definition of 'ecstatic," based on the original Greek, meaning "standing outside ourselves" to discuss ecstatic memories and "meaningful images; an internalized core of calm; a sense of integration with nature; and for some, a creative disposition."

    These psychological jewels buried within us emit energy "across the years of our lives."

    (Luv, pp. 82-98.

  2. The Baptismal Covenant is two-fold. The person being baptized is marked as a child of God and is committed to growing in the image and likeness of God, to becoming Christ-like. The community commits itself to assisting the newly baptized in this goal.

    The Christian community, and society as a whole, must provide the environment where individuals can be truly themselves, only then can they seek to be Christ-like.

    Richard Louv in "Last Child in the Woods" outlines some of the local eco-justice issues that can assist in providing this level of community and social support to the spiritual growth of a child.

    1. Schools must reintroduce recess, field trips, and physical activities. The test-based curriculum resulting from "No Child Left Behind" denies children the opportunity to be physically active and to engage in creative discover.

    2. Interaction with nature should be a component of working with children with ADA/ADHA. A drug-based solution provides only one possible remedy.

    3. Plant trees and plan parks. Engage civic leaders in the appropriate use of parks and developers in to appropriate design of homes, common spaces, and wilderness areas.

    4. Incorporate nature and its spiritual dimension into the school curriculum.
    Abraham Joshua Heschel argued that "Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. To be spiritual is to be amazed." Children have to have the opportunity and the space to know the "joy of awakening."
    (Louv, pp. 291-291)

    5. Religious instruction must make the explicit link between nature and the divine.
    Paul Gorman of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment," argues that "The extent that we separate our children from creation is the extent to which we separate them from the creator."
    (Louv, pp. 292-299)

    6. Explicity link the care of nature with ethical and moral issues. Pope John Paul II stated that "Christians are morally responsible for protection of God's creation."

    7. Encourage conservation and scientific inquiry both in terms of problem solving but also in light of their capacity to "rediscover and acknowledge the mystery of nature." Join groups like the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land that purchases land for preservation.

    8. Don't provide children with all the answers. Let them discover both the questions and the solutions.

    (Louv, pp. 302-306)

  3. When we speak about a child's ethical and spiritual development, it's necessary for us to reflect on a wide spectrum of realities.

    Children need nature as much as they need nutrition and sleep. It teaches them that "they are not alone in the world," and it serves as an "antidote to fear." In nature, children come to trust their feelings and develop a sense of "hyperawareness," a positive attribute rather than the negative 'hypervigilence."

    Spirituality starts with good self-esteem, self-confidence and the ability to trust, and all of these can be rooted in nature. Most importantly, nature surrounds a child with beauty. "Distance from beauty is spiritually dangerous."
    (Louv, p.188)

    Robert F. Kennedy stated that "We didn't want to live in a world where … we've lost touch with the seasons, the tides, the things that connect us–to ten thousand generations of human beings that were here before there were laptops, and ultimately connect us to God."
    (Louv, pp 199-200)

    It's not the Internet" that connects us, " it's the oceans."

    (Louv, pp.118-200.)

  4. Yes, Louv’s quote expresses it well; the oceans not only connect us, they and all of nature invite our senses to come alive to the interconnections as well.

    In Last Child in the Woods, Louv expresses that at its core conservation is a spiritual act.
    He shares a delightful and profound question asked by his son, "Are God and Mother Nature married, or just good friends?" You can read the conversation on p.306.


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