World Student Christian Federation EcoJustice Symposium

Check out this ecumenical event hosted by the World Student Christian Federation’s North American Chapter, a body of students from across the globe united in Christian solidarity. Read more:

WSCF EcoJustice Symposium 2012 flyer

WSCF EcoJustice Symposium 2012 Concept Paper

The SCM-USA/WSCF-NA Northeast Regional Symposium on the theme of eco-justice local activism will be held on November 9-10, 2012 at St John’s in the Village Episcopal Church and the Center for Spiritual Life of New York University in New York City. This gathering will be an opportunity for students, young adults, senior friends and partners at large living in the Northeast of the USA to come together to discuss one of the key working areas of the Strategic Plan of the WSCF, to reflect theologically on how Christian faith informs social and political engagement on this topic and to engage in strategic thinking on how to support the strengthening of the work of SCM in this geographic area of the USA and nationally. A solidarity delegation from the SCM Canada will attend the conference!

For registration: http://scmsymposium.eventbrite.com/

EcoJustice Immersion Experience 2012

by Daniel Mitchell, Diocese of Ohio

The EcoJustice Immersion Experience I attended at the end of August was a retreat in Seattle, where around 20 Episcopalian young adults met with different organizations and speakers from the area. It was a glimpse into a global balancing act between meeting the world’s needs and redefining not only what those needs are, but how they are met. The conference also challenged us to consider how ecology, theology, and economy interconnect. But above all, EcoJustice struck me as a testament to the power of community. A true community, one where a group of people hold each other accountable for what they are doing and how they live their lives, can be difficult to find. And people – especially young adults – who lack a community often suffer for years, with repercussions that will affect the rest of their lives.

Last February, the Pew Research Center published a survey on the impact of the Great Recession on young adults. According to the survey, most young adults will not experience the same standard of living that their parents had when they were their children’s age. Unemployment, job insecurity, longer work weeks, and reduction in salaries have led to delays in young adults getting married, starting a family, or living independently of their parents. The pressure of finding a job, and then keeping it, makes it more difficult for young adults to become part of a meaningful community. With less time and energy, we turn to the quick fix for fleeting happiness. New electronics, unhealthy food, alcohol, meaningless sex – often, these things just alienate us further, but we pursue them because they help us forget our problems and inadequacies. Loneliness and despair have become a silent epidemic among young adults, and we struggle to find a lasting way to cope.

There’s a saying that shared joy is doubled joy, and shared sorrow is halved sorrow. This, I feel, is what a compassionate community strives to do and during EcoJustice we saw many examples of this. We visited a 23-acre community farm dedicated to providing affordable organic food to the local area. We met with one of the last members of the Duwamish Native American tribe, who has dedicated his life to restoring his tribe’s ancestral river, and an organization who lobbies for a union & better working conditions for truckers at the Seattle-Tacoma seaside port. We worshipped and shared a meal with the congregation of an eco-friendly church, and toured their innovative parish garden.

And although we were together only for a few days, I feel like the young adults at the EcoJustice Immersion Experience formed their own community. Like all the communities we’ve seen, we were united by common values – in this case, by our passion for eco-justice and our search for fellowship. Among us were teachers, theologians, scientists, mentors, and seekers, each of us with a unique set of skills and experiences. I’ve learned a lot from every EcoJustice participant, and I hope we will continue to inspire and learn from each other as we find ways to direct our passion towards what Frederick Buechner called the world’s deep hunger.

Some people, such as the Duwamish tribe or the community farm’s founder, dedicate their lives to an environmental or social cause. But what I learned from EcoJustice is that we all can do something, whether it’s a grand gesture or a simple change. We all can make a deliberate choice to take better care of our bodies, to learn how our food is raised and how it arrives to our tables, to be grounded more in compassion and less in greed, and to refuse to sacrifice the things we value just for money or social status’ sake. It’s about taking control of our lives and living according to our own terms, and along the way we will find a community filled with people who share the same vision we do. Community is the foundation, leading to a better understanding of what we are called to be and how we can become more fully alive.

EcoJustice 2011: Spreading the Seeds of Eco-Justice

by Ashley Graham-Wilcox

Converging from Massachusetts, Arizona and everywhere in between, 17 young adult members of the Episcopal Church gathered in Seattle last week for the first “Eco-Justice Immersion Experience,” organized by the Episcopal Leadership Institute for Young Adults.

The “Eco-“ prefix is intentionally vague, as the conference brought both ecologic and economic concepts to the table for discussion, reflection and action.

From college students and camp staff, to youth ministers and postulants, attendees came together with distinct intentions: Heather Anderson of Memphis, Tennessee, a Children’s & Youth Minister, was looking for real, down-and-clean ways to help green her congregation. Joe Domko of Boulder, Colorado, had been feeling stagnant with his daily actions to help the earth, and was looking for motivation, which he found in an early conversation on the Tar Sands protests: “I feel like maybe it’s time to get arrested.”

It comes from a serious place, but a comment like this is bound to draw a laugh – and, all week long, laugh we did. “As transformative as it was, I still can’t believe how much we laughed,” reflected Janna Payne of Toronto. We laughed in a food court (one with compostable food trays, no less), at gas stations, and lakeside. We laughed with one another, and – maybe once or twice – at one another.

Maybe we were laughing because 14-hour days of soul-searching can be exhausting, and your body doesn’t know what else to do. Maybe it was the sheer joy of being surrounded by likeminded folks. Or maybe it’s because as young Episcopalians, it’s exciting to be leading a charge that’s been called the civil rights movement of our generation.

When we weren’t laughing, we were exploring heady topics like the impact of the nation’s ninth largest port on city neighborhoods, or the opportunities for shifting our communities’ – and our world’s – economies from a straight-line of supply to consumption into a circle of sustainability. But we weren’t delving into these topics just in theory. In one another, and around Seattle, we saw inspiring need for and empowering action in eco-justice.

We explored interfaith opportunities: Nationally, Earth Ministry advocates for the environment on behalf of all faith communities, while locally, Clean Green Farms sells pesticide-free produce at – as Rev. Robert Jeffrey calls them – “Dollar Store prices,” supported by both New Hope Missionary Baptist Church’s and St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral of Seattle.

We were encouraged to remember the grief that drew us to environmental justice, and to celebrate the joy that we can get from it, by Reverend Carla Pryne.

We were inspired to green our own congregations by the progress made at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on Mercer Island outside of Seattle.

We were moved – to laughter of course – by the sheer profoundness of Brian Sellers-Petersen from Episcopal Relief and Development telling us, “Everything you need to know about Christian formation, you can learn in a vegetable garden.”

In that one sentence, he articulated our week.

Green isn’t a fad. We’re not drawn to it because it’s hip. We are called to advocate for the Earth out of a deep sense of love and respect. Love for the generations that we will never know. Respect for the soil that we came from. We are from dirt; and to dirt we will return. (You can quote us – and Genesis – on that.)

To take care of the earth effectively, to further our Christian formation, last week’s conference attendees will look to a garden for direction.

We will honor simplicity – sun and water are really all a garden needs – and celebrate even the tiniest of environmental victories in our own communities.

A zucchini left on stalk too long will grow too large, get watery, and lose its flavor. So must we constantly tend to our own and our communities’ shifting needs and abilities.

And we’ll deal with the weeds. We’ll remember that Jessie Dye from Earth Ministry excused us from “environmental sainthood.” We will confront obstacles, lose some battles, and move on to the next.

As we take home resources – from 200 practical tips on how to green a congregation, courtesy of the Bishop’s Committee for the Environment of the Diocese of Olympia, to an ever-growing list of book recommendations – more than that, we take home a renewed connection to our communities, our church, and our call.

And now, we sow.

EcoJustice 2011: Mike Schut Reflection

Mike Schut , Episcopal Environmental and Economic Affairs Officer, on EcoJustice and Intergenerational Ministry at the EcoJustice Immersion Experience

EcoJustice 2011: Rick Richards reflects on his experience

Video by Jonathan Potter

EcoJustice 2011: Justin Cole reflects on his experience

Video by Justin Potter

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