To Serve and Guard the Earth


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To Serve and Guard the Earth

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To Serve and Guard the Earth

  1. 1. A Note to the Reader To Serve and Guard the Earth: God’s Creation Story and Our Environmental Concerns By Beth Bojarski To Serve and Guard the Earth is a practical parish or small- group resource suitable for High School groups and Adults (its 6 sessions make it also suitable for Lenten use) that connects the growing Christian environmental concern with the theology of creation in Genesis. It not only providesthe participants with a greater understanding of the scriptural accounts of creationand the environmental problems facing us today, but also encourages the participantsto make practical applications to change their everyday lives and enhance importantenvironmental values. Beth Bojarski,The resource is divided into six sessions related to the 7 days of creation (session 2 currently works ascombines Genesis days 2 and 4) and environmental concerns related to the days. Diocesan YouthSession 1: Day 1—Light / energy consumption, outdoor light pollutionSession 2: Days 2/4—Sea & Sky / potable water, air pollution, climate change Director for theSession 3: Day 3—Land & Plants / deforestation, industrialization, waste management Episcopal DioceseSession 4: Day 5—Birds & Fish/ habitat destruction, species extinctionSession 5: Day 6—Land Creatures / consumption & greed, human disparity, of Kentucky. She overpopulation holds a MasterSession 6: Day 7—Rest & Reflection / being content with life, the importance of rest in TheologicalEach of the six sessions in To Serve and Guard the Earth includes several components, all Studies fromof which are available when you download the resource. Reproduce them as you need tofor your group. The components are the: Virginia TheologicalLeader GuideThe Leader Guide includes everything you need to facilitate the session: Session Preview, Seminary andOpening Activities, Exploration Activities, Additional optional activities, and Closing a Master inActivities. Outdoor andParticipant Handout EnvironmentalEach week, the reproducible Participant Handout encourages participants to prepareat home to be ready to discuss more intelligently the scripture readings and related Educationenvironmental concerns found in each session. Includes Scripture passages, Scripture from the StateBackground, Environmental Concerns Background and Suggestions for What to Do University of NewThis Week. York (SUNY) atTo Serve and Guard the Earth is a downloadable product, and all materials may bereproduced by the purchasing church only for use with their congregation. To purchase, Cortland.visit Pay one price for the study and reproduce the materialsyou need. Price: $49.95SR-00-WA-10-A-To serve and Guard the Earth © 2010 by Beth Bojarski. Published by Morehouse Education Resources, All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this page for use in the purchasing congregation only.
  2. 2. To s e rv e & g ua r d t h e e a rt h • I n t r o d u cti o n 2Our Environmental ChallengeI believe there is an environmental crisis for several reasons. In addition, I believethat the environmental crisis is also the church’s problem—or at least one ofthem. This does not take responsibility off of social or government institutionsor individuals and families outside the church, but as a Christian people, it is ofutmost importance that the environmental crisis also be our concern.From an ecological perspective, it is clear to me that ecosystems and species are “Those whosuffering as a result of global temperature change, extreme pollution and humanuse and abuse of the environment. Sure it is true that the earth has the ability contemplateto heal itself, to adapt to the conditions forced upon it; but over time repeated the beauty ofmistreatment wears away this resiliency. Deforestation, the deficiency of potablewater, urban sprawl, climate change and energy shortages are real problems that the earth findthe earth community is facing, and that earth community includes humanity.Many of these problems come from repeated offenses that don’t allow ecosystems resources ofto pick themselves up and dust themselves off before the next wave of overuse strength thatand abuse begins. will endureI think that there are two main reasons why Christians churches are in aparticularly good spot for developing an environmental ethic that can begin as long as lifechanging the direction of the environmental crisis. First, environmental or lasts.”creation care constitutes God’s original purpose for humanity. The authors ofGenesis are clear—be guardians of the earth. Tend and till it, serve and guard it. —Rachel Carson (1907-1964)Secondly, echoing the familiar slogan we hear so often, we might ask “Whatwould Jesus do?” Jesus was a servant—a poor, wayfaring man whose love andconcern had no limits. So as Christians, we are called to follow his example anddo the same—to look beyond the material, the consumerism of our day, andbegin asking this simple question of ourselves. What we need and what we wantare often two very different things. Taking only what we need may very well bethe answer to the problem and the beginning of living more simply.Not only do Christian communities assume environmental obligations based onthe Genesis narrative and on their desire to follow Jesus’ example, but Christiancommunities can also have immense impact on their surroundings. Institutingchange on behalf of the environment beginning with those in the pews will makea difference and the ripple effect on others might just be astonishing.But change takes time! And the relationship between humanity and the entiretyof creation is built not on individual events or actions, but on a way of thinkingthat has been developed over the centuries. In the same way that it takes time tochange the course of a huge ship or to fall in love with another person, change—repentance, metanoia—is organic and evolutionary and takes lots of time, energyand thoughtfulness. © 2010 by Beth Bojarski. Published by Morehouse Education Resources, All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this page for use in the purchasing congregation only.
  3. 3. To s e rv e g ua r d t h e e a rt h • I n t r o d u cti o n 3Like most grassroots movements, it is likely that in churches and institutionsonly a handful of people will at first embrace the task at hand related to theenvironmental crisis. This is a huge load for those few to carry. Teaching byexample, having conversations with friends and family and making small changesthat minimize environmental impact are all important. But ultimately if thesystemic change is to occur in a way that will last, the corporate body really mustbe a part of it. As an entire people we have done harm over time to the earth.Metanoia—that true change of heart and repentance—will only make a systemicimpact if all God’s people are involved. It is a lot of work, but the evidence isthere and the road is at least beginning to be paved for us.The good news in all of this is that there are great strides being made already.In addition to the more academic work being done by theologians, there arechurches, dioceses and denominations stepping up to get involved and to workfor environmental awareness and change. “When we tryFor Christian communities, there are two levels of involvement for responding to to pick outthe environmental crisis. The first is immediate: begin by making a commitment anything byto change one’s own actions. This change can come in the form of a simplerlifestyle one decision at a time or a commitment to spend time reading about the itself, we findenvironment. Over time these changes will become natural and you might evenwonder what life was like before making them. Also over time, the changes made it hitched toare likely to rub off on others. everythingThe second level demands a longer time commitment and might prove more else in thechallenging. It is the shift from tending and tilling to serving and guarding andit addresses the systemic problem of the environmental crisis, not just those Universe.”episodic problems that arise. This requires that we learn the earth story, ask the —John Muirhard questions that arise from it and work toward systemic change in our own (1838-1914)life and the life of our family, society and church. Acceptance of one’s role inthe historical destruction—our participation in the ignorance, busy-ness, greedand apathy that disorders our world—might just lead to a change of heart—togenuine metanoia.The environmental crisis facing the earth community is evident in both systemicand episodic problems wreaking havoc on entire ecosystems, individual speciesand on humanity—particularly the poor and oppressed. Because of the church’sacceptance of the biblical mandate to tend/guard and till/serve the earth, itschallenge to follow Jesus’ example to care for those less fortunate than ourselvesand its responsibility to the increased awareness of God’s presence in creation,the church must respond to the current environmental crisis. While this is a hugetask, it is surmountable. By learning the story, owning our own contribution tothe environmental crisis and the contributions of our ancestors and workingtoward immediate and systemic change, the church can make a difference. © 2010 by Beth Bojarski. Published by Morehouse Education Resources, All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this page for use in the purchasing congregation only.
  4. 4. To s e rv e a n d g ua r d t h e e a rt h • S e s s i o n 1 • L i g h t 4Session Guide Notes Use name tags if the groupOpening Activities (10 minutes) members don’t know each other.Reading the ScripturesIf possible, read the passage in darkness or ask participants to close their eyes.Read aloud or invite a participant to read aloud Genesis 1:1-5 using a Bible or theParticipant Handout for Session 1. After time for quiet reflection, ask:• As you listened to the description of the first day of creation, in your imagination what did you hear, see, smell, taste or touch?• In our culture, how are light and dark used figuratively—not literally?• What connotations with these words are positive? Which are negative?PrayerAfter the discussion, invite the group to pray. Begin with an invitation like “Let uspray” or “The Lord be with you.” Then pray this prayer from the Episcopal Bookof Common Prayer, p. 827: Or use one of the alternate prayers from the Environmental Almighty and everlasting God, you made the universe with all its marvelous Prayers handout. order, its atoms, worlds, and galaxies, and the infinite complexity of living creatures: Grant that, as we probe the mysteries of your creation, we may come to know you more truly, and more surely fulfill our role in your eternal purpose; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.Note: If you wish, in any session you may substitute for the opening or the closingprayer one of the alternate environmental prayers found on the reproduciblehandout Some Environmental Prayers.Check-inIt is important to welcome participants and to provide some time for personalintroductions. If the group is large (more than 12 people), divide it into smallergroups (about 6-8 per group). Invite each participant in the group(s) to share Be aware of the time and keep the sharing brief.their name and a little bit about why they are interested in this study.Ask them to keep their sharing to a few sentences to allow time for others to speakand for the material to be covered. To close, introduce yourself and share yourinterest in the study. Remember—our personal story is integral to understandingand opens up the opportunity for relationship building and respect.
  5. 5. To s e rv e a n d g ua r d t h e e a rt h • S e s s i o n 1 • L i g h t 5Exploration Activities (30-40 minutes) NotesScripture (20-25 minutes)Break the group into smaller groups of 3-4 participants. Provide each group withat least one Bible, some scrap paper and a pen or pencil. Give each group a copyof the pre-printed Bible reference lists and questions (found on the reproducible Use the handout Scripturehandout Scripture Questions for Small Groups). Explain that each group will Questions for Small Groups.have a set of Bible references and one or two specific questions to consider (somegroups may have the same as others depending on group size).Allow 8-10 minutes for groups to look up their verses and reflect on the questions.Encourage them to read a little before and after the specific verses to help withcontext. Tell the groups that they will have the opportunity to share their versesand findings with the large group at the end of the given time. Here are thequestions each group will explore and discuss.Group 1: Gospels (John 8:12 and 9:5; Matthew 5:16)• How do you interpret these references to light and darkness in the gospels?• What does it mean to “let your light shine” or that Jesus is the light?• Can you think of any connections between the light in these passages and the light created on the first day of creation?Group 2: the Letters (Ephesians 5:8-14a; 1 John 1:5-7, 2:9-11)• What does it mean to live in the light?• How should one do this?• How might you do this better?• Can you think of any connections between the light in these passages and the light created on the first day of creation?Group 3: Psalms (Psalm 139:11-12; 119:105)• What is the light that each of these psalms is referring to?• Can you think of any connections between the light in these passages and the light created on the first day of creation?Call the large group back together and invite participants to share their versesand reflections.Environmental Concerns (10-15 minutes)Using the information in the Participant Handout for Session 1, briefly review Use the Participant Handout forthe description of the problems of energy consumption and light pollution. This Session 1 for background.might be done best and will be more interactive if you ask participants to explaintheir understanding of the issues and problems. Remember to connect theseproblems with day one of the creation story. Ask:• What action steps can you do in the short and the long-term to be more mindful of that which God provided on day one of creation?• What can we as a parish do?
  6. 6. To s e rv e g ua r d t h e e a rt h • Pa rti cipa n t H a n d o u t • S e s s i o n 1 • L i g h t 5What Can You Do?While there are many different action steps that one can implement to lessenone’s energy use and involvement in the problem of light pollution, simplyacknowledging your involvement and taking stock in your own use is a great “More andstart. more of us areBegin with smaller steps toward change such as: listening for the• To determine the environmental impact of your activities, use one or more of the ecological footprint calculators found at silent alarm, ecological_footprint_calculator.htm stopping in our• Take the Greenfaith Ecological Footprint Quiz at quiz.html tracks, wishing• Turn off lights when not in use.• Change your light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFL) that last to salvage longer and are much more energy efficient (remember: these bulbs must be the parts of recycled, which can be done through some municipalities or home stores where they are sold). this earth we• Turn down the thermostat one or two degrees in winter and up a couple degrees in summer. haven’t yet• Install a timer on your thermostat. Turn the heat down during the daytime wrecked.” and nighttime while you are out or sleeping. —Barbara Kingsolver• Walk or bike whenever possible rather than driving; car pool or take public Small Wonder transportation; or combine trips to minimize the need to drive.• Turn off appliances when not in use. A toaster or cell phone charger left plugged in creates a circuit that continues to draw electricity. Using power strips can be helpful because they are often easily accessible and close a circuit just as unplugging does.• Ask your energy company if you can purchase wind or solar energy. Most companies have this as an option.• Install outdoor lighting that reduces light pollution by directing light at a particular subject or toward the ground. © 2010 by Beth Bojarski. Published by Morehouse Education Resources, All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this page for use in the purchasing congregation only.