Eco-Justice Immersion Experience
2011 was a pilot year for this initiative of leadership and advocacy training sponsored by the Episcopal Church Center’s offices of Economic and Environmental Affairs and Young Adult and Campus Ministries. The event consisted of Episcopal Church focused formation, leadership and advocacy training around themes of sustainable economy, climate justice, eco-theology, and our spiritual and physical ties to the life that surrounds us. Participants had the opportunity to interface with leaders from both the faith and non-profit worlds, to hike in some of this nation’s most beautiful country, and to put their hands and heads to work advocating for eco-justice.
The Consortium for Endowed Episcopal Parishes recently worked with Institute for the Future to identify skills our church leaders will need in the near future (and arguably now). One of the ten skills highlighted was “Bio-empathy: the ability to see things from nature’s point of view.” The study also identified trends such as “Extreme Climate Variability,” and the “New Localism” — referring to the growth of local economies. From bio-empathy will grow the kind of personal, congregational, and public actions and policies necessary to move us toward a more compassionate and just world.
To these ends our time together included:
• Teaching and conversation around topics such as: spiritual, theological and scriptural resources for ecological ministry; sustainable economics; current economic and environmental justice ministry in The Episcopal Church; “greening” congregations; Episcopal Church polity and structures; food justice; reflection on our common call to serve all creation and what that means for our lives today.
• Time with the leadership of Earth Ministry, one of the country’s leading regionally-based nonprofits connecting faith with care for all creation. We will worship at one of Earth Ministry’s Episcopal Greening Congregations and learn from that parish’s experience. Earth Ministry staff will also lead our advocacy training.
• Half a day devoted to a hands-on service activity or eco-justice tour.
• A one-day hike in the Cascade Mountains, with time for conversation, meditation and prayer, reflection and silence.
• Time for discernment, conversation, and community-building.
• Interaction with local and national leaders in the eco-justice field.
The Episcopal Church, in its continued commitment to eco-justice sponsored this event in order to raise up leaders for faith-based action in the world. This is the first year that the Episcopal Church organized such an event to provide access, teach skills, offer theological training, and highlight structures for action. It provided a remarkable opportunity to:
➢ discuss and learn about a range of issues connecting Christian faith with care and justice for all creation, such as those cited above,
➢ learn about Episcopal Church polity and policy,
➢ learn how the church participates in advocacy,
➢ develop skills and knowledge to use in dioceses, churches, and communities around the country, and
➢ develop relationships to encourage your interest in this area of ministry.
Participants were expected to arrive in Seattle, WA on the designated dates and actively engage with conference trainings and events. Prior to arrival we hosted a series of preliminary conference calls in preparation for our time together.. Participants were expected to raise funds for a portion of the event’s costs, primarily airfare. Housing, programming, meals and local transportation were covered by the Episcopal Church Center. In addition, participants were asked to engage in follow-up activities, such as preparing a final report detailing their experiences to be presented to their communities and diocese.