A packed house of over 200 persons gathered on January 30th at Highland Christian United Church of Christ in Portland to explore “Environmental Justice and Faith” at the third annual Earth Care Summit. Participants represented over 50 congregations and religious groups from across Oregon and SW Washington. The event was sponsored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon’s Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns and Oregon Interfaith Power and Light project.
It began with a delicious southern style locally grown vegetarian meal prepared by Po’ Shines Café, a mission of Celebration Tabernacle that provides needed training and employment. The evening moved quickly into a powerful keynote by Dr. Leroy Haynes, a well-known civil rights leader, pastor of Allen Temple Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and incoming EMO Board president. He fired participants up to care about our “Mother Earth who is dying,” but he said, “It is still not too late.” His presentation included both scientific and poetic insight about the continuing degradation of the earth for all its creatures as well as the environmental injustices disproportionately suffered by people of color and the poor. He also shared his story of successfully fighting a lead plant in a poor African American neighborhood as a pastor in Dallas, Texas.
A congregational greening case study of Nativity Lutheran in Bend, OR focused on its orchard and community gardens which have built community among people of diverse socio-economic levels. By being welcoming, an amazing amount of talent and resources came forth. A new door was punched from the fellowship hall to the garden. Later, participants sharpened their earth caring skills by choosing two of eighteen roundtables and presentations offered on everything from making solar energy accessible to all to principles of environmental justice, from faith and the Farm Bill to environmental health. Mike Branch from the Muslim Educational Trust closed with an inspirational blessing.
The mutual inspiration among congregations was powerful. Surely, the renewed vision of those attending will enrich their leadership in their local congregations enabling them to steward Creation and address environmental injustice in creative new ways.
This account of the Earth Care Summit was written by The Rev. Vern Groves, United Methodist Church, Ret.