Ministry for the Earth Community and Building Sustainable Communities

January 10, 2015

Ministry for the Earth Community, a new program created through YDS Sustainability with the Forum on Religion and Ecology, launched in November to create learning and leadership opportunities for YDS students to develop skills for creation care.  

The first seminar, led by Professor Mary Evelyn Tucker, focused on Christian responses to Journey of the Universe and the religious roots of the project inspired by Thomas Berry and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.  Tucker guided participants to understand how Berry’s “communion of subjects” is grounded in Trinitarian theology and Teilhard’s work shows not only an evolutionary but also an emergent, divine universe.  This theological and historical insight, along with Tucker’s decades of work around environmental and social justice, inspired participants for the “Great Work” that must continue in future generations responding to climate change and other forms of environmental degradation.  Tucker also noted Pope Francis’s anticipated encyclical on the environment and specifically climate change as a watershed moment that religious leaders need to prepare to meet.

Episcopal priest and environmental leader Stephanie Johnson guided the second seminar for practical leadership in churches and communities.  While Johnson also specializes in greening church facilities, she geared her presentation to worship and prayer, Christian formation, and action by asking “Where is God in the midst of climate change?”  The seminar ended with the Dear Matafele Peinem video and Johnson’s invitation for faith communities to come together in prayer and pilgrimage for the upcoming 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Participants in the Ministry for the Earth Community program are working on specific projects this year and will share their work in February.  Eco-spirituality retreats, bible study curricula, a new homeless shelter garden, climate actions, and Nourish New Haven inspired events are several projects participants have undertaken. In addition to YDS students, parishioners from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Cheshire, Connecticut, joined the inaugural MEC group with plans to bring their knowledge back to their church.  

Ministry for the Earth Community led into The Forum on Religion and Ecology’s November 7th conference at Yale Divinity School–Living Cosmology: Christian Responses to Journey of the Universe–which brought together over 400 theologians, ethicists, and activists.  At the conference Dean Gregory Sterling announced the formation of a committee to continue exploring how to recognize, develop, and monitor the School’s curricular and non-curricular responses to environmental challenges.

Through the work of YDS Sustainability, YDS Student Council, and other groups on campus, Dean Sterling announced last fall a year-long theme of “Building Sustainable Communities” through a series of events including Nourish New Haven, the Journey conference and additional lectures; the fall issue of Reflections magazine At Risk: Our Food, Our Water, Ourselves; and the all-school book Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion with a visiting lecture from Sara Miles.  

In the spring semester, Miles will speak January 13th in Marquand Chapel, and YDS graduate and Duke University professor Dr. Norman Wirzba will visit February 17th-18th.  Wirzba’s February 17th talk, “Why Theological Education Needs Ecology,” will be followed the next day by a lunchtime conversation with Mark Bomford, director of the Yale Sustainable Food Program, and The Rev. Andrew McGowan, dean of Berkeley Divinity School.