Center for Congregational Leadership(NACCC)
Congregational Lay Ministers Training
Congregational Foundation for Theological Studies of the NACCC (CFTS)
A few years ago (in the midst of the annual meeting for the NACCC) I was asked to be a member of the “Green Team” committee. I was excited at the prospect of being a part of a new discussion at the national level of our fellowship of churches and surprised as well. Andrew and I are very conscious about our consumption but I have felt that we are far from experts.
I felt a little embarrassed for my generation because much of the ‘green’ movement seems to be people returning to the way things have been done before, yet call it new. Planting a garden at home, bringing your own bags to the grocery store and reusing or re-purposing items around the house are popular ways to be ecological. I can imagine my grandparents who lived through wars and depressions looking at us with confusion about why we would be going back. After all, we live in a land of plenty despite the poor economic news. It is our abundance that allows people to “go off the (electrical) grid” and to have an organic garden. Should any of our alternatives fail, we can return to the mainstream.
In the work for this committee and as I prepared for a discussion group about the “greening” of American churches, I grew concerned that ‘green’ has become just another way to be exclusive or pretentious. For example, if I only eat organic apples then I cannot eat the same apples that the majority eats. Therefore, I am special, or set apart, because what I eat is special.
Theologically, this is true; and each of us is very special. Ecologically, we don’t have enough information to know what should concern us the most. In this I find the dilemma that we face in our Christian life: we are special and we deserve those riches that God has for us, but at what cost? I tend to think that it is not the earth that is so delicate, but we are. The earth will crack and heal; yet things just have to get the slightest bit off balance for us and we are just cracked and broken.
As I stood before the discussion group with my formal presentation, I began to feel like a hypocrite. I thought of the toxic chemicals that I use to get the grime out of the kitchen sink and how bad those are for our water supply. This sentiment, I realized, is how it feels for many of us in Christian life. We all have some hazardous material that we carry around, but we do our best to spare others from our pollution. Likewise, we carry with us the Christian identity even when we are far from the ideal of following Christ.
If we are being careful about what we buy or how we consume, we should do so from a growing perspective. We grow in our understanding of this delicate world from a Christian perspective, realizing that this place is not ideal but for now it is home. Because this is what God has for us right now, we should do our best to be good stewards of God’s gifts and care for this earth and one another.
With prayers and thanksgiving,
Rev. Hillary Bowser