The election of our new President has been forefront in our
minds in these recent days. For those who had been waiting for Tuesday to come
and for the campaigning, the rancor, and the vitriol to end, there’s been,
perhaps, some disappointment as instead, there has been a new wave of violence and unrest through public protests, incidents in schools, and social
media blowing up with every individual on Facebook offering their own response
to the election results (including me). There are those who are feeling very
vulnerable, disconnected from their communities, fearful and sad.And, safe to say, there are those who are
rejoicing that their candidate prevailed and that it is time to get on with reforming
My work is not primarily in the political realm, though the
things that I care about- and, more importantly, that Jesus cares about- bring
me there, by virtue of my office.As I
said in my Facebook post on Wednesday morning:
And so this morning, our
call as Christians to participate in God’s mission has not changed: feed the
hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor. Reach out to the margins and
welcome in the stranger, lift up the downtrodden, make free the oppressed. This
includes women, LGBTQI brothers and sisters, Muslims, refugees and all those
subject to the sin of racism. Pray for peace, strive to end gun violence, bind
up the wounds of those who ache. Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what
the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, I am committed to caring
deeply for the marginalized and to work to empower others in our diocese to
care, in the name of Jesus for the least of these.This is work that started, for me, more than
a year ago in this place and continues no matter who is sitting behind the desk
in the Oval Office.
so.Let me tell you what I did on
On Monday, the day before
the election, when the nation seemed to be about as tense as a two-inch rubber
band stretched to ten feet, I attended the LARC Day of Dialogue. LARC stands
for Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholics in our Commonwealth who have
come together in Covenant Agreement.The
LARC agreement was signed in 1993 to commemorate a movement for “spiritual
understanding, cooperation and unity among Christians and their churches. Four
local church bodies signed the document with a goal of more visible Christian
unity in Central Pennsylvania. The terms of the covenant included prayer said
for the other denominations during worship services; joint retreats for clergy
and parish leadership; pulpit exchanges in non- Eucharistic liturgies; joint
efforts for evangelization and social justice concerns and study of the common
traditions of the churches.”(from a 2007 press release issued by the
Archdiocese of Harrisburg )
These days, the LARC action in Harrisburg has lagged some,
but the LARC Day of Dialogue remains of some interest.On Monday, the topic was Creation
Care.Our guest speaker was Mrs.
Stephanie Cleary of the Archdiocese of Vermont.The title of her lecture and discussion was
“Rooted in Common Ground.”
She spoke eloquently, sharing a recent paper that she had
written responding to the Pope Francis’ second encyclical Laudato Si (trans. “Praise be to You”) : On Care for Our Common
Home which was released on 24 May, 2015.Stephanie lifted salient parts of the text to share with us, discussing
Creation Care, Climate Change and our call to participate in healing the earth
weaving together the areas of Cosmology (our beliefs about Creation),
Anthropology (our beliefs about humankind), and Christology (our beliefs about
Jesus Christ).She talked about the
fallout of global warming and climate change and how those who contribute most
to the problem (that’s us) are the ones least affected.We saw a video of an island culture whose
entire cluster of islands is being compromised and their subsequent immigration
to New Zealand where they face the eventual loss of their cultural identity
altogether. See http://blogs.worldbank.org/peoplemove/climate-change-and-the-migration-fallout for an excellent article on the topic.
The same video showed the loss of land mass in Louisiana and
the effect on the people there.We
learned about “Differentiated Responsibility” in which those with more
resources must lead the change to effect healing.Stephanie quoted Roman Catholic Eco-theologian
Elizabeth Johnson who writes, “Ecological integrity and socioeconomic justice
intertwine in a tight embrace.”
It was a stimulating lecture which invited us, then, to
share in small groups about our own efforts as Christians- corporately and
individually- in Eco-Justice.
I want to know who, in our diocese, is working in the area
of Environmental Justice.
This is an area which needs our efforts of education,
advocacy and action.
In a Commonwealth marked by such striking physical beauty
and natural resources, who, among us, is working with an eye towards justice
and the Common Good?Who, among us, has
grasped the idea of Differentiated Responsibility and is working to heal our earth-not just for our own selves, but for people
far away whose very homes are disappearing, being engulfed by the sea?
Fill me in if you’re on this already.
Let me know if you want to start something.We have a Council of Trustees and a Social
Justice committee who want to support your efforts.
I am proud of the work that we do, as Episcopalians and as
Christians in this place to bring healing and reconciliation in so many
ways.There is no end to the work before
us- until the Last Day- when we will all be redeemed.Until then, we are led by Jesus into the
vineyard to do the work, into our churches to be nourished, nurtured and fed,
and always, to give praise to our great Creator who fashioned this amazing
place that we call home.
I don’t think that it is possible for me to go to Potter County without going on a hike.
Potter County’s nickname is “God’s Country” and it lives up to the name in the amazing natural beauty that is evident around every corner on the winding mountain roads.
I traveled North on Wednesday to spend some time with the Rev. Janis Yskamp and her husband Wayne in the aftermath of a devastating house fire. No one was injured, but everything was lost. And after we spent time on Wednesday touring the rubble, there wasn’t much to do, as the insurance inspector wouldn’t be arriving until Friday.
And so we took to the woods.
Joined by woodsman and hiker Lewis Russell, we four set out on a rainy Thursday on a trail in the woods on Denton Hill, near Coudersport. Wayne let me use his new walking stick which looked surprisingly similar to a crosier- even with a slight bend at the top. And so we began our procession through the woods.
It had rained all morning, and we set out close to noon. The ground was springy and soft and it wasn’t too long before the moisture found its way in through a hole in the toe of my hiking boot and my feet (well, at least one of my feet) were sopping. But there was little time to lament about sodden feet, as Wayne began his familiar banter, entertaining us with stories of people he’d known and places he’d been- Wayne could smoke any Toastmaster’s meeting, for sure. Lewis led the way, Janis played the role of Sweeper (making sure that the bishop didn’t lag behind and wander off the trail) and we made our way deep into the woods on a grey November day.
We walked on trails cut in the woods for cross country skiers and on logging roads. All of these are connected in a trail system and documented on a state map- which we left at home. These three had tromped all over this hill in the past and, with a few comic exceptions, had maneuvered their way around with few problems.
We were a boisterous party, making our way through the woods and any deer or bear were well warned that we were in the ‘hood, so we did not have any wildlife sightings.
But, oh, what I learned.
Wayne, Janis and Lewis are so knowledgeable about the way of the woods and the animals that live in them. It was like walking with a naturalist’s guide to the outdoors. I learned about deer scrubbings- circular patches on the ground where bucks scratch through the leaves and underbrush down to the earth to leave their scent for the does during mating season. The buck makes the circle on the ground, urinates to leave his scent and then- this is the cool part- reaches up to break an overhanging twig and rubs his eye on it to release mucus from his eye, which has another scent to mark and attract the does. The doe, then, comes to the scrubbing, marks it with her urine as a way to let the buck know that she is in the area. The buck returns at sunup and sundown to check the scrubbing and, eventually, the buck and the doe find each other, all facilitated through this system of scrubbing, marking and scenting. FASCINATING. Wayne pointed out about a half dozen of these scrubbings on our walk. Each one, a circular patch about 2 feet in diameter and each one with a broken twig hanging overhead. We saw, too, some “fake” scrubbings which had been set up by hunters who make the scrub and use a bottled potion to scent the circle. But the hunters do not bother to break a twig. We walked past several of these, and determined their authenticity based on the presence of one broken, hanging twig (or not) in the middle of a woods filled with billions of twigs. Wow.
I learned, too, about the process of rubbing- when bucks rub the velvet off of their horns- and how you can track a buck (and how other deer can track their own) by following the progression of logs and trees going up and down a hill, that had been used as rubbing points. I looked up the hill and saw a leafy, pretty hillside. Wayne looked up the same hill and showed me the exact path that a buck had recently traveled based on the rub marks left on the trees on the way up. Wow.
We walked past lots of creeks and streams and I learned about trout pools and the way that they travel through the watercourses.
We laughed at “trees with legs” (trees whose roots were exposed, making them look like legs) and I learned about why they grew this way, in the path of the runoff of water in the spring.
We reached the top of the ridge and Wayne looked across, about 4 miles away, and spotted two hunters in blaze orange.
I learned about clear cutting lumber and the degradation of the forest.
I learned that there is an entire ecosystem and natural course of wildlife that I know so very little about. And I was grateful for the lessons and the time spent in “God’s Country.”
Our hike reminded me of the depth and intricacy of God’s Creation and how, as humans, we are called to tread lightly on this earth, respecting that we are but one part of God’s created order. And I was in awe, again, of the workings of the natural world and our Creator’s design. I remembered that part in Job when God lays it out for him, saying, Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?— 9 when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, 13 so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? 14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and it is dyed[b] like a garment. 15 Light is withheld from the wicked, and their uplifted arm is broken.
16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.
This is a bit of a comeuppance for Job, but underscores that we know only a tiny bit of the Creator’s holy design (Well, Wayne seems to know a good deal of it, actually) and possess none of the power.
We put in a good seven miles or so on our walk.
It was a healing, restorative and humbling afternoon.