Watershed Discipleship is a website and organization based on the idea that the best way to orient the church’s work and witness is through bioregionally-grounded planning and action which focuses on the actual watersheds we inhabit. The website includes a blog, links to articles by Ched Meyers and others, and information about watersheds. Read more: Watershed Discipleship Movement and Resources
2016 Churchwide Assembly
ASSEMBLY ACTION CA16.05.24 To adopt Motion C.
WHEREAS, Holy Scripture reminds us that “the Holy Habitation of the Most High” includes “a river whose streams make glad the city of God,” and that “waters of the sea may become fresh, so everything will live where the river goes,” and that “the Holy Spirit descended on [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove” when he was baptized in the River Jordan; and 2016 Churchwide Assembly: Legislative Update Friday, August 12, 2016 Page 11 of 14
WHEREAS, a watershed is the ground that water flows within as it moves toward a stream, river or lake, and is a natural boundary within God’s creation, unlike arbitrary and haphazard geopolitical boundaries, and all of God’s creatures live in a watershed; and
WHEREAS, many of the watersheds in this country are degraded, and this environmental damage leads to water shortages and a crisis that disproportionately affects people of color and people with lower incomes; and
WHEREAS, the ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” states that “We see the despoiling of the environment as nothing less than the degradation of God’s precious gift of creation,” and the social statement also reminds us that “congregations have various opportunities during the year to focus on creation… Thanksgiving, harvest festivals, and blessings of field, water, and plants and animals,” and encourages us to “observe Earth Day or Soil and Water Stewardship Week,” so as to protect and restore “natural and human habitats, including seas, wetlands, forests, wilderness, and urban areas”; and
WHEREAS, “watershed discipleship” requires that Christians acknowledge that water lies both at the center of our Christian rite of baptism and our current ecological and climate crisis, thus deserving deep theological treatment; therefore, let it be
RESOLVED, that the ELCA, in Assembly, requests the Church Council to direct the appropriate churchwide unit to provide every active rostered leader with resources to locate each congregation within its watershed district, so that waters may be named and known in worship and intercessory prayers, and that theological and biblical themes may build awareness, care and thanksgiving for the gift of these waters; and let it be further
RESOLVED, that the ELCA, in Assembly, requests the Church Council to direct the appropriate churchwide unit to provide resources to congregations and individual members to encourage and support conservation and prayerful stewardship of water resources; and let it be further
RESOLVED, that the ELCA, in Assembly, requests the Church Council to direct the appropriate churchwide unit to continue to develop strategies and provide resources to support areas struggling with natural or human-caused disasters that impact access to clean water, such as water contamination, drought and floods, with an awareness that the impact of our environmental actions have disproportionate implication for communities of color with lower incomes; and let it be further
RESOLVED, that the ELCA, in Assembly, encourages congregations to plan events outside their doors and within their watersheds, utilizing the many biblical themes of renewal and liberation that water affords.
Eco-theologians and lay readers alike have a new, paperless way to learn about ecology and Christian worship. The Rev. Dr. Benjamin M. Stewart’s book A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology is now available in a Kindle edition.
A Watered Garden links worship with God’s creation, drawing connections between the natural world and ecumenical patterns of worship. Stewart draws from his research at Emory University, where he was a Piedmont Fellow in Teaching and the Environment, and his years of scholarly work at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he is the Gordon A. Braatz Assistant Professor of Worship and dean of the chapel.
Stewart’s book, first published in a print edition in 2011, has received widespread praise. The Christian Century selected it as one of ten best new books in ethics for spring 2012. The magazine also featured excerpts from A Watered Garden as its cover story for its January 2011 issue.
“With elegance and delightful clarity, Benjamin Stewart has drawn many strands together to reveal the ways in which Christian worship shapes Christian care for this earth,” wrote Prof. Samuel Torvend of Pacific Lutheran University.
Larry Rasmussen, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary, says, “This instructive little volume does just what is needed for Christianity’s ecological phase; namely, make the vital connections between classic elements of worship and care for creation as holy ground. To do so with water, but also food and our bodies themselves, brings power and connection to both liturgy and daily practice.”
Chaplain to Muhlenberg College Callista Isabelle adds, “Stewart balances a sense of urgency to care for the earth with a steady reminder of God’s promise of renewal made known to us in Christ’s resurrection. We are invited to draw from deep liturgical roots to care for the holy ground on which God has planted us—local community and global home.”
Stewart is currently writing a book proposing a liturgical theology of natural burial practices. The Kindle edition of A Watered Garden is available on Amazon (Augsburg Fortress, 2011, $8.99).
Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade first started helping Lutherans Restoring Creation as she joined us in a training at Mar-Lu Ridge camp in Maryland in 2011 and shared her personal experiences being a pastor on the frontline of the fracking issues in Pennsylvania. Then, in 2013, she graciously gave a group of LRC trainers at Gettysburg Seminary a sneak peek of her eco-feminist work as she was in the midst of crafting her doctoral thesis. That work evolved as she pursued her vocation of teaching and published her book, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit.
Most recently she has been sharing her gifts as Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Her book, Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide, explores how clergy and churches can address controversial social issues (including climate change) using nonpartisan, biblically-centered approaches and deliberative dialogue. She also co-edited with Margaret Bullitt-Jonas a timely tool for all of us in this ministry: Rooted & Rising : Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, a collection of 21 essays from a cross section of faith leaders and activists offering their spiritual wisdom and energy for facing the difficult days ahead. Leah has also written a Creation-centered Lenten devotional, For the Beauty of the Earth. She is a sought-after speaker and has keynoted and led workshops across the United States.
Below is a listing of Leah’s various offerings to Lutherans Restoring Creation. We are proud to have her as a part of our church and larger cloud of witnesses.
Read her most recent posts at: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/ecopreacher/
“Connections to Creation” reflections for Sundays and Seasons, 2019-2020 and 2020-21.
“Encountering Pharaoh – and Climate Change” in Preaching as Resistance; Phil Snider, editor; St. Louis, MI: Chalice Press, 2018.
“Preaching the Body of God: Sallie McFague and a Homiletics of Creation Care,” The Other Journal; Fall 2018.
“Include Mother Earth in the #MeToo Movement: ‘Don’t Frack Your Mother,’” Mother Pelican: A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability, Luis T. Gutiérrez, editor; Vol. 14, No. 3, March 2018; http://www.pelicanweb.org/solisustv14n03page11.html
“Let’s Make Earth Day about the Earth Martyrs,” The Christian Century, April 18, 2017. https://www.christiancentury.org/blog-post/lets-make-earth-day-about-earth-martyrs
Let All Creation Praise website contributor – http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/about-us
2016 – present: Supply preaching
2011 – 2016: Pastor, United in Christ Lutheran Church, West Milton, PA
2009 – 2011: Bridge Pastor, Spirit and Truth Worship Center, Yeadon, PA
2000 – 2009: Associate Pastor, Reformation Lutheran Church, Media, PA
Website for Creation-Crisis Preaching: www.creationcrisispreaching.com
Website for The Purple Zone – Ministry in the Red/Blue Divide: https://thepurplezone.net/
Featured faith leader in documentary In God We Trump by Christopher Maloney, 2017: http://ingodwetrumpfilm.com/
Featured in The Lutheran Magazine, “Restoring Creation with Faith,” April 2015 http://www.thelutheran.org/article/article.cfm?article_id=12519
Featured faith leader in 20-minute short film, Faith Against Fracking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R716qzQU8g
Climate Stew podcast profile and interview: http://climatestew.com/portfolio/rev-dr-leah-d-schade-phd/; http://climatestew.com/podcast/episode-eighteen-whats-faith-got-to-do-with-it/
• Kentucky Council of Churches Award, 2019
• Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania Service Award, 2016
• The Mark McCollough Religious Leadership Award, presented by The Central Susquehanna Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 2013
Environmental and Justice Advocacy and Activism
Member of Blessed Tomorrow Leadership Circle, a coalition of diverse American faith leaders committed to inspiring others to lead on climate solutions in their congregations, homes, and communities. Blessed Tomorrow is one of the sector programs of ecoAmerica, an organization committed to building institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States.
Trained workshop leader for Lutherans Restoring Creation, training congregations for starting care-of-Creation teams and programs.
Involvement with several different interfaith groups on environmental issues, including Interfaith Power & Light, the Poor People’s Campaign, Pa. MORALtorium on Fracking, etc. Prayer vigils, press conferences, government testimonies and protests.
Founding member of the Isaiah 1:17 Justice Team of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod, 2018 – present.
Sponsor of memorial to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly calling for divestment from fossil fuels. Motion passed by Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly (USS), June 2015.
Sponsor of memorial to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and resolution to the Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly calling for integration of Eco-Reformation into the 500th Anniversary commemoration of the Reformation. Motions passed, June 2015.
Community organizer and spokesperson for the Tire Burner Team, a group of community activists and grassroots citizens who successfully defeated a proposed tire incinerator in White Deer Township, Union County, PA; 2013 – 2014.
Representative for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania (LAMPa) and the ELCA, testifying in favor of the EPA’s Clean Air proposal for coal plants, 2014.
USS Bishop-appointed task group on fracking, 2013 – 2014.
Primary author of three resolutions on slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing for Upper Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA; one calling for formation of synod task force; one calling for ELCA to establish task force; one for the synod to call for a statewide moratorium; all three passed; 2012.
Clean Air Advocacy Conference participant and representative for the National Council of Churches in coalition with the US Climate Action Network; meetings with four congressional representatives in support of the Clean Air Act; Washington, DC, 2011
Over 100 radio, television and newspaper interviews, features, and op-eds covering topics such as local and national environmental issues, religion, and politics
SAMPLE KEYNOTES, WORKSHOPS, RETREATS
“Creation, Climate, and the Church: Healing Our ‘Vitamin C’ Deficiency”
In an increasingly polarized society, how can the church respond to the rising crises of environmental devastation and climate disruption? Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will share her research about pastors, preaching, and environmental issues, and suggest an approach that honestly and creatively names the reality of the “eco-crucifixion,” while proclaiming an “eco-resurrection” through Christ’s redemption of Creation.
“Beyond ‘Creation Care’: Building the Eco-Ethical Ark in the Age of Climate Disruption”
For many years, religious environmental activists used the term “Creation Care” to instill a sense of moral and ethical responsibility around ecological issues. Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will make the case that we need to expand and deepen our understanding of the phrase “Creation Care” so that it conveys the urgency needed to act on what is happening. She will propose adding three other alliterative phrases: Creation Clarity, Creation Compliance, and Creation Compassion, and will explore what they might entail for the church responding to the climate crisis.
Deliberative Dialogue on “Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet?”
Climate change is an issue that affects virtually every American, directly or indirectly, often in deeply personal ways. How can the church address this issue given the red-blue polarization of our time? Is there a way to faithfully engage important questions about the climate crisis that moves us beyond the current political debate and frames the conversation within a biblical and theological perspective? Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade will facilitate a nonpartisan deliberative dialogue in which we’ll explore the church’s role in engaging this difficult issue.
“Who Is My Neighbor” Mapping Exercise
Drawing from her book, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015), Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will present practical suggestions and questions for mapping the ecological, social, cultural and political location of a particular congregation to help churches better contextualize their ecology ministry. This workshop will be helpful for pastors looking to “green” their preaching and for church leaders wanting to find ways to create or expand their ecology ministry.
“Council of All Beings”
This workshop invites participants to spend time outside and connect with an aspect of nature that calls to them. Drawing on her book Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis co-edited with Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade leads participants through a ritual of deep listening to the natural world in order to foster compassion for all life-forms and heal the splits that separate human beings from God’s Creation.
“Art as a Window into the Intersection of Religion, Gender, and Ecology”
Rev. Dr. Leah Schade shares provocative and moving images from artists depicting humanity’s different conceptions of the environment, religion, and the male/female dichotomy. How do our understandings of gender impact our theology and how we view the natural world? What impacts do these images have on everything from our religious language, to our environmental policies, to our treatment of males, females, transgender, and non-gendered persons? Through discussion, meditation, journaling, and group exercises, participants will be led to deepen their relationship with themselves, the natural world, and the Divine.
Creation-Crisis Preaching: Strategies, Tactics, and Text Studies
Preaching “good news” in the face of environmental devastation, the climate crisis, and extreme energy extraction can feel overwhelming to pastors and congregations alike. Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will introduce a three-fold approach for preaching that addresses environmental justice issues with a particular eye towards congregational context (geography, culture, community, political tensions, economics, etc.). The goal is to help preachers develop an environmentally-literate approach to preaching that honestly and creatively names the reality of our ecologically-violated world, while emphasizing a hope-filled “eco-resurrection” through Christ’s redemption of Creation.
Sermons preached as Earth, Water, or Air
“I Am Ruah: The Holy Spirit Speaks to the Climate Crisis”
“Ruah” is the Hebrew word for the spirit, air and wind that comes from God. How might Ruah, the very breath of God, experience the climate crisis and pollution? What insights can we gain from Jesus’ teaching about blaspheming the Holy Spirit when considering the moral and ethical implications of climate disruption? In this creative and engaging sermon, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade speaks as the character of Ruah and invites listeners to consider how their faith will shape their response to the climate crisis.
“I Am Water, I Am Waiting: John 4:1-42 (The Woman at the Well).
How does Water respond to being called hudor zoe, living water, by Jesus? How does she feel about baptism? About the pollution from fracking? In this dramatic and imaginative sermon, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade preaches as the character of Water telling the story of God’s Creation from the beginning, her relationship with Jesus, and her perspective on the story of the Woman at the Well in John 4:1-42.
Earth Speaks: What’s Next?
In this sermon listeners begin to see how the ideas of Earth-as-body, Earth’s co-creativity with God, the intrinsic value of Earth, and the relationship between Earth, its flora and fauna, human beings, and God are so intimately related. The sermon dramatically portrays what it looks like when the relationships between these entities are violated by human beings. Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade illustrates what it might be like if Earth were to hear and interpret a biblical text and provides insight into humanity’s relationship with God and Creation, as well as God’s in response to suffering, from Earth’s perspective.
Veni, Creator Spiritus!
An Ecological Reformation
Veni, Creator Spiritus! Once a World Council of Churches program theme, “Come, Holy Spirit, renew your whole creation!” surfaced again in an ecumenical gathering in Greece in March 2016, this time as a “Manifesto for an Ecological Reformation of Christianity.” The authors note the Reformation Jubilee of 2017 as the opportune moment for the manifesto. The backstory is the urgent call of Christians from areas most vulnerable to the constellations of economic power, whether in the Pacific, Africa, Asia, Latin America, or from minority populations in Europe and North
America. Add the Pope’s ringing encyclical, Laudato Si’ , and Protestant countries in the North keenly aware of the environmental degradation of their consumerist life style, and we have an ecological cry that is as clear, strong and emphatic as
Beethoven’s Ninth. [read more]
Behold the Lilies, by the Rev. H. Paul Santmire, draws from the riches of the author’s long-standing work in the theology of nature and ecological spirituality, especially from his classic historical study, The Travail of Nature (1985), and from his Franciscan exploration in Christian spirituality, Before Nature (2014). In this new volume, Santmire maintains that those who would follow Jesus are mandated not just to care for the earth and all its creatures but also to contemplate the beauties of the whole creation, beginning with “the lilies of the field.” His first-person reflections range from “Scything with God” to “Rediscovering Saint Francis in Stone,” from “Taking a Plunge in the Niagara River” to “Pondering the Darkness of Nature.” Behold the Lilies offers brief spiritual reflections that can be read in any order, over a period of time. This accessible primer will be welcomed not only by those who have already identified themselves with the way of Jesus but also by others who are searching for a contemplative spirituality attuned to global ecological and justice issues.
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