The First Earth Day was April 22, 1970. I was a junior at White Plains High School, and a group of us cleaned up a field by the high school – removing bottles, cans, papers, plastic, bikes, the sorts of thing that collect in a vacant lot over the years. A couple who lived nearby was so impressed by young people doing “good“ that they invited us over for an impromptu barbecue. An Ecology Club started at school, and the local Youth Council made recycling a priority. (It was years before municipalities would even start talking about curbside recycling. People would bring us glass, cans and newspapers which we would sort and take to the Recycling Center.)
In the nearly half century since, Earth Day has become an annual celebration of the earth, as well as a time for teaching about ways to live to preserve the planet. A lot has happened during these years. Scientists in various fields have discovered more and more ways in which human activity threatens plants, animals, entire ecosystems and actually the entire planet. Not all of the news is bad, because the human ingenuity can also be put to use to find ways to reverse the devastation. This includes actions by individuals, corporations, nations.
Ever since that first Earth Day, I have been concerned about the environment and sought to find ways to live more ecologically. But it wasn’t until I studied with Professor Sally McFague at seminary, that I understood the crucial connection between theology and ecology.
McFague recounted a conference of theologians in the 1980s when Professor (and theologian) Gordon Kaufman challenged his colleagues to address the issues of nuclear war and ecological devastation which threatened the planet and all of its inhabitants. It was not enough for theologians to be activists, or to live ecologically in their private lives. They also needed to examine how theology itself had contributed to the problems and propose ways that theology could be part of the solution. This meant an in-depth, critical examination of contemporary theology and a radical shift toward a theology of care for the environment.
Since then, my spirituality and theology have deepened and broadened. I have come to believe that in today’s world, consciousness about the planet plays a crucial role in what it means to have an authentic spiritual life and to follow Jesus. The last few words may sound strange since Jesus said nothing about ecology. This is because while Jesus walked the earth humans had not yet developed technology to support a lifestyle to put the planet at risk. But we can apply his words and actions then to the challenges we face today.
Part of my ministry is to not only live ecologically, but to preach and teach about it from a theological and spiritual perspective. I would have incorporated this into my ministry here anyway … but imagine my delight to find out that a number of parishioners (of all ages) are passionate about the environment, and many others are concerned and eager to “do” something. This has translated into “Stewardship of Creation” being incorporated into some Lent programs at the parish.
[A word about Lent: in recent years, there has been an evolving understanding of Lenten practice. Traditionally it has been a time to give up something up until Easter. . There is nothing wrong with that, but I invite you to broaden your horizons to consider Lent as a time to take something on. There are many ways to do this – focusing more on relationships, care for another person, better care for yourself, prayer practices, getting involved with a ministry or outreach in the community. Actually, the two ways of observing Lent are compatible. For example if you give up TV, you can spend that time in prayer, or connecting with friends; if you give up chocolate, you can donate the money you save to a charity.]
I of course cannot tell you what to do or not do for Lent - after all we are Episcopalian. I can however offer a suggestion, which is that you and your family take on one or more practices of care for the planet. In addition to the benefit to the planet, it is an opportunity for a family to learn and grow together (which may mean giving up some time spent on Facebook). It can be fun to think of more ways to care for the earth. My guess is that you won’t stop the practice after Easter, but rather incorporate it into your life. It may not seem like a spiritual practice, but it is.
At the parish
- There will be several programs on Sundays in Lent, which are described in detail in this issue of Chimes. And there is more to come, so stay tuned.
- We are fortunate to live in a community where there is a strong commitment to the environment, and some parishioners look forward to getting the parish connected to community programs.
- Last year The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, led the Church of England in a Plastic-Free Lent. This included a calendar with specific suggestions for each day of Lent – a great source of ideas and inspiration. Click here to download the calendar; copies will also be available in church. (While it is true that the dates are from last year (Feb 14th – March 31st) you can still follow which week and day it is in Lent.)
- Watch for “The ABCs of Living Green” poster, with more ideas.
- I am going to be teaching a class based on Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril by Elizabeth Johnson, a Roman Catholic nun and theologian who recently retired from teaching at Fordham. (Details are in this Chimes.) You don’t need any background in theology to understand the book.
I look forward to sharing this Lenten journey with each and all of you. In our Lenten practice we experience the apparent paradox that we are each alone and also part of community. Perhaps the trees can help us to understand that though we may appear to be separate, we are in fact all connected through our roots.
Finally, please know I am available to talk with you about your Lenten practice.
This is Rev G giving out “ashes-to-go” in Greenwich Village, 2018
Services, Guest Speakers, & Ways to Deepen Our Relationship with God in Lent
Lenten Book Study with Rev G
Rev. Gwyneth will teach a class based on the book Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril by Elizabeth A. Johnson. The book will be available at The Voracious Reader (our local bookstore, 1997 Palmer Ave.) on or about February 28th. Please let the bookstore know you are from the parish.
The class will be offered at two times: Monday evenings at 7:00 (March 11 - April 15) and Wednesdays at 12:00 Noon (March 13 - April 17). Please read Chapter 1 for the first class.
Daily Lenten Meditations from Episcopal Relief & Development
Do you strive to deepen your spiritual discipline each Lent? Episcopal Relief & Development's 2019 book of Lenten Meditations may be picked up at the back of the church or in the parish office. If you prefer an electronic version, you may subscribe by clicking here and you will receive each day’s meditation via email.
Contemplative Prayer at St. John's
We would like to especially invite anyone interested in learning more about Centering Prayer and trying out a new (or very old) practice to join our Tuesday group during Lent. Please join us on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM in the Thorne Room, and feel free to invite friends.
Sunday, March 3 at 5:00 PM - Choral Evensong
Please join us for the yearly liturgical celebration of St. John’s Choral Evensong which will feature music by Dupré, Byrd, Howells, Mendelsohn, and Sowerby. Reception to follow.
Please invite your friends and neighbors (click here for the event flyer) as this is a great opportunity to introduce others to St. John’s!
Wednesday, March 6 - Ash Wednesday
**NEW SERVICE** In addition to our usual services at St. John’s, there will be another opportunity to worship that is especially suited for young families. At 5:30 PM at All Saints’ in Harrison (300 Harrison Avenue), we will join with families from All Saints’ and St. Thomas, Mamaroneck, for a service that includes a child-friendly sermon explaining why we receive ashes.
Saturday, March 9 - Community Dinner at St. Thomas Mamaroneck
We will co-host a very special outreach event at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck (168 West Boston Post Road). Just as we came together in fellowship in the fall for our chili cook-off, we ask that we come together again. This time the chili is part of an outreach effort where we will serve others at St. Thomas’ community dinner that is open to anyone and everyone.
There is a signup genius on our website’s Time & Talent page, and there are still several open spots. Check it out and then plan to join us!
Sunday, March 10 at Coffee Hour - Jan-Willem van den Dijssel
St. John's parishioner, Jan-Willem van den Dijssel, will discuss his work as a board member of The North American Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA). NAMEPA is a marine industry-led organization of environmental stewards preserving the marine environment by promoting sustainable marine industry best practices and educating seafarers, students, and the public about the need and strategies for protecting global ocean, lake, and river resources. His presentation will focus on marine debris and what we can do to help reduce it.
In addition, Miss Anna McDonald will teach everyone how to compost during coffee hour (date TBD). Anna is a freshman at Mamaroneck High School & her Original Civics Project involves getting composting at all district schools.
Thursday, March 14 at 7:00 PM - ECW Outreach Grant Recipient YSPW
Come to the Chapter Room to hear from one of our Episcopal Church Women (ECW) Outreach grant recipients, Mr. Christian Philemon, Executive Director of the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester (YSPW) located in Mt. Vernon. YSPW provides a home-like alternative to the Westchester County Jail for young men awaiting disposition of various criminal charges. The shelter houses up to 12 young men, age 16-21 years old, and is the only shelter in the state of NY serving youth that are involved in the adult criminal justice system.
Collection of bedding:
During this time of Lent, we focus more intently on those in need. As part of our speaker event, we are collecting new, twin XL comforters, blankets and bed sheets in neutral colors (twin xl sizing is 39”x80.” Please no pillows or bath items). A collection bin for donated items will be in the church office starting March 1st to March 14th. Items can also be brought to the speaker event. (New items only, please.)
You can also make a cash/check donation for bed supplies. Checks should be made out to St. John’s ECW and sent to the church office. For questions, please contact Kristen Simko.
Are you familiar with a local charity that assists under-served women and children in our local community?
Each year, the proceeds of the bazaar are used by the ECW (Episcopal Church Women) Outreach Grants Program to provide individual grants of up to $2,000 to various organizations that help women and children in need in our area. All applications for this year's grants are due April 1, 2019. Applications require a completed application form detailing the specific project requesting funds, a current IRS Form 990, the accounting year closing statement, a list of voting and non-voting board members, and the organization's certificate of incorporation as a 501(c)(3). If you would like additional information or a grant application, please contact Kristen Simko or Fiona Farrell.
Sunday, April 7 at 5:00 PM - Taizé Service
For thousands of years people have been building the strong bond of community through singing. Brothers began singing simple songs in the French monastery community of Taizé in the 1960s as a way to create a universal liturgy that new participants could join immediately. Since that time these songs have had such transcendent power that the Taizé community now has tens of thousands of visitors every year and the meditative songs are sung in services throughout the world. Each one is a prayer often inspired by the Psalms.
At 5 p.m. on April 7, we will have a service celebrating this tradition at St. John’s. We invite everyone to come as you are (in jeans, soccer uniforms, etc.) and sing with us. The songs are simple and short, but sung in repetition so that everyone has the opportunity to join the music. If anyone would like to accompany a song or a few with a violin, flute, or other instruments please let Elizabeth Fitts know. We would be happy for the gift. The songs are fluid and we invite everyone to listen, sing the melody, sing a harmony or create a new harmony as you choose. Please join us.
April 14 - Palm Sunday
Services at St. John's at 8:00 AM & 10:00 AM
April 18 - Maundy Thursday
Service at St. John's at 7:00 PM
April 19 - Good Friday
Family Service at St. Thomas, Mamaroneck at 10:00 AM
Service at St. John's at 12:00 Noon
April 20 - Easter Vigil
Easter Vigil at St. Thomas, Mamaroneck at 7:30 PM
April 21 - Easter Sunday
Sunrise Service at Manor Park at 6:00 or 6:30 AM (time TBD)
Services at St. John's at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM (note times)
Easter Egg Hunt at St. John's at 10:30 AM