More than 100 “creation caretakers” gathered at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center near Little Rock, Ark., recently for “Ethical Earth Care: Keeping Creation Sacred” ― the annual conference of Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC).
Larry Rasmussen, author of Earth Honoring Faith: Religious Ethics in a New Key, was the conference’s keynote speaker, bringing theological and environmental insights to a series of plenary sessions throughout the conference. He wove throughout his teaching the development of an ecological and spiritual ethic, one that demands the care of all Creation, including earth, air, fire and water.
Participants attended a wide variety of workshops on topics ranging from the challenges of mountain top removal, fracking (natural gas extraction), and toxic chemicals to greening congregations, connections between environment, poverty, and violence and the importance of food sovereignty.
Leaders included Rebecca Barnes, associate for environmental ministries in the Presbyterian Hunger Program; Andrew Kang Bartlett, associate for national hunger concerns; and Leslie Woods, associate for domestic poverty and environmental issues in the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness.
Conference participants also gathered twice a day for worship services led by the Rev. Neddy Astudillo.
Many participants also took part in special trips to explore Little Rock’s landmarks and green buildings, including the Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer International, Heifer Ranch and Central High School.
PEC awarded its two annual awards during the conference. The William Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to David Gill, executive director of Ferncliff Presbyterian Camp and Conference Center.
Under Gill’s leadership and direction, Ferncliff has become one of the most sustainable camp/conference centers in the country, through projects such as an entirely new youth camp with geothermal heating/cooling and the recently completed Eco Center that will serve as a center for creation care and the home for the Solar School.
Solar Under The Sun (SUTS), a ministry of the Synod of the Sun, was honored with the Restoring Creation Award. SUTS trains volunteers to design and install solar power systems in partnership with communities that lack reliable electrical power.
In the past four years, SUTS held nine training sessions that equipped 191 volunteers and conducted 50 solar mission outreaches in Haiti, Ukraine and Kenya. Chris McRae, executive director, accepted the award on behalf of Solar Under the Sun.