More than 150 people are enjoying the clear, cool weather in Montreat, N.C., this week for the Presbyterians for Earth Care 2015 Conference. A break from summer heat has made the Montreat Conference Center the perfect stage for the gathering with blue skies, crystal clear lakes and fading green trees. Attendees have come from various churches and presbyteries around the country to participate in workshops, attend plenaries and worship together.
The conference opened with a special worship service that included a recorded message from Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Moderator Heath Rada, small group discussions about attendees’ passion for earth care, and exercise to help attendees commit mind and body to the work of the next several days.
During a time of prayer, attendees offered concern for refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq, the continuing struggles other countries face in the midst of environmental crises as well as other national and international issues.
In a recorded message, Dr. William Brown of Columbia Theological Seminary gave an overview of the creation story from Genesis 1:1-2:3. Referring to the Apollo space program, he said the trip to the moon gave us an opportunity to rediscover the earth, its beauty and our responsibility for it.
“Creation is God’s cosmic temple, cosmic sanctuary,” Brown said. “If that is truth, then why would we ever want to deface creation, damage and bring it to ruin?”
“This gathering in this time and place is critical in light of recent events such as Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, his upcoming U.S. visit [and] the recent World Day of Prayer for God’s creation,” said Rebecca Barnes, associate for Environmental Ministries in PC(USA). “We gather here in prayer and support of God’s creation. This is a powerful and meaningful moment.”
The group will hear from a number of special guests this week including keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Patricia Tull, a Presbyterian teaching elder and A.B. Rhodes Professor Emerita of Hebrew Bible at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and author of several books. Tull is a climate reality presenter and a strong environmental advocate. The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, will also be speaking at the conference.
Other workshops topics include climate change, fossil fuels and church investments, eco-justice and advocacy. The conference concludes Friday.