So who mends creation?
The One who created it?
Or those who find themselves transformed by it?
In truth, there is a co-operation, God with human, within creation. No human can produce a life-giving process which mends creation; we must simply stop harming that which gives us life! God alone brings growth, healing and wholeness. As Walter Farquharson wrote many years ago:
“God who gives to life its goodness …
Give us now creative spirits,
Minds responsive to your mind” (Common Praise 428)
“Mending Creation” was the sub-theme for Environment Justice Camp hosted by the Diocese of British Columbia May 13th to the 19th. Here are come comments by participants – young and older – about this transformative learning experience:
“In the face of the serious challenges we all share, the note of celebration which I carried away was the theme of “abundance” – living beyond sustainability into a life of respect, simplicity, and gratitude. All in all, a stimulating and challenging week, helping me to keep the greening of our ways at the forefront of our agendas.”
Andrew Twiddy, Priest – Diocese of BC
“Now that the camp is over, we are into something really exciting: the wave phase. The potential exists for a nationwide eco-justice youth movement; this being a not-so-humble little suggestion that crept into a few conversations and wasn’t chased away.”
Anna-Maria Galante-Ward, Activist & Journalist Diocese of Nova Scotia & PEI
“I have been involved in a number of environmental organizations, however this is unique because it’s the first time I’ve ever looked at Ecojustice and spirituality together. I plan to develop a program to educate about the interconnectedness of the ocean. I hope to use the skills I developed through the Shorekeepers program on the West coast. I feel encouraged both as an activist and as a Christian.”
Derrick Lovell, Student University of Toronto
“I came to EJC to spend with a group who, together study and learn from one another about our approach to environmental concerns in a Christian context. Connecting with others who believe in faith in action is powerful, encouraging, nourishing. I am going home reenergized and encouraged to continue in action. I also will strive to continue to work towards more sustainable agricultural practices on our farm. I look forward to working with other Manitobans I met here at EJC – leadership on projects promoting environmental responsibility from a justice-based perspective.
The unique blend of youth and more seasoned participants is second to none. The immersion experience is also second to none.”
Jan McIntyre ~ Anglican Farmer
“I want to know my environment better and discover how I can help change the situation on a Christian perspective. During camp, my values on the environment took a turn and I learned a lot on interdependence. My activity in Environmental matters in my home community will become more active. My values have changed and I intend to save more, and waste less, and reprimand my environmentally unfriendly colleagues who waste much. The information received was useful and made me realize that even one person can make a difference and that our actions are responsible for the earth’s destruction.”
Kujang Jessica Kandaru, Student & Refugee from Kenya
Environment Justice Camp
By Coleen Sym
I loved summer camp as a kid. In fact, I loved it so much as a kid that as an adult I wanted my kids to have the opportunity too. Last summer was their first experience at “sleep over camp”. As an adult, I enjoyed having the kids enjoy a week at camp so much that this summer we can enjoy them being at camp for two. But you know the saying, what goes around comes around-I went back to camp.
For the past three years, the Anglican Church of Canada, through the EcoJustice Committee has been a sponsor of Justice Camps. Justice camps are an important outreach activity of the committee and are used to raise awareness of EcoJustice issues, promote the development of local and national networks and partnerships and develop leadership in these areas in the Anglican Church of Canada. This year I was fortunate to be able to attend Environmental Justice Camp – Mending Creation.
The Camp was held in Victoria, B.C. May 13-19. Co-chairs for the camp were Ken Gray, Rector of Church of the Advent in Colwood and Peggy Wilmot, a retired school principal and member of the congregation of St. John the Divine in Victoria. Campers came from all across Canada and from as far away as Australia. We were clergy and lay people, young and old, students, retired, employed, Anglicans, Quakers, Baptists, Catholic. The camp was based at the University of Victoria where we took over one of the student residences.
For the events of the opening evening and the first full day of camp, plenary and break out groups were held at the Interfaith Chapel at the University in the middle of one of the most beautiful gardens you could imagine. Tuesday through Thursday camp activities took place all over as we participated in small immersion groups. Each group had a distinctive theme relating to environmental justice: Lands and Forests, Coastal Waters, Inland waters, Buildings, Power, Transportation and Community Development. I chose community development as my group as it was closest to my work in the Diocese focusing on community development and outreach from a social justice perspective. When the Coastal Waters group headed out for a day on the water to tour the coast line in Zodiacs and the next day to walk the beaches I reflected that my choice might have limited my experience. But the feeling didn’t last.
My immersion group leaders, Maureen Garry and Deborah Curran, had set up a fantastic and fascinating series of activities for our group. You wouldn’t think this when our first immersion activity was a meeting in the Walmart parking lot. There we met with Todd Litman from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Why the Wal-Mart parking lot when the focus of the camp was on the environment? Really, what better place to start a conversation on things like density, community design, reliance on the car, transportation mode shifting from cars to mass transit or bicycles, the walkability of our communities, our perception that paradise is a commodity that we purchase time to vacation in as opposed to where we are.
From the parking lot, we walked along the Galloping Goose, a reclaimed railroad right-of-way that has been converted in a bicycle and walking trial that is a key part of the cycling network plan for the area, to Saanich Municipal Hall. At the municipal hall we met with Judy Brownoff, one of the Saanich councilors. She shared generously of her time and her thinking on green governance and green infrastructure. She also introduced the concept of a “triple bottom line”. For background on the concept we were referred to the City of Calgary website. The website explains “The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is an approach to decision-making that considers economic, social and environmental issues in a comprehensive, systematic and integrated way. The TBL has been adopted by many organizations in both the public and private sector. It is a departure from making decisions based solely on the financial bottom-line. The TBL reflects a greater awareness of the impacts of our decisions on the environment, society and the external economy-and how those impacts are related.”
This concept was one of the “take back items” for me. Part of the purpose of being at the camp, especially through participation in the immersion group experience, was to identify what you could take back to your home community. I strongly believe that the Triple Bottom Line is a tool that the Diocese and individual parishes could easily adopt to improve our stewardship of creation.
Day two of the immersion experience had me and my fellow group members boarding the City bus to go from the University to downtown Victoria. The transit experience was one that I had not had for an embarrassingly long time. Riding the bus, living in residence, sharing the bathrooms, and lining up for a shower in the morning made me reflect that while I work for a social justice agency and volunteer for the Diocese doing social justice work, so much of my day to day experience is expericed through the lens of security of affluence.
Take back item two-a reminder of the need to be aware of the biases and preconceptions of our “lenses” and how they affect how we see the world and our place in it.
Dr. Christopher Lind, a Senior Fellow at Massey College in Toronto, theologian and ethicist and Anglican with roots and connections with St. Jude’s in Oakville, prepared materials for the Theological and Biblical reflections that we studied each day of camp. The materials were based on the Earth Bible Project and each day we were introduced to one of the six EcoJustice principles developed through the Earth Bible Project that formulate a fresh approach to reading the Bible. In reading and analyzing the text of the Bible we were to “reflect with the Earth” and see things from the perspective of Earth.
To learn about the EcoJustice Principles see The Earth Bible VolumeOne: Readings from the Perspective Earth edited by Norman C. Habel.
My group was lucky in that on day two of the immersion experience, Chris joined our group and lead the reflection time. My conversations with him and his talk on the integration of social justice and earth justice on the last full day of camp were highlights of the camp.
Day two was spent walking in and around downtown Victoria focusing on community revitalization, green buildings, healthy buildings and integrated community development. The concept of the Triple Bottom Line kept on coming up. Day three of the immersion was spent at an eco-village to see sustainable development and community building in a rural setting.
I have barely begun the processing of my experience at Environmental Justice Camp. The intensity of the experience was such that I am still reflecting on and internalizing what I learned. In this article, I haven’t even touched on how the quality of the music and worship activities reinforced the hands-on learning we did at the camp, or on the wonderful and generousness of hospitality of so many parishes and individuals that supported the experience. As well it had been a priority of the camp organizers to integrate the knowledge, experiences and beliefs of the local aboriginal communities into the camp. This added a whole other dimension to the camp that I have not touched on.
My week at Justice Camp was every bit as good as my weeks at summer camp as a kid.
The week before Environmental Justice Camp began, this was the opening prayer of the B.C. legislature:
We have always thought we’re responsible for the behaviour of people, while we have ascribed responsibility to you for the weather. We make prayers asking you to deliver us from floods, wildfire and drought, while we concern ourselves with money, power and law.
Something has happened down here to the way we think about who is responsible for avoiding climate catastrophe. More and more we think it is we who must accept responsibility for the well-being of the planet we have been graced to inhabit. Help us with this new idea.
We do not know how to do this thing which for so long we ascribed to you. We have neither tools not understanding adequate to the task. We are lost. Help us now to find the wisdom and the vision to deliver ourselves from ourselves. Amen.
CORKY EVANS Member of the BC Legislative Assembly May 9, 2007