Thursday, February 14, 2008

Participant Contribution

The following post is a contribution from one of our conference participants, Yale alumna Katharine Preston.

As a graduate of both the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (’74) and Andover Newton Divinity School (’00), concentrating in ecology ministry, I look forward with special delight to the upcoming conference.

I offer an expansion of the blog discussions in two directions:

First, I want to reassure others that there are now many, many people out here in the non-academic world that are already working on these concerns on a weekly basis in churches (and synagogues and mosques). I guest preach in small, rural congregations in northern New York. Each time I am encouraged by the response of folks working hard to green their sanctuaries and change their ways of thinking about how humans fit into the greater scheme of God’s creation. Interfaith Power and Light groups, now in 25 states, are just one national effort illustrating this phenomenon. (

Second, it seems to me that ecojustice is the primary nexus between ecological and theological concerns, particularly in light of climate change. We are surely invited to notice, love and celebrate the beauties of God’s creation, but for many right now (and for even more to come), it is about survival, not aesthetics. All people of faith are called by their various traditions to care for the poor and marginalized. Working to prevent and mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change on “the least of these” must become a priority for all of us. So I do hope that we will not relegate our discussion on ecojustice issues simply to one breakout session on Saturday.

Katharine Preston

Ecology Ministry

Essex, NY

Paul Winter Wins Grammy Award!

We are pleased to congratulate Paul Winter on his latest achievement! He was awarded a Grammy this past Sunday for his 2007 album, Crestone. According to his website:

The primary recordings for this new release were done in the natural acoustics of North Crestone Lake, at an altitude of 11,800 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The album introduces to the world the voice pow-wow drum and cedar flute of John-Carlos Perea, a young singer of Apache heritage, who sings in the Northern Plains Indian tradition. The album also features the voices of Mountain Bluebird, Red-winged Blackbird, Whooping Crane, Meadowlark, Sandhill Cranes, Coyotes, and Buffalo.

Paul Winter will be performing solo at the Renewing Hope gala dinner that will be held on Saturday, March 1st at the Omni Hotel. He will also be providing music for the interfaith service at Marquand Chapel on Sunday morning, March 2nd.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In Stillness: Are We One or Two?

Sandy Smyth, a student at Yale Divinity School, has been so kind as to share some more of her poetry with us. To offer a word of explanation, she states "they are how I feel when I am still and aware of God's creation..."

Church Outdoors

In the woods
Among the pines
I feel alive and energized;
Though chill is in my bones, 
I feel whiskey warm inside,
Lit by a red coal fire.

Awaiting heavy snow,
I huddle under blankets worn,
Feeling safe in this still peace;
Embraced by Love so wide
I feel no longer torn;
My church is the outdoors;
My poetry, my song.

In Stillness: 
Are We One or Two?

In Stillness,
When I have
No thought,
The woods and I are one;
Frost-laced leaves
On the ground,
Icy boughs above,
Landscape the inner me.

The body furry warm,
Lying by my side,
Reminds me I
Am not alone
When deeply steeped
In Thee.
So knit together
By Your Love,
Are we one or two?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

We regret to report that due to an overwhelming response
the Renewing Hope conference is officially full,
and we are not able to accept further registrations at this time.

We thank everyone who has expressed interest in the event.

To be placed on a waiting list (in the event of cancellations) please email
Tara C. Maguire Knopick of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at

Please remember that there are two events of the weekend that are open to the public
and do not require registration:

Thursday, February 28, 6:30 p.m.:
Evening lecture by Sallie McFague:
“A New Climate for Theology: God, the World, and Global Warming”

Friday, February 29, 7:00 p.m.:
Screening of the new documentary by Marty Ostrow and Terry Kay Rockefeller

Renewal: Inspiring Stories from America’s
Religious Environmental Movement

In addition, the talk by Sallie McFague on February 28th at 6:30 p.m. and the opening panel on February 29th at 1 p.m. will be streamed live on the web from the Yale Divinity School website. Further details and the exact URL will be posted as they become available.

All speakers and panels will be taped and available for archived viewing from the Yale Divinity website.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sallie McFague Speaks at the University of Calgary

Humans urged to respect our planet
Change sense of entitlement, says theologian

Calgary Herald

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Canadians need to change the lightbulbs inside their minds as well
as those in their homes and churches when it comes to a new spiritual
approach to the environment.

Sallie McFague, distinguished theologian in residence at the
Vancouver School of Theology and the author of a number of books on
religion and ecology, is calling for a profound shift in the way
humans view our place in the natural world.

McFague will be in Calgary on Monday and Tuesday to deliver the
University of Calgary's Iwaasa Lectures in Christian Spirituality.

"The heart of the question is who do we think we are in the scheme
of things, and what do we have the right to do?" says McFague.

She notes while global warming and climate change are scientific
and economic issues, they are also deeply theological debates.

"Religions have traditionally been involved in helping to form the
basic assumptions about who we are and what we ought to be doing,"
McFague reasons. "In our market-driven system, we have the view that
we are individuals who deserve to get everything we can legally get
hold of without worrying too much about other people."

McFague says scientific research is painting a different scenario:
that we can't continue on our present course without destroying other
life forms.

"Sharing is not just a warm, fuzzy word; radical interdependence is
the law of the universe in terms of a just and sustainable living

McFague says changing such entrenched assumptions of individual
entitlement won't be easy, but people of faith can play an important

"If we think of ourselves as the only 'subject' and the rest of the
world as an 'object,' then you look at a forest first as so many
board-feet of lumber -- it becomes merely a resource," she says.

McFague says many mainline Christian denominations have been
primarily inward-looking in recent years, focusing on issues such as
declining membership and sexuality.

But she senses a significant shift in the wake of the work of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore in bringing
global warming to the public's collective radar screen.

"It's a time of great openness and possibility for much more
serious analysis and action. Global warming is not a cosmetic issue;
this is very basic stuff for our survival," says McFague.

McFague says individuals and congregations doing green surveys of
their lives and facilities is a good first step in focusing on
climate change.

"It helps them raise their consciousness and embrace a different
attitude," McFague says. "But people realize pretty quickly that
personal changes are not enough. It doesn't matter how many times you
ride the bus if there aren't large systemic, political changes."

Rev. Meg Roberts of the Unitarian Church of Calgary says world
religions share common values of respect for other beings and for the
earth itself.

"To call us back to that foundation gives us inspiration," says
Roberts. "Both faith communities and environmental groups can offer
support to each other; that you're not alone when you despair over
the size of the challenge ahead of us.

"We all have to remember faith and values are connected to the
economic and political systems," Roberts says.

McFague's latest book, A New Climate for Theology: God, the World
and Global Warming, is due out in May.© The Calgary Herald 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hope Renewers: Profile of an Up-and-Coming Student Leader

The future of our planet and our spiritual institutions lies in the hands of the students of today. As we plan this conference, we bring together our hearts and minds to work together towards a common goal: bringing the environmental crisis to the attention of our faith-based institutions. Whether or not this task is accomplished will be based largely on the efforts of students young church leaders, such as our very own Frederica (Freddie) Ghesquiere. It is upon their backs that the groundbreaking work of current scholars and church-leaders will be carried.
Freddie, a first year student at Yale Divinity School is quickly becoming a leader in the greening of our school. A self-described Christian Quaker, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and a member of the Yale Committe on Social Justice (YCSJ) and the Yale Earth Care Commitee (YECC), Freddie has devoted herself to making her world a better place for others. While she has no specific career goals in mind, she is considering a future in faith-based overseas development focusing on resource management or NGO work in ecotheology here in the United States. 
Please enjoy this excerpt from her Senior Thesis:
Conversations with Scott Stokoe, a philosopher, counselor, teacher, and the director of Dartmouth's organic farm, inspired my fierce scribbling about humans' relationship with nature as we transplanted tomatoes one summer during college. Scott helped me see that we live in a society separated from the earth. Introductions to environmental texts do not often address this human separation from nature. Instead, alaming statistics typically persuade the reader that something is not quite right outside our climate-controlled homes and offices. From my studies of the environment I accept as a given that we are in the midst of a crisis. Our species is altering the natural systems of the earth at an unprecedented rate. Many express alarm, but few search for the ultimate cause in the place I consider most likely to harbor some answers: religion.
When I explain to someone that I was both a religion and environmental studies major in college I am often met by a furrowed brow and the inevitable inquiry: What do those have to do with each other? Initially I might have answered that I was passionate about both, but soon I began to say with confidence that they are inextricably linked. Religion has a great deal to say about nature, and the way we treat nature has a great deal to do with the predominate religion in our society. In America, institutional Christianity has ignored the issue of the environment up until a few decades ago, and even then responded with lukewarm interest. Christianity is perceived as a religion about people. Through the historical act of a man, it claims to redeem all humans and strives to spread this message to all people. After all, no one is out to convert pine trees. It was not until a historian of medieval technology published an essay in the late sixties that a connection was forged between the ancient tradition and the emerging threat of ecological destruction.
Today churches are forced to respond to attacks from environmentalists on what the environmentalists perceive to be Christian apathy toward the environment. Many scan the Bible and extract an anthropocentric message that says little about the natural backdrop to our human play. At the same time more and more Christians believe following Jesus demands an ecological commitment, and that scripture sends a clear message about earth-care. Even more thinkers believe we need to move beyond reliance on technology and fundamentally alter our belief systems in order to address the environmental crisis. Efforts to do so must battle a worldview built up through centuries of Christocentric cultures. Anne Primavesi claims that if the worldview is commonly held and reasonably workable, it will be adhered to despite evidence to the contrary. The Christian worldview conveys a message about the earth that is perceived to be fundamentally at odds with the environmental movement.
My senior thesis, Christian Responses to the Environmental Crisis: A Typology, began on scraps of dirty paper, smudged with soil from the organic farm. Months later, it evolved into a document that addresses what Christianity has to say about nature, and how Christians today respond to the environmental crisis.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Paul Winter to Perform at Renewing Hope

We are thrilled to announce that musician and composer, Paul Winter, will be performing at the Saturday evening banquet, as well as at the interfaith eco-service on Sunday morning in Marquand Chapel.

This five-time Grammy award winner is known for his inspirational recordings on which he collaborates with musicians from all over the globe, including the creat
ures of the wider Earth community, and his solstice celebrations at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine are

He describes his unique and original “Earth Music” as “a vital celebration of the creatures and cultures of the whole earth ( This year he has once again been nominated for a Grammy award for his latest recording, Crestone.

The Creek Ran Through Me

Inspiration: We find it everyday, all around us. As we share and plan for the Renewing Hope Conference, we constantly inspire and move one another towards our common goals. As student volunteers gather and plan for the conference and the interfaith eco-service, I find inspiration in others around me. Whether they be student volunteers, conference organizers, or students emailing me with their insights and inspirations, I find myself washed over by the hope and dedication of others and I'm inspired to do more.

Sandra Smyth, a second year non-degree student at Yale Divinity School, who likes to center down with the Holy Spirit by a waterfall in Redding, Ct.,  is our next contributor. Taken from a collection of poems from 1961 to the present entitled "Paradise Within: Intimate Earth, Intimate Spirit," Sandy shares with a series of poems which follow the theme: At first I ran by the creek; At last, the creek ran though me.


I just want to sit
By flowing creeks
And blowing trees,
Where I can steep
Awhile and breathe;
Let go of ego
And just be.
That's Heaven
On Earth for me,
Deep listening,
Hearing thee.



That I could live among the trees,
Breathe the breath of Nature
Through my pores,
And sweep in gracious ecstasy and ease,
Like wind which passes inward
From the shores.



Enter through the door of Silence
To Paradise within.
Go deep. Breathe.
Inhale the fragrance
Of the forest there as Peace.
Exhale the fragrance
Through your heart as Love;
Let all that block's the Spirit's
Flow within you cease
Be Grace and Goodness
Gushing up in you.
Be a font of Joy
To all you meet.
Fly with the Eagle and the Dove;
Give, Receive;
The Universe unfolds through you.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Call for Papers

The YDS Initiative in Religion, Science & Technology
Graduate & Faculty Forum

Call for Papers on

Renewing Hope:
Pathways of Religious Environmentalism

Inviting Works by Yale Students, Faculty, and Staff

The Yale Divinity School Initiative in Religion, Science & Technology (IRST) invites Yale graduate students, research affiliates, faculty, and staff to submit papers and/or projects illumin­ating the encounter of religion with science & technology, for presentation at the Graduate & Faculty Forum on Issues in Religion, Science & Technology.

Deadline for submissions: Feb. 14, 2008
Papers to be presented
Feb. 28 • Yale Divinity School

Works selected are to be presented by their authors. Up to three papers are to be presented, with Q&A to follow. With presenters’ permission, the papers presented will be made available internationally via the Initiative’s website at

Unpublished papers, works in progress, and course projects (with or without attendant papers) are invited for summary presentation in 20 to 30 minutes. Please submit a one-page abstract by email to

Possible topics include, but are not limited to...

· Science in light of spiritual presence: spiritual perspectives on life and that which sustains it, and how human beings relate to the biosphere; health and healing; animal rights; and ecology.

· Science and technology in light of religious grounding and influence:

spiritual or religious perspectives on bioethics and genetics; environmental concerns; human extension via tools and technology; purposes and outcomes of technology; cultural criticism in light of related issues.· Science in light of the possibility of divine agency and interaction: evolutionary and cosmic origins and influences; scientific perspectives on religious truth claims and spiritual experience.

The mission of the Yale Divinity School Initiative in Religion, Science & Technology (IRST) is to engage the Yale community in interdisciplinary consideration of contemporary encounters between religion, science, and technology. IRST focuses especially on the theological, spiritual, ethical, and pedagogical implications of such encounters. IRST reaches beyond the Divinity School, inviting participation from across the University.

For more information: or

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Next Steps

The Renewing Hope conference will close on Sunday, March 2 with a panel entitled:

"Next Steps: Ways Forward"

This panel will include three of our own Yale Divinity School students: Matthew Riley, Joshua Ashton Hill, and Rachel Holmes. I'd like to take a few moments to introduce each of them to you and say a few words about their own work and ideas about the "way forward."

We'll begin with Matt Riley, our own Renewing Hope Student Volunteer Coordinator. Matt is a student in the MAR Ethics program at YDS, and he will be graduating from Yale this May. He has brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to this event and has assembled an amazing team of students from across the university to organize the interfaith eco-service that will take place Sunday morning, as well as to offer general conference support.

Matt Riley has recently submitted his applications to various PhD programs in ethics and hopes to begin work on his doctoral degree this coming Fall. As a former middle school biology teacher and union organizer with the Teach for America program, Matt is interested in continuing to teach at the university level. With a background in science and education as well as a rich family history of religious involvement, Matt feels that the linkage between religion and ecology is the most important moral/spiritual issue of our time. He hopes, as many of us do, that our work here will inspire others to seriously reflect on - and engage with - a multitude of religious traditions. In addition to his work as the student coordinator for the Renewing Hope Conference, Matt is also actively involved with the Yale Earth Care Committee.