By Jenny Duskey, Ambler Mennonite Church
An Exodus Time, a Great Turning, a Watershed Moment – whatever we call it, we are in the midst of crisis. We, children of a free, wild, untamed God, try “to follow Jesus while shackled to Caesar.” “Fast food, cheap oil, chronic debt, and constant pressure are only some of the cultural cages that hold us captive. Bottom line: We’ve been constrained and colonized by corporations,” says the prologue of Rewilding the Way: Breaking Free to Follow an Untamed God by Todd Wynward. Todd was the speaker this year for Franconia and Eastern District Conferences’ Peace Retreat held February 10-12 at St. Mary of Providence Center in Elverson, PA.
A watershed is “a region draining into a river, river system, or other body of water;” or “an event or period marking a turning point in a state of affairs.” The Winter Peace Retreat this year was about embracing this watershed moment, this crisis, and seizing the opportunity to break out of our shackles and live the Golden Rule Jesus teaches us, treating those downstream, both geographically and chronologically, as we would have those upstream treat us. Communities downstream and future generations have no choice but to inherit the consequences of our lifestyle today.
“Taking care of our environment is the most important social justice issue today,” said Todd. He did not, however, discourage any of us from continuing to pursue the various peace and justice activities in which we are engaged. If we are going to minimize the damage resulting from the way we have been undermining water cycles, atmosphere, soil, oceans and thermal balance for the past 200 years of industrial growth, we need to find ways for everyone to have clean water and renewable energy sources. Human society needs to transition from industrial growth for the few to sustenance of life for all. If we keep Jesus at the center of our work locally, in our state and nation, and worldwide, the church can offer the world hope, love and peace as we work for this transition.
Co-intelligence arises when we all share our visions. Todd passed out sticky note pads and asked us to write what we’d experienced in the past six months in five categories: Good News/Grounded Hope, Fresh Insights/Awareness, Examining Our Lives, Calls to Action, and Laments/Despairs. We mounted our notes on newsprint sheets on the walls. When the “Laments/Despairs” newsprint fell off the wall from its heaviness, we shared some much-needed laughter! Todd encouraged us to stay with our laments as long as we need to, going through them instead of around them, to find the hope and motivation that lead to action.
By the end of the final session, we felt highly energized and hopeful. Many of us want to continue this environmental theme for the next five years, at least as part of what we do at Peace Retreat. Some are motivated to form two or three ongoing regional groups within our two Conferences, to get together more often to encourage each other in efforts to care for God’s creation. Any who are interested in being part of that may contact John Stoltzfus who will coordinate the effort. Congregations, groups, or individuals are also encouraged to join the Watershed Way sponsored by the Mennonite Creation Care Network, and/or to accept a voluntary Carbon Tax.
As we continue to work for peace and justice, we must be mindful that our care for the environment is a part of that. As God’s creation provides for us, we must ensure it can continue to do so for everyone now and in the future.
“You shall not pollute the land in which you live…. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the LORD dwell among the Israelites.” -Numbers 35:33-34