In July we gathered to explore our call to “till and keep” the very good creation of God. Over 140 participants gathered in Chicago, traveling from California to New York. There were a record number of first timers at the gathering this year—new friends that we hope will continue to join us.
Our three plenary speakers guided our conversations at the gathering. First was Norman Wirzba, who renewed our understanding of the very good creation and called us away from the language of “nature” that obscures our view of a world to which God has already given value. Second, was Ched Myers who called us to learn our watersheds and place our discipleship within our local ecosystems. Third, we heard from Philip Bess who led us through an exploration of how we might imagine a city such as Chicago or the space of a church campus as a more human scaled and ecological space. In addition to our plenary speakers we had a number of excellent workshops exploring climate conversations in the church, green burials, poetry, local activism, and craft.
As always worship was at the core of our time together. We were led skillfully in music by David Butzu and heard powerful preaching from Jesse Shuman Larkins, Sally Youngquist, and Jim McCoy. Debra Dean Murphy and Sharon Huey created beautiful liturgies that facilitated our common prayer and worship.
There were several new elements at the gathering this year. Key among them was a film festival. The festival kicked off Thursday night with a showing of an episode of the Showtime documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously” followed by a Q&A with Anna Jane Joyner, a preacher’s daughter turned climate activist who was featured in the episode. On Friday, after enjoying a meal featuring a variety of locally grown and organic foods, we watched ten films submitted from a variety of communities from Christian colleges to churches. Members of each community were on hand to personally share about the practices shown in the films.
Once again our time together served as a renewal of subversive friendships new and old. We hope that the practices and reflections shared this year will bear fruit in the individual communities of all those who gathered. To that end the audio from the workshops and plenaries is posted online. There will also soon be a page featuring selections from the film festival and a pamphlet reflecting on creation care practices in the coming months.