Refugia Newsletter #51
Camp Fowler edition, with bonus photos and podcast ep recommendations
Welcome new readers! This week’s edition will be a little different from my usual pattern because I am coming to you from Camp Fowler, near Lake Pleasant, New York. I’m here with husband Ron because tomorrow, we’ll be joined by our “Refugiacs”—the seven doctoral students we are shepherding through their work toward a D.Min. at Western Theological Seminary. Our cohort theme is “Church of Refugia,” and we’re exploring what it could mean to guide our faith communities toward being people of refugia. Our students come together with us twice a year, and this time, we’re visiting this beautiful refugia space. More below.
Sacadanga Lake, early Friday evening. Look closely: you’ll see a loon out there.
But first, a couple quick refugia news items. I was privileged to be the speaker at Third Act Faith’s monthly online meeting on September 26. You can read an excellent summary of the evening in Third Act Faith’s September newsletter. Many thanks to the TAF organizers, who did such a nice job organizing the meeting and following up with this summary. If you’re over age 60—or close to it, no one checks—join us! TAF is a group of great people doing important climate work together.
Second, have a listen to the Language of God Podcast, an endeavor of the good people at BioLogos. Jim Stump, the podcast host, is curating a book club series. I got to be one of three guests discussing Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. My congenial and wise conversation companions were emeritus professor of ecology (UW-Madison) Rick Lindroth, World Renew US Director Carol Bremer-Bennett, and of course the ever-excellent Jim. You can find the episode here.
And finally, a big shout-out to reader Rev. Jerry Cappel, whose recommendations brought in four new readers! Thanks, Jerry! Jerry is an Episcopal priest and person-I-keep-running-into-at-all-the-things-because-he’s-involved-in-so-much. To get a sense of Jerry’s work, you might read this excellent article called “Deeper Green Churches” in the Sewanee Theological Review.
This Week in Climate News
Since I’m up here in the Adirondacks, and we’re supposed to be here for rest and renewal, I’m not going to do a detailed news rundown this time around.
Adirondack chairs in their natural habitat. These were all crafted by summer campers. Better than lanyards, don’t you think?
Instead, I’ll just mention that next time, I plan to write about Pope Francis’s new encyclical, Laudate Deum. I haven’t read it yet! I’ve only read about it. (Sorry! I’ve been too busy with grading, teaching, and a horrible flu-plague-thing I had last week.) Here is the summary in the New York Times’ climate newsletter. Evidently, the pope is not messing around. Laudato si’ was feisty enough, but this time, he’s naming names and turning up the dial even higher on the prophetic speech.
Meanwhile, I highly recommend this episode of the Ezra Klein podcast. David Wallace-Wells interviews Kate Marvel, senior climate scientist at Project Drawdown. Marvel and Wallace-Wells go deep into climate modeling, what we know with confidence, what we don’t and can’t know, tipping points, mitigation, deep ocean currents, and more. It’s a clear-eyed look at the hard science. Crucial information, beautifully explained.
OK, let me tell you more about Camp Fowler. Camp Fowler is “a non-profit children's camp grounded in openness, hospitality, and compassionate Christianity.” It’s one of those wonderful camps that serve the church as a kind of alternative space. During the summer, Camp Fowler is a camp for kids, but in the off-season, they host all kinds of retreats and provide hospitality for groups like ours. We are hosted here for the next six days by the intrepid Kent Busman, exactly the sort of person—hiking boots, salty wit—that you would want to host you at a place like this.
We managed to schedule our visit precisely at the peak of leaf-turning season.
Here’s Kent. I mean, come on: that basket!
Ron and I. It will take us a couple days to decompress and adjust to a more camp-like pace. You can tell we’ve still got the smell of the rat race on us.
You saw it here first, folks.
I have to tell you about this mural. It’s in one of the main activity buildings, and it represents the “cloud of witnesses,” as in Hebrews 11. The mural depicts the heroes of conservation, nature writing, eco-theology, and activism. St. Hildegard is up there, Wendell Berry, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, Rachel Carson, and more. Jesus is in the background, gamely walking on water across a lake, looking as if he’s having a great time. The image above shows the section with St. Francis, evidently taming a wolf by teaching him to sit politely. And in the foreground there: that’s right. It’s Bill McKibben.
Honestly, you have to see this mural to believe it. It’s full of whimsy and color. A delight.
You can zero in if you want to and see if you can identify the figures.
On October 4, an interfaith group launched the One Home One Future campaign. Hosted by EcoAmerica and the Blessed Future group, the idea is “to strengthen vitality, relevance, and community connection across generations – to care for our shared home – in local congregations nationwide.” An article by David Paulsen of the Episcopal News Service offers a nice overview, and here’s the press release from EcoAmerica.
I’m excited about this scheme because it brings together 31 denominations and faith organizations, including all the “usual suspects” that I’ve been following and learning from in the last five years, like the BTS Center, Creation Justice Ministries, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and many more.
I’ve noticed that many people of faith are working on climate, but they don’t always know what other like-minded faith folks are up to—all these denominations and nonprofits cranking out resources and holding webinars and offering courses and drafting statements. Why not work together more?
The One Home One Future campaign promises to create greater visibility for faith/climate work, share resources, equip one another, and build stronger synergy.
For an in-depth look at the project, you might want to listen a podcast episode from the new ecoChristian podcast, hosted by my friend Caleb Cray Haynes. Caleb interviews Rev. Carol Devine, a Disciples of Christ pastor in the leadership of the Blessed Tomorrow group. Carol explains the origins of One Home One Future and the way it has grown from a long, careful period of listening to people from the participant groups. She describes the campaign’s particular focus on young people, an emphasis both wise and welcome.
Hmm, I guess this is turning into the Podcast Recommendation Edition of the newsletter…
The Way Forward Machine
Instead of a Wayback feature today, I want to ask for your help. Would you be willing to weigh in on a couple questions for me? My readers don’t use the comments much, but you could! Substack has a nice comment feature. Give it a try! Respond to one or both of these questions, and feel free to reply to others as well. You will help me as I think about doing another book someday, one I’m thinking of calling Refugia Church. I have schemes! More soon. But for now…
What are the distinctive gifts that people of faith can bring to the Great Work of transitioning to a more sustainable future? What can we offer? What are our special skills, capacities, wisdoms?
What is holding back people in your faith circles from joining in this work? What skills and capacities and virtues do we need to work on?
That’s it for now. Time to sink into the serene quiet of this beautiful place. Till next time, be well.