When I received an email from Louise asking me the question, “What is a book, experience, person, moment or series of things in your life that has accelerated your understanding and practice of ecological discipleship? What moved you significantly in this direction?” I almost laughed. I have such an easy answer!
In fact, I have all of those things: books, experiences, people, many moments, a series of things, and the ones that all come to mind happened during the same time of my life. The summer before I started my senior year of college, I took a class through Au Sable Institute for Environmental Studies at their Pacific Rim campus on Whidbey Island, hosted by Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship. The class that I took was International Development and Environmental Sustainability, taught by Dr. Michael Ferber of King’s University in Edmonton, Canada. The course description is as follows: “Environmental analysis and natural resources in relation to society and development issues. The focus of 304 is on ecological sustainability and sustainable society in the context of various factors that are bringing environmental degradation and impoverishment to people and cultures. It deals with topics of hunger, poverty, international debt, appropriate technology, relief programs, missionary earthkeeping, conservation of wild nature, land tenure, and land stewardship. It employs a discussion format both in classroom and field settings. Its emphasis is on grappling with difficult practical and ethical problems and issues that require deep and persistent thought.”
Reading that description now, it’s easy to make the connection in my life between the class and becoming an eco-disciple “committed to finding and following Jesus in the corners of creation where we live and breathe, the particular places where our personal lives, social networks, watersheds, foodsheds, and bioregions create a unique intersection within God’s great Web of Being,” as James wrote in his first post on The Ecological Disciple. The class was wide ranging and complex: through my time with Dr. Ferber and my classmates, I traveled all around the Pacific Northwest, visiting people, places, and organizations that were caring deeply for people and planet. We read books like God of the Empty Handed, by Jayakumar Christian, Walking with the Poor, by Bryant L. Myers, and Hope in Troubled Times, by Mark Vander Vennen, B. Goudzwaard, and David B. Van Heemst, and others that continue to inspire me.
It was the first time that I had experienced the Pacific Northwest, where I now live full-time, so you can imagine how much I loved the environment and the landscape and came to want to call it home. It was also the first time that I had seen and learned first-hand how caring for people and the environment could be one and the same. Seeing A Rocha’s Brooksdale Centre in Surrey, BC, or visiting food banks on Whidbey Island that use locally grown food to feed their communities, among many other experiences, helped me to truly understand the “three E’s” of sustainability that we learned about: economy, equality, and environment. The intersection of these three concepts in Christianity was important and impactful information for me, and it has since shaped my faith and moved me in the direction of ecological discipleship.
As I finished the class and started my senior year of college, I was also starting my first job in social media. For my final paper, I wrote about changes that I wanted to embrace from then on in my life, one of which was to “work towards a lifestyle that quietly witnesses, from sustainable living to loving the poor” (I’m quoting myself here). I also wrote about how I wanted to use my social media job to help educate about "sustainability, environmental issues, poverty issues, and more.” While I may not have been using the exact phrase “ecological disciple” just yet, I knew that was the path that I wanted to walk. I am currently the social media director for Circlewood, the parent organization of this blog, and I am excited every day to use social media to help educate about ecological issues and why Christians and people of other faiths should care about the environment, and to help lead people into ecological discipleship. The experiences, information, and people that I interacted with during that summer in Dr. Ferber’s class helped guide me into my current understanding and practice as an ecological disciple.
I would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.