Joys of the Quaker Way—Openings & Leadings
October 25, 2014 § 1 Comment
My call to ministry began in 1987, I think. It was the year that Marshall Massey spoke at the FGC Gathering about the need for Friends to pick up an earthcare ministry and he had encouraged meetings to form committees around the concern. Eric Maya Joy and his family came to New York Yearly Meeting from the Gathering that year and I was among a handful of Friends who met with them as they passed on the call. That little group formed a Friends in Unity with Nature task group and began organizing interest groups, workshops, and so on.
In 1990, Buffalo Meeting asked FUN to send them a program for the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, and Ty Griese and I answered that call. On the Saturday night before the program, sitting on Talva Chapin’s Hide-A-Bed, going over my notes and praying, an opening suddenly seized me, a completely different message to give the next morning. In content it was not only completely unexpected; it was a cross to my habits of thought at the time.
It was an idea I later discovered in the work of Matthew Fox: that, if Christ, the Word, the Logos, had created the earth, as the Gospel of John chapter one says, and was in fact one with creation, then destroying the creation was recrucifying Christ. In the course of an hour that Saturday night, this initial insight kept ramifying and expanding and deepening. I literally quaked with its power and the joy and thrill of it.
Buffalo Meeting received this message rather coolly, as I remember. I did not blame them. I had spent the past ten years being hostile to Christianity and to the Bible, myself. I had been harassing Christian Friends in my meeting for their Christ-centered and biblical ministry. I had helped prevent the First Day School from teaching my kids the Bible. And now I was obsessing about the Bible and earth stewardship.
Over the next few weeks, the opening became a floodgate.
I had once known the Bible really well. In Lutheran confirmation class in seventh grade, I had memorized a couple dozen Psalms, the Sermon on the Mount in both Matthew and Luke, 1 Corinthians 13, dozens of individual passages, and virtually all of Luther’s Small Catechism. But only snatches came to me related to earthcare. I didn’t know enough. Yet a message was struggling to be born of what little knowledge I had.
Increasingly, I felt compelled—impelled—to write a book about earth stewardship. The impulse would not go away. It did not yield to my long-practiced hostility toward the Bible or the arguments i had been rehearsing for years against what I perceived to be its message and worldview. I could not ignore it.
In fact, this impulse rekindled my original adolescent love of the Bible. I found myself rehearsing the creation story in my head, thinking, “This is where I must start. I wonder what this story really means . . . “
I gave in. I surrendered to the seduction of the years of focused study that I knew this project required. I bought a study Bible, then another one. I paid for borrowing privileges at Princeton Theological Seminary library.
I felt that, if the Christian world could be convinced of the religious imperative to care for the earth, we could turn the corner as a planet. There were so many Christians, so many congregations, that it would only take a small critical mass to begin a worldwide revolution. But I felt that the Christian world would not listen unless the message came from Scripture.
I felt compelled to find that message, articulate it, and share it. I was going to write a book about earth stewardship, a work of biblical eco-theology. I had a leading.