Three local religious leaders discussed the interconnectedness between faith and environmental protection at an environmental stewardship discussion on Monday.
Father Walter Jagela of St. John University Parish, Pastor Zac Morton of Morgantown First Presbyterian and Rabbi Joe Hample of the Tree of Life Congregation spoke to a crowd of about 30 inside 123 Pleasant Street about humanity’s responsibility to care for the earth.
“Humanity’s nature is that we are deeply connected to divine goodness and just as I affirm that my nature is deeply connected to the goodness of God, it is not fundamentally different from the rest of creation,” Morton said. “The rest of creation is just as inherently good as I am as a human being, and so it’s also created with the same sense of divine goodness.
“Therefore,” he added, “I need to treat the world around me accordingly and treat it with the same nature as I would treat other human beings with which I would treat myself, and treat it with the same sacredness not only that the environment, that the world, that creation deserves, but really that it demands.”
One recurring message from the panelists throughout the discussion was that the earth and all of creation is a gift that humanity should respect and care for. It is the human responsibility to care for God’s world instead of damage and destroy it.
“The blessed holy one took Adam and enlightened him about all the trees in the Garden of Eden and told him see my works, how beautiful and excellent they are and everything I created, I created for you,” said Hample, quoting Rabbinic legend. “Be careful not to damage or destroy my world for if you damage it, there is no one to repair it after you.”
Jagela said humanity’s concern for the earth is no longer optional, and we can no longer turn a blind eye to the filth that invades our society like atmospheric pollution, the warming climate and polluted water.
Jagela also spoke about the interconnectedness of humans with the rest of creation and that what we do here affects people in other parts of the world, because we are all a universal family.
“Everyday a 40-foot tree takes 50 gallons of dissolved nutrients from the soil, raises this mixture to its topmost leaves, converts it into 10 pounds of carbohydrates, and releases about 60 cubic feet of pure oxygen into the air,” Jagela said. “Now there’s interconnectedness. There’s an interconnectedness to what we do.”
Morton said in the same way humanity was created to be good, all of creation was created to be inherently good as well. From there, humanity can start to embrace being part of creation and realize that it must be protected.
“Our deepest, most fundamental nature is part of this sacred order of creation,” Morton said. “We are breathed and crafted into existence through grace and love and this ecstatic benevolent movement of the divine and we are all created with that simple word good. I think if we can tap into that with our own certain experience, we can find that to be true in us.”
“The whole of creation; seas, stars, spiders, koala bears, all of it is good and it’s all created inherently good and God specifically says that. I think to embrace that and start there from discovering and thinking about what is our deepest nature as human beings, I think that’s a really good place to start,” Morton said.
Morton added that people such as the first St. Francis used terms like brother, sun and sister moon. To see creation as siblings who are on an equal level in terms of their sacredness, their connection with the divine, their ability for God to speak through them, is an essential part of how we approach caring for the world.
Hample said as humans, we’re here to partner with God in making the world as good as it can possibly be and to remember the phrase Tikkun Olam, which translates to the act of repairing the world.
After the discussion, Morgantown Working Families launched the Mon County Environmental Stewardship Challenge to encourage faith communities to take two actions between now and next year on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first action is to have one conversation that’s led by the community about how your specific values interact with concepts of environmental stewardship.
The second, is to take one significant action to reduce your carbon footprint.
For more information on the challenge, visit https://monstewardshipchal.wixsite.com/about.