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Published: Saturday, 2/19/2005

Eco-awareness is a matter of faith

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God puts Adam in the Garden of Eden to till the soil and tend the plants.

Those Scriptures serve as an example of how all humans are responsible for the care and stewardship of the planet, according to Cassandra Carmichael, director of the National Council of Churches' Eco-Justice Programs in Washington.

Ms. Carmichael will be one of the speakers at an interfaith training session, "Living Waters: Great Source of Life," to be held Friday and Feb. 26 at Sylvania United Church of Christ.

"The Earth is awe-inspiring and magnificent, and we have an obligation to take care of it," Ms. Carmichael said in an interview this week.

The seminar at Sylvania UCC will link spirituality with scientific and legislative developments on ecology and the environment, she said.

"Underneath it all is: 'What is the faith response to this? What are we called to do as Christians? What is the moral and ethical imperative?'," Ms. Carmichael said.

Virtually all mainline Christian denominations have issued policy statements on spirituality and the environment, but when it comes to preserving water resources, the needs transcend denominations, she said.

"Water issues cut across all classes, all races, all faiths. It's something that connects us. We just can't live without it for very long."

Some churches develop passions for certain ecological subjects and become active in various ways, from the pastor giving sermons on the subject to Sunday school classes devoted to the topic to church members making an effort to contact their lawmakers about pending legislation that could impact the environment, Ms. Carmichael said.

"When I surveyed congregations and asked what they cared about, with an open-ended question, water came in 2-to-1 over all other issues," she said. "People resonate with water issues. And it's such an important part of our lives. It's also one of our sacraments, being baptized in water."

Sister Leanne Jablonski, of Dayton, a Marianist nun who earned a doctorate in plant ecology and global

climate change from McGill University in Montreal, also will speak at the water symposium.

"All traditions believe that God created the Earth, therefore it's sacred," Sister Leanne said. "And we were made from the Earth and rely on it. We are integrally connected to it."

A nun with extensive scientific training, Sister Leanne said she seeks to "build bridges" between the two fields.

"I try to teach sound science to the faith community, and to get scientists who are members of the faith community to try to convey information in a convenient way," she said. "Sometimes we scientists err on the side of being too complex."

Caring for the Earth affects the well-being of all people, she said, but pollution and environmental injustices tend to have a greater impact on the poor.

"Pollution in heavily trafficked urban areas, for example, usually affect the lower economic groups the most," Sister Leanne said.

She cited asthma in children as an example.

The symposium is being sponsored by the National Council of Churches, Ohio Council of Churches, Toledo Area Council of Churches, Sylvania UCC, Toledo Campus Ministry, Toledo Metropolitan Ministries, Interfaith Justice and Peace Center, and the Ohio Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign.

"Living Waters: An Eco-Justice Training in the Great Lakes" starts with a reception at 6 p.m. Friday and the showing of a documentary film, Thirst, at 8 p.m., with lectures and workshops on Feb. 26 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Sylvania United Church of Christ, 7240 Erie St., Sylvania. Registration is $30. Information: 419-882-0048.



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