We’ve always loved hiking, especially in Vermont. Sadly, as I write on July 13, there is massive flooding across what is known as the “Green Mountain State.” This disaster, attributed to climate change, also brings to mind another flood that occurred in Vermont just over a century ago. The “Great Vermont Flood of 1927” has been attributed to the clearing of hillsides years before when Vermont farmers deforested hillsides in favour of raising Merino sheep. As the Napoleonic wars raged in Europe, farmers who raised Merino sheep could enter a lucrative market. When the market slumped, reforestation began, and the mountains became “green” once more—a lesson for our times. Nowadays, tourists, referred to as “Leaf Peepers,” throng to Vermont to see hills ablaze with colour. Lessons from the past demonstrate that trees are not only for beauty. More importantly, they buffer the effects of climatic events.
The June 2023 edition of Crosstalk included an article written by Bishop Shane Parker entitled “Growing hope locally and globally in the Communion Forest.” In this article, the bishop referenced the Lambeth Conference of 2022 when the Communion Forest concept was formally launched-—encouraging all of us to embrace an initiative that calls us “to the care and safeguarding of creation.”
“Let there be greening,” the theme of this year’s General Synod in Calgary, caught my attention. The reference to “greening,” from Revelation 22: 1-2, refers to the “tree of life,” portraying the “leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations.” We are to think of “forests” broadly because they will differ from country to country and place to place—encompassing a wide range of creation care activities to form a virtual, global “forest” that will eventually be shared across our world-wide Anglican Communion. Local projects might be virtual or include not only trees but grasslands, wetlands, or coastal habitats. They may also consist of spiritual practices or practical acts such as celebrating birthdays or anniversaries with gifts of seedlings and saplings or commemorating life events by growing native tree species on parish land.
Delegates to General Synod ’23 learned about a new resource entitled Parish Engagement Resource for Social and Ecological Justice. This document relates to greening: offering faith communities an invitation to “discern and engage in social and ecological justice [and to] “prayerfully consider God’s call to join in God’s mission to love and heal the world.” (You may access this document through the In Full Communion website: www.anglicanlutheran.ca.)
Recently, I spoke with Dr. Ryan Weston who serves as Lead Animator and Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice in the Anglican Church of Canada. Ryan co-authored the aforementioned resource with the Rev. Paul Gehrs, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Ryan drew my attention to the resource’s five “exercises” to help parishes discern what “greening” means to them: (1) Dwelling in the word: let there be greening; (2) Called to seek justice; (3) Discerned priorities for Anglicans and Lutherans working together; (4) First Steps for engagement; and (5) Additional discernment tools from a variety of sources.
The PWRDF Diocesan Working Group has begun to discuss a “greening” project for 2023-2024. We plan to launch Branches of Hope at the diocesan Synod in October. Please visit us at our table to learn more about how the distribution of native tree seedlings locally will benefit communities here and in Uganda, where PWRDF partner Josephine Kizza runs a model farm that enables farmers from all over the world to access training in ecologically sound farming methods.