Eco-Justice Ministries
   Eco-Justice: "the well-being of all humankind on a thriving Earth"

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Eco-Curriculum Review for the title
Opening the Letter: a congregational study guide for God´s Earth is Sacred

This is the full report format.

Short Description:   Four-session guide centered on “God’s Earth is Sacred,” the 2005 open letter by NCC USA. Provides opportunities for educational forums to discuss and explore this important ecumenical statement on the environment.
Long Description:   Opening The Letter is a congregational study guide to accompany the National Council of Churches 2005 letter. This guide, intended to be a "letter opener," offers a study and worship resource that articulates the scriptural and theological foundations of our call to care for God´s creation. The sessions center on different sections of the letter, provide resources for worship and group building, and give suggestions for retreats.

Study guide fosters "conversation" with the letter´s authors and others in the congregation. The hopes for this "conversation" include 1) opening worship community to new ways of experiencing God´s activity in the world, 2) strengthening the sense of community and ability to share joys and concerns authentically, 3) growing and understanding of the sacred nature of God´s creation and our Christian call to care for it, and 4) leading to focused actions that bring new life to a congregation and healing to God´s creation.

Session One: “Opening Our Eyes to the Sacred”, Session Two: “Opening Our Ears to Creation’s ‘Groaning’”, Session Three: “Opening Our Hearts to God’s Call, Equipping Ourselves for Action,” and Session Four: “Open to God’s Renewing Work.”

Bibliographic & Purchasing Information
Author:   Tanya Marcovna Barnett
Publisher:   National Council of Churches, Eco-Justice Program
Publication date:   2006 Website for this resource:
We know of 1 source for purchasing this resource.
Address National Council of Churches, Eco-Justice Program
110 Maryland Ave NE #108
Washington, DC   20002  
Phone 202-544-2350   Fax 202-543-1297  
Website E-mail  
Price Free download from website  Order #  

Target Audience & Course Sessions
Age levels Preschool    Primary    Jr. High    Sr. High     Adult
The reviewer specifies:   adult study class, prayer circle, social concerns committee
Optimum class size Recommends between five and fifteen people. May need small groups for certain sharing times. 
Normal number/length of sessions If the curriculum's normal lesson plan is followed, there will be 4 class sessions each lasting about 1 hour
Are suggestions included for expanding/contracting the series? Can be done as one session per week or in a series over the course of a retreat. Settings can vary from Sunday School to in-home sessions. Session Four suggests reflection outside.  
In the judgement of the reviewer:
 using these materials, or even just one session from them, a reasonable, coherent and self-contained class can be offered in a single session of about an hour.
 using these materials, a class can be offered that runs for at least two sessions.
Are learners expected to do homework? None required, some suggested research that participants can do.  
Target audience:
 Interfaith - addressed people of many faiths
 Judeo-Christian - addressed to Jews & Christians
 Christian - addressed explicitly to Christians
 Not explicity faith-based - not much religious content
Note: The reviewer says that this curriculum is especially appropriate for members of the denomination or agency that developed it (National Council of Churches-Eco-Justice Network). For example, it may explore a denominational policy statement. The reviewer also believes that it is possible for groups outside that tradition to make good use these materials.

Materials provided
Materials include:
 Leader's guide
 Student book
 Discussion questions
 Class activities - arts & crafts
 Class activities - group participation 
 Reading materials
 Presentation or lecture notes
 Prayer or worship resources
Other materials required:Leader´s Guide names copies to be made for participants and describes other materials such as flip chart, masking tape and markers for the leader. It requests leader to set up "activity" table for each session.
Description of the Leader's Guide:Leader´s Guide is describes both the concepts as well as logistics for each session, such as time estimates for each section and how to set up the chairs. It is fairly sophisticated, uses inclusive language, and provides scripts for a leader to direct and engage in scripture (NRSV),prayer with the participants and activities. Guide assumes the leader is part of the congregation or will have access to congregational mission statements, building and grounds planning, and other committee-developed plans.
Description of the Student's Book:The Student´s Book consists of a few pages to be copied for each session in advance. These pages provide scripture, guidelines for timing and reflection questions. Participant´s sheets outline homework or additional research via internet or library.

Materials review & Assessment of usability
Are all necessary materials provided in an accessible format? Yes - materials are very well laid out and comprehensive  
Is the leader's guide comprehensive? Yes - materials are very well laid out and comprehensive  
Are class sessions clearly outlined? Yes - materials are very well laid out and comprehensive  
Will it be helpful to have a teacher with above-average expertise in the subject matter? Not Necessary to have teacher expertise  
Preparation time required by the leader:
Subjectively rated as heavy, medium or light
Preparation time depends upon leader´s expertise. Focuses on the letter, so leader needs to read letter in advance and can do some research on environmental issues as well, but not required. 

Content focus
Is this curriculum explicitly focused on environmental awareness or action? Yes, as a primary focus  
Does this curriculum deal with a specific environmental issue or problem? Curriculum deals not with a specific environmental issue, but with "one of the most harmful and insidious “false gospels” of our time: the notion that care for God’s sacred, yet wounded, Earth should not concern Christians. Curriculum responds to the letter written by the National Council of Churches’ (NCC) Eco-Justice Working Group, (September 2004). Addresses the United States´ responsbility to the rest of the world.  
How is the scope of the environmental impact positioned?  Impact on specific human communities
 Impact on humans in general
 Impact on humans and non-human parts of creation
 Impact on non-human parts of creation only  
Does the curriculum address questions of social or economic justice in relation to environmental issues? Yes - as part of the topic  
Does the curriculum provide detailed content in a particular academic area?   For example, is there significant content in biology, physics, sociology, economics, etc.?
Biblical & theological content are covered below
Biblical/theological content
Does the curriculum have explicit biblical or theological content? Yes, as a major emphasis  
How are the Biblical materials used? Individual texts are presented as meaningful ('proof texts')
Several texts are developed to show a larger biblical theme
Texts are placed in a historical or cultural context
Texts are presented as authoritative
Students are invited to comment/reflect on the meaning or authority of texts
Biblical texts are of equal importance to other scriptures/readings  
The checked statements reflect how ethical guidelines are grounded The Bible tells us how we should live/act
A theological tradition or other authority tells us how we should live/act
We should make decisions about how to live/act based on defined ethical norms
Caring for creation is an assumed norm  
The curriculum views humanity's role in creation as:
The checked lines are clearly affirmed
Domination - God created the Earth for human use; there are no real restrictions on what we can or should do.
Stewardship - "The Earth is the Lord's"" and humans are in a position of managing the creation according to God's will.
Partner - Humans are part of the web of creation, and participate in it as one species among many.
Intruder - Humans are separate from nature, and inherently destructive.
In evaluating changes to "solve" environmental problems, does the curriculum tend toward an approach that is: Confessional - I/we need to change
Confrontational - Some other person, policy or institutions needs to change
Combination - a mix of confessional and confrontational

Content approach
Which of these are a primary target outcome of the curriculum?  Increase awareness or concern about the environment in general
 Increase awareness of concern about a specific environmental issue
 Acquiring factual knowledge about an issue
 Changing or deepening personal beliefs
 Change in self-awareness or self-identity
 Changes in personal behaviors or lifestyle choices
 Influence on institutional (church or other) practices
 Increased political advocacy
 No change, or goal not clear
Range of perspectives offered:   A single perspective is offered
  Compares 2 or more perspectives
  A diversity of perspectives presented

Subjective Reviewer Feedback
In general, would you use this program with your congregation/organization? Why or why not?
The reviewer did not answer this question
What specific feedback do you have after reviewing these materials? What did you like? What did you not like?
The reviewer did not answer this question
What questions did you have after reviewing the materials?
The reviewer did not answer this question
What, if any, concerns do you have about the use or implementation of this curriculum?
The reviewer did not answer this question
What content, if any, does this program seem to be missing? What would you like this program to cover which it does not?
The reviewer did not answer this question
Have you ever used this program in the past, or heard of others who have used it? What if any response was received?
The reviewer did not answer this question

Eco-Justice Ministries   *   400 S Williams St, Denver, CO   80209   *   Home Page:
Eco-Justice Ministries ended all programming on July 31, 2020. This site is an archive of writings and resources.
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