Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Going Out with Gratitude
distributed 7/31/20 - ©2020

Rev. Peter Sawtell retires today as Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries. Below today's reflections, there are some details about his retirement and the legacy of Eco-Justice Ministries.

One of my seminary professors -- a long time ago and far, far away -- gave us a challenge. Try to pray only with gratitude.

As I recall, he was urging us up-and-coming clergy to compose a pastoral prayer that was only thanks and appreciation. No complaining. No asking. No confession. Certainly not any long discourse or education for the congregation masquerading as prayer. Just gratitude.

In years of parish ministry, I think I pulled it off once. It was a good and wonderful challenge, and I'm grateful for it.

Today, I'm going to give it another try. Not for a pastoral prayer, but for the very last in the long series of Eco-Justice Notes. Because, really, what else is appropriate on this day when I retire from Eco-Justice Ministries?

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I am grateful, deeply and profoundly grateful.

I am grateful, most directly, for you -- the readers of Eco-Justice Notes. Since February of 2001 (and some of you have been with me for the whole time!), you have welcomed me into your hearts and minds. You have allowed me to preach and probe, to grouse and growl, and to be repetitive with my favorite themes. You have stuck with me when I've floated half-baked ideas in search of comments and conversation, and you've come back with honest reactions. If I've been a preacher through these weekly musings, then you have been my congregation. Thank you.

I am grateful for pastors and congregations that have had the courage to enter the waters of new theological perspectives. Together -- because my faith and theology have changed a lot in 20 years, too -- together we've expanded the notion of neighbor, and discovered the reality of Earth community. We've discovered that the old, old vision of shalom is an intensely relevant proclamation of peace with justice for all creation. We've broadened the notion of salvation so that all of creation is drawn into the reconciling love of God. We've grappled with theological aspects of power and exploitation -- and of grace, too. I'm grateful that we can ask hard questions, and dance on the edges of beloved traditions, and still be part of the beloved community of faith.

I'm grateful for scientists who dedicate their lives to research about how the world works, and to the peer-reviewers who confirm what is most solid. I'm grateful for the courageous scientists who go public to tell us painful and frightening things, because we need to hear those truths if we're to bring any healing to this Earth.

I'm grateful for the journalists who dig deep into those complicated research reports, and distill the essence of it into words and images that we can understand, and that touch our hearts. I give thanks for the reporters and media outlets who keep us informed about the complicated and messy world in which we live.

I'm grateful for the activists who fight the long fight for justice and sustainability and healing. I give thanks for the generations of folk who have battled environmental racism -- with the water in Flint, or the hog farms in North Carolina, or the coal ash in Appalachia, or with the pipelines cut across Native lands. I give thanks for those who fight fracking, and who mobilize for divestment from fossil fuels, and who demand a fair shake for renewable energy. I'm grateful for Bill McKibben and the movement he has spawned with 350.org. I'm grateful for the youth who are driving the current climate movement, with the Sunrise Movement, and the Our Children's Trust legal challenges, and with Greta Thunberg. I'm grateful for Black Lives Matter and other groups who have taken to the streets, even in a pandemic, in the cause of racial and social justice. And there are so many more, activists for countless causes all around the world.

As I pull back closer to home, and to the work of Eco-Justice Ministries, I am oh-so-grateful for our colleagues in the faith-based environmental movement. For Creation Justice Ministries, and Interfaith Power & Light, and GreenFaith, and Earth Ministry -- the agencies who have been our closest and longest partners. For the twin programs of Season of Creation (.com and .org) who bring ecological worship and environmental action into September and October every year. For the Catholic nuns who pray into a creation spirituality, and who engage in civil disobedience as part of that spirituality. For the Christian denominations which hold "environmental stewardship" and "creation care" and "Climate justice" as integral parts of their mission and ministry. For Pope Francis, who calls the world to dialogue "in care for our common home." And for the comparable voices and programs in other faith traditions.

I am grateful for civil leaders -- politicians, and business executives, and non-profit voices -- who do act decisively for a better world. I'm thankful for the Paris Climate Agreement, for states and communities and corporations who set challenging goals for reducing emissions, for those working toward a Green New Deal, and for the businesses developing new technologies.

I'm grateful for the local churches -- in Colorado, across the US, and internationally -- who have joined with Eco-Justice Ministries. I am thankful for the congregations that have invited me to preach and teach in their communities, and for those who are consistent in preaching and teaching eco-justice on their own. I'm grateful for the church leaders who have joined with us in meeting with legislators, or rallying on the steps of the state capitol, bearing church banners and wearing clerical collars. I'm grateful for the churches -- here and all over -- who have installed solar panels, and changed light bulbs, and urged their members to do the same.

I'm grateful for the volunteers who have joined with Eco-Justice Ministries as we've developed new programs -- the 50 educators scattered across the country who evaluated close to 100 curriculum materials; and the dozens who worked with us as we tried to gather fresh worship materials and themes for Not Ordinary Times. I'm grateful for the 19 committed individuals who have served on our Board of Directors over the last 20 years, offering wisdom and guidance and support.

I'm grateful for all those who have provided funding for Eco-Justice Ministries. I give deep thanks for the over 900 individuals and families who have contributed more than $600,000; for the institutional donors who have given nearly $70,000; and the foundation grants and bequests of almost $50,000. I am deeply grateful to my home church, Washington Park UCC in Denver, which for over 20 years has donated office space for this agency, and which has been such a profoundly supportive partner in other ways.

I am grateful beyond words to my beloved spouse, Allyson, who has consented to the difficult role of being married to a prophet doing non-profit work in a painful time. I give thanks for Allyson's passionate support of this ministry, her patience and forgiveness, her creative and poetic contributions, and her life-long commitment to the church as an agent of change.

And I give thanks to God for the opportunity and the abilities that have allowed me to do this work for two decades. It has been a gift to live out this calling.

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My gratitude is immense and deep -- even if I did slide off into lecturing a bit along the way, but those details and lists are important, too! And, honestly, what I named above is only a small, suggestive sample of the immense gratitude that fills my heart.

I retire today (although I'll be cleaning up the office and the website as a volunteer for some while). Eco-Justice Ministries also ends its programming today. Below my signature, there are personal and procedural notes that may be important for some of you.

I give thanks for the twenty years of Eco-Justice Ministries, and for all of you who have been part of this grand adventure. I am grateful, deeply grateful.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

PERSONAL AND PROCEDURAL NOTES FROM PETER

Many thanks to the multitudes of people who have sent notes and greetings and best wishes marking my retirement. I'm sorry that I'm not able to reply to them all. I am deeply moved and appreciative of your affirmations.

The Board of Directors of Eco-Justice Ministries hosted a wonderful on-line celebration of Eco-Justice Ministries last weekend. As part of the occasion, I did a presentation with a very condensed review of our history and mission. The video, covering 20 years in 13 minutes, is available for viewing at your leisure.

Eco-Justice Ministries is ending all programming at the time of my retirement. We've prepared a list of other agencies and projects that have been important partners, and which reflect the values and goals of our ministry. We encourage you to connect with those groups as you continue to work for a more just and sustainable world.

The Eco-Justice Ministries website will continue as an archive, probably for at least two years. All previous issues of Eco-Justice Notes are posted there. The website content and formatting will be updated in the next few months as we make that transition.

Our primary email address (ministry@eco-justice.org) will be discontinued around mid-August. (But it is OK to reply to this Notes until then.) After that, to reach either me, or other volunteers related to Eco-Justice Ministries, please use the contact form on our website. I am not publishing a personal email address to this broad list.

Our office telephone will be disconnected this weekend. Again, if you're trying to reach me, please use the contact form.

As I enter into retirement, there's a good possibility that I will do occasional writing, somewhat along the lines of Eco-Justice Notes (but without the constraints of representing a non-profit agency). If you'd like to be on the list for those potential mailings, please let me know at this address within the next two weeks.

And again, thank you for being a part of the extended Eco-Justice Ministries community.


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