Episcopal Fellowships Cultivate Connections to Nature

church in action from episcopalrelief.org

As a writer for this site, I am always on the lookout for stories that connect faith with environmental issues. Being Episcopal, I was delighted when I came across news about environmental stewardships by the Episcopal Church.

Two women in particular are notable, because each has received a two-year, $48,000 fellowship from the Episcopal Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. Cindy Coe is working with children in Tennessee and Sarah Nolan is in California raising awareness about growing and sharing food. These Justice and Advocacy fellowships are awarded as part of Episcopal initiatives to combat poverty and promote environmental stewardship.

Episcopal Fellowships Bridging Faith and Ecology

The Episcopal Church promotes many good causes, including eco-justice. With her fellowship, Cindy Coe launched Abundant Life Garden Project for Episcopal Relief & Development, where school children are encouraged to get more involved in nature.

Through her program, Coe is developing research for constructing a faith-based curriculum on environmental education. Emphasizing a hands-on approach, Cindy stated, “As far as teaching about nature, we have to get kids outside.” The feedback she gets from the kids, including her son, helps her in her work. “I would like to introduce creation care as part of Christian formation of children and youth in our church,” she said.

Sarah Nolan’s work began through a farming program by Episcopal Service Corps. When she was approached by interested young adults hoping to become more deeply involved, Nolan’s fellowship provided greater opportunities. Her work as a director for The Abundant Table ministry contributes to the cultivation of sustainable farming relationships.

Nolan is aiming for a network of ministries to work with their communities in growing gardens, distributing, and sharing food. “It is important for the church to see how the growing and sharing of food is an open door to understanding environmental sustainability and stewardship,” said Nolan. Her organization promotes food justice so that everyone benefits, including the earth.

Not only are they fostering Christian spirituality, but the work Cindy Coe and Sarah Nolan are doing is very relevant to the current needs of our world. Only six months into their first year, these two ladies are honing their leadership skills, actively working with their ministries to advance the themes of ecology in people’s lives. It is inspiring to see their ideas in action, to see faith blended with scientific knowledge and sustainable practices.

The Episcopal Marks of Mission

Reading about the Episcopalian programs and initiatives on environmental concerns made me proud to be a member of the Episcopal Church. Although in my childhood my church didn’t discuss environmental issues, I grew up with awareness about pollution, recycling, and conservation. Now I am seeing congregations becoming actively involved in ecology care. They are doing many good services, and caring for nature is a wonderful way to connect ministries with communities, to promote social justice.

One of the Episcopal Church’s Five Marks of Mission is to care for and renew life on Earth. This Mark is being represented by Episcopal ministries offering programs and outreach at the local level, through the use of environmental themes to help people by providing ecological solutions.

Education, Food Justice, and Stewardship to Nature are major themes uniting faith and communities for positive social change. Education and Agriculture are important elements in everyday life, and encouraging direct experience helps develop positive lifelong habits. Getting back to our roots helps us cultivate these skills and promote conscientious consumption.

It is also encouraging to see how all kinds of church facilities, including parishes, schools, and playgrounds can be utilized to carry out this work. Advancing Eco-Justice is a great mission for the Episcopal Church, and I’m glad to know my denomination takes caring for the earth so seriously.

image (Screenshot of Episcopal environmental education lessons for children)

(Top image note and source: Episcopal environmental education program, from episcopalrelief.org)

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About the Author

Gina Merlino is a freelance writer who cares about environmental issues. She has a Bachelor's in Philosophy, a Master's in Engaged Humanities, and is an avid reader of the news. You can find me on Twitter.