And We Hear the Trees Pray
Dear friends, As we reported to you earlier this week, our Survey of your views showed that you wanted us to send regular suggestions of actions for you to take, toward healing American society and our wounded Earth.
Meanwhile, the collapse of Trump-UnCare has shown that vigorous, persistent public action can thwart the cruel and destructive plans of even would-be despotic officials.
On health care and immigration, religious communities have indeed been vigorous and persistent in resisting cruel governmental action. On the climate crisis, there has been some religious action – but not as much, even though the need is dire and the possibilities wonderful.
This letter offers one such action -- an Earth-centered prayer service. Others will follow.
During the week from July 9 to 16, the nationwide Jewish network called Ruach HaAretz (“Spirit of the Earth”) held a retreat at the Stony Point Retreat Center in upstate New York. I took part both in planning that retreat and in teaching /”weaving”a course through the week, entitled “Prayer as if the Earth Really Matters.” As I did, I kept in mind The Shalom Center’s recent multireligious consultation to develop liturgy that can inspire religious action to heal the Earth.
The class planned and then collectively led a prayer service in which all the retreatants took part. The guidebook/ prayerbook for that course follows below. I suggest that Earth-aware religious and spiritual communities might use it as a template for planning services – perhaps monthly -- that will help inspire congregants to take spiritually rooted action to heal the climate and the Earth. Each prayer group could of course modify this blueprint to meet its own needs and desires.
We believe that the spiritual depth of prayer is crucial, but not sufficient, to make change happen.
So the class also began developing plans for a “public action liturgy” that would call for renewal, restoration, and healing of the Earth and its climate. We will pursue those plans by long-distance Zoom meetings.
The class also urged that we develop practices – like a congregational or neighborhood solar co-op – that would become “religious imperatives.”
The service was held in a grove of trees in the retreat center. It was focused on prayer for a Jewish gathering, but with a few changes could probably be used by many other religious and spiritual communities and interfaith groups.
We recommend that if at all possible, this service be celebrated outdoors and among trees. The service was planned for and actually took exactly one hour. We are glad to provide it to gatherings of any religious or spiritual communities. We invite those who draw on it to help us continue to disseminate it and develop other Earth-centered religious practices by sending a supportive contribution to The Shalom Center. Click on the maroon "Contribute" banner on the left-hand margin of this page.or send a check to 6711 Lincoln Dr, Philadelphia PA 19119.
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Prayer Service As If -- and Because! –-
The Earth Really Matters
Sunday Morning Service, Ruach HaAretz,
July 16, 2017
Held during the week-long retreat at
Stony Point Center
Arriving chant: Modah / Modeh Ani l’fanecha, Ruach chai v’kayyam. ["Thankful am I, facing You -- Everlasting Breath of Life ”]
Interpretive Modah /Modeh Ani
"Modah/Modeh Ani" in rhythm with other creatures and living beings. All of our bodies move differently, so please do the kind of motion that works for your body. Stretch up your arms toward the sky like a tree. Twist like a willow. Move your arms like a bird. Invite group to name moves; then the group follows.
Baruch ata Yahhh, Eloheinu Ruach ha’olam…
[Blessed are You, Yahhh our God, Breath of Life -- ]
Who opens our eyes to the beauty in the world,
Who opens our eyes to what is truly happening today,
Who opens our eyes to envision the future.
Who reminds us that each step we take connects us with the Earth
Whose Divine image is seen in all life.
Excerpts from Psalm 148 [to the melody of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”:
Praise God, sun and moon, Hallelu-Yah.
Praise Yah, you stars of light, Hallelu-Yah.
Praise God, you high heavens, Hallelu-Yah.
All that flows in all the world, Hallelu-Yah.