We were delighted to have Rev. Amy M. Heinrich share a partner story at our 2019 Lake County Annual Celebration and Fundraiser. She shared about her journey with us, celebrating five years in the region!
I am so pleased to be here to celebrate with Faith in Place, 20 years of greening the faith community and advocating for the good things that sustain life and heal the planet such as the Illinois green job act and lobbying against things that are detrimental to the health earth or the air we breathe such as Ethylene Oxide.
I am particularly happy that five years ago Faith in Place created another headquarters in Waukegan to assist all the Green Teams like mine in Lake County.
Your partnership has been invaluable to our Earth Care Team ministry!
All my life I’ve had two passions, love of nature and love of God. Ecology and theology are intertwined for me. When I traveled to Iona, Scotland on a Celtic Spirituality pilgrimage I have never felt more at home. My spiritual ancestors understood the roofless cathedral of nature best helps us look up into the vastness of the cosmos with a sense of awe, mystery, and sacredness. I have always felt that walking on the Earth was walking on holy ground. And if the ground which our great Creator God is holy we have a profound privilege and daunting responsibility to cherish it and protect it from the degradation of greed and ignorance.
My formation as a pastor was at Union Theological Seminary in NY which left an indelible imprint on me – we cannot be concerned with our own salvation separate from the world’s salvation. “For God so loved the world (the entire cosmos) that God gave God’s only son.” The implication is that personal piety and public morality are inseparable. Of course, religion must speak to politics.
I am so grateful that Faith in Place affirms the critical importance of faithful citizenship with your active engagement with public officials on crucial environmental public policies.
I am so grateful that Faith in Place understands the intersection of social justice with environmental justice. What a God-inspired dream that is!
Photo: St. Joseph Catholic Parish Green Team Members meeting their State Rep., Mary Edly-Allen, at a November Listen. Lead. Share. event in Mundelein.
Yet, as clear as this has been for me and for Faith in Place, that you cannot be faithful to the gospel and turn your back on injustice and immorality, many in the church have not wanted to sully themselves with the dirty work of “politics” and have misunderstood the separation of church and state to mean they have nothing to do with each other.
One of the first initiatives I took at First Presbyterian, Libertyville was to show Al Gores’ documentary An Inconvenient Truth with well-researched hard science on climate change.
Although this drew our largest attendance at an Adult Ed program ever, it also drew the ire of those who felt the church had no business dealing with such science and the political implications. It was a real testing moment for me. Yet, we didn’t back down even with vehement criticism. The film and following conversations on the biblical rationale for stewardship of the creation catalyzed a “caring for creation” group.
It was a mustard seed beginning that continues to grow. We have an Earth Care Worship Service followed by an Eco Fair once a year, educational programs, and are continuing to work for best practices with recycling, compost, disposables, organic gardening, and energy use reduction.
Four years ago, we were credentialed as one of the Chicago Presbytery Earth Care Congregations, passing the criteria for education, worship, facility use, and outreach. We were honored to receive an award for our work from Faith in Place and this motivates us to do far more.
Celeste Flores has been a wonderful addition to our team! She comes to our meetings and has been a great resource of knowledge and support for us. My colleague, Ryan Wallace, and I have done two service-learning days in Waukegan on environmental concerns. The first was at the Cool Learning Experience at First Baptist Church with Barbara Waller. We helped weed their native garden and plant their raised vegetable beds that they use to teach their children about environmental stewardship.
The second trip was to learn from Celeste, Dulce, and David, from Clean Power Lake County about the five Superfund sites in Waukegan—Yeoman Creek Landfill, Johns Manville, Outboard Marine, North Shore Gas North and South Plants, in addition to learning about the coal plant, coal ash and the EtO issue at Medline and Vanguard.
It broke my heart to see so much land fenced off with barbed wire. I poignantly thought, “we have imprisoned the land!” This field trip was such a powerful example, right in my own backyard, of environmental justice—how environmental toxicity creates a disproportional cost to lower-income communities of color.
We are now trying to address these concerns legislatively. The Bible says we are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I was impressed with Celeste, Dulce and David’s political savvy with a gritty but flexible theory of change along with the peace-loving hope and determination of people of faith.
This was a great role model for my people who are new to Christian activism. And given the magnitude and urgency of the climate issue, faith-inspired activism is exactly what the world needs now more than ever.
Thank you Faith in Place for your witness, your partnership, your inspiration. May you stay rooted and grow even stronger in the next 20 years!!