Saturday, February 28, 2009

Global Warming and Caring for Creation

Global warming or the debate about how serious it is won’t go away. The United Nations Panel on Climate Change has stated that global warming is much worse than previously estimated. They are now talking in terms of potential catastrophic climate change. The evidence, according to the panel, is all around us. This includes a heat wave in Europe in 2003 that left 50,000 people dead, Hurricane Katrina, the melting of glaciers of Greenland and an increase in catastrophic natural disasters.

Mean while, the International Polar Year has lead to related research and more cause for concern. After reviewing over 160 research projects the contributing nations are calling for an international plan to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Consistent with the findings, Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research reports that 14,000 square kilometers of Wilkin’s Ice Self in Antarctic has broken away due to warming temperatures. So, how big is that? It is 5,400 square miles of ice. That is a significant loss.

Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctic break-up! (2008.03.25)

To be sure there is not universal agreement on the cases of global warming, how serious it is or what should be done. Politicians, commentators and religious leaders fall on both sides of the controversy.

Monday will be the largest act of civil disobedience related to global warming. Thousands plan to march in Washington and attempt to block access to the coal-burning Washington Power Plant. I have mixed feelings about this. I know coal is dirty and the technology to make it clean is not all that impressive. I also know many people in Appalachia who need jobs and coal mines provide some of those jobs. However, I do not believe we can address such an enormous problem without making sacrifices. We are facing difficult choices.

The Catholic Church has not been silent. The Church has called for sustainable economies that protect the environment and working conditions. They have called for caring for the gift of creation. Finally, the Vatican bluntly acknowledges that global warming is a threat to security. As a Franciscan this response is music to my ears. I hope more schools become involved in the Franciscan Earth Corps. However, as a nation and as a species I wonder if we have the commitment to make consistently difficult choices. We need to pray, we need to reach out to one another and we need to care, really care about the gift of creation by a generous Creator.

Getting ready for the Hills and the Hollows: Workfest 2009

Well, we are all getting ready for Workfest 2009. Some universities are already in Eastern Kentucky right now. There are two camps that house multiple teams from various colleges and universities.

This is a great time of fellowship, servanthood and oh, yeah…fun.

We will be at Camp Caleb just outside of Flat Gap. Our students will break into teams with students from other schools and other regions of the U.S. Each team will be assigned a family to work with and then, under the guidance of folks who know what end of the hammer your suppose to hold, they will all get down to tearing down and building up.

I love Appalachia. The term means endless mountains. The mountain system spans 13 states. These are not the tall majestic mountains of the Rockies. These are the smaller, more rounded but breath-taking Smoky Mountains.

Over half the inhabitants of Appalachia are rural. Many live in the mountains and hollows (hollers). The area has a disproportioned amount of birth defects, diabetes, blindness and deafness. The drug use is higher than in some urban areas.

Eastern Kentucky is home to seven of the 50 poorest counties in the nation. Poverty rate fluctuates between 17% to over 50%. This is an area of extreme unemployment and under-employment. Medical needs are not met and staying in school is a struggle.

Still, without Appalachia it is fair to state there might not be a United States. Many of the people who live here are the descendants of soldiers of the Revolutionary War. The land they live on was in acknowledgment of that sacrifice. Others followed Daniel Boone into the great wilderness of Kentucky.

This is beautiful country with wonderful people. The challenges are great but CAP, the people and our fellow volunteers are the right ingredients for a fantastic time. So, we continue to prepare for our journey.

A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains

Site Visits and Billy Sunday

Well I’ve been on the road again. Nothing big, just some site visits for my interns. Cathi and I drove to Napoleon Ohio. It is small city on the shores of the Maumee River about 40 minutes from Toledo. The courthouse is beautiful, the street pretty and the drive is fantastic. You drive along the Maumee and remnants of the Erie Canal. However this day there was construction and delays and detours. Still the visit went well, the company was great but the drive was a pain.

Latter in the week I drove to Warsaw Indiana for another site visit. I got to the office early so I drove over to Lake Winona. I had never been there. It is a beautiful little lake full of up-scale and arty shops. The area is known as the Village at Winona.

Well there I stopped at the Billy Sunday Center. Sunday had been a professional baseball player for the Chicago White Stockings! He grew up an orphanage and thought he discovered his gift, baseball. He was an incredible athlete but abruptly left the sport to become an evangelist. Boy did he become an evangelist. Hundreds of millions of people came to hear him preach over the years. He used baseball stories, humor and fear of hell and the evils of alcohol to keep his audiences attention. He moved his headquarters to Lake Winona and for years the most famous preachers of the day spent their summers there.

Steal from the Devil: The Story of Billy Sunday

This was an incredible little detour. And the site visit? It went great, we have exceptional students!

Open Air Meeting by Billy Sunday

Friday, February 27, 2009

Soup and Stations

Tonight we had “Soup and Stations” at our church, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. First we meet in the Cathedral center and share a meal. The camaraderie is great. It is a great break from the week and good preparation for the next part of the evening.

After a simple but tasty meal we go over to the Cathedral and participate in the Stations of the Cross. I love walking meditations and I especially like anything that connects me to our Franciscan heritage. Well, that’s Stations of the Cross!

The Stations we have in our church are magnificent. They are large wood carved stations. Each Station shows a different century and city. The only thing that remains the same in each is Jesus. As we process from Station to Station the room is is aglow with the light of late evening, of February trying to become spring. There is a soft glow, a hope of things to come.

Last year I was visiting my mother-in-law in Springfield Illinois. I participated in an outdoor Way of the Cross. It was a powerful way of bringing Jesus into today’s world. I then went to their Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for Good Friday Services. So when I think of the Stations I think of Francis, I think of Margo and of course I think of Jesus and his mother.

Getting Ready for Workfest 09

Recently 20/20 did a special on the lives of the poor in Eastern Kentucky. That show was of special interest to me. I love Eastern Kentucky. I love the beautiful towns, the colleges, the farms and especially the people. I also love the hollows and the hills. However, the poverty is powerful and calls out to be addressed. 20/20 did just that.

I know some have been critical of Diane Sawyer, believing she unfairly stereotyped the people of the area. However, she was not talking about all of the people of Appalachia, simply those who need a reason to hope.

Workfest 2008 USF

In a few weeks Christian Appalachian Project will begin Workfest 2009. CAP is one of my all time favorite volunteer social service agencies. I was first in Eastern Kentucky with the American Red Cross. Last year our school participated in Workfest. We will be attending again this year. It will be important for our students to not stereotype folks, to know that Appalachia is full of many peoples and situations. It will be important for them to recognize the enormous pride of the people as well as the needs of many. I know our students can do this.

So, during the beginning week of Lent it is time for us to get ready, to prepare to be servants and students. It is time to prepare to be humble and not arrogant helpers. It is time for us to be brothers and sisters.

I walk my dog everyday by the shores of one of our city’s three rivers. As I prepare for Workfest 2009 it will be time for me to "Go Down to the River to Pray.”

Down in the River to Pray