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Report to Board 2012

Small Group Meetings 2012

Report to the ASN Board

June 7, 2012


We had five meetings with a total of 23 participants over a two-week period from May 20 to June 3. This is less participation than last year, but the lower level of the response can be understood in terms of (1) the meetings being done with less fanfare this time around, on the assumption that they are becoming a regular feature of our common life, and in terms of (2) several of our most active members being away at the time. Some of those who are away also have a deep concern for environmental issues. We can assume that we have more leadership that was evident in the meetings, as well as widespread concern, but we also can’t assume too much in the way of grassroots organizational depth.


There was a similar dynamic in all the groups. The video that was used to kick off the discussion evoked awe at the beauty of creation, and also a feeling of being overwhelmed by the global dimensions of the present ecological crisis. At the same time, despite the immensity of the problem, nearly everyone had developed a set of personal practices intended to counter the crisis in the sphere of their personal and family life—and sometimes in their professional life too. Nearly everyone felt that there are choices which make at least real small-scale differences. The motivation for pursuing these disciplines ranged from anger and guilt on the one hand to cold calculating reason and enlightened self-interest on the other hand.


The practices that participants cultivated were focused on four areas: (1) food sovereignty; (2) recycling in all its forms, and the logistics of recycling under local conditions; (3) energy-efficient construction and maintenance; and (4) learning to live simpler lives.


There was a consensus that the environmental crisis is a moral/theological issue, and therefore the church is an appropriate place to face it.  The church can be effective in two ways.


First, it can get its own house in order as a means of witnessing to ourselves and our neighborhood. We should do an ecological inventory of our plant and our operations, to make sure that we are managing our own affairs in the most environmentally efficient way.  Several participants ventured that we would probably come out pretty well in such an inventory, but that it should be done anyway. Several denominations have put out materials to aid congregations in becoming “green churches,” and we could use these in a modified form as the basis for our investigation. Once we make the grade, we should publicize what we are doing to our own members and to the wider community. The idea of a community garden came up several times as a means of relating to our neighborhood on this issue.


Second, we can become a center for consciousness-raising and information-sharing. We can share with one another the measures we are already taking, so as to learn from one another how to do them better. We can also be helped by information from persons and organizations with a depth of experience in environmental action. Three specific areas of education were identified: (1) the moral/theological dimension; (2) the scientific/technological dimension; and (3) local organizations and initiatives. This consciousness-raising and information-sharing could involve the other IELE congregations and the wider community too.


Given the dynamic of our life together in the summer, we can’t expect to accomplish very much during that time, but we don’t want to lose all momentum either.  Perhaps a good strategy would be to have several “brainstorming sessions” during the Adult Forum on the two aspects of our goals described above. Ideas could be gathered, and leaders for specific tasks could be identified. Then in the fall we could form an action team to begin putting these ideas into effect.