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Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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Upcoming Activities:

Next Meeting:

We meet quarterly close to the solstice and equinox.



Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds

Resolution on Creation Season

Resolution on Green Congregations

Clergy Conference 1999

The Clergy Conference of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota was held on April 19-21, 1999 at the conference center in Buffalo, MN.

Registrants received two short books (The Rediscovery of North America by Barry Lopez, and Another Turn of the Crank by Wendell Berry) and an article (Planet of Weeds by David Quammen) to read in preparation for the conference.

The conference followed the schedule below.  Impressions from participating clergy and presenters are at the end of this page.

Conference Schedule

Monday, April 19:

6:00 PM Dinner
7:00 PM Gathering Event and Introduction
7:30 to 8:45 PM Workshops
9:00 PM Grounding Liturgy

Tuesday, April 20:

8:00 AM Breakfast
8:15 AM Opening Prayer
9:00 to 10:15 AM Guest Speaker: Richard Bresnahan
10:15 to 10:45 AM Break
10:45 AM to Noon Guest Speaker: Richard Bresnahan
Noon to 1:30 PM Lunch
1:30 to 2:30 PM First round of selected activities
2:30 to 3:30 PM Break
3:30 to 4:45 PM Second round of selected activities
4:45 to 6:00 PM Free Time
6:00 to 7:00 PM Supper
7:00 to 9:00 PM Richard Bresnahan in Panel Discussion
9:00 PM Closing Liturgy

Wednesday, April 21:

8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM Presentation by Bishop James Jelinek
11:00 AM Eucharist
Noon Lunch and Departure

Workshop Topics and Content

Education and Curriculum

Presenters: Rev Roger Weaver and Rev Margaret W. Thomas
Theme: "Educating for Creation"


Presenter: Rev Helen Hanten
Theme:  "More than Ecology 101"
Content:  We will look at definitions of Environmental Science, which attempts to figure out the plan and dynamic balance of living things in their environment with the web of interdependence, and recycling of elements of which everything is composed.  Using examples from within the State of Minnesota, we will look at several ecological principles and the consequences of human disruption.

Green Churches

Presenters:  Nelson Thomas, Nan Stokes
Theme:  "Practical Possibilities
Content:  Church buildings and activities afford an opportunity to be an example to their communities about how to be environmentally responsible.  Recycling resources should be part of a church program, as well as how to minister and become an energy-efficient place of worship.  This workshop will have practical suggestions of how to help your congregation make exterior and interior changes as you learn about a response to God's creation.

Four Relationships

Presenter: Bert Whitcombe
Theme:  "Self, Community, Earth, and the Great Mystery"
Content:  From our very beginning these relationships have been part and parcel to us.  They are the fabric of our evolution, from hunter-gatherer to agrarian to city-state to country.  They are implicit in being "human".  From the dawn of the Industrial Revolution we have been developing in these relationships.  What is important is to discover how to again nurture these relationships.  We will explore our personal understandings of these relationships and discover how it feels to discover again the embrace of the "natural" earth, to be in Awe of God, to feel the nurture of community and the self-assurance of our "me".

Liturgies and Creation Cycle:

Presenter: Rev Tom Harries, Rev Barbara Dumke
Theme: "Nature-based Liturgies"

Biblical Theology and Justice/Jubilee

Presenters: Rev Eugene Wahl, Teri Mann
Theme:  "Incarnation Taking Another Look"
Content:  We, as Christians, are committed to the Incarnation (both as experienced reality and as doctrine) as one of the key cornerstones of our faith.  This workshop will look at some new (and not so new) understandings of the Incarnation in terms of seeing the entire Creation as drawn into the Incarnation.  This perspective is motivated from scripture, the theological tradition, and from modern ecosystem science.

During the first one-half to two-thirds of the session there will be a presentation on this topic and on some of its ethical implications.  The second part of the session will be time for reaction to the presentation and for exploring further into Incarnation based in the theological reflections of the session's participants.

Justice on the Earth

Presenters: Rev Wanda Copeland, Teri Mann

Guest Speaker

Our Guest Speaker is Mr. Richard Bresnahan from St. John's University, Collegeville, MN.

You are invited to get "hands-on experience" and theological/scientific perspectives in this conference.  since 1979 Richard Bresnahan has developed the Pottery Program at St. John's University and woven together regional indigenous materials and human resources to establish an environmentally friendly workplace.

"The design of the studio offers Environmental Studies people a three-dimensional textbook with which to examine nature-based systems.  He has given the Lindberg Lectures, participated in monastic dialogues all around the theme of the necessity of forming a new perspective of living with the earth and its diverse communities.

Notes by the Rev Margaret W. Thomas about Richard Bresnahan from attendance at a workshop at United Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, MN, in April 1998:

Richard Bresnahan is a potter-teacher-theologian whose work and life reflect an effort to remain connected to planet Earth and Christian humans while being in a trusting  thankful, relationship with the cosmos and the creator God/Wisdom. He specializes in creating liturgical vessels which reflect and mirror the shapes and color hues of our own creation and the continuing creation of the universes and beyond.  Mr. Bresnahan uses native, natural, locally available clays.  He has worked with the Natural Resources Research Institute in Duluth to find outcropping of clay suitable for his work.  He also utilizes native, natural materials for the glazes such as wild rice and sun flower hulls.

The new lower temperature kiln built at St. John's Collegeville, where Mr. Bresnahan works, also contains local materials, and it's firing involves community participation.  He focuses on global justice issues concerning people and the planet itself.  He illustrates how Japanese potters of the past were able to sustain their own lives and provide pottery for their villages.  When the potters began to supply European export trade pottery with rich artistic design, the Japanese potter families could no longer sustain themselves. Since the glazes required higher temperature firings and repeated, layered firings, their local wood supply was depleted. Chemicals used in the glazes were very toxic to both people's skin and water supplies.  Clay supplies were exhausted, from export.

RB also exhibited organic and Benedictine hospitality and grace full  acceptance and respect by serving workshop participants in a Japanese tea ceremony. The artist used forms of pottery he had made and tea he had dried.  There were stark reminders of the sorts of slick catalogue sales of imported goods or the "Martha Stewart" sorts of hospitality I am continually tempted into.

Activity Rounds

First Round, 1:30 to 2:30 PM:

  • Japanese Tea Ceremony (limit 11 participants)
  • Film:  Dream Windows.  Japanese Meditation Gardens and how gardens ground us
  • Film: My Father's Garden.  A documentary of a North Dakota farmer who started organic farming.  this film has won 7 awards.
  • Follow-on discussions of "Four Relationships"

Second Round:  3:30 to 4:45 PM

  • Japanese Tea Ceremony (limit 11 participants)
  • Film: James Hubbel.  Artist and Director in San Diego shares ecological desires
  • Film:  Baraka.  Our planet and the different religions, where we go on the planet to be in sacred space.  A silent film
  • Follow-on discussions of "Four Relationships"

Conference Impressions:

I found the conference both inspiring and challenging. The presentation by the potter was very moving and I hope it can be published for pondering futher. The messages of simplicity and authenticity for living life abundantly and tasting of deeper gifts that the spirit has to offer that are also environmentally friendly were clearly presented. Another high point for me was the tea ceremony and the power of ritual silence. I was frustrated by the conclusion of the conference and its failure to provide more specific direction to environmental concerns. I felt the conference was heavy on "doctrine" but week on "practise".
+ Rev Canon Stephen Schaitberger
Canon Missioner
Brainerd, MN
26 Apr 1999
Richard Bresnahan shows and lives his passion for God in all creation.  All of our senses were made aware of the beauty around us and my brain did get the message of valuing what God has given us.
+ Rev Anne Scheible
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church
Chatfield, MN
26 Apr 1999
I really liked the Japanese Tea Ceremony and the potter. I like Bert Whitcomb but the discussion on the first night was hard after a full day of work and then more listening, it was strained but I don't think Bert's fault. I do hope we continue to aim for health foods, etc.  We I need more that keeps me focused on the environment. It is too easy to pass it over as the problems are so large.
+ Rev Catherine McDonald
Minneosta Correctional Facilities
Shakopee, MN
26 Apr 1999
For me I have never felt as deeply challenged, coupled with being as deeply loved, as I was by Richard Bresnahan. He is a living example of a person being "pruned" trimmed back in terms of living as a "user" of Creation and what luxurient growth has followed. There is joy in the sacrifices made to leave a lighter footprint.
+ Rev Eugene Wahl
Coon Rapids, MN
26 Apr 1999

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