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Environmental Stewardship Commission

Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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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

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If you find the information in this reflection to be of interest or concern, please contact MEESC Members.

Members of MEESC reside around the Diocese of Minnesota and are available to assist you and your congregation in their environmental stewardship walk.

Please contact us at any time with your questions.



Creation Season 2011 (Year A)

Welcome! We're glad you're planning on observing a liturgical season of creation. We have prepared some materials for you to use in worship, teaching, and personal reflection.

The Notes on the readings for this topic are available for you to use. You may

  • copy and paste what you wish from this page directly to your preparation materials or
  • download the materials as part of a reference materials for the individuals involved in preparing religious education, homilies, or special liturgical materials for your Service.

This Sunday's topic is Forests. The following themes may be useful in preparing a sermon, prayers, or study:

Trees; land; water; animals; new life in spring; multiple lights; ecosystem; habitat; sturdy; tall; majestic; uniform; inhabitants; Robin Hood; inner life; plants; dirt; rivulets going somewhere; water running through it; good place to hide; limited visibility; spirity (shape changers) within and behind trees; darker; rustling and creaking of trees/branches; sighs.


  • There are three major types of forests, classed according to latitude:
    • tropical
    • temperate
    • boreal forests (taiga)
  • Tropical forests are characterized by the greatest diversity of species. They occur near the equator, within the area bounded by latitudes 23.5 degrees N and 23.5 degrees S. One of the major characteristics of tropical forests is their distinct seasonality: winter is absent, and only two seasons are present (rainy and dry). The length of daylight is 12 hours and varies little. (Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology )
  • Temperate forests occur in eastern North America, northeastern Asia, and western and central Europe. Well-defined seasons with a distinct winter characterize this forest biome. Moderate climate and a growing season of 140-200 days during 4-6 frost-free months distinguish temperate forests. (Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology)
  • Boreal forests, or taiga, represent the largest terrestial biome. Occuring between 50 and 60 degrees north latitudes, boreal forests can be found in the broad belt of Eurasia and North America: two-thirds in Siberia with the rest in Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada. Seasons are divided into short, moist, and moderately warm summers and long, cold, and dry winters. The length of the growing season in boreal forests is 130 days. (Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology)
  • Today, forests occupy approximately one-third of Earth’s land area, account for over two-thirds of the leaf area of land plants, and contain about 70% of carbon present in living things. (Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology)
  • In an urban setting, trees are a lot more than landscaping decorations. They make up a fully functional, incredibly valuable urban tree canopy that performs a number of essential services for the city and the surrounding ecosystem. The greater the tree cover, and the less impervious surfaces in a community, the more ecosystem services are performed. They can be grouped into four major categories: reducing stormwater runoff, increasing air and water quality, storing carbon, and reducing energy expenditures. (Source: American Forests)
  • Forests are essential for life on Earth. They give us shade and shelter, refuge and refreshment, clean air and water. Today, with a growing global population and subsequent demand for forest products, the forests of the world are at risk from widespread deforestation and degradation. (Source: The Nature Conservancy)
  • Overall, deforestation has been taking place at a pace of about 130 000 km2 (13 million hectares) per year during the period 1990–2005 (an area the size of Greece), with few signs of a significant decrease over time. Though deforestation continues at an alarming rate, the annual net loss of forest area is decreasing due to tree planting and natural expansion of forests in some countries and regions. (Source: GreenFacts)
  • Problems caused by insects and diseases have increased in recent years, being spread by long-distance air travel and increased international agricultural and forest product trade. Globally, 3% of forest area is reported to be affected by insects and diseases. (Source: GreenFacts)

Alternate Scripture Readings:

One or more of the following readings could be used in place of those specified in the lectionary:

  • Psalm 29:5
  • Psalm 96:10-13
  • Psalm 148 (especially v. 9)
  • Isaiah 10:16-19 and 44:21-23

Non-Scriptural Writings

In place of or in addition to a scripture reading, you may use an alternative reading. We offer these for your consideration:


Tall rough barked trees
Rooted in the morning mist
The forest awakens
To my intrusion

I stand, attended by silence
Cloaked in cathedral green
Natures poetry that feeds my soul

It fills my need
And restores me whole

Around me, with Majesty it stands

The stillness crashing
First sunbeam, with reverence
My soul, sighing

~Marlin Pine, January 23, 2008

The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.
~ John Muir

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a jellow birch, or an old aquaintance among the pines.
~Henry David Thoreau

Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all , and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.
And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.

~Black Elk Speaks, The Great Vision, 1932, p. 36 on Garden Digest

There are no medium-sized trees in the deep forest. There are only the towering ones, whose canopy spreads across the sky. Below, in the gloom, there's light for nothing but mosses and ferns. But when a giant falls, leaving a little space ... then there's a race -- between the trees on either side, who want to spread out, and the seedlings below, who race to grow up. Sometimes, you can make your own space.
~ Terry Pratchett, Small Gods, quoted on Garden Digest

I believe in the cosmos. All of us are linked to the cosmos. Look at the sun: If there is no sun, then we cannot exist. So nature is my god. To me, nature is sacred; trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals.
~ Mikhail Gorbachev, 1990, quoted on Garden Digest

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

~ Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front quoted on Garden Digest

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.
~ John Muir, quoted on Garden Digest

As Americans, we have become comfortable with our environment of concrete, steel, plastics, and artificial fibers, colors, and flavorings to such a degree that many question whether or not we even need to focus on a relationship with the creation. We have lost the desire to seek God and the ability to see God in all things. And perhaps, we have closed our eyes to the importance of God's creation as expressed through the forests because we have substituted the wonders of human creation for the wonders of God's creation. This form of idolatry should concern us.
~ Susan Drake, The Global Forest, 2000

Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets.
To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel.

~ Aldo Leopold quoted on Garden Digest

Some additional readings can be found in Earth Prayers From around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, Edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon; Published by Harper Colllins. The readings below (with their authors noted) may fit within this topic.

Allah Renee Bozarth
Thomas Merton
Mary Rogers - Gaelic
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin*
Ashanti Prayer
Irish Blessing*
African Canticle

* Useful as litany or adapted to prayers of people


There is a large selection of creation-related hymns found on the MEESC Listing of Creation and Environmental Music. Additionally, these works may be of interest:

  • The Five Sacred Trees by John Williams. The work is composed of five movements, each representing a tree from ancient Celtic mythology: Eó Mugna, Tortan, Eó Rossa, Craeb Uisnig, and Dathi.
  • The Song of the Forests, Op 81, by Dmitir Shostakovich. Shostakovich composed this oratorio in the summer of 1949. It was written to celebrate the forestation of the Russian steppes following the end of World War II. Premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic under Yevgeny Mravinsky on Dec 15, 1949, the work was well-received by the government, earning the composer a Stalin Prize the following year.

Educational Ideas

A keynote speech by Martin Palmer (Secretary General of Alliance of Religions and Conservation) from 2006 about faith and forests.


To be added

Some discussion topics:

  1. Have you ever visited an old-growth forest? How did it make you feel? Did you leave with a sense of the hand of the divine?
  2. When have you found a place where you felt like you were standing on "the highest mountain of them all"? How did this experience impact on how you approached the environment and your place in it?
  3. What do you think John Muir might say today about the way our forests are cut down in your area, in other places around the world?
  4. Are there other aspects of the idolatry that Susan Drake wrote about that we have seen develop in our society in the last decade or two?
  5. One can apply a variant of the Gospel Based Discipleship questions to almost any reading or situation:
    A. What particularly jumps out at you or gets your attention?
    B. What is this reading/information/situation saying to us?
    C. What is this reading/information/situation calling us to do?

Revised Common Lectionary Readings:

PDF Version of these notes:


To the other Topics in this series
May 1, 2011
May 8, 2011
May 15, 2011
May 22, 2011
May 29, 2011
June 5, 2011
This Page

Note: The Reflections and Notes for this Sunday were prepared by the Rev Wanda Copeland and Chuck Morello, with contributions from the Rev Margaret W. Thomas, John G. Gibbs, PhD, and the Rev Tom Harries.

  • The Rev Wanda Copeland was Interim Rector of St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Roseville, MN, when she originally prepared these materials
  • Chuck Morello was the MEESC Webverger and a licensed lay preacher who attended St. James' Episcopal Church, Hibbing, MN, when he contributed to these materials
  • The Rev Margaret W. Thomas was a retired Episcopal Priest residing in Duluth, MN, and doing supply work when she contributed to these materials
  • John G. Gibbs, PhD, a retired theologian, resided in Park Rapids, MN, when he contributed to these materials
  • The Rev Tom Harries was the co-chair of MEESC and the rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, St. Peter, MN, when he contributed to these materials

Wanda, Chuck, Margaret, John, Tom, and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Wanda Copeland, Chuck Morello, Margaret Thomas, John Gibbs, Tom Harries, or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


This page last updated 2011-05-17.

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