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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

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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)
The Land

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 in PDF as part of a reference materials for the individuals involved in preparing religious education, homilies, or special liturgical materials for your Service. Click here for the list.

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

wheat fields; arable; rebirth in spring to full flower in summer to colorful decline in fall to fallow stillness in winter; unstable because of earthquakes; majesty of mountains; standing imposingly; the scruffy unevenness of fallow fields; productive oozing giving way to degy, pinched sprigs of green; the roar of naked sand blasting its impotent face into the crevices of that which is anchored in life; creeping desertification marching relentlessly; wind drying; Cedars of Lebanon; flooding wadis collect in pools and dry up.


  • Deserts cover about one fifth of the Earth’s surface and occur where rainfall is less than 50 cm/year. Although most deserts, such as the Sahara of North Africa and the deserts of the southwestern U.S., Mexico, and Australia, occur at low latitudes, another kind of desert, cold deserts, occur in the basin and range area of Utah and Nevada and in parts of western Asia. Most deserts have a considerable amount of specialized vegetation, as well as specialized vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Soils often have abundant nutrients because they need only water to become very productive and have little or no organic matter. Disturbances are common in the form of occasional fires or cold weather, and sudden, infrequent, but intense rains that cause flooding.
    Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology
  • Grasslands are characterized as lands dominated by grasses rather than large shrubs or trees. In the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs, which spanned a period of about 25 million years, mountains rose in western North America and created a continental climate favorable to grasslands. Ancient forests declined and grasslands became widespread. Following the Pleistocene Ice Ages, grasslands expanded in range as hotter and drier climates prevailed worldwide. There are two main divisions of grasslands: (1) tropical grasslands, called savannas, and (2) temperate grasslands.
    Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology
  • Perhaps humans can’t control the soil structure of the Minnesota River basin, or the slope of the land on a watershed-wide basis. But, says University of Minnesota stream ecologist Bruce Vondracek, we can change the hydrology of a particular area – the amount of water that flows over and under soil – and at what speed it makes that journey. Studies and anecdotal evidence show that land covered with perennial plants such as grasses, hay crops and trees is much less prone to erosion when compared to acres planted to annual crops such as corn and soybeans. Perennial plant cover slows down the water flow, provides year-around protection from the soil-loosening effects of rainstorms, and gives precipitation a chance to soak into the soil structure.
    Source: Land Stewardship Project Fact Sheet #15 (PDF)

Alternate Scripture Readings:

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

  • Genesis 1:1-15
  • Psalm 8
  • Psalm 98: 4-9
  • Proverbs 8: 1, 22-31
  • Proverbs 29:2, 4, 7-8
  • Jeremiah 29: 1, 4-9

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:


THESE things wondering I saw beneath the sun:
That never yet the race was to the swift,
The fight unto the mightiest to lift,
Nor favors unto men whose skill had done
Great works, nor riches ever unto one
Wise man of understanding. All is drift
Of time and chance, and none may stay or sift
Or know the end of that which is begun.
Who waits until the wind shall silent keep,
Will never find the ready hour to sow.
Who watcheth clouds will have no time to reap.
At daydawn plant thy seed, and be not slow
At night. God doth not slumber take nor sleep:
Which seed shall prosper thou shalt never know.
~ Helen Hunt Jackson
Source: Poets' Corner
(Copyright ©1994 - 2009 Poets' Corner Editorial Staff)

Reflections on Land Stewardship

Often religious communities have a close relationship with their land, and cherish sacred memories of happy times sealed through their own tender care, hard labor, and the burial of community members on the land itself. These affections are tied to the mission and charism of the community, and yet each member knows this is not a lasting city, nor are our ties so strong that we are unwilling to part with material things, even the land itself. But this dual pull of genuine affection for what currently exists here-and-now and the community's spiritual future out there-and-then creates a tension in the community, albeit a spiritual one when prayerfully considered.

Spiritual growth is both an individual and a community journey, and these will often overlap. Throughout history when communities have been faced with external pressures (e.g., persecution or external war) they have had to abandon land quickly and sometimes never had the opportunity to return. Such circumstances triggered profound changes of direction as well as purification and spiritual growth. Similar circumstances may occur after Vatican II through the decimation of a religious community's numbers. The reasons for this decline in numbers are quite complex and tend to bring new relationships, affluence, and loosening of former cultural bonds.
~ Al Fritsch, SJ
Source: Appalachia – Science in the Public Interest

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.

Educational Ideas


Covenant Prayer with the Land

Today, we make a covenant with this land.
As a branch is grafted onto a mature stock,
So we want to be grafted onto the ancient heritage of this land,
So that its life may flow through us.
We commit ourselves to the land we live in and to all who belong to it,
Most particularly our Indigenous people
And also the newcomers to this country,
Who have bound themselves to this land.
We will care for it with gentleness, patience, simplicity and compassion,
Rather then merely something to be bought and sold.
We will see the land as a gift for which we are truly thankful,
And undertake the privileged duty of respecting and looking after it.

We thank God, the Great Creator Spirit, for all the earth provides:
Water, food, and all the riches above and below the ground.
We undertake to use them sparingly and thoughtfully.
As we enter more deeply into the Spirit of the land,
We see the land as a Sacrament and Icon of our mothering Creator Spirit.
Be still.
Listen to the breath of the Spirit which has blown through it for ages past,
Today, and always;
For this is: The Spirit of the Dreaming.
~ Betty Pike
Source: Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

Gathering prayer:

God we gather in the midst of your creation,
To build each other up in the faith you have given us.
God we come, not alone but as part of your community.

We come from isolated lives and self centred living seeking community,
So that together we might be kept safe in God’s love,
God we come, not alone but as part of your community.

As we build together may we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,
And await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ open our eyes to see you,
God we come, not alone but as part of your community.

No one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have – Jesus Christ,
Who takes our anxious thoughts and the worries that blind our sight,
God we come, not alone but as part of your community.

Rescue us dear God from the tumult of our busy lives,
Bind us together as we breathe your quiet presence,
God we come, not alone but as part of your community.

Heavenly God, you who are community shelter us;
Christ before us and behind us, Holy Spirit deep within us;
God we come, not alone but as part of your community.
~From Faith Forward
Copyright © 2008-2011 Patheos, Inc

Some discussion topics:

  1. What would happen if perennial plant systems were returned to an agricultural watershed?
  2. How much of a change in the landscape would it take to reduce sedimentation to more sustainable levels?
  3. How do you interact with the land you call home?
  4. What are the "external pressures" that you see impacting your relationship with the land?
  5. Do you "own" land? What are your responsibilities when owning land?
  6. 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 for Easter 3, Year A:

PDF Version of these notes: (available in late April)

To the other Topics in this series
The Land
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, 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.
  • 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, Margaret, Tom, and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to Wanda Copeland, Margaret Thomas, John G. 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.


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