Cathy Yost Reflects on Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice

The following post is appearing as part of the series “Reflecting on Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice.”  In 1990 the 202nd General Assembly approved Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice, which affirms that God calls the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to care for the earth and work for justice for all of creation, human and non-human.  On the 20th anniversary of the policy several people active in eco-justice ministries are sharing their reflections on the policy.

By Cathy Yost

It would be really hard to pin down the moment when I understood that our beautiful planet was in peril.  When I saw my sons’ school trash bins filled with Styrofoam lunch containers, I took action by becoming the monitor of the waste bins.  It was indeed possible to recycle those containers if they were cleaned and sorted.  I remember drawing attention to the issue by making myself a Halloween Hat out of Styrofoam parts.  The Halloween Parade at that school was a neighborhood event that had some impact.

Surely a profound additional influence on my environmental life was my husband, Ken Yost, the Public Works Director for the City of Kirkwood, MO.   He ran the very finest drop-off recycling depository in the region.   Sadly, Ken was killed by an irate citizen at a Kirkwood City Council Meeting in February, 2008, along with five other civil servants.   Having been a survivor of such senseless violence has made me more, not less, determined to respect and revere God’s Creation.

After a fairly frustrating visit to an “Earth Day Festival” in St. Louis’ Forest Park in 2000, we began searching for a way to offer hands-on service ministry for our home congregation in Kirkwood, MO.  We settled on a Stream Clean-Up of the local storm water creeks, which were the catch basins for substantial amounts of plastic water bottles, trash bags, and even large drop-off items like auto parts.  The annual stream clean-up was honored by local clean-stream organizations as a worthwhile effort for the tons of debris we pulled out of the creeks.

Also in 2000, I finally put my Creation Theology into words in a hymn submitted for an international competition sponsored by Central Presbyterian Church of Houston, TX.  I was thrilled when it won.  The melody is “Beach Spring” from Sacred Harp, and is the same melody as “God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending.”  To the best of my knowledge, thanks to the internet, it has been sung in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.  I have also submitted it for possible inclusion in the next Presbyterian Hymnal.  I can think of no other words that sum up my personal theology better than these:


O, Creator of the cosmos, we present our hearts in prayer.
We are awestruck by your glory, which surrounds us everywhere.
From the birdsong of the morning to a stormy sky at night,
You reveal yourself in Nature, in its gentleness and might.

Through each rainbow that you send us, you renew your covenant
With the earth and all life on it, a clear sign of your intent
That each living thing should flourish, in its own way, in its place.
You call us to new awareness of our neighbors and their space.

In our eagerness to prosper, we have ravaged what was good,
Using more than what was needed, taking everything we could.
We have changed the gentle order you intended for the earth.
Now we humbly ask the wisdom to be part of its rebirth.

We seek mercy, we seek vision, and the courage we will need
As we work to help the victims of the sins of human greed.
By our choices, in our actions, may we be part of your plans.
Help us gently till the Garden you’ve entrusted to our hands.

Finding strength in common purpose, may your faithful people be
Voices for a new perspective, leaders in simplicity.
Give us guidance, O, Creator;  Give us power to achieve
True compassion for Creation as the legacy we leave. 

Poem/Lyrics Set To Hymn Tune “Beach Spring”
Registration Number PAu 2-561-670
United States Copyright Office – Library of Congress
Nov. 15, 2000

Cathy Yost served as the first Moderator of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation.

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