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Earth Care conference closes with call for participants to be God’s river


Prophetic visions from Ezekiel and Revelation set tone for meeting’s final morning

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Participants in the final worship service on Friday drank water when the Rev. Lindsey Altvater-Clifton said, “May we receive the water’s blessing and the river flow through us.” (Photo by Rich Copley)

STONY POINT, New York — Late in the final worship service for the 2019 Presbyterians for Earth Care national conference, participants stepped forward to fill their cups, but not with wine or juice.

The conference’s communion was the previous night, and this was a different kind of blessing, with water. The Rev. Lindsey Altvater-Clifton encouraged participants to fill their cups with three good swigs of water and proceeded to articulate a vision of peace, hope, healing, abundance, and change proceeding from the conference.

“May we receive the water’s blessing and the river flow through us,” Altvater-Clifton, Co-Pastor of Forest Hills Presbyterian Church in High Point, North Carolina, said three times during her blessing, inviting participants to drink each time.

This was one of the final acts of the four-day conference at the Stony Point Center that flowed with visions of rivers through lament over the current state of the environment to hope, action, and a final vision of new heaven and new Earth.

The Rev. Dr. William Brown takes a question after his final keynote address. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Earlier in the morning, the Rev. Dr. William P. Brown of Columbia Theological Seminary added an interesting new vision to “signs of the apocalypse”: the urban garden.

“New creation!” Brown exclaimed, speaking about Revelation 21:1-5, which contains the vision of “a new Heaven and a new Earth.”

“Where is God’s home?” he asked. “Among mortals. Among you and me.”

Once again, Brown was offering some new ways to look at familiar passages of the Bible. But during the week, he had been actively attending workshops and discussions along with the rest of the conference- goers.

“I have been challenged here, and I repent once again as I continue to move forward in this vocation of creation care,” Brown concluded.

As they prepared to head home, coming from as far away as Southern California and Chile, participants said they were invigorated by what they had learned and discussed and were ready to go put some new ideas into action.

Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez of Washington, D.C.,speaks with Ryan Smith, director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, during a workshop on UN sustainability goals. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“I am so grateful to be here in this amazing place,” said Daniela Ochoa Gonzalez of Washington, D.C., who goes to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House in Alexandria, Virginia. “This needs to be exploded so everyone can experience it. I realize there is potential for the Presbyterian Church to change policy and be a transformational force.”

And transformation is what most people in attendance said was needed in U.S. climate policy, action, and more.

Speaking from Ezekiel 47:1-12, Altvater-Clifton talked about a time in ancient Israel during the Babylonian exile rife with corruption, racism, and violence when “no one feels safe.” That description sounded familiar to many in the room.

Earth Care Conference participants took a group photo on the event’s final morning. (Photo by Rich Copley)

But in the midst of this ruin, the prophet Ezekiel receives a vision of a new Heaven and Earth featuring a land abundant in flowing water.

Visions can be risky, Altvater-Clifton said, as their witnesses can easily and widely be written off as crazy and delusional. At the point in the Scripture where the guide asks Ezekiel, “Mortal, have you seen this?” Altvater-Clifton said she would have been tempted to say, “Who, me?” realizing the weight and responsibility of acknowledging the vision.

“I know this is your dream, God, but it seems so very far from our reality,” Altvater-Clifton said.

The Rev. Lindsey Altvater-Clifton spoke a final benediction over the 2019 Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference. (Photo by Rich Copley)

But, she said, during the last few weeks, she thinks she has seen the vision in people she has encountered recently, including at the Earth Care conference.

Even the biggest rivers, she said, start with a spring.

“We are people of waters,” Altvater-Clifton said. “In baptism, we are called to be the peace-filled, healing, transforming river of God’s vision. We are called to bear the vision out of this place and into all the world.

“The river is me. The river is you. The river is all of us.”

Read more

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