Perhaps one of the best works of the late Rosemary Radford Reuther’s is her book Gaia and God. Recalling the legacy of indigenous traditions that revered the Sacred Feminine and deconstructing the male diety of western patriarchal religion, she embraces neither but paves a new reconstructive path forward that is creative and filled with spirit.
Her last section, “Building Communities of Celebration and Resistance,” struck me as so perfectly describing Earth Church. I hope she would be proud of what we’re trying to do.
She says: “How do we carry on a struggle to heal the world and to build a new biospheric community in the face of this intransigent system of death? It is my belief that those who want to carry on this struggle in a sustained way must build strong base communities of celebration and resistance. By “base community” I mean local face-to-face groups with which one lives, works, and prays….
There are three interrelated aspects of the work of such local communities. One is shaping the personal therapies, spiritualities, and corporate liturgies by which we nurture and symbolize a new biolific consciousness. Second, there is the utilization of local institutions over which we have some control, our homes, schools, churches, farms and locally controlled businesses, as pilot projects of ecological living. Third, there is the building of organizational networks that reach out, regionally, nationally, and internationally, in a struggle to change the power structures that keep the present death system in place.
We must start by recognizing that metanoia, or change of consciousness, begins with us. This does not happen all at once, but is an ongoing process. We all have been shaped to misname evil, to seek invulnerable power, or else to capitulate to such power systems of consumption and can hardly imagine alternatives to them that might give us greater peace and wholeness, even though the scramble to “keep up” in the present systems leaves us ever more insecure, anxious, and exhausted.
We need healing therapies and spiritualities of inner growth to let go of fears and open up to each other and to the world around us, to learn how to be, rather than to strive. The struggle to change the death system must be deeply rooted in joy in the goodness of life…
We need to take the time to sit under trees, look at water, and at the sky, observe small biotic communities of plants and animals with close attention, get back in touch with the living earth. We can start to release the stifled intuitive and creative powers of our organism, to draw and to write poetry, and to know that we stand on Holy Ground…
In addition to personal therapies and spirituality, we need corporate liturgies as well, to symbolize and express our altered consciousness. Unfortunately most of our institutional forums of worship are tied to alienated, patriarchal consciousness. Much of their worship is literally “deadly,” although some are open to partial transformation. Thus communities of new being and consciousness need to become their own liturgists. They need to learn to shape corporate liturgies to mourn together for violated lives, midwife healing and new birth, and to taste a new Creation already present.
Such communities can also learn to carry liturgy to the streets, in protest marches and demonstrations that cry out against the death system and visualize renewed life in ways that can catch the imagination of others who participate with them or watch them. We can call on all the arts - song and music, dance, and mime, posters and banners, costumes and puppetry - to shape the public liturgies of biospheric politics.
Another essential work of local communities is to begin to live now an ecologically healthful life. We can see our own homes and other institutions over which we have some control, such as schools or churches, as “pilot projects” … such efforts will function as learning and consciousness-raising processes. As we try to implement some changes, it will become quickly evident that our church, school, workplace, and even our home, are not autonomous. They are dependent parts of larger systems that operate, to a large extent, to tie them to present wasteful ways of functioning. As we try, for example, to implement recycling of household watstes, we run into city-waste-dsiposal systems and resistance to new forms of trash collection that are integrated into recycling industries. We began to recognize these systems in their local and regional expressions, and even beyond, and to put names to those who control the decisions.
This leads us to the third role of local communities, to become political bases of organizing and action. Here again it is useful to start locally, where we can be concrete and where there is often some possibility for real change. When our group has formulated some clear policy changes, for example, toward a recycling cetnered coordinated with city waste management, we can network with other groups in the city. We can form a larger organizational base, attend meetings, and eventually run candidates for office. We can find ways to pressure local business, both negatively through boycotts and positively through petitions and discussion.
Such local organizing efforts will also reveal the extent to which local government and business really have local control and the extent to which they too are parts of national and international political and economic systems. This is a part of a learning process in which we put names to links in the chains of control, and imagine ways to put pressure for change on the weak links in those change. Local “green communities,” begin to link up with one another across the country…
…Being rooted in love for our real communities of life and for our common mother, Gaia, can teach us patient passion, a passion that is not burnt out in a season, but can be renewed season after season. Our revolution is not just for us, but for our children, for the generation of living beings to come. What we can do is to plant a seed, nurture a seed-bearing plant here and there, and hope for a harvest that goes beyond the limits of our powers and the span of our lives.”