A Life of Grace for the Whole World: A Study Course on the House of Bishops' Pastoral Teaching on the Environment: Leader Guide

A Life of Grace for the Whole World: A Study Course on the House of Bishops' Pastoral Teaching on the Environment: Leader Guide

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A Life of Grace for the Whole World: A Study Course on the House of Bishops' Pastoral Teaching on the Environment: Leader Guide by Jerry Cappel, Stephanie M. Johnson

Using the House of Bishop’s Pastoral Teaching on the Environment, A Life of Grace engages participants in understanding how the teaching informs and deepens appreciation and love for God and God’s work in Creation, and how that finds expression in their life of faith. As the first pastoral teaching on the environment from the Bishops, the document offers a guide for discovering how The Episcopal Church leadership views our call to care for Creation and how to respond as individuals and as churches. The adult sessions use Bible Study, discussion questions, reflections on sections of the Book of Common Prayer and other activities to encourage active learning. Each week participants are asked to reflect, in different ways, on their faith communities and their own spiritual journey and how they can find a more meaningful connection with God’s active work among all creation. The youth section, which parallels the adult sessions, encourages active engagement through viewing of videos, use of technology, and a range of activities. Exploratory questions for the facilitator allow for open-ended conversation and discussion of current events around environment and faith. Connecting the five week session is the creation of a Tree of Life which is added to during every session.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780819233776
Publisher: Church Publishing Inc.
Publication date: 03/01/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 112
File size: 462 KB

Read an Excerpt

A Life of Grace for the Whole World

A Study Course on the House of Bishops' Pastoral Teaching on the Environment

By Jerry Cappel, Stephanie M. Johnson

Church Publishing Incorporated

Copyright © 2017 Jerry Cappel and Stephanie M. Johnson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8192-3377-6



A Time for Harmony with God's Creation (Paragraphs 1–5)


• To respond to the bishops' call for compassion and attention to the present crisis of the earth


Youth Booklet for each participant

• assortment of magazines with pictures for the "Tree of Life" activity (All sorts of magazines will work, but be sure to include some with photos of nature and of people.)

• Bible for each participant

• Book of Common Prayer for each participant

• newsprint

• markers and pens/pencils

• bulletin board

• tape and/or stapler

• computer and projector (if available), with Wi-Fi access or download of session's video (see p. 12)

Session Structure

• Opening Prayer

• Introductions

• Covenantal Guidelines

Engage: Creation and God's People

Encounter: The Tree of Life as a Symbol of Healing

Respond: Creating an Image of Harmony with a "Tree of Life"

Connect: Paying Heed to the Suffering of the Earth and Responding in Hope

• Wrap-Up

Opening Prayer (5 minutes)

Invite participants to read today's opening prayer in unison. It is also found on page 3 of their booklet:

Creator, we give you thanks for all you are and all you bring to us in your creation. In Jesus, you place the Good News in the center of this sacred circle through which all of creation is related. You show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit for you are God, now and forever. Amen.

Introductions (5 minutes)

If participants are new to each other, begin the session with introductions. You could, for example, invite each participant to tell their name, their school, and a favorite type of bird or animal found in nature (for example, a blue jay or a fox, as opposed to a pet).

Covenantal Guidelines (10 minutes)

Explain to participants that A Life of Grace for the Whole World is about our relationship with God's creation and our impact on the earth. As such, it may include some potentially challenging and/or controversial topics such as climate change and examining how we spend our money.

With this in mind, invite participants to join with you in developing a list of community guidelines to be used in the session that allow for meaningful and honest conversation, conversation in which all have a voice and know that they will be heard and respected.

Here are a few examples of guidelines:

• Respect all positions.

• Do not interrupt.

• Maintain confidentiality (as defined by the group).

The leader should note that together the group will focus on our shared faith and our relationship with God, not on politics or scientific debate. The church does not involve itself in political parties, but rather seeks justice for all people and creation. This allows the church to advocate and support positions (for example, funding to feed people and building affordable housing) that help us to love and care for our neighbors.

If appropriate, you might mention some of the specific issues where people disagree, for example, the source or extent of global warming or the value/risks of nuclear energy, solar energy, or fossil fuels.

Record the guidelines on newsprint. When finished, invite participants to sign their names at the bottom of the newsprint. As you start each future session, briefly review the guidelines.

Engage: Creation and God's People (10–15 minutes)

Explain to participants:

A Life of Grace for the Whole World is about deepening our relationship with God and God's creation.

• We learn about the environment in school, but don't often talk about it in church, so, during these sessions, we will explore and discover why taking care of the earth is part of our faith life.

• Our first two activities will invite you to reflect on nature and the relationship between faith and the environment.

Sharing Stories

Invite each participant to share a brief story of their favorite place in nature or where they have a happy memory of being outside.

Touring the Church Grounds

Once all participants have shared, invite them to walk around the church property, both inside and out, taking pictures on their phones of different images of nature. Remind participants that images might be found inside as well, in stained glass windows, paintings, sculptures, and carvings on or around the altar.

If possible, have the youth send the photos to a main email address to have these images printed and placed next week on the "Tree of Life." See the next activity, below.

Once participants have returned, discuss:

• How easy was it to find pictures or images of nature in and around the church?

• Where were these images found?

• What do these images convey about the connection between church and nature? (Possible answers: grapes and wheat may reflect Communion; a dove might represent the Holy Spirit; butterflies symbolize resurrection; water figures prominently in baptism.)


• The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church meets twice a year to discuss concerns and interests about the Episcopal Church. Representing all 109 dioceses of the church, the House of Bishops occasionally issues letters or teachings to the church on contemporary issues.

• In 2011, the House of Bishops issued a pastoral teaching on the environment that urges Episcopalians to consider that God invites us all into a deeper relationship with God and all that God loves, including creation. This was the first time the House of Bishops issued a teaching on the environment. During our five sessions together, we will consider how we can move closer to God by caring more for God's creation.


• Do you know which diocese you live in?

• Do you know who your bishop is (or bishops are)?

• Have you heard about other current concerns that the bishops and the church are involved in? (Possible answers: anti-violence, hunger, and homelessness.)

• Why do you think the bishops decided to focus on the environment? (Possible answers: climate change has become more urgent; polar caps are melting more rapidly than ever; God's good creation is suffering from pollution and neglect.)

• Why do you think people of faith care about the environment? (Possible answers: taking care of all creation is part of our faith life; God created and loves everything.)

• When you talked about your story of enjoying nature, to what extent did you remember a feeling of God's presence or blessing? (Note: leave the interpretation of "God's blessing or presence" open ended.)

Invite a participant to read aloud the following abridged excerpt from the House of Bishops' pastoral teaching (paragraph 4), also found on page 8 of their Youth Booklet:

We are called to pay attention to the suffering of the earth. We know that ... we are now demanding more than [the earth] is able to provide. If we cannot live in harmony with the earth, we will not live in harmony with one another.


• What have you learned at school about the environment and environmental protection?

• Are there environmental problems in your community or region that you know about?

• The bishops say the "earth is suffering." Do you think that is true? If so, what are some examples? (Possible answers: air and water pollution, deforestation, etc. Note these comments on newsprint.)

• Have you ever done anything to help the environment? (Possible answers: shared activities such as litter pick-up or beach cleaning; individual actions such as recycling in the home and reducing electrical use.)

• What does the word harmony mean? (Possible answers: cooperation, friendship, agreement.)

• How might harmony help the earth?

Encounter: The Tree of Life as a Symbol of Healing (15 minutes)

Say to participants:

• Both the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, and the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, mention the "Tree of Life."

Note: Throughout the program, when you discuss Bible passages, welcome all of the participants' ideas and suggestions, without judgment. Affirm participation, not just "correct" answers. Such openness encourages participants to engage with the Bible both in and out of the sessions.

The Tree of Life in Scripture

Invite participants to open their Bibles to Genesis 2:8–10. Ask a volunteer to read these verses aloud, then continue:

• These verses tell of the Tree of Life in the middle of the Garden of Eden.

• What might the Garden of Eden look like? What sorts of animals and plants are there? What might the trees look like?

Invite participants to turn in their Bibles to Revelation 22:1–5. Ask a volunteer to read these verses aloud, then continue the discussion:

• In this Bible passage, John of Patmos, traditionally named as the author of the book of Revelation (the last book in the Bible), describes a vision he received from God, a vision of the New Jerusalem, a place and time when all people and the entire earth are living in harmony.

• In what ways do you think the tree in Genesis and the tree in Revelation might look the same?

• In what ways might the leaves mentioned in Revelation 22:2 be "healing?" What might these leaves symbolize? (Possible answers include: the leaves represent people who can help heal; the leaves have medicinal properties, etc.)

• In our current world, do you think that healing could also mean renewing and restoring the environment? Why or why not?

• In biblical times, the "nations" referred to groups of people, not countries as in our contemporary society. What groups of people or animals may need the earth to be healed? (Possible answers include: people who live on islands where the water is rising; people whose farmland has been destroyed by rising temperatures and drought, etc.)

Respond: Creating an Image of Harmony with a "Tree of Life" (20 minutes)

In this activity, participants create a "Tree of Life" that will symbolize all that God has created and the possibility of harmony and healing for all of creation. Ideally this Tree of Life will be located in a prominent location so that members of the congregation will be able to see how the tree fills up with life over the course of the program.


The Tree of Life can be made at least three different ways, which we list below. Either choose one of these for your group or invite the group to decide which option they prefer:

Option 1: If weather and location permit, have the participants go outside to find a large tree branch, at least four feet long with many branches and limbs. Place in a sand-filled planter.

Option 2: On a bulletin board, sketch a large tree with a pencil; the tree should be at least four feet high and three feet wide, with many branches. Have the participants color in the tree with crayons, colored pencils, or markers.

Option 3: Using a bulletin board or a roll of butcher paper, sketch a large tree of about 4–5 feet high, 3–4 feet wide. Make the tree trunk and limbs several inches wide. Next, cut out pictures of animals, people, and nature from magazines. Paste or glue these images to fill in the tree trunk and limbs so that the tree is alive with these pictures.


Once your Tree of Life is created, say:

• Take a look at your Tree of Life. What does it say to you about our group? About our God? About God's creation? What does it say about the past, the present, and the future?

• If you could sum up in one word what our Tree of Life represents to you, what would that word be?

Connect: Paying Heed to the Suffering of the Earth and Responding in Hope (15 minutes)

Explain to participants:

• Our church often responds quickly and decisively to contemporary issues such as violence, homelessness, and hunger, yet our action on climate change has not been as robust. Even as a secular movement about climate change has developed in the US, people of faith are not that actively involved.

• In the past, however, people of faith have frequently led the way in social justice movements like the abolition of slavery and the fight for civil rights.

• The House of Bishops' pastoral teaching encourages action on climate change, stating that "one of the most dangerous and daunting challenges we face is global climate change." The bishops, in their teaching, encourage the church to consider faith-based action and advocacy on climate change, not as a political agenda, but rather out of loving concern for God's earth.

Lifting of the Veil


• In the following video, we learn about Alec Loorz, who became a climate activist in 2007 when he was twelve years old. Since then, Alec has given countless talks around the country encouraging youth to become engaged with environmental issues. He recently led his organization, called Kids vs. Global Warming, in a federal lawsuit against the US government on the basis that inaction on climate change is destroying the right to live for current and future generations.

• The video we are about to watch challenges many assumptions about success, corporate structure, and government. Alec calls for youth to rise up and take charge of their present lives and future generations. As a call for action, it may inspire some of you. It may also anger some.

• We will discuss the video after watching it, and hopefully our conversation will help us to learn more and explore our own opinions, either in agreement or disagreement with Alec's views.

Together watch Lifting of the Veil by Alec Loorz, found here on Vimeo:http://vimeo.com/40643414 After watching the video, discuss these questions:

• What do you think this video is about?

• Alec seems concerned about the direction the world is headed. Are there specific concerns you have about your future and the future of the world? (Possible answers include: violence, terrorism, climate change, pollution, etc.)

• Do you think this has anything to do with climate change, even though it is not mentioned? Why or why not?

• What are your thoughts about his points on spending and consumer habits?

• Alec makes no mention of faith, yet he offers significant hope and inspiration, which are often associated with faith communities. In what ways is hope, for you, linked to your faith in God? Do you have hope in the possibility of faith communities working together?

• Alec seems to be calling for a movement of youth to "light the lantern" about climate change. Alec, through this and other videos and activism, has been able to find his voice in the larger world. To what extent do you have a voice in society? In your church? In your community?

• In what ways can people of faith work together with people of no faith to care for the earth?

Wrap-Up (5 minutes)


Invite participants to share their reflections and comments on the session.

Weekly Challenge

Offer this week's challenge:

• Each week we will offer you a weekly challenge related to our session.

• This week we challenge you to spend 5–10 minutes outside at least once. Do so without distractions, including technology (phones, music, and so forth).

• You will find this week's challenge on page 7 of your Youth Booklet. Starting on the same page, you'll find space to write down what you observed and learned in this short time being quiet in and with nature.

Closing Prayer

Invite participants to pray together the closing prayer, found on page 10 of their Youth Booklet:

Loving God, we are grateful for the wonder of creation and the many gifts you have given us. We recognize that the earth is suffering because of how we live and act. We ask that you give us energy and courage to respond in hope and faithfulness so that the face of the earth will be renewed for all generations. Amen.



A Time for Care for the Whole Creation (Paragraphs 6–7)


• To explore concepts of harmony, relationship and care for all creation


Youth Booklet for each participant

• tea light candles plus matches/lighter

• yarn

• Book of Common Prayer for each participant

• Bible for each participant

• newsprint

• markers and pencils

• computer, projector and Wi-Fi access

Session Structure

• Welcome

• Opening Prayer

Engage: Concern for All Creation

Encounter: Exploring God's Love for All Creation

Connect: Have We Forgotten Who We Are?

Respond: Affirming Our Connection to All Living Things

• Wrap-Up


Excerpted from A Life of Grace for the Whole World by Jerry Cappel, Stephanie M. Johnson. Copyright © 2017 Jerry Cappel and Stephanie M. Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by The Right Reverend Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of Vermont,
Welcome to Leaders of Youth Youth Sessions,
Session 1 — A Time for Harmony with God's Creation (Paragraphs 1–5),
Session 2 — A Time for Care for the Whole Creation (Paragraphs 6–7),
Session 3 — A Time for Thirsting for Justice (Paragraphs 8–12),
Session 4 — A Time to Renew Ancient Practices (Paragraphs 13–16),
Session 5 — A Time to Commit and Act (Paragraphs 17–18),
Welcome to Leaders of Adults Adult Sessions,
Session 1 — A Time for Repentance and Renewal (Paragraphs 1–5),
Session 2 — A Time for Grace for the Whole World (Paragraphs 6–7),
Session 3 — A Time for Justice and Sustainability (Paragraphs 8–12),
Session 4 — A Time to Renew Ancient Practices (Paragraphs 13–16),
Session 5 — A Time to Commit and Act (Paragraphs 17–18),
Appendix A,
A Pastoral Teaching from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church,
Ash Wednesday Litany of Penitence Grid (for use in session 1),
The Opening Prayer from the UN Environmental Sabbath Service (for use in session 2),
The Gospel Story for a Six-Year-Old (for use in session 2),
Appendix B,
Resources on Creation Care and Eco-Justice Concerns,

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