Sue Koger is an EcoFaith Recovery leader from First Congregational United Church of Christ is Salem, Oregon. She shares her reflections on EcoFaith’s first Weekend Institute which was held a few weeks ago in Portland, Oregon and on Eloheh Farm in Newberg, Oregon.
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I first learned about EcoFaith Recovery when I met Pastor Robyn Hartwig at a party probably 4 years ago. She added me to the email list-serv, and I told her about my work, including a textbook I co-authored: The Psychology of Environmental Problems: Psychology for Sustainability. I felt like I had met a soul sister.
I have taught and written about the adverse impacts that humans — especially European colonialists — are having on the Earth and its other residents since 2000, and have tried to live lightly for a decade beyond that. I’ve also been a part-time activist, but throughout much of that time I felt exceedingly lonely and afraid. I often felt like a lone wolf, crying in the darkness, while the Industrial Growth Society continued to ravage and wreck our home and other species of life. I didn’t feel a sense of community among other activists. I’m an introvert and am not a rage against the system kind of person. I’d generally leave rallies and events feeling more depleted and discouraged than when I arrived. Likewise, my students often embody the cynicism cultivated within the dominant social paradigm.
Things began to shift when my church in Salem (First Congregational United Church of Christ) hired Robyn’s partner, Rev. Janet Parker, who encouraged me to attend a Climate Action retreat at Camp Adams, where Robyn and other EcoFaith leaders (Solveig Nilsen-Goodin and Dick Harmon) shared EcoFaith Recovery practices. I again felt pulled to be a part of their work, but felt the distance from Salem to Portland as a major obstacle. Long story short, I connected with Robyn and EcoFaith when I could, including a day-long retreat and very happily – the recent weekend Institute.
The EcoFaith emphasis on forming relational communities to share stories and mobilize for collective action really resonated for me. As someone at the recent Institute put it, we can’t know how good our world can be until we fully understand how bad things currently are but not in isolation. We can only fully come into our power by joining with others. It was such a gift to connect with this group who are committed to making a positive difference; especially our young intern participants. Their energetic and loving spirits were truly revitalizing and inspiring, and I came away committed to forming an EcoFaith Recovery group in Salem. Our first (vegan, local foods) monthly potluck will occur on July 9th with about 10 people, and I trust that it will grow and evolve to be a part of the healing of our world and ourselves; of course, the two processes are interdependent and reciprocal.
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