Moderator Mardi’d Blog: Ripples from Earth Day Webcast

Since our highly successful live, interactive Earth Day webcast on Sunday, there have been lots of enthusiastic additional comments and ripples that I’m just catching up on this morning. (At the end of this post I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to since Sunday.)

Before sharing one particular response, I should say that Sunday’s webcast exceeded all of our expectations for numbers involved and participation. The Twitter response was especially strong, as the pace of tweets rose dramatically and broke through what I’m told is a significant Twitter ceiling. I’m delighted to have been able to host a “Moderator’s event” in which so many could participate without leaving home. Participant numbers were far beyond what the church or planet can afford to gather – given dollar or carbon emissions costs – at any one place and time. And the gathering continues to take place in many more places—and time zones. If you missed the live webcast on Sunday, the 70-minute program is now looping—and will continue to appear for months to come on the Livestream site.

Joe Matyas wrote at the start of this week: “The webcast had content; it percolated with information and ideas.”

Joe worked at the London Free Press for 40 years as a writer and editor. The coverage of religion was one of his specialties. He is a United Church member, married to the Rev. Dr. Susan Eagle, minister of Grace United Church in Barrie, Ontario.

Joe wondered why we didn’t have a follow-up report immediately on The United Church of Canada’s website about the success of Sunday’s webcast. And when he couldn’t find one he wrote his own report, which he posted on Grace United’s website, and to which we’ve linked on the United Church Earth Day webpage and I share with you here, with his permission:

Climate change and the environment have been major themes of Mardi Tindal’s three-year term as Moderator of The United Church of Canada.

So it came as no surprise that the church’s 40th Moderator did something interesting to shine a spotlight on God’s creation on Earth Day’s 60th anniversary on April 22.

Four months before a new Moderator will be elected at the United Church’s 41st General Council in Ottawa in August, Tindal co-hosted a live, interactive webcast with David MacDonald, a United Church minister and former Member of Parliament who chaired Canada’s first parliamentary committee on the environment in the early 1990s.

The Livestream webcast, scheduled for 60 minutes, ran about 15 minutes overtime, with a relaxed Tindal saying near the end that “we wanted to keep the game going through the healing of soul, community, and creation” and that’s what we’ve done with “this low-carbon national gathering.”

Meeting with reporters after her election in 2009, Tindal said: “I am deeply committed to right relationship with creation, in and beyond our faith community…. I will be inviting the church to imagine new ways of caring for creation…. We are called to portray the integrity of creation.”

During her tenure as Moderator, Tindal has crossed the country, mostly by train, on what was dubbed the Spirit Express, holding town hall meetings on the environment, making sure spirituality was part of the process.

As a national interactive hookup, Earth Sunday’s Livestream webcast was the largest town hall meeting of Tindal’s “green earth” tenure.

It was well-planned, well-organized, and it worked.

Tindal moderated the event, with MacDonald handling the bulk of studio and Skype interviews.

Kaitlin Bardswich, coordinator of the church’s Youth for Eco-Justice Program and the third member of the Livestream team, kept everyone apprised of Facebook and Twitter participation in the event.

“We’re getting lots of tweets,” she said at one point when it looked as if incoming traffic was going to crash the server.

Some of the webcast’s content was spontaneous, but other things had been lined up to ensure there wouldn’t be lulls that would result in the hosts doing most of the talking.

Among the interview subjects were environmental ethicist and writer David Hallman; Joy Kennedy, the United Church’s poverty and ecological justice coordinator; Erin Freeland Ballantyne, founder of Dechinta Bush University; and Alex Chamberlain of Investeco, Canada’s first environmental investments company.

There were more, including the winners of the Moderator’s Earth Day sacred song contest. Announced last fall, the contest drew 28 submissions from across the country, with Carol Grohlman of Garibaldi Heights, BC, and Jack Witmer of Delaware, Ontario, named in March as co-winners.

Grolman’s “It Is Good” and Witmer’s “Give Back to the Earth” were performed on the Livestream webcast by the youth praise band of St. Luke’s United Church in Toronto, and both songwriters were interviewed.

In Genesis, God declared the created Earth to be good, said Grolman, “and I wanted to emphasize that.”

It doesn’t matter whether the Earth was created in a moment or evolved over eons, said Witmer.

“It is here, it is ours and…we need to treat it properly,” he said.

“We are part of something big,” said Tindal during the webcast. “There is a growing global movement for ecological healing that churches bring spiritual resources to…to love one another, we must also love The Garden.”

Daniel T’Seleie of the Dene Nation said climate change has been framed as an environmental science issue, but “it’s a human rights issue” too.

If you missed the Earth Day 2012 Livestream webcast, you can still view it at livestream.com/unitedchurchcda. To start at the beginning, double-click on the thumbnail picture below the video window that reads 01:16:28. [The recording starts at time code 1:48.]

Thanks for this report, Joe! A great example of abundance in community. When we were all tired – while also energized – following the webcast, you stepped up to contribute this helpful reflection and report—while I went on retreat in order to keep my own soul connected to community and creation.

Since Monday I have been co-facilitating the last retreat in a series of five with a group of ministers and other leaders who have been meeting together from spring 2011 to spring 2012. We call these Courage & Renewal® retreats. I will continue to facilitate this type of retreat following my term as Moderator. During my term as Moderator, they have helped to keep my soul and role connected. Our retreats are based on the work of Parker J. Palmer, and you can find out more about them on the Center for Courage & Renewal site.

I hope you’re finding Easter ways to keep your own soul connected with community and creation in deep experience of resurrection hope in this season. Your spiritual attentiveness is also vitally important for the healing of God’s good Earth – and all of us in it.

E-mail, Twitter (#modearth), and Facebook aren’t the only ways to continue to comment and interact about Sunday’s webcast. Feel free to post your comments here as well.

Easter blessings to each one of you!