Wednesday, September 4, 2019



They died at sea, bodies falling into the dark depths they loved so well. 

My heart goes out to the friends and families of the 34 scuba divers who died early Monday morning in a horrific fire, on a boat named Conception, off the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara.

So many divers whom I know, when I have described my Blue Theology ministry of ocean stewardship and ocean spirituality, have told me, eyes lighting up, how diving is for them a spiritual experience, that underwater they feel close to some mysterious higher, or actually deeper power, filled with silent awe and wonder.  “That’s my church,” they say.  They are also generous folks, evangelists almost for their spiritual practice.  When I served on the Citizen’s Advisory Council for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Diving Representative offered all of us Council members free diving lessons.

Which I took, but it turned out I was not a strong enough swimmer or brave enough – snorkeling is my preference.

And fabulous snorkeling I did off those same Channel Islands 12 years ago from a boat almost identical to the one named Conception that burned in minutes this week.  It was even the same company, Truth Aquatics out of Santa Barbara, and with a group of Point Lobos State Park Docents we too spend three days sailing around the five islands, snorkeling, hiking.  Our boat was the Conception’s sister ship – the Truth.  The crew gave us a serious and comprehensive safety lecture.  We slept in bunks like those the divers did, below deck, stacked and close.  We saw wonders and beauty beyond imagining.  I came home with memories and a sweatshirt that read “There is No Substitute for the Truth.”

The Channel Islands are near California’s Point Conception, the marker between Southern and Central California, where warmer and colder currents meet, a magical spot.  So named by Spanish explorer Vizcaino in 1602 when he sailed by on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Conception, the supposed date Jesus’ mother Mary was conceived.

The boat “Conception” was meant to “begin” a fabulous journey and adventure for those 34 divers.  Some were young, a teenager, some seasoned divers in their 60’s.  All were surely excited about this new beginning.  Instead it was a tragic ending.  We for whom resurrection offers promise can hope that their deaths were more a “passing” than an ending.  But the pain and loss are as deep as the sea.

God bless all lost at sea.
_______________ for info on our church’s youth service trips and adult pilgrimages along Monterey Bay.  I leave Friday for three weeks in the UK, including a seminary conference, “Blue Planet, Blue God,” at Cambridge University– others doing Blue Theology!  And then walking across England, Hadrian’s Wall, Newcastle to Carlisle, 90 miles in 7 days, from North Sea to Irish Sea with a dear walking friend.  I may post some pics, but probably not these regular Wednesday postings.  Hold my knees and feet in your prayers!  Photo: Steve Lonhart, NOAA

Wednesday, August 28, 2019



“Let’s stop for a moment at this display of lookdown fish.  These are my favorite fish.  Aren’t they cool and silvery and beautiful?  Is there a prayer we could say here?”

Kimberly Brown, a volunteer in our Blue Theology ministry (ocean conservation and spirituality) was leading a group of teens who live in a farm labor camp in Soledad on a “spiritual visit” to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Later they would do a service project, ocean citizen science, counting sand crabs on Asilomar Beach for a long term study on climate change.

But for now, these silvery miracles.

One girl said, “I don’t know how to pray.”  Kimberly encouraged her, “If God were standing here with us, what would you say?”  Quietly she said, “Wow!”  That’s a prayer,” Kimberly replied.  “Simply one word can be a prayer.”

Kimberly asked the group to form a circle around the circular tank, and said, “On the count of three, let’s pray.  One, two, three….”  And together they all said, they all prayed, “WOW!”

This day was one of three this summer when we hosted youth from different rural farm labor camps in Monterey County for a Blue Theology day,  in a fabulous partnership with the local Catholic Diocese.  We served them three meals, and with the local bishop and his staff led them in worship inspired by Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudate Si.

During their walk to the Aquarium from our church, along the shore, as on a pilgrimage, Kimberly had stopped at various “marine stations of the cross” (whale sculpture, storm drain, etc.) and suggested five kinds of prayers.  They are all helpful anywhere, but especially by the sea – Thanks, Help, I’m Sorry, Wow and How Long, O Lord?

The whole day was filled with “Wow!” moments and prayers.  Praying with the lookdown fish was a special one.
_____________ for info on our youth service trips, adult pilgrimages and clergy renewal times along the Monterey Bay.  Lots of Wow! going on this fall – whales, birds, otters and more.  Come for a day or a weekend.  I post these “Blue Theology Tide-ings” most Wednesdays here and at on Facebook at Blue Theology Mission Station.  Come and sea!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

How Long, O Lord?

How Long, O Lord?

Recently my prayers have included way too many laments.  “How long, O Lord?”  Or as we phrase it for our visiting Blue Theology pilgrims, “This sucks!”  (Other prayers – Thanks, Help, I’m Sorry and Wow!)

Latest lament – the government’s plan to drill fatal holes in the Endangered Species Act.  That’s the metaphor Rabbi Daniel Swartz of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life uses:

“The Endangered Species Act acts like a modern-day Noah’s Ark, protecting the last remaining animals and plants and the places that they live from total annihilation.  The Trump administration announced its intention on Monday to drill holes into the ark, threatening to sink the only thing keeping the planet’s most vulnerable wildlife from disappearing forever.” 

The stated purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species and also "the ecosystems upon which they depend." California historian Kevin Starr was more emphatic when he said: "The Endangered Species Act is the Magna Carta of the environmental movement.”

The administration announced this week many serious changes to the original Act, which was passed in 1973 (Nixon administration) 355-4.  One that really makes me lament:

“The changes also inject economic consideration into what should be purely scientific decisions about protecting wildlife. If an oil company claims it will lose millions of dollars if it can’t drill in an imperiled species’ habitat, that consideration will now be given greater weight than the ultimate existence of that species.” (Rabbi Swartz)

Some good resources for religious responses to this latest attack on God’s creation: (includes a good bulletin insert for Endangered Species Day May 17.  Every day should be Endangered Species Day.) My friend and UCC colleague Pete Sawtell’s fabulous Eco-justice Ministry, with free weekly thoughtful theological reflections, this one on The Endangered Species Act.  His three theological reasons for protecting and saving endangered species:

Briefly, there's the religious principle of "the integrity of creation," there's the ecological reality of God's inherently relational creation, and there's the old traditions of Judeo-Christian ethics which state our obligation to care for "the least of these" -- which includes livestock and wildlife.”

Pope Francis wrote (Laudato Si, 33), “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.”

Here at the Blue Theology Mission Station we lift up especially sea critters.  Ecologist Carl Safina  writes, “Marine animals teetering above extinction on the critically endangered list are coelacanthssouthern bluefin tunahawksbills and leatherback sea turtles. Marine endangered animals include: loggerheadsgreen and olive ridley sea turtles, various species of sawfishes and blue whalesDugongshumphead wrasseswhale sharkshumpback whalesgrey nurse sharks, and great white sharks are examples of marine animals that will likely go extinct if little changes.”.

Wondering what to do?  There’s no public comment period (more lament, how long until we return to following the rules?)  But you can write your congressperson in opposition and ask for them under the Congressional Review Act to disapprove a final rule issued by a federal agency.  But it must be done in 60 days! has a direct link.

After the flood God made a covenant with all of creation, not just humanity.  How long, O Lord, until we honor that covenant?
_____________ for info on our youth service trips and adult pilgrimages on ocean stewardship and spirituality along Monterey Bay.  We’ve seen turtles, whales, sharks – not yet a coelacanth!  I post these Blue Theology Tide-ings most Wednesdays here and at on Facebook.  Come and sea!