Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Three New Blue Theology Preachers

Three New Blue Theology Preachers

These three women preached last Sunday at the Pacific Grove Christian Church about our Blue Theology Ministry, and they rocked!  Each shared how her faith calls her to be part this ministry of ocean stewardship and spirituality.  Please read to the end, all three are profound.  Thanks, sisters!

Kate Spencer:
I am a whale watching boat captain and naturalist. I originally came to the Monterey Peninsula as a professional artist, drawing tunas for the researchers at Hopkins Marine Station and the Aquarium. Twelve years ago I was Poet in Residence of Pacific Grove. I studied biology, studio art, and comparative religion in college. I grew up in a UCC church near Washington, D.C.
With Blue Theology I’ve walked with youth groups to the Aquarium, done beach cleanups, and accompanied them on whale watching boats. For me this is a chance to share the spiritual side of my work, because I usually stick to the science.
Here are a few things I believe:
-Science and art and religion and poetry are all ways of experiencing wonder.
-Evolution is a miracle.
-Animals have their own experience of life that has nothing to do with us.
-And sometimes we must let go of what we think we know, in order to truly perceive the marvels of life all around us.
I do Blue Theology to have these conversations.
When I take people whale watching, I see their wonder — and I still feel it too — yet I’m careful to talk only about what we can confidently conclude from observation. I talk about migrations, reproduction, what animals eat, how big they are. I explain that a breaching whale might be knocking off excess barnacles, or responding to an underwater call, or being aggressive. And yes, it may be jumping for joy. We just can’t know for sure unless we get evidence.
On my tours I try to gently challenge assumptions and anthropomorphizing. Wild dolphins, sea lions, and whales sometimes come to interact with boats. It’s common for people to say “they’re showing off for us”, and people ask me if the animals can tell how much we enjoy it.
The thing is, how could the animal possibly know how we feel? And why would it care? It’s a shorter logical step to see that it’s satisfying its own needs: it’s curious, or it’s having fun with its pod-mates. Or maybe there’s a school of fish under the boat.
But we want animals to want a relationship with us. We’re accustomed to our pets, and we have emotional relationships with them. Anyone who has a pet knows that it’s a relationship. Scientists now agree that animals have feelings.
What does it say about us that we want a relationship with wild animals? Is there something that’s missing from a culture that’s so centered on human beings?
I was part of a panel discussion this week about the economic value of a healthy ocean ecosystem. One panelist said that in capitalism, anything that doesn’t have an actual dollar value assigned to it has a default value of Zero.
But within a spiritual framework, everything can have value. Indigenous people worldwide have always seen the living world around them as sentient, spiritual, and intrinsically valuable, and they are still fighting to protect their beloved world against capitalism’s Zeroes.
Is there something missing from a culture that sees humans as the only living things that matter?
I believe this is a spiritual question, one that I’m rarely able to go into on whale watching tours. With Blue Theology groups, the whole purpose is to go deeper.
Here is an opportunity for us as spiritual thinkers, and thinking Christians: to explore and share the true value of this beautiful, marvelous natural world with as many people as possible, using our miraculous minds to perceive the wonders of Creation, and find our place in it.

Patricia Hoffman:

Deborah has asked us to talk about how Blue Theology has changed our lives.

As you all know, my husband Ron died almost four years ago.  I was looking for some kind of service, a way to give back to this church, as all of you were so kind to me in my time of need.

We had a Blue Theology Sunday just like today where Pastor Dan and the Blue Theology Task Force showed what it would be like to be a part of this mission.

As you all know I’m not shy.  I believe Pastor Dan saw the gift God gave me – hospitality.

So my role in this great work is to be the Greeter.  The one who welcomes the Blue Theology groups.  They have traveled a great distance to be here.  They are tired and hungry.  The groups on the first night sometimes arrive at a late hour.  I show them where the blow-up beds are located and figure out where they all will be sleeping - we use the bride’s room, the nursery and the Swann Building.  After we get them settled I escort one of the leaders to our local grocery store to buy their food for the week.

A greeter is so important because is the first person the group sees.

I can remember when I walked into this church for the first time, Mike Dremel made me feel so welcome.  That is how I try to make the groups feel as they arrive. 

Thank you for letting me be part of this mission work.

Kimberly Brown:

Why do I do what I do for Blue Theology?

In Dec. 2013 Keith and I traveled to Kauai.  On a snorkeling trip I learned that sonar testing was being planned for the area.   Sonar testing was to be used by the Navy for training purposes to help locate enemy submarines.  It is also a tool for oil exploration.  It produces sound waves that can travel across hundreds of kilometers of ocean.  It disrupts the communication and feeding of marine mammals, so they get confused and also can become deaf and disoriented, which leaves them stranded.  I knew that the result would bring income to the island and harm to the humpback whales and dolphins. 

I was grief stricken.  Returning home, I was in such despair that I sought counsel with my Spiritual Director and from Pastor Dan.  I also shared my grief with one of my mentors, April.  The answers I received were to “sit with the feelings” and to research the subject.  I did everything that was suggested.  With April’s help I made contact with a scientist in Monterey.  My search for resolution with myself gave way to making connections with and with Deborah Streeter.  My final action was in 2014 when I became a chaperone to Blue Theology Groups. 

I was embarrassed by the raw emotion because it had to do with animals and not human life.  I am not an environmentalist or a political activist.  Something was being stirred up deep within my inner being.  Was God calling me to be a voice for one of His creations that had no voice?  

Or was I to make restitution on behalf of my grandfather’s profession?  He was a whaler in the Azores prior to coming to the United States in 1914. 

I had no answers and no peace.

On one of the Blue Theology group outings to Asilomar State Beach, I was raking up kelp into piles.  The Blue Theologians were gathering the piles onto wheelbarrows and pushing them up a sand dune while others unloaded the kelp to be scattered to reinforce the sand dune from erosion. 

As I looked out at the sea, a peace beyond my understanding came over me, swelled up into my heart and with tears in my eyes, I felt God speaking to me.  

My work in Blue Theology is my living amends on behalf of my grandfather’s actions in which whales were hunted beyond measure.  God forgave my grandfather and my grief was transformed into service. 

Blue Theology is my place where I can help plant seeds to a generation of folks to take care of God’s Creation and all of its inhabitants.   I was finally at Peace.  Today, I pray for the health of the ocean and I do what I can to help be an answer to the prayer that I pray.
In the picture we are standing (same order as sermons above, left to right) in front of one of the banners our Blue Theology groups make, with Kimberly.  This one was by the Foothills UCC folks last summer.  Visit for more info about youth and adult service trips and pilgrimages.  Still room for this summer.  I post a Blue Theology devotional every Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Never Finisihed

Never Finisihed

My husband Ron copies out inspiring quotations about construction and architecture and hangs them in the new bedroom addition we have been building for several years. 

Never "finisihed" indeed!  Ron's accidental mis-copying of this Frank Lloyd Wright quotation about the "organic" house also describes our lives - not perfect, never done.  We decided to leave it as is, although imperfect, just to keep us humble.  Good reminder in Lent – neither the room, nor this organic person will ever be “finisihed.”  I've never been crazy about the phrase "God's not done with me yet," but I think I get it now.

Below it hangs a seascape by our dear friend Ric Masten.  Without Ric's friendship and support Ron would not have found this land near Ric in Big Sur in 1969, nor built the house (still building!) with construction help and encouragement from Ric and other generous neighbors. 

Ric was best known as a Unitarian Universalist minister troubadour poet. His song “Let It Be a Dance” is in the UU Hymnal.  In his last years (he died 10 years ago this spring) he shared publicly and bravely his journey living with cancer. In his last (of many) book of poems, “Going Out Dancing” is one called “Loneliness.”

It reminds me we are all “unfinisihed.”  So is our world, every changing, ever new, ever “imperfect.”    Here’s the poem.  I tried to excerpt just the part about the ocean, since I really am trying to write something as I do each week about our Blue Theology ministry supporting ocean stewardship and spirituality. 

But I can’t.  Just read the whole thing down to the part about standing on the beach alone.  And remember, “nothing is forever, we are born to die, so may I say I love you, before I say good-bye”

by Ric Masten

standing by a highway
waiting for a ride
a bitter wind is blowing
keeps you cold inside
a line of cars is passing
no one seems to care
you look down at your body
to be sure you are there

sitting in a hotel
staring at the wall
with cracks across the ceiling
and silence in the halls
you open up the window
and turn the TV on
then you go down to the lobby
but everybody's gone

and this is loneliness
the kind that I have known
if you've had times like these
my friend
you're not alone

so you leave the empty city
and go down to the shore
you're aching to discover
what you're looking for
the beaches are deserted
in the morning time
a solitary figure you walk
the water line

come upon a tide-pool
and stand there peering in
and when you touch the water
the circles do begin
they lead to where a seabird
lies crumpled on the sand
so you take a single pebble
and hold it in your hand

and this is loneliness
another kind I¹ve known
if you've had times like these
my friend...
you're not alone

you come back up the beaches
at the end of day
and see how all
your footprints
have been washed away
no... nothing is forever
we are born to die
so may I say I love you
before I say good-bye

I must say I love you
before I say good-bye

Visit to learn about our humble, imperfect service trips and pilgrimages to Monterey Bay at the Christian Church of Pacific Grove.  I post about our ministry every Wednesday.  Join our Blue Theology Mission Station FB page to get a notice each week.