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!
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.
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.
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 Oceana.org. 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 www.bluetheology.com for more info about youth and adult service trips and pilgrimages. Still room for this summer. I post a Blue Theology devotional every Wednesday.