Montreat Church ‘earth mission’ finds partners overseas

William Seaman
Special to The Black Mountain News

From a small, intimate group having afternoon tea in Scotland to immersion among tens of thousands of people at conferences in France and Peru, members of Montreat Presbyterian Church have found new allies in their efforts on behalf of Earth stewardship.

“While most of our activity centers on the daily lives, faith and witness of the congregation locally,” said Sally Woodard, convener of the church’s Earth Ministry Team, “we also want to work with people of faith in other countries as opportunities concerning environmental health arise.”

Most recently, in December John Hare-Grogg attended the Paris climate talks in France, where representatives of nearly 200 countries were part of an estimated 40,000 people participating in a variety of official and companion meetings over a 10-day period. Major issues included climate change, sustainable energy, carbon emissions and green technology.

“I saw something that had long seemed impossible,” Hare-Grogg, a senior at Duke University, said. “Almost all of the world's nations cooperated to rally behind a pact that won't save the world and won't solve climate change by itself, but does establish commitments that will prevent the most catastrophic climate change scenarios.” Hare-Grogg’s trip funded by the Benjamin N. Duke Scholars program.

Among the many educational highlights of this trip, Hare-Grogg said “it was heartening to see a large number of American companies represented at this event, and that American scientists and government officials were consistently present in panel discussions on climate policy.

“Leading industry representatives,” he said, “offered several reasons why they favored a strong agreement in Paris, apart from claims of moral principles: regulatory certainty, concerns about disruptions to their supply chains and planning abilities, and favorable appearance to their customers and investors, to name just a few.”

This was Hare-Grogg’s first time in Paris. “It was a magical experience,” he said, “especially with all of the dazzling Christmas lights reflecting in the puddles.” He went into the Eighth Arrondissement of the city to attend an event at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity that celebrated representatives from many world faiths that attended the climate summit.

“It was terrific to hear representatives of other religious groups discuss why their faiths compel them to demand action on climate change and other environmental issues. It was encouraging to see a spirit of solidarity among religious groups on these issues,” Hare-Grogg said.

Meanwhile, others from Montreat Presbyterian visited Scotland in 2015 for a much smaller scale meeting. As a result, the church has “twinned” with a congregation located in Argyll, 90 miles west of Glasgow.

Ardrishaig Parish Church is recognized as an “Eco-Congregation” of the Church of Scotland, and Montreat Presbyterian Church (MPC) is an “Earth Care Congregation” of the Presbyterian Church (USA). In a formal statement of cooperation the two similar-sized churches have agreed “to pray for and encourage each other's ministry, to share ideas and promising and/or successful practices which may be our own or those of our larger communities, to be a voice for the care of creation within our communities and nations, and to pray and work for the day when all God's people are united in loving care of the world we have been given.”

“Knowing that six of us from Montreat would be traveling in Scotland, and already having contacts in the area, we reached out to folks in the coastal area near Inveraray ahead of time so that we could meet,” said Martha Campbell, who was clerk of the Montreat church’s session at the time. “Over tea and biscuits on a beautiful afternoon we found a lot in common.”

“Our new friends were fascinated by the Montreat community’s particular ties to Scotland’s culture, heritage, and religious traditions,” Gill Campbell said. “And they seemed to enjoy our exploration of the Campbell clan’s history.”

Jean Hodgson, who leads the Ardrishaig church’s eco-group, told her visitors, “We believe there are truly no geographical bounds in the ministry of loving and caring for the world God has entrusted to us.” Adrian Shaw, who is the climate change officer for the Church of Scotland, traveled 125 miles from Edinburgh to join the gathering. He spoke about the church’s successful engagement with public environmental policy issues and decision-making in the United Kingdom.

Another Montreat resident, Heath Rada, a supporting member of MPC who also is current Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), recalled his formal representation of the denomination in Lima, Peru at the 2014 International Conference for Climate Change.

“We were greatly moved by our participation,” Rada said. “One day, we marched through the streets of the city with 20,000 to 30,000 people, the majority being young adults who sang and danced while pleading for all of us to address the dire emergencies caused by misuse of natural resources. We worshiped in churches, both large and small. We toured towns where foliage and greenery have become barren, dry desert lands. Lima, with its beautiful flowers and parks and a population of almost 10 million people, is told that they will have no natural water source in another 15 years. Our eyes and hearts have been opened in new ways. And all of us must help to make a difference.”

For more information about Earth stewardship at Montreat Presbyterian Church, including a climate education and action project it is organizing, email, call 664-9212, or visit Hare-Grogg’s blog is at