By Father Casey Shobe
Back in early August I shared with you the story of the record-shattering single day of tree planting that happened in Ethiopia this year. In one day, the people of Ethiopia planted 350 million trees. It was an astounding feat of conservation in a country that has experienced the disappearance of its forests over the last century. But it also makes sense in a country where trees are regarded as holy and are planted around all Orthodox churches. “A church without trees is like a man without clothing,” it is said there.
I am inspired by these sorts of bold actions to protect and restore the natural world. It will take such dramatic events to shake our society awake from the slumber of complacency. It will take more leaders like 16 year-old Greta Thunberg, who bravely and unflinchingly continues to sound the alarm on climate change. She has given voice to the urgency of this crisis, and she demands that we who are over-consuming the earth’s resources will ensure the ability of future generations to enjoy the beauty of our world.
There is an old proverb that says a society grows great when elders plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in. True greatness is not demonstrated by our prosperity today, but by how well we prepare for those who will come after us. This sort of humility is a core Christian value. Our faith summons us to actions today that will benefit people we may not ever meet. Like planting saplings in deforested land. Or demanding changes in policy to preserve water and air quality and protect species for future generations. These decisions may be costly to us today – causing us to alter our way of living – but those costs are sacrifices we make for the sake of our descendants. It’s like we were taught in kindergarten: always leave it better than you found it.
During the next several weeks, we’ll be exploring this idea together in church as we conduct our annual stewardship campaign. The theme of the campaign is “Growing Our Future,” and the predominant campaign symbol will be our own (much, much smaller) tree planting initiative. My hope is that we can reflect together on what we can do today to create a legacy of blessing for tomorrow – how we can plant a few trees, literally and metaphorically, that will help us grow a holier and more vital future at Transfiguration and beyond.
I hope to see you all soon.
About Father Casey
Casey became the fourth rector of Transfiguration in October 2014 after having served churches in Rhode Island and Houston. He is married to Melody Shobe, also an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Adelaide. Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. His Master of Divinity was earned at Virginia Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). He loves playing golf, road cycling, hiking, brewing beer, and working in his yard. You can contact Father Casey by email.