Exploring “Christian Simplicity: A Gospel Value”

Linda Watkins, TSSF, is a FAN Action Commissioner and has gone through the Greenfaith Fellowship Program. She writes:

During the season of Lent, my parish decided to spend their weekly soup suppers in conversations about Christian simplicity. They made use of a wonderful resource called Christian Simplicity: A Gospel Value. Also known as Lent 4.5, this course uses current Environmental and Justice issues to help us prayerfully examine how we use the many blessings that God has given us as well as to learn more about the traditional Christian value of living simply.

This resource was developed by a Green Faith Fellow (Fr. Joe Mitchell – class of 2008) as his Fellowship project. I was delighted that my parish chose this program for its Lenten reflection, since I had just completed the first retreat of my own Green Faith Fellowship program. That retreat was on Stewardship and addressed exactly the issues covered in Lent 4.5!


Forty Fellows gathered in January at Pendle Hill retreat center just outside of Philadelphia. This was the first of three retreats for my class (2013) and the final retreat for the previous class. One of the great things about the week was getting to know the folks in my class as well as folks who were completing or had completed the program.

The retreat started out with lots of information. If all the land on earth were to be divided equally among all of the earth’s human inhabitants, each person would be allotted 4.5 acres with which to meet all of their needs. This sounds okay, except when each of us assessed how many acres it actually takes to support our lives, most of us found it took somewhere between 20 and 30 acres! The food, water, energy and other things that we take for granted require a lot of the earth’s resources, given the way we (usually without thinking) make use of them.

Like all of the Fellows present, I did pretty well in some areas, not so well in others! It was sobering to be confronted with the reality of how much of the earth’s resources our lifestyles use. It was more sobering to understand that so many people have to make do with so much less. We only have one earth and we all must share in its blessings.

The good news was that we do have choices in the things we use and how we make use of them. This was a part of the retreat I really enjoyed. We traveled to downtown Philadelphia where we toured a “green” jobs training facility. Here young people are trained in various ways of helping make buildings energy efficient. I was surprised to learn that the best way one can do this is by various types of insulation (NOT by replacing doors and windows)!

This training center is providing hope and opportunity for young people whose lives have not given them much of either. I was impressed with the commitment of the staff as well as the confidence and enthusiasm of the students. It is truly a grass-roots effort that addresses the needs of its community.

We then went to the Quaker national headquarters – an historic building in the heart of downtown. This is a certified green building and we learned of the wonderful history of how it came to be. As a gardener, I was most interested in seeing my first rooftop garden and learning how that was planted and is cared for.

We then got to put many of the things we had learned during the morning into actual practice! My class went to a large church and helped them do an energy audit. We delved into nooks and crannies and came up with suggestions as to how they could make their building more energy, heat and water efficient. The exercise really reinforced what we had been talking about for the past two days.

The best part of the whole retreat, though, was the worship. The Fellows present came from a wide variety of faith traditions – traditions that all have much to say about our relationship to the earth and to each other. It was such a privilege to be able to share in each other’s prayers and reflections. We took turns leading short prayer services/meditations each day and our final worship was an extravagant blend of prayers, music, dances and worship practices from many traditions.

Since the retreat, I have kept busy with monthly webinars and readings. Part of the fellowship program entails three writing projects that help us clarify and articulate our eco-theology. We’ve completed two of them and I’ve found it most helpful to reflect on each other’s papers via small-group conference calls.

I am also participating in monthly conference calls through FAN. The hope is to get a large network of Franciscans who come together to address issues around climate change. It’s a great group and it’s growing!

Our next retreat will be in May on eco-spirituality and worship. Like most fellows, I am looking forward to this very much indeed.

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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