Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Resolution of the Pittsburgh Presbytery on Eco-Justice

Eco-Justice
The Pittsburgh Presbytery affirms that we live in an eco-justice crisis wherein its trust in God calls its members attention to their vocation to care for the earth and its vulnerable peoples.
From Hosea 4:1-3 we learn that nature suffers from human sin: “There is no faithfulness or kindness,” and instead “There is swearing, lying, killing…;” “Therefore the land mourns and all who dwell on it languish… the beasts…the birds…and even the fish of the sea.”
Similarly, nature participates in the anticipated redemption of the people and the renewal of the covenant in which God makes: “A covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things on the ground….” (Hosea 2:18).
According to Genesis 2 God put the humans in the Garden “to till it and to keep it. (Genesis: 2:15). WE humans are to till the land for our sustenance and to keep it.  In our over tilling and our relative neglect of keeping it we have weakened the earth and distributed its benefits unjustly.  Our church has recommended four norms for examining our common dependence upon nature: sustainability, sufficiency, participation, and community.  Recent theological reflections have added the norms of human health and harmony.
Therefore in light of our theology, norms, and reading of the evidence:
  1. The Pittsburgh Presbytery co-sponsors the Overture of Hudson River Presbytery on divestment from fossil fuel. https://www.fossilfreepcusa.org/overture-2018/ 
  2. Encourages its churches and the presbytery to examine energy consumption, reduction of energy usage and implementation of carbon-free energy strategies for their facilities as matter of moral imperatives.  The energy sub-committee of the Peacemaking Ministry Team is ready for consultations as it develops plans for church conversions.
  3. Urges its churches to oppose the construction of the Shell Petrochemical Ethane Cracker and any other highly polluting petrochemical industry expansion in the Western Pennsylvania region. We will write a letter from the Presbytery to be sent to all appropriate political entities as well as local newspapers. This particular facility will be the largest ethane cracker plant in North America and will increase health risks to a population that has too long suffered from polluted air. Foreign wealth seeking should consider the long suffering of Western Pennsylvania residents before accepting state subsidies and untaxed gas for such projects. The project would further concentrate wealth while providing polluting jobs of manufacturing plastics. Risks of the Shell plant include but are not limited to the following: 

    1. The proposed Shell Ethane Cracker will produce 1.6 million metric tons of plastic from locally fracked natural gas each year.
    2. Creates a need for ethane pipelines throughout our region and through the Ohio River.
    3. Each Cracker Plant will emit as much CO2 at half a coal fired power plant. There are currently at least four ethane petrochemical plants planned for the Ohio Valley.
    4. The Shell Plant will emit 522 tons of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) each year. 44% more than the Clairton Cokeworks, making it the worst polluter of VOC’s in our region and third worst in Pennsylvania. 
    5. Currently we are in the top 2% for cancer risk from air pollution in the United States. More VOC pollution will make our air even worse. 
    6. The Shell Cracker will emit 2.25 million tons of CO2 annually. 


Monday, March 19, 2018

Help us with our Kickstarter for New Music!

Well, we've never done this before, and it takes some courage to think that there are enough people out there that appreciate our music to fund this, but here it is, our first ever Kickstarter! We really believe in these new songs and we think you're going to love them too. Please check this out and support! You'll get great stuff if in return for your support! This Side of Eve Kickstarter


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Haunting



Some might say songs come like a ghost in the night. They're unexpected and arrive as though they have an agenda or a mind of their own. The great song writers are inspired by their past, the present and hope for the future. Great song writers allow their surroundings to speak into a song and create a lasting impression of a moment in time when the song began coming together. Our album, Solace, was an experiment in improvised instrumental music. There are no words, only layers of guitars and synthesizers with rhythm and ambient noise, basically whatever was going on that day.

Haunting was a track that came about quite unexpectedly at a time when I wasn't sure I wanted to keep working on the project. I was sitting at our 100 year old family cottage an hour north of Pittsburgh. Our cabin is filled with very old things, items that out date the cottage even, things brought from our family farm in the early 1900's. There are also old photos, old books and lots and lots of family memories. When I picked up my guitar I had forgotten that it was partially tuned to a drop D chord. I put on my cut capo, which guitarists might know as a partial capo that produces open sounding chords. I use it a lot and I use it more creatively than most people I know. I put it on the 4th fret and when I played the chord what came out was unexpected and hauntingly beautiful. For this particular track I didn't do much more work beyond teasing out some chords in this new alternate tuning.

Later that week when I got home and back in the Backroom studio I wanted to record the song but the crickets outside were extremely loud. I don't know if anyone else noticed it, but they seemed exceedingly active this fall, for many weeks. It seemed they wanted to take part in my recording, and it seemed the simply song needed some accompaniment. And so, after adding some ebow work with my Fender Strat, the final version was born. And it's still super simple, ambient, calming, but I like it like that.

Here's also one of the photos I found at the cabin that day of a family member no one can even identify any more. Maybe he was playing around with my guitar tuning that day. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Solace Release

Each track on Solace represents a moment over the past year. Most of these tracks represent for me a mental and emotional space where I literally found solace in the creative process of laying down improvised tracks with my guitar and Alyssa's Nord piano. Some of the tracks were pure improvisations and will never be recreated live or anywhere else. Other tracks, like Drifted, Drifted 2 and Haunting are acoustic songs with other layers, but they are songs that I look forward to playing in live settings. A few of the tracks are very ambient, with more flow than rhythm, like After the Rain. Some of the tracks include percussion and drums by Ian White and some include vocals or synthesizer by Alyssa Creasy. In all, these was a fun experiment for me to focus on during a very difficult year. It was something that gave me joy and focus, it's was largely a meditative process. I have no idea if others will like it, I have no idea if I'll like it a year from now, but it was much more about the creative process than anything else. Nothing is polished, nothing is perfect (by any means), but hopefully all of it is meditative, peaceful, something you can put on the music player when you're needing a background to create a mood of hope and relaxation.

Monday, December 25, 2017

This Side of (Christmas) Eve

This Side of Eve Christmas MusicHere are a few tracks we've recorded in the past of our original Christmas and Advent arrangements of traditional carols. Take a listen! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Solace is Coming!

The full instrumental album that I've been working on for some months will be available January 1 if all goes as planned. In the mean time purchase it now and get two tracks as a pre-order. Haunted is an acoustic guitar track that sounds, well hauntingly beautiful. The other track is called In Deep, it's a layered songs with drums by Ian White, lots of synth and guitar. Take a listen and help us pay for the mastering with a pre-order purchase!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Pittsburgh Presbytery Votes to Oppose the Shell Ethane Cracker and Divest From Fossil Fuels

The following thoughts are my own, and do not represent any official release from The Pittsburgh Presbytery.   

    Creation Care, People Care and Fair Share. Those are the ethics of permaculture that I teach at Garfield Community Farm. Those are also what we want for the city of Pittsburgh and our surrounding region. We desire a clean planet where people thrive and no one is left out. As a pastor I am often drawn to these ethics and have been inspired by them to take action against environmental and social injustice. Taking action on global climate change is action that all people of faith should engage. Climate and local air quality are not issues for environmentalists only, they are issues for anyone who wants wellbeing for humanity.
    As a Presbyterian I am thankful for the network of pastors and church leaders that make up the Pittsburgh Presbytery. We’re a mix of new churches doing unconventional ministry and centuries old churches that have served Pittsburgh and the surrounding region through our best and worst years. We’re quite a mix of conservatives and progressives, urban and rural, young and old, but we are united in our faith. For many years the Presbyterian Church (USA) has had a strong voice for justice where there is oppression. Over the past few years the Presbyterian Church and many other Christian denominations have called for eco-justice. We see that caring for the earth is an essential action of any faithful church. We believe that caring for the earth is inextricably bound to caring for people.
    This week the 130+ churches of the Pittsburgh Presbytery, which represents 30,000 congregants, was delivered a resolution on eco-justice by the Peacemaking Team of the Presbytery. I serve on the peacemaking team and have worked two years with other team members to produce a resolution for the whole body to vote on that would do three things; bring a vote on divestment from fossil fuels, address the most pressing local ecological issues and propel congregations to make positive changes in their own theology and action.
    On December 14, 2017 we voted to concur with many other presbyteries around the nation to divest from fossil fuels. This means we will have a strong contingent at our general assembly of representatives from all of the presbyteries around the United States in July calling for full divestment of our financial investments from the fossil fuel industry. We believe our voice  is extremely important in this conversation. We are one of the more conservative presbyteries and we are located in a region built on extractive industry. Even PIttsburgh sees that the future is in clean and renewable energy!
    Secondly, we voted to oppose the fossil fuel industry expansion of our region as seen in the Royal Dutch Shell Ethane Cracker in Potter Township. The body showed great concern for both the environmental impact of the ethane cracker and the people that live in impoverished areas around of the region. It was a difficult vote, not because of disagreement around the environmental impact of the largest Ethane Cracker in North America, but because we know people who are being paid to build this facility. In the end the majority agreed that jobs are needed in Western PA, Ohio and West Virginia, but we want jobs that will transition us to a clean and livable future for our children and grand-children. While Shell promises thousands of jobs for our region, we know that these jobs will create an even stronger dependance on the fossil fuel industry at a time in history when clean energy jobs are the future. The opposition to Shell’s ethane facility will be represented in an official letter by the entire Presbytery and mailed to all appropriate politicians, regulators and newspapers. We will make it very clear that environmental stewardship is an issue for people of faith. We will make it clear that our faith and our scriptures are what lead us to such opposition.
    Finally, we committed ourselves to positive action here at home! Our resolution calls on every one of our 130+ congregations to examine their own energy usage, implement money and energy saving retrofitting and consider carbon free energy wherever possible. The Peacemaking Team is building a strong network of partners to help churches begin this process. Partners and resources include The Green Building Alliance, Energy Independent Solutions, Clean Air Council, The Sierra Club, Scalo Roofing and more.