Sunday, March 29, 2015

Leah Schade Featured in The Lutheran Magazine

Excerpt from: 

Restoring creation with faith

by Mary Birdsong
While growing up, Leah Schade experienced God’s presence in the forests of Pennsylvania as much as in church. But she couldn’t find a way to express her distress over environmental desecration until called to pastoral ministry.
“It was the arc of my theological awareness and sense of call to ministry that gave language to what I witnessed and the change I wanted to bring about,” she said.
Schade started an eco-ministry committee 10 years ago in her first congregation and more recently became an advocate and activist for environmental issues ranging from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to clean air standards. She was also part of a successful attempt to defeat a proposed tire incinerator in her community of Milton, Pa.
Besides serving as pastor of United in Christ Lutheran Church in West Milton, Pa., she teaches courses and workshops in preaching, ecology and ethics and is an adjunct instructor in religion and philosophy at Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa. 
Leah Schade
In her ministry of environmental advocacy,Leah Schade has become a “fracktivist,” taking on the industry at such places as this drill rig in the Tiadaghton State Park in Lycoming Country, Pa. 
In her upcoming book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology and the Pulpit (Chalice Press), her goal is to “show how preaching can help give new life to God’s earth, and that God’s earth can give new life to preaching.” One goal of the book is developing a Lutheran eco-feminist Christology for preaching.
Environmental activism outside of the congregation is important to Schade, such as her service on the Upper Susquehanna Synod’s task force examining justice issues around shale gas drilling. This bipartisan group is made up of pastors, theologians, teachers, lay leaders, scientists and individuals who either worked in the industry or were favorable toward it. 
After more than two years, they were able to agree that exemptions from regulations enjoyed by the fracking industry were unjust. 
“In 2014 our synod assembly voted to ask our legislators to close the so-called ‘Halliburton Loophole’ and put the industry under the same laws as everyone else,” Schade said. “Fracking threatens water, air, public health and contributes to climate change. It is the ‘perfect storm’ of environmental devastation. Faith is absolutely essential to this work because it can be very depressing facing the devastating realities of ecocide.”

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Equinox and Lent: The Surprising Discovery of Balance at the Temporary Loss of My Cell Phone

The Rev. Dr. Leah Schade

I probably should have felt panicky realizing that the spinning ball on the screen in my hand meant the device was no longer functioning.  I was disconnected!  No one could call me, and I could not call or text anyone.  My tether to the etherworld of instant weather updates, instant camera, instant music, and instant distraction was severed.  I was floating, my eyes unmoored from the slick screen that normally held my gaze whenever I needed to connect, whenever I was bored, waiting, impatient, or in need of entertainment. 

Interestingly, however, I did not panic.  Instead I felt a strange sensation of calm envelop me.  Like standing at the window on a snowy morning and realizing there is nothing I can do but accept the blanket of white silence that has temporarily suspended my plans.  I had an excuse not to check in, not to feel the incessant demand of my attention with every ping and aural notification.

Of course not having the phone did have the potential to create real problems.  We gave up our landline phone last year to save money, so I would have to rely on my husband’s phone if I really needed to make a call.  And I am a pastor, so being available to my parishioners is imperative.  So on my computer I sent out a Facebook message and congregation-wide email letting people know of my situation.  I could check messages from other phones, but would not be able to receive or answer texts.  And I wouldn’t be immediately accessible as I usually was.  

But, surprisingly, the world did not unravel around me.  In fact, what I discovered was a reservoir of mental energy that has allowed me to gather my psychological threads back into some semblance of sanity.  Checking my phone, I realized, had become a nervous habit akin to biting my fingernails.  Without a phone to check, I noticed my awareness of my surroundings expand.  Without a screen to swipe I felt my attentiveness stretching out with greater continuity, uninterrupted by flashing lights alerting me to a text, a Facebook update, a phone message.  

Certainly, I worry that I will miss something important.  But those who need to contact me know other ways to reach me.  And I have discovered that there is great freedom in having a phone-sick-day.  As it turned out, a day stretched into a weekend, stretched into a week, and is stretching into ten days.  Due to complications with the company, the wait for a replacement is taking longer than expected.  But when the issue was resolved today and I was told by the company representative that my new phone would arrive in 2-3 business days (rather than overnight, as I suppose I could have demanded), I did not fret about how I would survive without my phone for that long.  Instead I relished the thought of at least 3 more days of quietness, being exempt from virtual distraction.

It occurred to me that today is the first day of spring, the vernal equinox.  There is an equal amount of daylight and darkness.  Day and night are perfectly balanced for this one day.  How serendipitous that in these days approaching and relaxing into the equinox, I would receive the gift of balance by the temporary loss of my cell phone. 

This year I did not elect to “give up” anything for Lent.  The thought of disciplining myself to withstand deprivation when I am already so driven just seemed ludicrous to me.  I did not set my mind on any kind of Lenten fasting.  But a Lenten fast found me instead.  I would never have chosen “giving up my cell phone” as my Lenten discipline.  But I am so grateful that at least for these ten days, the choice was made for me.  Perhaps a regular practice of cell-phone Sabbaths are in my future. . .