New Creation News

Let’s get more specific about what we mean by “new” creation

Posted June 8th, 2015 in Blog, Featured, New Creation News 0 Comments
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Shall we? I mean, that’s one of the questions I get frequently now – what do I mean, what is it, what does a post-carbon world look like, show me how it will function, what will happen, and (the real question hidden within the others) will I be okay?

First response to this – I can’t answer those questions for us. We have to answer them together, as on a journey, making the path by walking it, inventing and creating as we go along.

And it won’t be easy.

And it means giving up a lot of assumptions about how we live now, about surrendering expectations that stay within the paradigm that brought us to this moment. It means a whole lot of imagination, a whole lot of dreaming, of vision quests done in community. It will mean trial and error, learning what works and doesn’t work in the practice of it.

Worshop on gender justice at the Body & Soul Healing Arts Center in Milwaukee on MLK holiday. Photo: Venice Williams

Workshop on gender justice at the Body & Soul Healing Arts Center in Milwaukee. Building inclusive community. Photo: Venice Williams

But hardest of all, it means learning how to trust ourselves and one another. It means creating community not among the like-minded, among those where we have really high comfort zones; because that’s how most of the culture lives now and it is part of what is not working, the cultural pathology that prevents new creation from finding access, opening new roads, seeing new things, achieving new insights.

Now, if I were to try to lay out the plan for you, wouldn’t I be contradicting how creation works?

So where is it happening? Let me count the ways and spaces – because there are so many of them. Here’s a very short list that could be multiplied thousands of times. If any of us are looking for what to do to begin the process, a lot of it is a matter of opening to what is already in the works, and then taking the personal risks of internal and external change in our lives to join in.

Let me give a couple of local examples from Milwaukee where I currently live:

Alice’s Garden
Center for Resilient Cities
Walnut Way Conservation Corp. [see also this recent news article]
Growing Power
Victory Garden Initiative
Fondy Market
Milwaukee farmers markets
If you’re on Facebook check this out: Body and Soul Healing Arts Center

And look at what this faith community is doing: Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church, or this one: All People’s Church, or this one: Buddhist Peace Fellowship Milwaukee Chapter.

Check out this community organization: Urban Ecology Center, and this one: Transition Milwaukee.

And there are the new movements where we partner again with the Earth and all her sentient and non-sentient beings to begin a radical healing process, participate with our hands and heart in that work, where we witness aloud and with urgency, to make our voices heard as we engage this process. A most recent and inspiring example:

the tar sands resistance march in Minneapolis last Saturday Also important because of who led it: Minnesota American Indians Lead March..., which brings to mind this important essay from Canada’s David Suzuki: Aboriginal people, not environmentalists, are best bet for protecting the planet.

video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6hKzl55D2E

The march was organized as a partnership among communities, not top down, but emergent. That’s how resilient life comes about – from the roots, nurtured from and by the roots.

Remember this from last September? Just look at the diversity, beauty, and wide variety of cultural expressions among these hundreds of thousands of people!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPyQ27svmjc

Yes, I could go on. Some of this work is about creating new ways of life one neighborhood at a time, as in some of these examples. Some of it is about addressing the essential need for food and using that to create a culture that has meaning far beyond the food and garden plots. Same for the cultural expression in a march to protect the planet, from the organizing to the implementation.

These things include something essential for new creation – building community, getting to know one another across dividing lines of class and race, ethnicity and culture. In my city, one of the most segregated in the country, where white flight and racism run deep through our history, this is essential work if new creation is to have any meaning at all, much less the power to transform a culture leading us to ecological disaster.

Because, as have said so often here, ecology is about the interconnectedness of everything. The rise of plutocracy in this country runs in tandem with white supremacy, racism, and suppression of the rights of poor people and the marginalized, right along with the destruction of our eco-communities from those who profit off that destruction.

Another example, my colleague Thomas Frank in E. Chicago invited Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir to the community of Marktown and the BP refinery in Whiting IN. If you want to see what some of the work of new creation looks like, check out this video – seering, righeously angry, and fun! This is solidarity from below in its best meaning. Learn more about Marktown here, and about Rev. Billy here.


Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXyTngDBbpU

Just about wherever you are, you could come up with a list like this. Really, there are no excuses for waiting to engage the process of new creation. It’s not a matter of someone handing us that strategic plan where we can see the end goal, so that it feels safe to launch ourselves into the process. And wherever we are, we can work in our communities to invite people to engage this great adventure.

There is the Great Unraveling happening now – necessary, painful, tumultuous, inevitable. And there is the Great Turning, the point where we turn away from the industrial growth paradigm that created this mess and turn toward the new path, where we make the decision to stop participating in what is destroying us and start putting our energies into what must be created. And there is the Great Transformation, now beginning in virtually every part of our world, where we begin to live the new way of life in the midst of the old and its unraveling.

The way we offer hope is not to lay out a plan for us or some clear future vision of how it will be concretely, because I don’t know anyone who can tell us what this will all look like a couple of generations from now. This is a journey, not a destination, as in the old phrase, and the journey itself is the destination where we are headed, where we need to go now. We are not headed for an end we can see. We are invited to come to our true destination by leaping right into the heart of the journey itself.

~ Margaret Swedish
Home page featured photo: Thomas Frank

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Making New Creation

Posted February 12th, 2015 in Featured, New Creation News 3 Comments

While we consider ways to reinvigorate this organization, I want to share what we are thinking about for program content in 2015-2016. If you’ve been reading our last couple of posts, you already have an idea.

First of all, what we do is a lot more than this glorified blog. We write, yes, here and on our Facebook page, as a way to connect with a community around the country and beyond. But a lot of our work involves being with, or engaging a wide variety of groups offering workshops, presentations with lots of visuals to reveal aspects of our ecological realities that the mainstream culture does not show us (or even want to show us), and facilitated conversation and exchanges about those realities. At times, we have had opportunities to lead 1-2 day retreats, delving more deeply into our relationships within Nature and within the cosmos that just keeps getting bigger and bigger and more mysterious and magnificent with every new discovery.March lecture series crude

This is incredibly rewarding work because of what emerges from it – inspiration and motivation to get to work on the ecological challenges facing us now, a greater comfort level talking about those challenges, friendships and expanded community connections, a release of creativity as we seek new ways of life that translate into new creation as the old one crumbles underneath the foundations of industrial societies. We are able to do a little dreaming together, to begin to see the world that is possible if we relinquish the old one and venture out along a path into the unknown.

We also spend our time connecting with other community groups and organizations moving in similar directions, the ones determined to not accept this “given” world (given by global corporations and the governments that enable them), but to create new paradigms, new frameworks of meaning, new ways of being on this planet together as we move into this intense period of transition from one way of life to another.

We seek to create a “space” where ecological justice, social justice, and the path of peace in our world come together. For a long time, those paths were separated, even alienated from each other. Now we know that there is no ecological healing without social justice, and social justice cannot come to a world that is being ecologically destroyed, and that neither social justice nor ecological healing can come to a world that still sees war and political violence as a way to redress grievances or to try to hold onto political and economic power.

And so we want this “space” that we call the Center for New Creation (virtual now, perhaps a real physical one in the near future) to be one place where these three themes come together, feed on each other, open up for us a way of seeing our world and the interconnectedness of all things, all energies, all dynamics within which we exist.

When we see the world this way (which is also ecologically correct), we begin to see how much difference we actually can make by what we do, what we decide, how we choose to live our lives – because everything we do or don’t do affects everything else within the dynamism of the whole.

The only one we know...

The whole…

Our last two blog posts indicate something of the direction in which we are going. When we speak of the “ecology of fossil fuels,” we speak of the dynamic interconnections of an industry that feeds our world with energy for just about everything we do by extracting ancient organic matter and gases in ways that we can burn for fuel. A lot of us tend not to think of it this way, but it is in reality a deep, intimate, personal relationship that we have with our planet, one that is depleting it of its most essential life-giving resources, using up water and land, polluting the air, contaminating rivers and wetlands, and contributing enormous amounts of global warming gases into our atmosphere.

That is absolutely one form of our ecological relatedness within Gaia, a manifestation of what has become a profoundly dysfunctional, even pathological relationship. Even as we arrive at the knowledge that we are destroying the very basis of our future survival, we are hooked, addicted, and don’t know how to stop ourselves.

When we reflect on the “ecology of racism,” we focus on another form of what is actually an “anti-ecology” with profound ecological consequences. Life thrives on biodiversity. Indeed, it requires it. Evolution on this planet tends always in that direction, unless something comes along to begin an extinction event. But when that plays itself out, life again begins to grow abundance and resilience by way of diversity.

blmThere is a field called biocultural diversity that describes how essential this is within the human community and that community’s relationship with the other sentient and non-sentient beings. We thrive in diversity. Forcing separation requires an enormous amount of energy trying to create something utterly untrue – that we can create around ourselves monocultures of race, lifestyles, and belief systems, and think that kind of culture can survive. Those excluded from the exclusivity of the dominant cultures suffer injustice and discrimination in many forms. The energy required to hold such a system in place, to defend it, and then the resentment that builds, the hurt and anger – all of this makes what is now a crowded world where races and cultures spill into one another ecologically and socially impossible.

We think this needs to be talked about – a lot. We think this requires some deep reflective thinking and discussion, because we are living right now in a profoundly unsustainable reality. We feel it all around us as our culture frays around the edges and decays from within. We feel it as climate changes, as our city streets grow restive, as political violence spreads across parts of our world emergent from old empires, as too many people cling to various forms of fundamentalisms as a way to cling to certainty in an increasingly chaotic and uncertain world.

These tensions are becoming increasingly intolerable.

So, new creation. Because – there is a way through this!

A lot of the tensions are caused by fear, by a deep feeling of vulnerability, and by how much we are still strangers to one another – wrapping our old sense of identity around us in an effort to feel safe, whether that is racial, ethnic, religious (or not religious), political, or class identities. It is amazing what can happen when we relinquish those identities in the face of their growing unsustainability and give in to the change that is moving us in a new direction – one of inclusivity, mutuality and solidarity as we come to realize that we are all in this together, and the only way we will get through is – together.

New Creation

New Creation

Nurturing one another, as the soil, seed, rain, and sun – making life happen, all the elements with something essential to contribute.

As you create programs in your own communities, we hope you will think of us and this project. We would love to work with you, to be invited into your “places” where we can do some of this work together. That is also one of the ways we sustain this project.

And then, of course, donations are much needed. So if you, your churches, your groups, might be able to contribute right now, that would be enormously helpful.

We look forward to sharing more of this journey with you. If you have not yet done so, you can sign up to receive updates and blog posts via email. We also invite you to visit our Center for New Creation Facebook page, to add us to your “likes,” and to be part of the conversation.

In ecological hope…

Margaret Swedish

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Rethinking the Center for New Creation and the work of ecological hope

Posted January 21st, 2015 in Featured, New Creation News Comments Off on Rethinking the Center for New Creation and the work of ecological hope
January 21, 2015

Dear Friends,

We just posted an update on this project and on the Center for New Creation, the non-profit that is our fiscal sponsor, at the “About SEH” tab above. As we have written previously, we are in the process of dissolving the project, Spirituality and Ecological Hope, into the work of the Center – not yet a physical center, but a virtual center that gathers together some of the crucial reflection and work that is being done to respond to the ecological crises of our times.

We hope you’ll take a moment to read this update, help spread the word (perhaps by sharing this link), and invite your communities to join us in this journey.

And thank you.

Margaret Swedish

2014 Annual Report – what we’ve done, what we dream of doing next

Posted December 15th, 2014 in Featured, New Creation News Comments Off on 2014 Annual Report – what we’ve done, what we dream of doing next

CENTER FOR NEW CREATION
Project: Spirituality and Ecological Hope

2014 Program Report

Where we’ve been; where we’d like to go

logo tiny without wordsNovember 30 marked the end of our fiscal year, and December the end of the calendar year. Odd, I know. But it seems a good moment to look back on the year – what we accomplished, the moment at which we have arrived as we close out 2014; and then a look ahead to next year – the work we see unfolding (with your help, and we don’t just mean donations).

 

Where we’ve been

In the past couple of years, our work has centered around four pulses:

  • Speaking, presenting, workshopping the ecological crises in all its complexity for a wide variety of communities. We understand the deep connections between Earth and Spirit and we offer programs that help us together re-find and restore those connections. The crisis of our planet is a crisis of spirit; therefore, the work of “new creation” is a spiritual work (in the broadest sense of that term). We try to clear a path through the “cultural fog” of denialism and false hope so that we can SEE clearly the world as it is, the nature of the challenges before us, and the need to find another way to live – right now.
  • Connecting as our means allow with realities on the ground and with different communities living in the midst of the cause-and-effect of the rapid pace of industrial development. For the past two years, we focused especially on the frenzied last stages of the fossil fuel era, from extraction to production, and from refining to transport, including tar sands, fracking, pipelines, exploding trains, and frac sand mining. We find ourselves surrounded and threatened by a monstrous network that has created interconnectivity across North America for these dirtiest of fuels, and the environmental toll is almost beyond comprehension. We believe people need to understand what is going on so that we can collectively, and urgently, begin to make other choices. The future of life on the planet is at stake here.PIIC crude
  • Using our blog and Facebook page as means of sharing our concerns, priorities, and sources of inspiration to a wider world, connecting people with helpful resources, and sharing news of where “new creation” is happening in local communities all around the U.S.
  • Collaborating in our local area with like-minded groups working to create communities of “new creation.”

2014 – What we accomplished

Despite our limited resources and the ongoing struggle to raise funds for work of this nature, we feel very good about the progress we made in all four of our work areas. Among our accomplishments in 2014:

  • More than a dozen presentations before a wide variety of groups, including Catholic religious congregations, seminarians, justice and peace groups, grassroots activists, and student groups, from Amityville NY to Villa Maria PA to La Grange Park IL to Madison WI and sites within the Greater Milwaukee area, including a workshop at Milwaukee’s annual Sustainability Summit.

    Margaret Swedish

    Margaret Swedish

  • Convening a monthly gathering, tenderly called “Centering for New Creation.” So simple. We sit together in quiet meditation for 40 minutes, and then we share from our hearts. Incredible wisdom, insights, and tenderness emerge from this quiet community. It is a reminder that our work is also a deeply contemplative one, and it helps deepen our friendships and solidarity.
  • Collaborating each year with the Peace and International Issues Committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to put together a lecture series on the Tuesdays of March that focus on themes related to ecology and social justice. They have been very successful, hard-hitting, and motivational.
  • We continued our journey into the darkness of the fossil fuel industry by traveling to the other end of what begins in the Alberta tar sands industrial region, which we visited in 2013 [see:  Athabasca River Pilgrimage]. I took a “toxic tour” of the environs around the BP oil refinery in Whiting IN, led by a colleague based in E. Chicago, and continued our intensive learning about the impacts of the oil production and refining process. We also continued our work to educate about the pipeline and oil train networks crisscrossing the Upper Midwest, the impacts of the frac sand mining boom in western counties of Wisconsin, and had our first personal encounter with a rural area sitting on the Utica Shale play in Western PA as the area was beginning to be fracked.
  • And we attended some wonderful programs in places like The Well Spirituality Center in La Grange Park IL, the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, and local programs on food justice, the proposed open pit iron ore mining in the North Woods, and so much more.

So we did a lot – with very little, and often out of pocket. Imagine what we could do if we had the resources to grow this little operation.

2015 – What comes next?

If you have been reading some of our recent updates, you know that we harbor this great hope of dissolving the Spirituality and Ecological Hope project into a revived Center for New Creation (CNC), the non-profit that is our fiscal sponsor. We don’t have the means to do that yet, but we hope we can move firmly in that direction in 2015.

What would a CNC look like? The point would not be to create another activist project, but rather a place of gathering, a “hub,” if you will, where multiple expressions or manifestations of the work of “new” creation can gather, interact, have conversation, learn from one another and get support from one another. Part of this idea comes from a longing to get past the fragmentation that marks a lot of the ecological movements, many small groups doing many good things, but in what way do those energies come together to feed on one another toward building a more cohesive new creation work?

The Peace Poets and yours truly

Margaret Swedish and the Peace Poets at Homecoming Farm, Amityville NY

What we would hope a CNC could do is develop a visible presence of a new culture with new values appropriate to the urgency of our ecological crisis, not because we have any answers (none of us really do), but in order to take up that mission of making the path by walking it.

Can we build this dream as partners, create a hub that would bring together some of the best inspiration combining spirituality, social and ecological justice, activism, and a fierce critique of cultures of oppression, including racism and segregation and other manifestations of exclusion, which are anti-ecological and therefore destructive of culture and creativity? So many people doing prophetic, cutting edge work. What would happen if some of that energy got into a room together on a regular basis, really challenged our comfort zones, called out the deepest and best within us, past the fear and into the realm of dreaming anew the kind of human beings these times require?

Something to think about, no? We hope you will want to think about it along with us.

As we ponder this dream, we also commit to work in the area of our four primary pulses:

  • We will be back in Villa Maria to pursue some deeper collaboration around the theme of spirituality and ecology, in the shadows of the new fracking wells. We have a couple of workshops planned in February and April, and we hope to collaborate in an incipient project of touring college campuses in the Upper Midwest with several others sometime in Spring. We will send in a proposal for another workshop at the Sustainability Summit, and are following up on several other invitations for later in 2015.
  • We will continue convening the Centering group, hoping to grow the community and establish our circle as a safe space in which to re-root ourselves and share from the heart.

    Million gallon oil leak near the BP refinery in Whiting IN

    Million gallon oil leak near the BP refinery in Whiting IN

  • We are working right now on finalizing the plan for the Tuesdays in March lecture series. This year the committee is focusing on the theme, Confronting the Realities of Segregation. The reason for this is obvious. We have reached a watershed moment in this country when it comes to racism and segregation. No progress can be made on any of the urgent issues of our times if we remain this divided as a nation. We must heal these deep wounds if we are to find our way out of political and social impasse. We hope to elevate the intensity of this awareness through this series.
  • We will continue fostering collaboration and solidarity with grassroots groups, those “places” where the real work of change is going on – from the bottom up, in communities where people are defending their land, air, and water, or are learning how to live differently, or are coming back home to Mother Earth to re-anchor the life of the spirit. These are significant signs of what Joanna Macy and others call “the Great Turning,” and they need support, visibility, solidarity, and community. We are all in this together now.

Building a New Creation Community

Well, none of this is much fun if any of us are trying to do it alone. One of the reasons I like the name of the non-profit so much is because it speaks to exactly what is needed right now – communities creating culture and ways of life anew, in the context of an old way of life that is collapsing around us, destroying Nature, making our future appear grim and sad. That’s what so many people share with us these days – the fear that this is our future, the future for our children and their children.

We don’t want to accept that quite yet. In the midst of the grim reality, some amazing new work is going on, and many young people are engaging deeply, prepared to surrender the version of the American Dream that is fed by hyper-consumerism, material ambitions, and fear. More and more, people are turning from the emptiness of individualism to a rediscovery of the meaning of community, not only with other humans, but with communities of sentient and non-sentient beings within which we are embedded. We know now that our human fate is bound to the fate of the living systems of the planet. That is not just a fact, it is a discovery with deep ethical and spiritual dimensions.

Photo by the Mom

Photo by the Mom

We want to take our part in building that community. This will take more funding. Right now we are dependent on donations and small sharing grants from religious communities, and on stipends and contributions from our programs. We need to broaden that base so that we can do the following things:

  • Find the physical space for the hub to become real, the place of gathering, located in the Greater Milwaukee area (we hope);
  • Build a new website as a virtual hub so we can share stories beyond our geographical area, a space for local communities to share their praxis and wisdom;
  • Develop new program work and outreach, especially around the theme I like to call, the ecology of racism;
  • Spend more time in communities impacted by the fossil fuel industry so we can learn, offer solidarity, and share their stories.

Needless to say, we hope you will want to join us on this journey. These dreams can only be realized in community. Otherwise, what’s the point?

So, friends, in closing, at this time of year when so much of our spiritual reflection is on the meaning of darkness and light, may we rest in the realization that it takes both to create our world, it takes darkness in order for us to see the light. And may that be a powerful metaphor for embracing these times with courage and heart.

Margaret Swedish

To donate, click here.

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