Presbyterian eco-theologian Rev Silvia Purdie has released a new book of stories that highlight how thirty Aotearoa New Zealand Christian women have connected faith and environmental action in their lives and churches.
The book, entitled “Awhi Mai, Awhi Atu: Women in Creation Care” offers an ecumenical sampling of women involved in care for Creation – from lobbying policy change, to community gardening, to writing liturgies that lament environmental damage and call worshippers to action for change.
“Awhi Mai, Awhi Atu” presents reflective life stories from twelve Anglican women among the thirty in total, many of whom are connected with the author through the ecumenical A Rocha Christian Creation Care movement.
Anglican women who have contributed to the volume through edited interviews or in their own words are: Cathy Bi-Riley (Auckland), Rosemary Biss (Porirua), Jenny Campbell (Mossburn, Southland), Dr Nicola Hoggard Creegan (Auckland), Iris Lee Fountain (Wellington), Rev Jacynthia Murphy (Tāmaki Makaurau), Marie Preston (Porirua), Elise Ranck (Wellington), Amy Ross (Porirua), O’Love Uluave (Auckland) and Rev Courtnay Wilson (Kaikoura).
The first chapter in the book is a reflective biography from Pauatahanui-based Eco-Church Coordinator for the Wellington region, Amy Ross.
Amy details her long ecotheology journey which began in her childhood experience of near zero-waste living in an intentional Christian community. She explains how over time she learnt to integrate the practical elements of her early lifestyle into a theology that saw working for a healthy biodiverse earth as a vital to God’s mission.
Amy’s story follows a similar pattern to many in the book, whose scientific and environmental awareness led them to search for new answers in biblical traditions when narrow theologies held no place for the earth. Many celebrate those theological approaches where Christians have elevated the spiritual value of “the earth and all that is in it”, and identified Creation care as an essential part in God’s holistic plan of salvation.
Assistant Bishop of Wellington Rt Rev Eleanor Sanderson added her endorsement to the book, speaking from her perspective not only as a bishop, but as a geographer whose life has been shaped by ‘earth-writing.’
“This collection of women’s writing is the best type of ‘earth-writing’; written from, and written for, incarnational embodiment.” Bishop Eleanor writes.
“Here women reflect deeply and powerfully on their own embodied relationship with the earth and with the Creator and Redeemer of all.”
“Each reflection ends by grounding this wisdom in a gift of incarnational invitation for the reader – practical steps we can all take to live more humbly and hopefully in loving relationship with God’s earth.”
The book’s thirty chapters follow the story or theological reflection of each Christian woman, with a chosen or composed prayer or karakia on the theme, and a list of action points for the reader to consider.
The book’s resulting 81 points for action range from mobilising your school or church to recycle and compost, to pest control, cleaning up local playgrounds, or countering climate change through lobbying to end polluting carbon emissions.
A twelve year-old girl who leads her Christian school’s Envirogroup is the youngest contributor to the volume, while senior women such as Rosemary Biss describe how it’s never too late to play a role, as she mobilises residents to develop better ‘reuse and recycle’ systems in their retirement village.
“Awhi Mai, Ahwhi Atu: Women in Creation Care” is a fascinating read which offers moments of both revelation and challenge as the women speaking through its pages detail how they live out their faith through positive and life-giving ways to care for Creation.
The book can be purchased directly through the author for $35 (plus postage) by emailing Rev Silvia Purdie: silvia.purdie(at)gmail.com, or can be purchased as an e-book for $20.00 from Philip Garside Publishing.