“Beloved creation” is more than part of one minister’s prayer of dedication to God on adding our offerings “to those received around the world today, heaped up, pressed down, flowing over to help meet the need in this, Your beloved creation.” It is also the title of a Boston Theological Institute symposium I helped plan on the twentieth anniversary of Earth Day which brought together a number of scholars and people of faith considering Creation as Beloved of God. As I look back on it now, the flier lists speakers forced into an impossibly tight schedule. It was a fruitful day, however – bringing together people who had worked in parallel but sometimes separate tracks, and beginning partnerships that led to other efforts as well.
I was especially pleased to be able to invite Ian Barbour, professor at Carlton and member of the United Church of Christ, to open the day as our keynote speaker. Widely respected for his work on religion in an age of science, his talk on “The Church in an Environmental Age” opened both our symposium and the ensuing conference volume, “Earth at Risk.” It also serves as source for a key section of Barbour’s subsequent work seeking to integrate scientific understanding and faith, in his “Nature, Human Nature, and God.”
A two-day event on religion and environmental ethics followed the next year, developed primarily by Barbara Smith-Moran and Audrey R. Chapman, whose respective work in Faith and Science (Smith-Moran) and aspects of Public Faith and Ethics (Chapman) furthered my understanding of communities of faith as important places to engage Word and world. As one participant put it, “science may tell us ‘how’ we are, but it does not tell us ‘who’ (or Whose).”