Happy Earth Day.
This week, Zen Mountain Monastery welcomed the Woodstock Interfaith Council and community members to celebrate a common vision of respect and identification with the Earth. The Council is a volunteer body of clergy and leaders of spiritual communities in the greater Woodstock region who meet regularly to discuss a range of issues, from administrative challenges to theological points of interest.
Shugen Sensei, who participates in the informal gatherings, points out that the council is rewarding and worth supporting on multiple levels. It is not only an opportunity for those of different religious faiths to gain familiarity with each others traditions, but also a chance to spend time with neighbors and plant seeds for greater community collaboration. The Earth Day celebration is one such collaboration and Council members have been taking turns hosting it at their various houses of worship.
The evening began with a panel discussion in the Sangha House, moderated by local journalist and environmentalist Violet Snow. The featured speakers were Robert Micha’el Esformes of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, Juliet Rabia Gentile of the Dergah al-Farah Sufi lodge, Jan Tarlin from Karma Triyana Dhamachakra Monastery and Terra Rowe, a Lutheran scholar of ecotheology. Each spoke about their own tradition’s deep respect for the natural world, and the need to find hope in a larger perspective. Additionally, all spoke about the increased level of environmental activism within their communities, especially from the younger generation.
Following the panel, all participants joined hands on the meadow as we were led in prayer, first by Robert Micha’el Esformes—a cantor in the Jewish Renewal movement—and then by Juliet Rabia Gentile, Sufi teacher and performance artist. To conclude this ecumenical ceremony cluster, everyone was invited to offer incense at an altar set up with Tremper Mountain as the dedicatory image.
And as the sun set on the mountain, a community dinner was held in the Monastery’s dining hall where neighbors and friends, both new and old, continued the conversation and the offering to all creation.