“Blessing the Waters of Life” conference set for Oregon, September 24-29, 2017

Presbyterians for Earth Care invite all those interested to join them for a watershed discipleship-focused conference, “Blessing the Waters of Life: Justice & Healing for Our Watersheds,” this September along the Columbia River in Oregon. The conference will be held at Menucha Retreat & Conference Center.

A pre-conference gathering from September 24-26 will include a session by Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff on “Native Ways of Being & Knowing.” Merculieff is  a passionate advocate for indigenous rights/wisdom, and a member of the last generation of Aleuts raised in a traditional way.

Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff

Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing will serve as the keynote speaker for the conference, which will run September 26-29. Rossing is Professor of New Testament at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her research focuses on the book of Revelation, ecology, and liberation.

Rev. Dr. Barbara Rossing

The conference will will focus on water issues at the nexus of climate change and indigenous people, with particular focus on environmental justice, the impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery, the scriptural call to care for creation, and hands on outdoor experiences. Conference-goers can choose from nature experiences such as exploring the Columbia River Gorge, caring for the land at Menucha Retreat Center, birding hikes, and opportunities to search the stars with a telescope.

See the conference program for further details and fee options. Register by June 30 for the best rate. There is a young adult discounted rate, and scholarships are available.

To learn more, we spoke with the conference coordinator, Jenny Holmes, who adds:

If you are not able to attend the whole conference, September 26-29, consider joining the September 24-26 pre-conference event as a commuter. On Sunday, Sept. 24, from 7:00-9:00 pm, there is a special presentation at Menucha with the author, educator, and environmentalist Larry Merculieff on “Native Ways of Being and Knowing.” The cost is $20. The two-day sessions focused on Columbia River tribes and environmental justice is $55 for commuters. Organized in partnership with members of Columbia River tribes and local community and environmental organizations, “Spirit of the Salmon – Water, Culture, and Justice in the Columbia Watershed” is a two-day exploration of the environmental justice issues affecting the tribes of the Columbia River Watershed. Participants will learn about tribal culture and spirituality, see first-hand how climate change and pollution are affecting the Columbia River and tribal life-ways and treaties, and experience hopeful models for healthy communities and watersheds.

We begin on Monday, September 25, at Menucha, where we will learn from tribal members about tribal sovereignty, treaties, and how historic neglect and wrongs are being addressed. We then travel to Bonneville Dam to learn about hydropower, water quality, and the ethical issues of the Columbia River Treaty. After a brief stop at the site of Oregon’s first oil train spill, we visit Celilo Park near the now silenced Celilo Falls and engage in dialogue with Oregon’s Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Woody, a member of the Warm Springs Tribe, and other members of the Columbia River Tribes.

The second day starts with an interfaith panel and dialogue on the “Doctrine of Discovery” focused on what repudiating this 15th-century justification for the subjugation of non-Christian people has meant for current day relationships with Native Americans. We then journey to Cascades Locks where we will view tribal fishing platforms, view spawning salmon, and hear how tribal leaders have prevented the extinction of salmon runs. A rally and prayer vigil will demonstrate solidarity with the Columbia River Tribes, and their issues will cap the day. To register as a commuter, register online with Presbyterians for Earth Care at http://presbyearthcare.org/events/. For lodging and meals, register at http://www.menucha.org/programs/pec.

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