This year of hurricanes, racial unrest, partisanship, and pandemic brought more of us to seek solace and prayer in God’s creation. On the shore at Camp Caroline, we have a front-row seat to witness how coastal ecosystems are reflections of God's steadfast, healing, and purifying love. Like the estuaries and marshes that help filter out pollution, let us seize the turning of the year as an opportunity to filter out distractions and agendas, to best know Godly stewardship of creation for our future generations.
Camp Caroline offers a haven for children to grow in their faith and connection to God’s creation and a place of Sabbath for the public to explore local natural areas and ecosystems. Like the nearby camps, people come to visit because of the awesome opportunity to rest in God’s creation.
To maintain God’s creation in our area, we depend on responsible stewardship by our community, and our government. The nearby Croatan National Forest is public land under the protection of the United States Forest Service. As the bird flies, this Forest is about five miles from Camp Caroline. Wildlife officers visit our camp to do monthly fish species studies, and they advise us on managing the marshlands on our property.
As faith leaders along the coast of North Carolina, we have seen firsthand how the climate crisis is affecting Camp Caroline, nearby coastal communities, and our local public land. Unfortunately, sea level rise and intensifying hurricanes are threatening these ecosystems and the local people who benefit from them.
To weather the storms of the climate crisis, now is the time to join together to protect and preserve God's coastal creation. We need a climate plan that will sustain public lands and waters for future generations. God has given us the natural solutions, such as salt marshes to absorb some sea level rise, and coastal forests to buffer from hurricane winds. Preserving and protecting these places is spiritually, economically, and ecologically good for our communities — both human and nonhuman. Together, we can strengthen community education, outreach, and outdoor access partnerships that expand everyday peoples’ ability to play a role in caring for God’s creation.
We can also ensure decision-making about the fate of public lands and waters is more accessible to communities that have, in the past, been left out. In the near term, more of us can resolve in 2021 to get involved in the North Carolina Coastal Habitat Protection Plan (CHPP).
At the national level, we can urge Congress and the President’s Administration to take ocean-climate action that creates coastal resilience and creation-stewardship jobs. And, at the global level, we can support thoughtful conservation goals at the United Nations, such as establishing strong biodiversity conservation protections for at least thirty percent of God’s Earth by 2030.
As we work to strengthen ourselves and our worship sanctuaries to be more resilient in the face of climate disruption, we want the same for the living, natural coastal and marine sanctuaries of God's creation. This requires both individual and communal care, which can inspire a collective cultural awareness that does not seek to dis-prove any agenda, but falls squarely on our shoulders to act with increased responsibility. Our faith communities lift a strong voice for care, and we believe it is necessary nurture for us to embrace and protect our public lands and waters. May all our relations collect and magnify care in all our steps.
Casey Perry is the Camp Manager at Camp Caroline in Arapahoe. Camp Caroline is a year-round Camp, Conference, and Retreat Center that is Owned and Operated by The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North Carolina.