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By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle

Did you know trees emit chemicals that are beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety? So valuable is this process, that the Japanese have developed a practice called ‘forest bathing’ to encourage people to enjoy the benefits of trees.

Trees are remarkable, capable of holding carbon and providing oxygen. Some offer food and medicine. They are even capable of modifying local climate, by cooling the air around them during hot summer days.

Peter Wohlleben’s “The Hidden Life of Tress” highlights the incredibleness of trees – how they communicate, support one another, ward off predators, and more. The networks created by their root systems have been known to nurture life in felled stumps for decades afterward. Even when trees die, their decaying bodies provide homes for insects, birds, and future generations of trees and plants. Trees are gifts in ways that are beyond what we can ask or imagine. Creation is filled with gifts that are beyond what we can ask or imagine.

In Christianity, God is described as omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omnibenevolent (supremely good). In other words, God knows everything, has the power to do anything, and is perfectly good. Out of these characteristics, God has Created. Believing this, how do we see aspects of God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence in Creation itself? Would it not make sense that what we are learning about trees and the many ways they support life, including human life, are intentional characteristics given by a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and supremely good?

In fact, there are webs of life everywhere. Butterflies are connected to specific host plants they need to nourish their young as they reproduce. The mutual relationships between pollinators and plants ensures an ongoing cycle of life. Even amid decay there are systems at play. Leaves left through winter serve as nurseries for butterflies and moths. Some toads, frogs, and salamanders have adapted to hibernate in leaf litter. Other insects use the hollow stems of plants over the winter. Birds can eat seed heads from flowers right through until spring. When God created, God imbued God’s wisdom in that creation – connecting plants, insects, and animals in meaningful ways, providing a balance across the seasons, so that all might not only survive, but thrive.

What does it mean to recognize God’s wisdom in Creation? How can this impact our relationship with Creation? When we learn of the ways plants, insects, birds, animals, and humans are connected, to what extent does this knowledge challenge us to honour the wisdom of Creation? Do we really believe God wants us to control creation based on human aesthetic ideals? To what extent do the current aesthetic ideals reflect what God created in our region? To what extent do the current aesthetic ideals undermine the inherent wisdom in creation?

Do we recognize that turf grass is generally not native to the region? Do we know that constant cutting, so that it is unable to seed, and the use of pesticides to prevent ‘weeds’, transforms yards into spaces that provide little value for many insects, birds, and animals that have otherwise long existed in the region? Do we realize that too many of the plants available in nurseries are not native to the region and that these species often compete with and undermine the ability of native species to grow, impacting the insects, birds, and animals that rely on those native species? Are we aware of the many plant species that are now identified as invasive because of the negative impacts these have on the ecosystems God had intended for our region?

What does it mean to recognize God’s wisdom in Creation? How can this impact our relationship with Creation? What happens when we know better? Are we willing and able to do better?

This year Earth Day is April 22. As we engage in reflection and action this Earth Day, can we find the grace to listen and learn from what God has done? In doing so, might we make different choices about how we live? In doing so, might we better seek to safeguard the Integrity of God’s Creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth? What will we choose to do this Earth Day as communities of faith, as people of faith? How might this impact our choices throughout the year?

Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is a co-chair of SEJH and a co-chair of Justice League of Huron.