Submitted by Brielle Ruiz and Peter Blaze Corcoran
This is the first entry in our new series entitled “TOGETHER—A Way Forward.” Participants from across the congregations will be writing reflections, missives, poems, benedictions, and more. We hope to introduce readers to a variety of faith and religious perspectives on our shared responsibility to the environment and what we can do to be better stewards of Earth. Our hope is to share our relationships with the natural world, our dedication to caring for creation, and the importance of protecting these beautiful islands we call home.
TOGETHER—A Way Forward is an island interfaith environmental initiative on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Our aim is to inspire people of faith and spirit to demonstrate leadership in responding to the global environmental crisis. TOGETHER began with two kindred speeches in 2018, one by Sandy Ehlers at a Captiva Chapel by the Sea Luminary Luncheon, another by Peter Blaze Corcoran at the African Union during United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week. With Reverend Ellen Sloan formerly of Saint Michael and All Angels and Chip Roach from the Board of Captiva Chapel by the Sea, the conversation began. TOGETHER has since grown to include participants from Bat Yam Temple of the Islands; Captiva Chapel by the Sea; First Church of Christ, Scientist; Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church; Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ; and the Unitarian Universalists of the Islands.
In 2020, all six congregations agreed to support a statement entitled “Care for Creation: A Call for Reflection and Action,” in which we affirm our shared belief that we have a spiritual and moral responsibility to protect our shared planetary home:
“TOGETHER—A Way Forward is an interfaith initiative on the Barrier Islands of Southwest Florida—and beyond. Our goal is to provide leadership and inspiration for the care of Earth, first locally, and then globally.
As active participants in organized spiritual communities, we represent a variety of religious faiths, yet we share common beliefs, that we, as people of faith, have an obligation to safeguard and steward the natural environment.
We acknowledge that Earth’s stewardship is a portion of our spiritual practices. We affirm that we are committed to encouraging the adoption of best practices on our properties, in our community, and to inspire all people to do the same.”
TOGETHER has collaborated with organizations including Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, Sanibel Sea School, and Florida Gulf Coast University.
Our projects have included an evening lecture with 2020 Shared Scholar Mary Evelyn Tucker, a Sanibel Causeway trash cleanup, a sustainability guide—and most notably, “Honoring Earth Together 2020: A Collection of Readings to Mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day,” which accompanied our socially distant in-spirit celebration of last year’s historic holiday.
TOGETHER will be sponsoring a three-day online workshop this March on “Active Hope in Difficult Times: Moving from Despair to Empowerment” and we are now discussing plans for Earth Day 2021.
TOGETHER is co-facilitated by Sandy Ehlers and Zeke McDonald of Captiva Chapel by the Sea. They are part of a Working Group which includes Jean Chandler, Peter Blaze Corcoran, Mike Miller, Bruce Neill, Chip Roach, Brielle Ruiz, and Ellen Sloan. For further information on this initiative or our upcoming events, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.