[Episcopal Diocese of California] On Saturday, May 10, the Diocese of California held its first-ever Eco-Confirmation at St. Dorothy’s Rest in Camp Meeker, California. The confirmation took place with the annual Woods to Waves health camps fundraiser hike at St. Dorothy’s. Two people renewed their baptismal vows, one person was received into The Episcopal Church, and seven people were confirmed.
The Eco-Confirmation itself took place not in the chapel at St. Dorothy’s, but outside, with the gathered assembly surrounded by redwoods. The Eco-Confirmation service closely followed the Confirmation service from the Book of Common Prayer. California Bishop Marc Andrus presided. “The Earth’s story of itself is the sermon I think we needed to hear on this day, and in this place,” Andrus said during his brief remarks.
The Liturgy of the Word for the Eco-Confirmation was a local modification of the Cosmic Walk originally created by Sr. Miriam MacGillis. A large basin of water, sitting in the center of a spiral of red rope on the ground, was blessed before an abridged version of the history of the universe was read. The red rope emphasized the presence of the Holy Spirit for the occasion of confirmation.
The Prologue to John’s Gospel began the stations of the Cosmic Walk, and after the lesson from John, a reader shared the story of the Great Flaring Forth at the beginning of time. Other events noted in the history included the creation of stars, galaxies, and our sun; the formation of the Earth’s atmosphere; the appearance of redwoods; Jesus’ birth; and the founding of St. Dorothy’s Rest. At each station a walker poured water from the baptismal basin into bowls marking the passage of time between each event.
The red rope of the spiral also reminded the gathering that throughout all of history fire and heat have led to change, growth, and development, not all of which have been good or helpful. Bishop Andrus, who brainstormed the Eco-Confirmation concept, is an outspoken commentator on the role of humanity in global climate change and the need for an amendment of life of the whole human people to restore creation that has been commended to humanity’s care. Futhermore, he consistently asks if respondents will respect the dignity of the Earth as well as every human being when making or renewing the Baptismal Covenant.
The confirmations, receptions, and reaffirmations took place in the center of the spiral while those present for support sang the refrain “Veni Sancte Spiritus.” Confirmands, re-affirmers, and reception candidates were from St. James / Iglesia de Santiago, Oakland; St. Stephen’s, Orinda; Christ Church, Alameda; and Holy Trinity / La Santisima Trinidad, Richmond. The service was in Spanish and English, and those being presented represented racial and age diversity, one of the diocese’s marks of church vitality.
When all candidates had been confirmed, received, or reaffirmed their vows, the assembly exchanged signs of the peace of Christ, usually a handshake or hug, before praying the Lord’s Prayer. For a dismissal, those newly strengthened on their Christian journey joined the bishop in asperging — splashing with holy water — the rest of the congregation. Participants moved to the starting point of the Woods to Waves hike as they sang, “We are marching in the light of God.”
The focus on the baptismal water — with it at the center of the assembly, blessing it to begin liturgy, and having everyone splashed to remember their baptisms — emphasized that baptism is the source of all Christian ministry, including care for creation. The story of the universe in its almost 14 billion years of existence resonated deeply as the congregation was surrounded by large, towering redwoods.
Some from the Eco-Confirmation service participated with over 80 people in the Woods to Waves hike to raise money and awareness for health camps at St. Dorothy’s Rest. Hikers began at St. Dorothy’s and ended the 14-mile hike at Shell Beach. Over $20,000 was raised on Saturday, and donations are still being received and counted. Every summer, St. Dorothy’s provides two weeks of camps for children with cancer and children with organ transplants.
In the 113 years that St. Dorothy’s has been providing camps to critically ill children, no family has ever been charged a fee to attend. Camp St. Dorothy’s is fully funded by individual donations, outreach grants, and foundation grants. $1000 fully covers the cost for one child to attend Camp St. Dorothy’s. Further information is available here.