The Turtle Island Project: Centering prayer, jubilation, fighting for the environment, and clergy standing up for social change were all part of ecumenical retreat in northern Michigan
(Munising, Michigan) - A Chicago theology professor told northern Michigan clergy, church leaders, and the public “we live in a kyros moment” involving the environment and other social issues during a recent ecumenical retreat sponsored by the Turtle Island Project in Munising.
“We as human beings have not been good stewards of creation,” said Rev. Dr. George Cairns, co-founder and board chair of the Turtle Island Project (TIP). “Native American peoples are the best living teachers of how to respect the environment.”
The environment and the gifts of nature “are not something to simply be consumed,” said Rev. Cairns, research professor theology for the Chicago Theological Seminary and an ordained United Church of Christ minister.
“The children of a generation or two from now are going to face a very very difficult time,” said Cairns of Chesterton, Indiana.
The TIP project promotes respect for the environment and Earth-based cultures like Native Americans, Celts and others.
The TIP plans including national conferences and Native American roundtables providing a platform for American Indians to speak out on issues of concern to themselves or tribes without interference from whites.
Quoting internet research by several environment groups, Cairns said nearly 15,600 species are threatened with extinction and over the past 500 years humans have forced 844 species into extinction with the exception of a few from some of those groups who remain alive only in zoos, preserves and other manmade facilities.
Cairns noted several 2007 United Nations reports stating that almost one-third of the world's species of animals and plants are expected to be at risk of extinction by climate change within 50 years.
The U.N. studies were reported widely in Europe but received little attention in the U.S. news media. The TIP encourages clergy to become beacons for social change by speaking out about civil rights, environment and other issues.
"The Inconvenient Truth is good news compared to what I read on species extinction," warned Cairns, referring to the controversial global warming film by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore who shared a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“It's not that people are evil necessarily - it’s just that there are a lot of us and we are pushing for places to live,” Cairns said.
One person attending the conference noted that the environmental problem is heightened by the fact people are living longer due to new drugs and better healthcare.
Cairns said it can be disheartening for the average person who wants to respect nature but witnesses some countries and corporations causing more pollution in a minute than a human can prevent in a lifetime.
“They are building new coal-fired power plants in China every week,” Cairns said.
“What’s going on are there are really huge corporations who are trying to hoist off the environmental responsibility to individuals,” Cairns said.
“We need to treat the Earth like we would treat a beloved spouse or friend,” Cairns said.
An event of the TIP's Grand Island Grand Island Conference and Retreat Program, "Quest for Harmony: The Contemplation of Nature in the Christian Tradition" was held on Friday, November 9, 2007 at Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising.
Cairns demonstrated “centering prayer” that is a method of silent and contemplative prayer.
Clearing the mind of extraneous thought and choosing a word to help focus thoughts are among ways to silently pray for twenty minutes two times daily.
“There is no wrong way to do centering prayer,” said Cairns, who learned the art from Father Thomas Keating, one of three Trappist monks considered to be the founders of the technique.
“Centering prayer helps us develop a deeper intimacy with God,” Cairns said. “We open ourselves to God’s movement within.”
Centering prayer creates a “little more compassion and kindness” Cairns' said.
All the world’s religions have some form of silent prayer, Cairns said.
The daily silent prayer, Cairns said, enables him to better face the evil in the world and to strive for social change with a clear mind.
“We can’t do this (fight evil) with just our brains,” Cairns said. “It allows one to engage more fully - we are re-empowered for engagement.”
The calming of entering prayer allows people to become a “full human being” and be “more efficient and effective in our lives,” Cairns said. “You free yourself from blinders. It reveals the dark spaces in the heart that restricts what you are doing.”
TIP co-founder and director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard said centering prayer revitalizes “individuals like us who spend so much time in our rational brains.”
“You retreat to recharge your batteries to fight another day,” said Hubbard, pastor of Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising.
Those attending retreat were introduced to “jubilation” a former of chanted prayer or singing that creates unique sounds. During jubilation, people create music through emitting more than one sound or pitch at the same time using a form of humming.
A group of people performing jubilation sometimes creates sounds that no one individual has made because the sound waves collide with each other and the objects in the room, Cairns said.
Stories on U.N. reports prepared by about 400 of the world’s scientists on global environment, global warming, and other issues since June 2007:
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN):
Inconvenient Truth & Al Gore official websites:
Pledge to help:
Summary of Turtle Island Project websites & TV (video) sites:
TIP Sacred Places website - Upload your own Sacred Place:
Turtle Island TV - Video sites:
(All have Skype online video calling)
Co-founder/Director Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard:
Pastor of Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising, Michigan; does spiritual work on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota
Co-founder/President of the Board Rev. Dr. George Cairns:
Research Professor of Practical Theology and Spirituality at Chicago Theological Seminary; ordained minister in the United Church of Christ
Volunteer Media Advisor Greg Peterson:
Turtle Island Project
Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard
PO Box 360
The non-profit Turtle Island Project (TIP) in northern Michigan promotes respect for the environment and Native Americans.
The project was founded in July 2007 and battles exploitation of the environment, racism, and religious imperialism.
The TIP tackles numerous environment and social issues including learning to protect the planet from Earth-based cultures.
Founders are Rev. Dr. Lynn Hubbard., the pastor of Eden on the Bay Lutheran Church in Munising, Michigan who has worked extensively with the Lakota tribe in South Dakota; and Rev. Dr. George Cairns, United Church of Christ minister, an expert in Celtic spirituality and a research professor of Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary.