Living the Questions of Christian Faith

Living the Questions of Christian Faith

Beginning Tuesday, February 8, 2022, at 7:30 pm

Facilitated by Rev. Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas, Pastor
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Jericho, Vermont 05465

Living the Questions of Christian Faith is a Bible Study based on the DVD series Living the Questions 2.0. In this series of classes, we will explore important topics of Christian faith and theology from the perspective of progressive Christians, not for the purpose of changing your theological point of view but to consider and discuss observations with which you may differ yet still appreciate as Christian. The format of each class will be to read the scripture, take a moment to meditate upon it, view the 20-minute video, and then offer your reflections. We will close in prayer. Each class stands independent of previous or future classes, so if you can’t attend one, join us at another. This will be an online Bible Study that you may access by contacting Rev. Thomas at and a Zoom login will be emailed to you on Tuesday.

The Spiritual Essence of Water and Relation Between Climate Change and Water

The Spiritual Essence of Water and Relation Between Climate Change and Water

The Spiritual Essence of Water and Relation Between Climate Change and Water

No one yet knows the true origins of water, but a story might be something like this: The Big Bang, a possible way through which God created the world, created hydrogen; stellar evolution reformulated this element into oxygen, the two combining into the H2O molecule. Then, in interstellar space, water and other substances over eons condensed and froze, coating planetesimals with ice, which may have collided with the planets, including Earth. In our solar system water is or was present in each of the Sun’s planets, with different fates. At least 60% of the adult human body is water.

We humans emerged over evolutionary time from being water beings.

But this is a scientific description of water, the elixir of life. Water is also spiritually significant in all the world’s traditions. In the Islamic tradition, the purity of water reflects the soul’s ability to purify itself in relation to God through prayer and meditation. In the Bible, the first sentence  in the first book, Genesis, states that God’s spirit (or wind) was moving over the face of the waters. We can perhaps sense this wind from over the waters when we stand at the lake shore or even here in the wondrously beautiful part of creation.

In the Hindu, Jewish, and Christian traditions water is seen as a purifying substance. The biblical understanding that the Earth should rest, be given a Sabbath, extends to water, too.

Japanese people sense that the soul recognizes itself when it beholds water, so Japanese will gaze for hours at a temple pond.

Jesus movingly says to the Samaritan woman at the well: “If you knew who was asking you for water, you would ask him for living water. The water that I will give will become…a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13)

St. Francis sprayed, “Praise be you, O Lord, for sister water, who is very useful, humble, precious, and chaste.”

Following St. Francis’ description, we may say that water is humble, in taking different on varied forms (ice, steam, running water, mist, snow). Water is useful in that as the origin of life. It  contains all possibilities and makes all things possible; 2/3 of planet is water so that Planet Earth should more rightly be named Water.  


Water is precious, too; only 3 % of Earth’s water is fresh, and much of that is frozen in ice. Water is chaste. Water reminds us that we live in a contained world, with boundaries; that the consequences of polluting water is always communal, because there is always someone or some community living downstream.

And water chaste, too, and vulnerable, as the effects of climate change are revealed in water, causing water to dry up, or host toxic algae blooms, to absorb pollutants, and lose its ability to be living water, naturally  home to myriad fish, crustaceans, and amphibians, and plant life. Lakes and streams become dead, and the sea has dead zones. Climate change kills coral reefs, which protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms, provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms, and are the source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for marine food chains.

The VT Humanities Council in 2021 provided excellent presentations on climate change. Bill McKibben said that each day carbon dioxide emissions create the heat equivalent to 500,000 atomic bomb explosions; we have melted most of the Sea Ice in the summer Arctic and changed the jet stream, which affects water and air temperatures, then affecting the migration and well-being of many species. Of 37 major aquifers, 11 are in retreat. Millions of species are going extinct, 1 mammal in 4. Between 2010-2070 global wildlife populations have been cut in half.

We are now citizens of a geologic age called the Anthropocene, in which humans have the greatest power over Earth’s functioning. But who are “we”? People who cause climate change are less affected than people who suffer; the 2020 hurricane Iota in Honduras caused 40% reduction in the measures of economic well-being, while barely affecting the US; yet we in the US are responsible for ¼ of the world’s emissions.

Environmental Justice issues often concern water. For example,

“Line 3 is a proposed pipeline expansion to bring nearly a million barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. It was proposed in 2014 by Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company responsible for the largest inland oil spill in the US. Enbridge seeks to build a new pipeline corridor through untouched wetlands and the treaty territory of Anishinaabe peoples, through the Mississippi River headwaters to the shore of Lake Superior.” (

Our situation regarding the many problems that face the human family is very difficult, perhaps dire. News article capture the sense of alarm and catastrophe: they are apocalyptic: “’We’re Losing the War on Climate Change’ (CNN),…’The Insect Apocalypse is Here’ (New York Times),…’Time to Panic’ (New York Times), “End of Civilization: Climate Change Apocalypse Could Start by 2050 If We don’t Act” (USA Today)” (Sarah Jaquette Ray, A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety, p. 80).

Disappointingly to those of us very concerned about climate change, sociologist Kari Norgaard writes, “More Americans can imagine the ‘end of the world,’ than can envision a switch from using fossil fuels or an economic order other than capitalism.” (A Field Guide,, p. 38).

What can be done?

Spiritual and faith communities can work with many other groups while lifting up a vision of abundant life for all, of collaboration, cooperation, resilience instead of exploitation, extraction, dominion and economic growth. To, as McKibben said, “meet the needs of all people within the needs of our living planet.”

Sarah Jaquette Ray, author of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet. She taught college students. She believed that in giving fact and figures such as I just did would galvanize her students; instead all of the knowledge depressed them, helped them to feel guilty and disempowered.

She decided there needed to be a different approach. Here are some of her thoughts:

It is very important for each person and group to discern the critical area of expertise or effectiveness, plan actions, which can be small or larger,

and also keep healthy and balanced to be in the struggle for healing in the long haul

 and to know about and support groups that offer solutions, so that one doesn’t feel alone.

Her chapters include “Get Schooled on the Role of Emotions in Climate Justice Work,” “Claim Your Calling and Scale Your Action,” “Be Less Right and More in Relation,” “Move Beyond Hope, Ditch Guilt, and Laugh More,” “Resist Burnout,” and “Feed What You Want to Grow.” .

Several of us at Ascension Lutheran Church in S. Burlington have been working with ECHO and All Souls and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to create the Sacred Waters Event at Shelburne Bay, on the second Saturday in September, in which 50 people participated this past year. The participants were so glad to be out on the lake, with time for meditation and silence, after an interfaith circle blessing, including a beginning blessing by Chief Don Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation, and to hear from scientists at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum about the Bay and the LaPlatte River, because the LaPlatte River watershed flowing into Shelburne Bay is a Class 1 Wetland, for example, with endangered freshwater mussels:

“Class I wetlands are exceptional or irreplaceable in their contribution to Vermont’s natural heritage.  They provide unmatched environmental functions and values and therefore merit the highest level of protection.”


We also produced the watershed stewardship manual after worshiping, studying, and advocating for clean water.

Are we kept spiritually sane and whole by joining people of all the ages in recognizing water as the supreme life essence, even reverencing it as not only foundational to physical but also spiritual existence? And in reverencing Earth, Planet Water, and the entire web of life? Keeping alive the understanding of interconnectedness, of sacredness in all things, and of a community acting together to heal and protect.   

When we heal water, when we heal Earth, we heal ourselves.

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wright

Ascension Lutheran Church, S. Burlington, VT

*Notes for presentations given at All Souls Interfaith Gathering and Congregation Ruach haMaqom in Fall, 2021.

Vermont Catholic Professionals January Meeting

Vermont Catholic Professionals January Meeting

“Perfection of the life or of the work?” will be the topic of the next keynote speaker at the Vermont Catholic Professionals networking meeting.

The speaker, Laurie Brands Gagne, is the retired director of the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.

Her presentation will be on Jan. 19.

The title comes from a poem by William Butler Yeats entitled “The Choice.”

“I’ll be talking about the importance of that choice and what it means to integrate one’s work-life with one’s whole life as a Christian,” said Gagne, of South Burlington, who worships with the St. Michael’s College community.

Gagne received her doctorate in systematic theology from the University of Notre Dame and taught religious studies for many years at Trinity College of Vermont. While at Trinity, she wrote The Uses of Darkness: Women’s Underworld Journeys Ancient and Modern, which was published by University of Notre Dame Press (2000) as well as a number of articles on philosopher/mystic Simone Weil and the spiritual journey.

When Trinity closed in 2001, she began a new phase of her career teaching “Peace and Justice” at St. Michael’s College.

Outside the classroom, Gagne was an activist, beginning a nationwide campaign on behalf of Congolese women in 2010 and helping to found the Vermont Ibutwa Initiative, a non-profit that assisted women who are survivors of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Now retired, she has edited a book on Simone Weil (“Love in the Void”), serves on Burlington’s Mater Christi School Board of Trustees and gives workshops for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative.

Continuing her activism, she served as a member of Meta Peace Team, an unarmed force for civilian protection, for a month in Palestine in 2018 and conducted a fact-finding trip to Ibutwa’s projects in South Kivu, DRC in 2019.

Among her awards, Gagne received from Trinity College in Burlington the Sister Katherine O’Donnell Outstanding Faculty Award (1988) and from St. Michael’s, the Vermont Campus Compact Award for Excellence in Community-Based Teaching (2012).

“I would advise Catholic professionals to take the time to share their faith with each other and how it might apply to their work. Without support, it is easy to let merely professional goals override the goals we all should be striving for, namely, wisdom and love,” Gagne said.

The purpose of Vermont Catholic Professionals — founded in 2018 — is to join Catholic men and women and others with shared values from the business and professional communities to encourage intellectual discussions, to foster professional and faith-based relationships and to inspire service and charity to the community in Vermont. Events take place quarterly with a professional development speaker that is relevant to the business and professional communities in Vermont.

For more information about Vermont Catholic Professionals and the location of the Jan. 19 event, go to

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 • 8 a.m.

Laurie Brands Gagne, retired director of the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.

Register at:

—Originally published in the Jan. 1-7, 2022, edition of The Inland See.



Happy New Year!
No matter how any of us feel about Covid (mask/no mask, vaccine/anti-vax), we should all be armed with facts and truth. We all need to hear both sides of the story and then stay informed.
The event described below has nationally known speakers coming here to Vermont.  
Truth seems very hard to find in this very politicized topic. I encourage you all to attend or to send someone you know to attend. We all need to hear different points of view and then decide for ourselves.
We owe it to ourselves and those we lead/influence to know all we can about this issue.
And finally, not judge others who have come to a different conclusion than us. There is already enough division in the Body of Christ.

JANUARY 14th & 15th
Vermont Covid Summit


Friday, Jan. 14th
CONVERSATIONS WITH FRONTLINE DOCTORS – Atty. Tom Renz & Pastor Christopher Thoma
Truth – Courage – Unassailable Evidence – Action Steps
Buffet Luncheon from 11:00 – 1:00
Learn more and purchase tickets
Saturday, Jan. 15th 
GLOBAL COVID SUMMIT – Join Physicians, Scientists, & Frontline Professionals to Discuss, Covid-19 Insights
Faith, Health, & Hope Global Covid Summit – VT
All-day Covid Summit 8:30 – 5:00
Learn more and purchase tickets
Christmas with the Chosen – The Messengers

Christmas with the Chosen – The Messengers

Saturday, Dec 11, 2021 @ 7pm
The Baptist Fellowship of Randolph

The Chosen has a new episode! To launch the Christmas season this December, The Chosen has created a special episode about the birth of Christ through the eyes of Mary and Joseph. You’ll also see an extraordinary lineup of musicians perform both new and classic Christmas songs from the set of The Chosen, including: Phil Wickham, For King & Country, Brandon Lake, Maverick City Music, Cain, Matt Maher, Bryan & Katie Torwalt, Jordan Feliz, We The Kingdom, The Bonner Family, Leanna Crawford, Dawson Hollow, and One Voice Choir.

This is the perfect opportunity to bring friends and family, including those who haven’t seen The Chosen, for a unique Christmas experience.

This is a FREE event, donations are welcomed!

Church must address the spiritual needs of the elderly

Church must address the spiritual needs of the elderly

Father Charles Davignon knows something about the spiritual needs of the elderly.

As a pastor, he ministered to parishioners of all ages, and now — a nonagenarian himself — he lives at Michaud Manor in Derby Line where he celebrates Sunday Mass and is available to residents who seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation or simply want to talk.

“Companionship is [the] number one” need older folks have, he said, whether they live at home or in an elder care facility like Michaud Manor, one of four such facilities run by Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.

Whether they need companionship on their spiritual journey or just the companionship of a friend, the Church can and must provide that, Father Davignon emphasized, saying Catholics must not overlook elders and must treat them with warmth and dignity.

Well known for his concern for people in need, Father Davignon stressed the need to treat seniors — and all people — with deep respect for their dignity as human beings. “We must maintain our respect for one another at whatever age or ability,” he said.

And care for the elderly is not only the job of bishops and priests, it must be the concern for all members of the Church. “The Church is the mystical Body of Christ; it’s not just ordained members.”

So what can the Church — the people of God — do to tend to its older members? Pay attention to them, because, as Father Davignon knows, what matters to them is how they are made to feel. Do they feel ignored? Do they feel welcomed? Do they feel abandoned? Do they feel uncomfortable going to Mass because they use a walker? Are there spiritual enrichment programs they can attend with the help of ride?

Connie Daigle, a resident of Michaud Manor who is a parishioner of St. Andre Bessette Parish in Troy, said elders need to feel connected to their church, “not lost in the shuffle.” Prayer groups and Bible studies can be important parts of their life, and if they can’t get there, it’s important for someone in the church to offer a ride to keep them involved.

Parish clergy and parishioners are essential visitors to help elderly members stay connected and have the opportunity for the sacraments and spiritual guidance. Parishes have extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to bring the Eucharist to those who are hospitalized or homebound; many parishes make books available to help everyone on their spiritual journey. Vermont Catholic Charities’ eldercare homes have priests who celebrate Mass regularly.

“The need is definitely there” to minister to the elderly, Daigle said. “We have a responsibility to respond to them,” Father Davignon added. “Our obligation to ‘honor our mothers and fathers’ does not disappear because they are in a different [life] situation.”

—Originally published in the Fall 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

2022 Prayer Service for Christian Unity

2022 Prayer Service for Christian Unity


The Vermont Ecumenical Council will sponsor a service commemorating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on Sunday Jan. 23, 2022 at 4:00 pm. The service will be online or “hybrid” – more information TBA. We want YOU to participate from what ever corner of VT you are from!  
This year’s theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship Him” – Matthew 2:2. The theme this year was selected and developed by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute in consultation with the Middle East Council of Churches, and originated from the churches in Lebanon.  
For over a hundred years the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute has sponsored the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the octave between the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter (January 18) and the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25). Each year Graymoor invites the church in a different part of the world to offer a theme for the celebration, along with Scriptural and liturgical resources that raise up the concerns of Christians in that part of the world in the context of the Gospel’s vision that all followers of Jesus Christ be one.

All Vermont Christian churches, organizations and ministries are invited to participate in the VECNCC’s service on January 23. For more information, please contact The Rev. Dr. Frederick Moser,