Rev. Dele Reflects on the Christian Connections in Health Conference

Dele Johns Hopkins

Rev Dele, Soil & Souls

REMARKS during and REFLECTIONS from Climate Justice Panel    

July 15, 2017

Christian Connections in Health Conference
at John Hopkins University, Baltimore MD

Ishe Oluwa is a Nigerian song that means what God has created can never be destroyed.

My work blends inner and outer resilience. Inner resilience draws on theology and practices of nature based awareness. Outer resilience draws on theology and practices of communal self sufficiency. I understand that “the environment” is governed by human principles, that Creation is governed by God’s principles; and that these two sets of principles are worlds apart.

Biblical Entry into Climate Justice Work –

In Genesis 2:9 we find a template for bio-diversity. Trees that are beautiful to look at and trees that are good for food are grown together along with the vines, bushes, herbs that make for a mature 7 layer forest system. In permaculture terms, we call that a food forest. This system is mature because it behaves like a forest, needing no fertilizing or irrigation.

In Morocco today there exists a 2000 year old food forest that feeds 800 families. A food system that operates on God’s principles of self regeneration and abundance is a solution to climate change. Soil scientists have done the math and proven that if we change only 1% of our land use globally, Mother Nature will de-escalate climate change just as quickly as it is escalating now. Think of tithing a portion of your land back to God’s original design.

Soil scientists have done the math and proven that if we change only 1% of our global land use, Mother Nature will de-escalate climate change just as quickly as it is escalating now. Think of this climate justice action: Tithe a portion of your land use back to God’s original design. Even if you only have a postage stamp sized yard it will make a difference. This is totally in your hands. You do not have to pass any laws, no marches. Maybe we will have a faith based campaign to redeem the 70 million acres of lawn in the United States that are totally out of alignment with God’s original design.

Just as we find a template in Genesis 2:9 in Genesis 2:15 we find a mandate. The mandate of La’avad and Lishmor is a mandate to care for earth so she can care for you. La’avad is the Hebrew word for to serve. It is the same word Joshua used when he said “as for me in my house we shall serve the Lord”. We serve the Lord with love and likewise to serve Earth we must love her, and to love her we must know her. Remember that what you do to the soil you do to your soul.

Lishmor means preserve. We must learn the principles of abundance so we can preserve the abundance God put in place. The respect we put in our land and food system, reproduces itself throughout every work sphere. When we obey God’s first commandment, we use a heart centered not a financial centered approach to land management. Ethical land use means we must create a sustainable aesthetic. We must re-teach ourselves to like the way native plants look when they are in harmony with the soil, insects and birds and other relationships God put them in. Just like water aquifers were created with a 1000 year life span, these plant, insect, bird relationships were also intended to last that long. The exotic plants we love so much have been torn out of these 1000 year relationships so that essentially we have created foster children which require a very high level of extra care. Conversely, when our lawns reproduce God’s design of a food forest appropriate to the ecosystem we live in, our neighborhoods will have beauty, ample clean water, abundant food and social peace.

Continuum of Climate Work – Biodiversity is a template for cultural diversity. We must respect the diverse ways people enter into justice work. Justice more than one tactic, justice is a principle meant to redeem us from greed. Any time we are reallocating resources we are doing justice work.

The air scientists can explain the problem very well and have crafted a national climate narrative based on energy advocacy. The soil scientists have the solution: Keep the oil in the soil and the coal in the hole.

Just as there is an air to earth continuum, there is a linear to circular continuum. Linear to circular also tends to follow the gender line of masculine to feminine language, process and leadership. When we do not make room at the table for circular processes or feminine ways of knowing and communicating, we again silence the voice of Mother Earth, because the earth is round and most patterns have some circular element in them. The environmental movement has been a male dominated movement and one climate justice concern is to allow the voice and narrative of global women to rise and become part of national and international narratives and campaigns.

Climate justice can include transferring resilience knowledge from academies of privilege to under-served communities. Justice means opening up financial access to neighborhoods that desire renewable energy. Justice means easy access and affordable prices for healthy food. There is a continuum of activities of which national campaigns, marching and advocacy is only one small part. Churches could provide the very valuable work of helping all of us to synthesize our spiritual being with all other elements of the work environments we have created—if we only would.

Joseph in Genesis 41:34-36 creates a practical climate justice plan for a coming famine. Every year he takes 20% of the surplus and stores it equally in every city so there is local sovereignty and fair distribution. Planning an equitable food system is climate justice work. The reason it is so important for the church voice to be heard is because it was the church voice of dominion theology that created the oppression of planet and people that led to the crises we are in. It will take a stronger equitable theology to propel our climate justice work so we can avoid the existential threat climate change presents.

Noah created a vehicle to move humans through climate change unharmed. Notice that Noah was not fighting climate change. His only struggle was to stay focused on the very precise instructions he was given. His vehicle was larger and more inclusive than all previous vehicles had been. We also need new more inclusive vehicles to move through our climate changes. We need economic vehicles and educational vehicles and new church vehicles.

My work with Soil & Souls is one of those new church vehicles. It is a land based solution based on 4 years of field research and pilot studies. It is a vehicle that reimagines leadership for faith based domestic mission. First we engage the Old Testament wisdom tradition which was traditionally multi-cultural. This wisdom tradition gave birth to the more narrowly defined Christian mystic tradition we operate within. Soil & Souls intentionally engages disciplines outside of the faith realm to create competence to build resilience hubs. Faith communities do not have time to become practical experts so we must become expert in embracing interfaith working groups. Soil & Souls leadership retreats team up faith leaders with food producers and environmentalists. We teach ethical land use principles and personal practices to Community Eco Mission leaders who then train local congregations how to re-open the “mission room” so that a “gospel of the garden” can be shared with their surrounding neighbors.

Work Sample- This 6 minute Eco Assessment Ensures that people working ‘on the environment ‘ have a relationship ‘with Earth’. A conscious Earth connection balances mental and emotional health and increases your impact in your community. This exercise raises awareness and puts you on a conscious path to address your work wholistically. The eco assessment sets a baseline of awareness balance. You can then use this baseline to guide your nurturance of people or planet relationships—whichever needs the most work at the time. Nature was designed to mitigate human induced fear and trauma; and this assessment helps you access and refine your praxis for emotional and mental balance. Please enjoy!



Rev. Dele is a grandmother, theologian, and Climate Reality Leader who uses her skills as a permaculturist and contemplative to assist churches train the next generation of mission leaders in faith, ecology and policy. Dele’s B.A. is from University of California-Riverside and M.Div. from Howard University School of Divinity. She serves in the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ and maintains Baptist affiliations in Virginia. Contact: