Canton Pastor Preaches Environmentalism in Church, Capital
A Canton pastor talks about the environment over the years. Posted by Adam Bednar (Editor), July 6, 2013 at 04:00 pm
Most Sundays, just blocks from the Baltimoreans who are walking dogs and boarding water taxis, the Rev. Lee Hudson is at the pulpit preaching about the environment.
"I do a fair amount of reminding people that the goodness we care about is given as a goodness of creation," he said.
Hudson talks about the environment in his Messiah Lutheran Church in Canton. He talks about the environment before committees in Annapolis. He talks about the environment during Canton park cleanups. He has talked so much about the environment that two of his sons are dedicated to the movement, too.
He calls it "care for creation" and sees it as part of his mission as a pastor.
From the front of the 123-year-old granite church, Hudson can look down the hill and see the Canton waterfront—which 10 years ago was flooded by Tropical Storm Isabel.
And severe weather hit even closer to home: The church sustained $25,000 worth of damage in the snowstorms of 2010—a sum that nearly put the church out of business.
Though Messiah had insurance coverage with Church Mutual—an organization that specifically insures religious institutions—the cost of repairing the church, after the insurance money, was still $15,000.
"At that point in our existence, that was a real stretch," Hudson said.
Sitting in a wood-paneled office and surrounded by theological books, Hudson, 65, said the roof crisis made the issues of climate change real to many of his congregation.
"People didn’t say, 'Oh, climate change is affecting the existence of the institution,'" Hudson said. "But as a practical matter it kind of did."
People in the church’s neighborhood know Hudson’s commitment to the community. Steve Vas, the manager of John’s Carry Out, next door to the church, said that Hudson is often organizing events around town.
"He’s always cleaning up in the park and around the area," Vas said.
Born and raised in Virginia, Hudson lives near Patterson Park with his wife, Gail, and his family. When he moved to Baltimore in 1983 with a graduate degree from New York’s Union Theological Seminary, he was immediately greeted with a winter welcome: one of the largest snowstorms Charm City had ever seen.
The much larger 2010 storm, which wreaked havoc throughout the Mid-Atlantic, caused significant damage to Messiah, as heavy snow tore off the building’s snow rail and guttering.
Hudson knew he was not alone in his insurance woes. He had heard that many insurers were telling people along the bay for years after Tropical Storm Isabel struck that they would not be covered.
And he was able to advocate for these people and for protecting the Earth as a state environmental representative for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
Hudson’s denomination has always had strong environmental views, with a history of strong public positions called social statements.
In 1993, when much public focus on the environment dealt with pollution, the denomination issued a statement that tied greenhouse gases, climate change and sea-level rise in with pollutants.
Church representatives in Washington and at the United Nations made the denomination’s position clear there.
But the church decided to expand its efforts to state legislatures. And for 12 years, Hudson doubled as an O’Donnell Street pastor and director of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy on State Circle in Annapolis.
House of Delegates documents give a look into Hudson’s work on public policy.
In a letter written on Feb. 12, 2008, to support the use of renewable resources in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Hudson wrote, “Our faith community is committed to care for created goodness through good stewardship of its blessings and benefits. Sufficiency, not exploitation, remains a standard we advocate for both production and consumption.”
He has passed the concept of “care for creation” onto his three sons and daughter.
Drew Hudson, 33, is now the director of Environmental Action, an environmental activism group in Boston. He said his father’s emphasis on stewardship and care of creation has colored his dealing on the environment.
"Even if I’m not using those terms, that’s my upbringing and that’s where I came from," Drew Hudson said. "I use that as part of telling people who I am."
Even Michael Hudson, the pastor’s 17-year-old youngest son, has taken to studying bird species decline while at City College. He’s also starting a letter-writing campaign to state and federal lawmakers on protecting the American subspecies of the migratory red knot—while he’s not busy serving as secretary of the Church Council.
"Part of the commitment is that it’s what I’m passionate about, but another part is care of creation," Michael Hudson said. "What we have isn’t just there. We have to care for it."
The elder Hudson said the church has lost members as the congregation has aged and the surrounding area has become a “cool” neighborhood for younger people.
The church stays afloat by staying lean in all aspects, including its purchase of electricity, which comes from Groundswell, a non-profit community energy supplier that emphasizes “a more just and clean economy,” according to its website—yet another way Messiah and Hudson are helping their community and the Earth.
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