Mary Elizabeth MOORE: Ministering with the Earth St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1998. Pp. 226 + xiv. ISBN 0-8272-2323-4. $ 19.99
Reviewed by Philip BALLINGER, S.T.D., Gonzaga University, SPOKANE, WA 99258.

Words and concepts have not done justice to "the interrelatedness and mutual responsibility of all beings and all reality" (p. x), and while images and metaphors come closer to the mark, what is missing is a reflection on action, "the most neglected and trivialized root of justice, peace, and integrity of creation" (p. xi). Thus M.E. Moore prepares the reader for her reflection upon action for the sake of action, particularly action that projects a new vision of "ministering with the earth." Her medium for this reflection is the story, and her book is in the main a collection of stories of action as sources of wisdom. In this manner, Professor Moore hopes to create and convey an inspiring theological framework of sacrality. Therefore, the chapters of her book form around themes such as the sacredness of hopes, creation, community, diversity, and vocation.

This book defies the reduction of a summary review. As I read it, I was reminded of the work and concerns of authors and scientists such as Annie Dillard, Carl Sagan, and Rachel Carson (to whom the author refers). In short, M.E. Moore's work stresses how our physical and spiritual self are formed and completed by God's creative grace through our essential relatedness with the earth. Ministering with the earth refers to our closeness to the earth and our experiencing of its healing power as well as our concern for the earth in crisis and our acting for its healing. "Our long-term healing and the long-term healing of the earth will come as we awaken to the realities of our continuity with nonhuman nature..." (p. 15). Additionally, "concerns for the well-being of the earth are inextricably bound with economic and political justice in human communities" (p. 17).

This work is a practical and spiritual reflection upon the seamless garment that is our relationship to the earth, our concern for justice, and our work for peace. It is also a plea that our interrelatedness with the earth becomes the context for all our acts of ministry. The author writes that "all of ministry... has potential for reminding people of the holy ground on which we stand, the unprecedented crises facing our planet, and the opportunities in ordinary Christian life to minister with the earth" (p. 3). In short, the book is about recognizing that the 'Kingdom is in our midst', on this planet, in our place, and in our time.

M.E. Moore offers us a refreshingly personal book interwoven with 'stories' from various cultures and theologies. In it she moves between the autobiographical, the scientific, and the theological in order to inspire the reader to action that is ministry -- ministry 'to the earth' as well as 'ministry with the earth'. Pastors, religious educators, college ministers, and many others will find this book not only thought provoking but also action focused. In her many stories, Professor Moore shares a myriad of practical ideas involving community and 'outdoor' experiences that can transform both the participants and the earth of which they are part. In her sharing, we gain access to an experienced teacher's collection of scriptural reflections, anecdotes, poems, and history. Indeed, from a college intellectual we have received a book that is from the heart and for the hands.

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