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Members of the Faith and Conservation Communities Come Together for Salmon

“Candlelight vigil offers vision for restoring
endangered salmon.” Photo credit: Photo
courtesy of Earth Ministry:

On October 17, Earth Ministry, Save Our Wild Salmon, Sierra Club, and the National Wildlife Federation hosted a candle light Vigil for Endangered Salmon at St. John United Lutheran Church in Seattle. Four leaders in the faith and tribal communities led prayers and offered reflections that address the growing common interest of faith-based and conservation communities to be stewards of the earth and to protect sustainability of the planet.

Nearly 150 people attended the Salmon Vigil to honor, celebrate, and pray for the threatened wild salmon of the Pacific Northwest. The event served as a powerful demonstration of the growing progress for salmon recovery among varied community groups living and working in Puget Sound, and was held to strengthen ties between conservation and faith communities.

Organizations hosting the event emphasized the need for new partnerships to affect meaningful social change, and to build new relationships that send a strong message to elected leaders about salmon and other environmental issues that are important to members of diverse communities.

“The fate of these magnificent fish is in our hands,” said LeeAnne Beres, Executive Director of Earth Ministry and moderator of the event. “Extinction stops with us. We know in our hearts that salmon are the defining creature of the Northwest. Their beauty, strength, miraculous lifecycle, and totemic presence in Pacific Northwest cultures across time, speak to us, and help define who we are as a people.”

Speakers at the event urged a focus on solutions, encouraging people from both the faith and conservation communities to engage in dialogue, discuss solutions, and work together to meet community needs as the Northwest commits to working to restore our endangered salmon runs.

Rev. Carol Jensen, Pastor of St. John United Lutheran, reminded participants of the event that there is an underlying moral obligation to prevent salmon from going extinct: “As people of faith who find a part of our own identity in the biblical story of creation, the moral imperative to preserve and protect the salmon in this place flows from our shared ‘creatureliness’ – from our being part of the extraordinarily diverse web of life on this planet.”

Elmer Crow, a Nez Perce Tribal Elder, shared stories of seeing salmon at Celilo Falls in his childhood, now underwater due to The Dalles Dam. He spoke passionately about how salmon have provided inspiration, nourishment, and support to the Nez Perce for centuries, and the immeasurable sense of loss his people have felt as salmon runs have declined precipitously.

Dr. Loretta Jancoski, retired Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, led the gathering on a meditation through the lifecycle of a salmon. She likened salmon to holy pilgrims, a sacred sign of a presence larger than ourselves, and exhorted those in attendance to work together to prevent salmon from disappearing from the “Book of Creation” forever.

Rev. Rich Lang, Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, spoke about consciousness raising and bold actions of justice. “We stand at a crossroads, in a stream, quite literally, alongside struggling salmon,” Lang said, “And restoring health to our rivers and abundance to our salmon will require that we change our behaviors and ways of doing business. Change is hard and will require us to move from a place of conflict and disagreement to one of trust and resolution.”

Following the reflections, those gathered participated in a candle lighting ceremony and a blessing of the waters through which Washington’s threatened salmon migrate, combining actual water from Redfish Lake, Snake River, the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers, Columbia River and Puget Sound. A sister event was held simultaneously in Boise, Idaho, to emphasize that salmon recovery is important to all residents of the Northwest.

-p. chambers, Shared Strategy for Puget Sound & Earth Ministry


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