How should clergy respond to natural disasters?

Photo credit:  Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies Space Science and Engineering Center  /  University of Wisconsin-Madison

Photo credit: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies
Space Science and Engineering Center / University of Wisconsin-Madison

The recent death and destruction in the Philippines as a result of Super Typhoon Haiyan presents a challenge for pastors in responding to natural disasters. Professor David Lose of Luther Seminary writes about how lament, a significant category of Scripture, can provide an avenue of response:

Ecumenical Roundtable 2013

Smiles all around last April at the 2013 Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology, and the Church (ERT) convened at Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey.  This annual meeting brings together scientists and theologians who participate in faith/science dialogues within a number of major denominations.  Presbyterians (PCUSA) hosted the ERT in 2013, with attending groups including Episcopalians, Lutherans (ELCA), Methodists, and United Church of Christ members.

The ERT provides a rare opportunity for face-to-face planning sessions within each denominational group.  As an example, the Lutheran Alliance used the time to plan for additions to our website, discuss future contributions to our on-line publication <i>Covalence</i>, and finalize a fund-raising effort.  In addition the ERT devotes much of the meeting time to joint sessions with all denominational groups in attendance.  These sessions include worship, thematic presentations, and critical communication between groups regarding past, current, and future plans − not the least of which is learning what works in congregational settings and what does not!

Next May, the Episcopalians will be hosting the 2014 ERT at their retreat center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Besides beautiful views of the Wasatch Mountains, we look forward to seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and – most importantly – getting down to some detailed planning to bring Christian faith to a scientific world and science to a faithful body of Christ.

2013 Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology, and the Church

Viewing the Earth from Space: Photographs that Changed Our Lives

Earthrise in color

This iconic image from December 24, 1968 shows the rising Earth seen by astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr. and William Anders of Apollo 8 as they came from behind the Moon after their fourth orbit ( The proper perspective of the picture from the astronaut’s viewpoint is with the surface of the Moon at the right edge of the frame (see, but NASA rotated the picture 90 degrees before publication.

The picture was published widely in most major newspapers and magazines within two weeks of its publication by NASA. In Life’s 100 Photographs that Changed the World, wilderness photographer Galen Rowell called it “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”

In 1948, British astronomer Fred Holye said “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available, we shall, in an emotional sense, acquire an additional dimension…Once let the shire isolation of the Earth become plain to every man, whatever his nationality or creed, and a new idea s powerful as any in history will be let loose.” (Quoted in Vicky Goldberg, The Power of Photography, How Photographs Changed Our Lives (New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 1991, p. 52.)

Earthise B&WHowever, this color image wasn’t the first view of Earthrise taken from lunar orbit. On August 23, 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first picture, in black and white. The purpose of the Lunar Orbiter missions in the 1960s was to scout out Apollo landing sites. Life magazine published this photo in its September 9, 1996 issue (story at The image quality reflects the technology of its day, with heavy striping and blurry edges. This image, along with many others, has been restored using digital technology.

The mission of the Lunar Orbiter Recovery Project (LOIRP) project at NASA Ames Research Center is to digitize the original (analog) data tapes from the five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft that were sent to the Moon in 1966 and 1967. The program is funded by NASA, SkyCorp Inc, SpaceRef Interactive, Inc., and private individuals.

The program obtained the last surviving set of analog tapes from the Lunar Orbiter 1 mission and, using both 1960s analog data playback machines and electronic technology, was able to restore and reprocess the data. (see and for detail.)

The LOIRP web site is

Earthrise old & newOn June 18, 2009, NASA launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite missions to the moon. The LRO ( is a robotic spacecraft that is mapping the Moon’s surface. In April 2012, NASA released a visualization on YouTube depicting the taking of the famous 1968 Earthrise picture, using detailed LRO data to map the location. The video narration is the original audio recording of the Apollo 8 astronauts. The visualization may be viewed at

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

John 1:1-6; 14

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