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Former ER Doc Attending to Planet’s Health: Matthew Sleeth and Blessed Earth

Update: Above is a collage of photos from the Nov 16, 2019 tree-planting at Veterans Memorial Park, Monterey—except above at lower right is a Nov 17 photo of City of Monterey’s bicycling Mayor Clyde Roberson and Dottie Roberson with Dr. Matthew Sleeth at solar-powered First Presbyterian Church of Monterey.
Below, Dr. Sleeth working Nov 16 with other visiting and local volunteers to plant trees at Veterans Park. Over 80 people gathered at First Presbyterian at 8:45 a.m. to hear Dr. Sleeth speak on Earth Stewardship. Next, volunteers went up to Veterans Park, where they were met by City of Monterey Urban Forester Justin Prouty and worked together to plant 65 live oak and Monterey pine trees.

The post below includes info on the Nov 16-17 events, plus more about the Earth Stewardship efforts of Dr. Matthew Sleeth.

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Youth and adults: November 16 and 17, 2019 in Monterey, meet visitor Matthew Sleeth, MD and participate in free activities with him, all open to the public. Details below. Among the activities is tree planting on November 16th. 

Why participate? Along with reducing fossil fuel consumption, planting trees is one of the most effective ways to act on climate!

“My message is for red or blue or green—the next generation is going to need a planet that’s livable.”—Matthew Sleeth in interview with Walter Ryce, Nov 14-20, 2019 Monterey County Weekly https://www.montereycountyweekly.com/people/face_to_face/

Photo of Matthew Sleeth, MD
provided courtesy of BlessedEarth.orgPhotographer: Jeff Rogers.
Solar-powered, bike-friendly First Presbyterian Church of Monterey is hosting this Monterey County visit by Dr. Sleeth, cofounder of Blessed Earth.

Saturday, Nov 16, 2019

Dr. Sleeth and members of the public, all ages*, will meet up with City of Monterey Urban Forester Justin Prouty to plant trees, rain or shine. Free, including picnic lunch.

*Children younger than age 14 are to be accompanied by their parent or guardian, a 4-H or Scout troop leader, or other responsible adult.
RSVPs are requested for Nov 16th so enough food and trees are available for all participants, and to help with carpool planning. The first 50 people to sign up will receive a Reforesting Monterey reusable metal water bottle. Please sign up ASAP—sign up no later than 1 p.m. on Fri, Nov 15th.
Sign up via the event’s Google form:
 http://fpcmonterey.org/reforest
If you prefer to sign up by phone, or have questions, please contact:
  • Contact through Nov 12th – Event organizer Ellen Tucker (831) 831-869-9596 / etucker@fpcmonterey.org
  • Contact Nov 13-15th – Community partner Mari Lynch (831) 375-6278
November 16th planned timeline (updated 11/8/19):
  • 8:45 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Arrive at First Presbyterian Church, enjoy complimentary coffee, muffins, etc.
  • 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Talk by Dr. Matthew Sleeth. (For any young children who prefer it, childcare is available during this half-hour, provided by FPC’s Linda Thompson.)
  • 9:45 a.m. Carpools depart for Veterans Memorial Park. (Or bike up the hill to Vets Park.) 
  • 10:00 a.m. City of Monterey Urban Forester Justin Prouty will tell us a bit about Monterey trees, then provide instructions and a demonstration on planting.
  • 10:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. Have fun planting trees!
  • 12 p.m. Dr. Sleeth will lead a “blessing of the trees.”
  • 12:15-1:00 p.m. Optional picnic and visiting. A simple sack lunch will be provided by FPC. (When you RSVP, indicate your choice of sandwich.)

Tips: Wear casual outdoor work clothes (e.g., sturdy shoes, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, hat), and sunscreen. Kindly note that any dogs in Veterans Park must be on a leash not exceeding six feet in length, subject to fine, per City ordinance.

Directions to the church: https://fpcmonterey.org/service-times-directions/. (Tips for those biking to the church are included in “Eco Wisdom of a Bike-Friendly Faith Community.” Bicycle parking is available near the entrance to the sanctuary and fellowship hall.)
Below the Monbiot/Thunberg video on the topic of how trees help reduce carbon emissions, learn more about Matthew Sleeth’s earth stewardship work—and about the Nov 17, 2019 opportunities to meet him in Monterey.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Dr. Matthew Sleeth will be the guest speaker at the regular morning services (public welcome) at First Presbyterian Church—9-10 a.m., and 11 a.m. – noon.
Dr. Sleeth also be on hand 10-11 a.m. for a question-and-answer session during FPC’s adult education class (public welcome). The Q&A will be facilitated by Dr. Chris Hasegawa and Ellen Tucker, FPC adult ed elder. 

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Spread the word about Nov 16, 2019 tree-planting in Monterey event by sharing a link to this post, which has the most detailed and updated info (https://bikemonterey.org/blessed-earth-cofounder-matthew-sleeth-in-monterey.html). Or share a link to any of the following sites’ announcements. (Thanks to each of them for sharing news of this event!) 

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Want to learn more about Matthew Sleeth? 

In the post below, first published April 10, 2010, learn why Bicycling Monterey’s founder organized an earlier Monterey County visit (April  2007) by Dr. Sleeth.

At the bottom of this post, see a few 2019 links about the work of Dr. Sleeth.

Pictured: Matthew Sleeth, MD, author of Serve God, Save the Planet was visiting Monterey in April 2007 to speak at the First Presbyterian Church when he took time out to hike up Jacks Peak Road with Rev. Dr. Jay Bartow and Bicycling Monterey’s founder.

The post below was first published April 10, 2010. 

Former ER Doc

Now Attending to Health of the Planet

The late Dot Prowell handed me a magazine one morning…

in the friendly manner of an elder who has learned to boldly follow inner promptings. I’m not even sure that Dot knew about the article in that little Guideposts magazine that would catch my attention. It was about a former emergency room physician and hospital chief of staff who made a radical career shift—and lifestyle change—after recognizing that many of his patients were ill and dying because of environmental toxins. He wanted to help reverse the trend by encouraging better care of the Earth.

As a result of that article, I contacted Interfaith Power and Light, a Religious Response to Global Warming. They were organizing a West Coast tour for this individual, Matthew Sleeth, MD. Sustainability book publisher Chelsea Green had just released Dr. Sleeth’s first book, Serve God, Save the Planet. I made arrangements to have Dr. Sleeth visit Monterey County, and the First Presbyterian Church, Monterey agreed to co-host his visit with me.

A conversation about the planet…“supersedes political or religious concerns.”

Kate Daniels, founder and executive editor of The Women’s International Perspective news site, http://www.TheWIP.net, picked up on the importance of Matthew Sleeth’s work at the time of that 2007 visit. The WIP’s headquarters are in Monterey, and Kate attended Matthew’s local presentation. After a lengthy interview with him, Kate Daniels wrote:

“There is something unique about Serve God, Save The Planet. The premise inspires unity among people whose beliefs wouldn’t ordinarily mix…Sleeth has framed a conversation in which both people of faith and scientists can participate. He has done something that neither politicians nor religious figures have been able to do—unify leaders from many faiths in a common dialog that supersedes other political or religious concerns.”

Matthew Sleeth’s personal call to action

As he traveled, his book Serve God, Save the Planet helped awaken Christians and others to the Biblical mandate to care for the earth.

As a medical doctor, Dr. Sleeth had heartbreaking experiences in the ER—including watching an eight-year-old girl die from asthma after simply playing in the sprinklers to cool down on a hot day— before deciding to commit himself to a different level of emergency care: caring for this planet. Troubled by women in their 30s dying of breast cancer and children dying of asthma, and cancer, Dr. Sleeth knew that behind many  serious illnesses and premature deaths was environmental pollution.

His priorities shifted. He had a spiritual reawakening and committed himself to deep theological study.  He came to understand, without any doubt, that there is a Biblical mandate to care for the earth. Thus began a radical career shift to a path of ministry, sharing with Christians what he had discovered and what had been overlooked by many up to now: Earth stewardship.

Matthew Sleeth and the nonprofit he and his family started, Blessed Earth, addressed the global environmental emergency by organizing the largest ever faith-based Earth Day event on Earth Day Eve 2010. Joining him and equally committed to this effort are his wife, Nancy Sleeth (author of Go Green, Save Green), and their daughter, Emma (author of a book for teens, It’s Easy Being Green). Their son, Clark, as a 20-year-old med school student, was part of the inspiration for my return to bicycling regularly for transportation—and to founding Bicycling Monterey in 2009.

The man behind the message

My initial appreciation for Matthew Sleeth was sealed when I met him in April 2007. He was in Monterey County to speak at First Presbyterian Church, Monterey. And he was visiting my home one afternoon when I asked if he would come along to my backyard, so I could put some clothes on my solar dryer. All my life, hanging laundry has been a favorite household task. And it’s a job Matthew shares my enjoyment of.  In fact, the first photo I saw of the Sleeths, back in that Guideposts magazine, showed them at their own clothesline.

I apologized that the grass in my backyard was nearly knee-high that day—yard work often takes backseat to higher priorities. But Matthew saw the beauty, and he noted that my large yard provided significant wildlife cover, as well as not using fuel-powered tools to wack it down!

My sense about Matthew’s priorities was also confirmed by his gratitude and pleasure in sharing a meal with my then-teenaged daughter and me in our small home here in rural Monterey County. We eat mostly organically grown, fresh, locally produced food in our house, so that in itself means there’s much to appreciate! And yet, because he was undoubtedly treated to some fine dining experiences by many hosts in more luxurious settings on this tour, I was touched by how genuinely he savored the simple pleasure of mealtime in our humble home, emphasizing—as he scooped up seconds—that it was the very best meal he’d had on the road.

On a hike the next day, Pastor Jay Bartow of Monterey’s First Presbyterian Church and I showed Matthew the beautiful vistas of the Monterey Bay from Jacks Peak. Weighty theological discussions with these two individuals, who are the most grounded in deep Biblical study of anyone I’ve talked with, could not outweigh the wonder of our world. The unanimous “aahhhs” as we took in our Monterey Bay shimmering below silenced all discussion.  Nature spoke even more meaningfully.

These are some memories of Matthew Sleeth that I have from his visit here in 2007, when I cohosted his visit with First Presbyterian Church of Monterey, where Jay is senior pastor.  

Journalists take note

Sleeth’s Monterey visit brought rapt attention from journalists, including Kate Daniels of The Women’s International Perspective news site (thewip.net), who reported to her worldwide readership that Sleeth’s spiritual commitment to Earth care, as presented in his book Serve God, Save the Planet, was “a winning combination”!

See http://www.thewip.net for their coverage of the Sleeths’ April 21, 2010 global simulcast. Kate Daniels also interviewed Nancy Sleeth (author of Go Green, Save Green) on the WIP’s radio show on 4/25/10; click here to listen.

Journalists also covering Matthew Sleeth’s Monterey visit were Walter Ryce of the Monterey County Weekly and Jerry Gervase of the Monterey County Herald.

Monterey native and cowboy rocker Mike Beck opened Matthew’s April 2007 talk at First Presbyterian Church with his solo acoustic music. Mike is usually more at home in concert halls and bars than churches, but his nods from where he stood at the back of the room during Sleeth’s talk made it clear Matthew’s earth stewardship message resonated with Mike too—a message many have not previously associated with evangelical Christians.

That is changing, thanks to the continuing dedication of Matthew Sleeth and other Christians who have fully awakened to the importance of what many refer to as Creation care. And to the Biblical mandates for it.

Kera Abraham’s question for Bill McKibben

Many people are unaware that widely renowned eco author Bill McKibben’s commitment to caring for the Earth is also rooted in Christianity. On April 6, 2010, Bill was interviewed by Monterey County Weekly associate editor Kera Abraham at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  In response to her question about what it would take for people to stop trying to say that global warming isn’t happening, McKibben answered: “It’ll just take the continued, powerful involvement of people who do care. Which is growing. Churches and synagogues are finally becoming active parts of the environmental movement. Including evangelical churches. That helps.”

Matthew Sleeth is one of those evangelical Christians who care and is powerfully involved—in fact, he is seen by most as the primary leader of the Christian earth stewardship movement. In spite of his growing renown, he is, nonetheless a Christian leader who embodies humility.

His book Serve God, Save the Planet (Chelsea Green and Zondervan, 2007), generated a lot of action in churches across the country—even down to small details, such as a commitment to reusable table linens and dishes by retired librarian Dorothy Becker for the ladies’ luncheons at First Presbyterian, Monterey.

Video short on how faith directs the Sleeths’ environmentalism

To see a short YouTube video of Matthew Sleeth’s perspective on how his faith directs his environmentalism, watch Blessed Earth: Serving God, Saving the Planet.

Related info on the Bicycling Monterey website

Downtown Salinas church asks: What would happen if we changed the ways we moved around?

Bike to worship–to church, mosque, satsang, synagogue, or other place of worship. For related information, see “Bicycling and ecotourism: Good earthkeeping right at home.”

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A few recent links regarding the work of Dr. Sleeth:

  1. “My message is for red or blue or green—the next generation is going to need a planet that’s livable.”—Matthew Sleeth in “Face to Face” interview by Walter Ryce in Nov 14-20, 2019 Monterey County Weekly.  https://www.montereycountyweekly.com/people/face_to_face/
  2. “Earth Day: The Christian case for embracing a hippie holiday” – April 22, 2019 Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/04/22/earth-day-christian-case-embracing-hippy-holiday/
  3. “When you say ‘I believe in climate change,’ it almost makes science sound like religion. Which one do you believe in? Matthew Sleeth has faith in both. [A former] emergency room physician and evangelical leader, he’s author of the book Reforesting Faith.” Hear a 17-min interview with Dr. Sleeth on Puget Sound, WA’s National Public Radio station KUOW (scroll down Bill Radke’s April 25, 2019 post): http://www.kuow.org/stories/driving-through-washington-on-poetic-roads
  4. [At 20:43] “Evangelical Christians in particular have kind of thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Our environmental mandate doesn’t come from Congress, it comes from the Lord; we’re supposed to take care of this planet.
    “It’s sheer orneriness that the translators have subtracted trees from Scripture….[and at 37:10:] It was disturbing to me that trees have been subtracted from Scripture, subtracted from our sermons, subtracted from the commentaries of Bibles. I have a 140-year-old Thomas Nelson King James Study Bible. It has 20 pages on trees in it. And the modern one has 0 pages, and has only 3 listings in the index. We have many modern Bibles that don’t even list a tree….I object to the monkeying with Scripture….If you’re going to start doing things like science, you probably ought to use the King James.” Excerpts from October 21, 2019 podcast interview of Matthew Sleeth by Annie F. Downs: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-178-dr-matthew-sleeth/id944925529?i=1000454278039
  5. Among Dr. Sleeth’s appearances at the Washington National Cathedral, on March 10, 2013, he delivered a sermon on “I Hug Trees for Jesus”; watch the video and read the transcript at http://cathedral.org/sermons/i-hug-trees-for-jesus/. On Earth Day / April 22, 2012, Dr. Sleeth delivered the message, “Are Christians blessing or cursing the Earth: A call to action” at the National Cathedral; read the transcript at http://cathedral.org/sermons/sermon-108/. [Formerly on the site but not currently located was a video of the 4/22/12 service, forum, and service highlights, with Dr. Sleeth’s message beginning at 30:20. Included in the video is iconic author and farmer Wendell Berry, who was interviewed by Sleeth on the need to preserve our planet; click here for forum video with Berry and Sleeth.] For more from Matthew Sleeth on the National Cathedral site, type the following in your browser:
    site:cathedral.org “matthew sleeth”

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This post was first published April 10, 2010 and has been partially updated.

This post was published on 11 October 2019. One or more changes was last made to this post on 5 December 2019.

  1. Judy Allen says:

    Excellent article, Mari! I want to reread it now.
    Thank you for being the catalyst. We are excited about his visit!

  2. Founder, Bicycling Monterey says:

    Me too, Judy—I want to reread Dr. Sleeth’s new book, and I’m very excited about his return visit to Monterey. I so appreciate 2019 organizer Ellen Tucker for making these Nov 16-17 activities possible.

    Also, thanks to you and your family for all you do for earth stewardship!

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