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Monterey Bay Aquarium.

CA - New Minister seeks to spread unity through Blue Theology

Reverend Daniel Paul arrived at First Christian Church of Huntsville in mid-November, after serving for 24 years at Christian Church of Pacific Grove, California. That church was only half a block from Monterey Bay and Stanford University’s Marine Biology Lab.

In 2006, Paul inspired his congregation to focus on ocean stewardship as their mission and has now been involved in the Blue Theology movement for 16 years.

Paul created the Bue Theology Task Force in 2008 after taking part in the Living Ocean Initiative, a multi-denominational gathering of faith, science and environmental leaders meant to build partnerships to address climate change. The initiative was organized by United Church of Christ Minister Deborah Streeter, who volunteered at Monterey Bay Aquarium, Point Lobos State Reserve and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Streeter was the first to coin the phrase “Blue Theology”, which describes the movement’s concept of creation care as a faith based practice. The program centers around learning and serving experiences that promote the conservation of marine wildlife and ecosystems. As an educational supplement, Paul recommends the book “In Deep Waters: Spiritual Care for Young People in Climate Crisis” by Rev. Talitha Aho of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California.

The Blue Theology Mission Station was built as a destination for spiritual pilgrimage that actively preserves marine habitats and inspires a connection with the environment. Sand dune restoration and long-term monitoring of sand crabs are part of the work, while kayaking, whale watching, and surfing lessons fully immerse participants in the beauty and challenges of preserving coastal areas.

When covid prohibited the operation of the Mission Station in Monterey Bay, Creation Justice Ministries and the National Council of Churches persuaded the group to expand the program to other locations. New outposts were created in Newport Beach, Calif., and Texas City, Texas.

The Blue Theology Mission Station at FCC Texas City is located on Galveston Bay, and partners with educational organizations that focus on marine biology. The Mission Stations are fully functional facilities with dorms, showers, and a kitchen to accommodate youth groups for summer camps.

The Texas City program features tours of Moody Gardens and the local recycling center.

Activities include beach cleanup, scientific data collection and weaving single use plastic bags into sleeping mats for the homeless. The facility is open to any church youth group and requires one adult supervisor for every ten minors who attend.

Paul hopes to inspire church youth groups in Walker County as well as biology students and professors from SHSU to visit the Texas City Outpost and take part in their service projects and learning opportunities.

Paul is still settling in and getting to know the congregation and community. He attended seminary at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California and has been a minister for 25 years. He first moved to California in 1984 to serve as a camp director at Wente Scout Reservation in Mendocino County and then Camp Royaneh in Sonoma County.

He relocated to serve as a youth director at FCC Sacramento and enjoyed the experience so much that he went to seminary to become a minister. FCC Huntsville is his second position as a senior minister. Paul’s previous experience visiting Texas led him to expect a completely different environment than what he found in Huntsville.

“I was not expecting the rolling hills and forests. It reminds me of Western Pennsylvania where I grew up.” said Paul. As an avid hiker and nature activist, he is looking forward to exploring the Huntsville State Park and Sam Houston National Forest. As a minister, he holds a deep reverence for the mission of the FCC and a great appreciation for the history of the FCC of Huntsville.

Joseph Addison Clark, and his brother Randolph Clark, who later founded Texas Christian University, started this congregation in January 1854. The forebears of FCC are the Disciples of Christ, founded in 1832, bringing together a number of religious groups that sought to restore first century Christianity.

“We have no doctrine,” said Paul. “We read the Bible seriously and are open and inclusive to all faiths and belief systems. The movement of the Disciples of Christ began with the goal of being an American Christian Church, where faith meets reason. Our church is a place where people can lovingly disagree.”

Paul’s personal belief system includes an appreciation of Buddhism and Native American philosophies. He has been a regular participant in sweat lodge ceremonies for the last 18 years. He is the co-emcee of an annual pow wow in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Miss B., an indigenous deejay from the Seneca Reservation Radio station.

Paul’s previous experience as a professional musician and songwriter of folk rock and hymnals has also influenced the way he connects music as a part of the religious experience. These dynamic components all speak to his view of church leadership and the FCC’s stance on freedom of religion.

“God has given people a mind,” said Paul. “We don’t develop people’s theology. We welcome both traditional and progressive people to take communion every Sunday. We promote ecumenical dialogue as a way to be cooperative and mutually respectful. We focus on what we have in common. We want to be a spiritual sanctuary for thinking Christians.”

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