Something awakened in me at this conference

09/18/09 by Staff Writer


Kathy Chaffin knew the minute she looked at the program on faith and the environment and at Matthew Sleeth’s book that the conference at the Center for the Environment would be a pivotal experience.

The forum last May on “Faith, Spirituality & Environmental Stewardship” and Sleeth’s book Serve God, Save the Planet propelled Chaffin headlong down a path where reverence for the land and the responsible use of creation are imperatives. Chaffin, a reporter at the Salisbury Post, grew up on a farm in Davie County. At one time in her life, she wrote children’s stories about the environment.

And now she’s on fire. Not only did she write four stories about the conference for the Post. She got permission to write six more after the event for the Faith Page of the newspaper. She is helping to spearhead a Green Team at her church, Hillsdale United Methodist in Davie County. She has dusted off the children’s stories and plans to write an environmental series for publication. And that’s not all.

But let’s back up for a minute. Other things have been going on in Chaffin’s life to amplify this call to influence others. Perhaps the greatest catalyst was surviving cancer after a long, hard period of chemotherapy last year. “I vowed after coming through all of it that no matter how long I lived, I would make a difference,” she says.

A pilgrimage to Amish country in April set the stage for the message she would hear at the Center’s forum. She went as a volunteer with a group of mentally disabled adults, people she calls “the pure ones.” They had lunch with an Amish family and sang hymns with these people whose lives embody environmental stewardship. “That trip made me reconnect with my farm roots and the joy of that simple life where it’s not all about consumerism,” she says.

Chaffin began doing inspirational speaking in 2001 after her father died. Now when she talks about lessons she has learned from having cancer, she adds, “Taking care of what God has created – the earth and all its inhabitants – is a sacred responsibility.”

She is planning what she currently calls Hope Factor Rallies that will get the message across in a fun setting. The first one will be at her church this fall. Her cousin Reba McInnis, who has turned her family’s acreage into a Heritage Farm where children can learn about the agricultural life, will offer a celebration of the simple life. “The message is the joy you get reconnecting to the earth,” Chaffin says.

Then they will have a fashion show that spotlights clothing from thrift stores. “We are planning a thrift fashion challenge, where we’ll see who can come up with the best outfit from a thrift shop,” she says. Then everyone will stride down the runway, modeling their creations.

The cancer. The trip to the Amish country. The Faith & Environment Conference. Matthew Sleeth’s book. “It’s like I was at a crossroads,” Chaffin says, “and between that trip and the conference and all the other things that have happened in my life, I think I’m taking a different direction. I’m not there yet, but things are starting to fall into place.”

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