Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Christine V. Hides
The Rusty Patched Bumble Bees—Closer to home in Illinois
Friday, February 23, 2024

“Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”
Meister Eckhart

The Rusty Patched Bumble Bees

I read Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible so long ago I only recall snippets of the plot. One piece I do remember is Father’s realization that his garden is failing because the plants are foreign to the pollinators: “How would [an African bug] know what to do with a Kentucky Wonder bean?” When his daughter suggests they should have brought bees with them he says, “you can’t bring the bees. You might as well bring the whole world over here with you, and there’s not room for it.” Father learns through his fruitless garden that by God’s design specialized bugs evolved with plants specific to the region.

Each week in our Lenten devotional we have included a “Closer to home” animal. None is closer than the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee for whom Chicago marks the center of its habitat range. This means that what we do in our literal backyards can help these insects. The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is the first pollinator to be classified as federally endangered, according to the Peggy Notebart Museum.

Bumble bees are “super pollinators” because they produce strong enough vibrations to loosen stubborn pollen and shower it over nearby plants. Only the worker bees and males have the trademark rusty patch on their backs. Tomatoes are most often pollinated by bumble bees (not just the rusty patched ones). These and more fun facts about these important but little known bees can be found on the US Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Paying close attention to the tiny details of the world is worship, according to Rabbi Abraham Heschel who wrote, “Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God. Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement; get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually; to be spiritual is to be amazed.”

We need bees and bees need us. Starting in early April the queens will emerge and search for early flowering plants and shrubs. Later in the fall they will need unraked spaces in our yards to shelter. Limiting our use of pesticides will allow more of the summer workers to live and pollinate our gardens.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has sung hymns and sprinkled holy water over beehives for centuries. Let us join them in blessing the bees with this prayer from the Bee Monks of Holy Cross Monastery  located in Wayne, West Virginia—Appalachia:

O Master, Creator of the heavens and the earth and of all things, the little with the great, remember us who are thy creation as we are mindful of thy little creatures, the bees, in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Here are some ways to bless the bees and pollinators shared by Kenilworth Union Church children and adults:

Watch A Ghost in the Making about the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, Kathy E.

Plant indigenous plants, Cindi S.

Plant flowers that bees like, Rick G.

Use your camera to become a bee spotter with the University of Illinois

Join the Native Wildflower Walk with Christine Hides and the Green Team.

February 23, 2024

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