Creation care is, I hope, a familiar term and concept to EthicsDaily.com readers.
After all, caring for the environment has been a significant and regular focal point on our site via articles and video interviews, with several multipart series published over the past five years.
We even created TheGreenBible.org to make our resources more accessible in hopes that these would encourage environmental awareness and creation care efforts in local churches.
And yet, as our staff began planning our Earth Day 2018 series, we realized that a more practical column sharing ways to translate knowledge about creation care and environmental justice into concrete and practical action was needed.
To that end, I emailed several local church pastors asking them to share with me some ways that their churches have engaged in creation care.
I hope this will inspire others to adopt similar initiatives and adapt them to fit their context.
Jonathan Davis, pastor of Beale Memorial Baptist Church in Tappahannock, Virginia, explained that when stewardship is discussed, creation care, not just money and finances, is part of the conversation.
Other ways Beale Memorial seeks to be good stewards of creation include:
- Converting lighting to LED bulbs and fixtures as they need to be replaced, beginning with the higher traffic areas and working to eventually transition the entire church facility.
- Working to create a community garden “not only as an educational tool for the community and to contribute fresh produce to the local food pantry, but as a therapeutic resource for the local autistic community.”
- Drafting plans to make solar energy a part of the church’s power supply.
- Completing an energy stewardship audit this summer for the first time, using a model created by GreenFaith.org.
First Baptist Church of Mount Olive, North Carolina, led by Dennis Atwood (pastor) and Felicia Fox (minister of youth and children), practice creation care through two primary avenues: one more common, one quite unique.
The conventional avenue is recycling paper, plastic and cans, coupled with lessons focused on caring for God’s creation.
The distinctive avenue is leasing church-owned land to a renewable energy company for a solar farm.
This gave the congregation a new way to be good stewards of God’s creation and provided one of the first solar farms in the area.
Kyle Childress, pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, noted that “talking about caring for creation is a standard part of many of my sermons” and shared an extensive list of Austin Heights Baptist’s creation care efforts.
- Having an earth care ministry committee and holding a twice-a-year outdoor worship service “highlighting God’s creation and our role in stewardship.”
- Setting up booths focused on caring for creation at community Earth Day observances.
- Using washable dishes at church potlucks, reusable coffee mugs at fellowship times and serving communion in glass cups.
- Converting to ecofriendly light bulbs and using reusable air filters.
- Including creation care-focused inserts in worship bulletins.
- Establishing a gardening program in partnership with a local elementary school and supporting several community gardens.
- Recycling paper, metal and glass as a congregation and helping establish a volunteer-run glass recycling initiative with city officials.
- Conducting book studies focused on creation care and hosting movie nights (at the church and in partnership with a local university) to view and discuss films focused on environmental topics.
- Opposing the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline as well as welcoming young activists to worship and providing them with food, housing and other supports as they protested the pipeline.
Many of us speak (or write) often about caring for the world as a fulfillment of the divine mandate in Genesis 1-2.
Many of our congregations likely sing songs (from traditional hymns like “For the Beauty of the Earth” to more contemporary hymns like “For the Healing of the Nations”) celebrating God’s good creation with some regularity.
And yet, we also struggle with translating our knowledge and desire into action on a regular basis (both at home and at church) – sometimes due to resistance, but often, I would guess, because we’re just not sure where to start and what we can do consistently to make a difference.
I hope these examples spur us to action by providing tangible ways to engage in creation care and by provoking discussion and ideas for other initiatives tailored to local church contexts and communities.
Christian recording artist Matt Redman released a song in the late 1990s that seems to reflect where many goodwill Christians and churches are when it comes to creation care: “Many are the words we speak. / Many are the songs we sing. / Many kinds of offerings. But now to live the life.”
We’ve spoken plenty. We’ve sung enthusiastically. Now to live the life.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series focused on creation care for Earth Day 2018. The previous articles in the series are:
How Martin Luther King’s Death Birthed Environmental Justice by Aaron D. Weaver
How Churches Can Turn Around Our Environmental Woes by Chuck Summers
Why Our Worship Must Focus More on Creation Care by Helle Liht