By Sarah Locke
Ministry has gotten more difficult in many different ways over the past year, but as a homebody there is one thing in particular that I have loved: online meetings. Give me a video staff meeting or council meeting any day of the week before making me trek back across the city to my church building! It is also one of the many ways congregations are being more eco-conscious during this time, whether they intend to or not.
It is hard to predict the impact of this pandemic on the environment; in some areas like air pollution, scientists are hopeful and in others like tree use, they are more pessimistic. But in this time, when we have been evaluating the hows and whys of almost every aspect of ministry, it is a great time to evaluate our impact on God’s creation.
I have been a member of the board of directors for Lutherans Restoring Creation for over two years now, and I have seen congregations adapt, innovate, and commit to a creation-care theology that will help sustain not only this church but all of creation. Some of these acts have been as simple as committing to online meetings when possible to reduce the congregation’s carbon footprint, to entire mission-start congregations adopting creation-care as a core value in the life of the church. Whatever a congregation’s starting place, there are countless ways to commit to this stewardship over the next years and make a huge impact on the surrounding community.
There are so many resources available for individuals who want to be more eco-conscious, from blogs to Instagram influencers. But how does an entire congregation start this conversation and take the next steps?
Here is what I love most about Lutherans Restoring Creation: we are a grassroots organization that promotes and enables congregations to do this work together. While LRC is Lutheran specific, the steps and resources toward a creation-care theology can look similar across denominations. This will guide you through our process, so that you apply it to your own context. Depending on how your congregation currently understands eco-theology, it can take a variety of paths, but generally we walk congregations through these steps:
- Affirm: Read, review, and study the ELCA’s 1993 social statement and understand what it means to live into our calling as stewards of God’s creation. Propose the importance of this call to your council or governing body and ask for them to commit to a covenant with creation for the congregation.
- Sign and submit the Covenant with Creation to get connected with our accountability and celebration teams.
- Gather a Green Team, or Creation Care Action Team, in your congregation to begin brainstorming and innovating about your action plan.
- Create an Action Plan for different areas of your congregational life: worship, education, building and grounds, discipleship, and public witness and advocacy.
- Find out who is already doing this work in your area and get in touch, swap resources, and share success stories! You can also listen, share and connect with people all over the country in the monthly Connections Call.
Whether your congregation is looking to fully commit to creation-care theology, or you have a group willing to dip their toes into this work, it is important that we lift one another up. Even the smallest changes (like using ceramic mugs instead of styrofoam for fellowship hour) can turn a community’s attention toward our call to be faithful stewards to God’s creation.
For more resources about your specific denomination’s creation-care work, you can visit these websites:
About the Author
Sarah Locke is ordained in the ELCA, currently serves as an Episocpal priest, and is the campus pastor for an ecumenical campus ministry in Jacksonville, Florida. Her life is about as complicated as that sounds, but she finds hope in her students and the creation-care work of faithful leaders.