“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Psa. 24:1) a congregation declares in its worship service.
In recognition of Earth Day on April 22, this issue of the magazine carries the feature, “Avoiding an environmental shipwreck” by Tim Wiebe-Neufeld. As part of Mennonite Church Canada’s new Sustainability Leadership Group, Wiebe-Neufeld is encouraging congregations to continue taking steps in creation care.
How are Mennonite congregations caring for God’s creation? How might we expand our witness and influence? There are at least three areas:
Congregational worship, study and conversations around the climate crisis and stewardship of the earth. We can shape worship and education around this topic and involve people of all ages in the conversation. We can learn what individuals in our congregation are doing in their own households and spheres of influence and we can encourage each other. Check out the worship and education resources at Mennonite Creation Care Network, where you can also download a Greener Congregation Score Sheet to evaluate how your church is doing in its creation care. An event scheduled for later this year is the Rooted and Grounded conference, organized by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. This hybrid event will happen Oct. 14 to 16 and will include worship, theology, biblical study and praxis around land discipleship. (See more information at bit.ly/3tRdnVp.)
Practical actions in congregational life to reduce our carbon footprint. As we’re considering the post-pandemic reality—when churches are once more allowed to occupy their buildings—let’s consider changes we might make in our congregational life. What if we carried the practice of video meetings into some of the committee work? What if we did more car-pooling, cycling, walking, and use of public transport to get to church events? What if we turned down the heat and wore sweaters in church during the winter and opened the windows in the summer instead of using air conditioning? What if we composted food scraps from the church kitchen? What if part of the church property were used for community gardens? What if we installed motion-sensor lights in public areas of the church? What if there were charging stations for electric cars, on church property?
We at CM would love to hear how your church is putting new creation care ideas put into practice.
Joining with others to call for changes in policies and practices that harm the earth. Whether through local advocacy groups, national or international groups, we can join our voices with others in our communities who share our concerns. Comments made by Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner, are striking. Speaking to a reporter in March 2019, she said she had seen very little coming from faith communities about environmental issues in the province. Saxe thinks that religious communities can—and should—influence key decisions around the environment. “Faith leaders are in an ideal position to take action because they explicitly occupy a moral and spiritual ground, which the members of their community tend to share with them,” she said. Calling this kind of advocacy a “moral opportunity,” she challenged, “if religious communities won’t stand up to help steer the moral discourse on climate and human survival, what are they for?”
To find how to add your voice—and your congregation’s voice—to larger efforts, check out For the Love of Creation, which encompasses the efforts of 35 Canadian denominations and faith-based organizations in a campaign of environmental action and advocacy.
Wiebe-Neufeld mentions the danger of “overwhelmism” in face of the many environmental challenges. May our faith communities take actions that lead to both hope and change in this, God’s beautiful earth.