Thanks to Rev. Kris Litman-Koon, as the South Carolina’s Synod Creation Care convener, a group of ELCA members from across the country came together for rejuvenation and inspiration in November 2019 at the Coastal Retreat Center.
The 2019 ELCA Advocacy Convening (April 29 – May 1) gathered over 100 lay and rostered leaders to be trained as advocates. The theme: “Prepared to Care: Our Advocacy in Light of Disasters Intensified by Climate Change.” Below are some highlights as I, Phoebe Morad, experienced them. Thanks to those who support Lutherans Restoring Creation and help get our voice on the scene and for sharing this information and inspiration with your congregations and communities.
April 29th, after an 8 hour train ride from Boston: (The passenger next to me said I was taking the train such a long way to “make AOC happy,” but I said I was doing it for my kids.)
Opening worship at the glorious new space of St. Matthew’s in DC set the stage. This part had to include a bit of hand-wringing; admitting that we are full of fear and that it paralyzes us. Director of ELCA’s Advocacy office, Amy Reumann shared that message of moving past fear in her sermon. Washington D.C. April 2019 Service (great hymns and sample litanies)
During dinner together we heard from Lutherans across the country and globe dealing with fires, floods, immigration and agricultural devastation. A disturbing collage of stories that are all magnified (if not caused) by a changing climate. The positive take-away from that evening: with our combined forces of ELCA’s Global & Domestic Mission, Disaster Response, Advocacy, AND the people power in the congregations (go LRC Green Shepherds!) we are uniquely poised to attack these issues on all fronts.
April 30th, day two, of our training was focused on forcing ourselves into other people’s shoes. How do we talk to people who think differently, have difference perspectives/priorities? Ani Fete-Crews from ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow’s presentation on 15 Steps to Effectively Talk about Climate utilizes current statistics about what people actually hear (which isn’t always what you say). Time spent learning and practicing Talanoa Dialogue offered a tool for church leaders to bring back to communities with disparate views and learn how to listen to one another and find common solutions. Hearing from pivotal leaders from island nations surrounded by the threat of rising seas and our neighbors to the South fleeing from long-term drought made the current impacts on our neighbors very real.
The last day (May 1) of the convening we started out at a Mexican restaurant for (an awesome breakfast) and to be officially sent into the world – specifically to ASK our elected officials to consider the human toll of climate change. What exactly did we ask for? Download the 2019 Advocacy Ask here which led us in conversation with our public servants.
The energy was palpable in the ELCA DC Advocacy office as cohorts came/went to the Hill, and, it felt like – at least for a day – we were being heard. Bumping into other Lutherans among the offices and around the Capital was a thrill (maybe because I’m a public policy nerd). However, the reality of complex conversations and endurance needed for collaborative work hung in the air after hours of meetings. It was quite a refreshment to then be invited to a vibrant, grassroots reception in an inner-city church basement. With dozens of partner organizations invited to the Interfaith Power & Light’s event, we could be restored in each other’s company and be inspired by one church acting as a beacon of hope in the city. Reformation Lutheran Church was a not only a host to this rejuvenating event, but also invited us to transformational experience called the Healing Blanket Exercise, facilitated by Prairie Rose Seminole, ELCA’s American Indian Alaska Native Program Director.
In a contrast to the “bottom-up” mentality of the evening before, May 2nd offered a very hopeful glimpse of what is happening from the “top-down”. Fortunately, our grassroots movement is in partnership with ecoAmerica which connects leaders from the health, policy, and religious realms so that we can leverage each other’s assets. There are MANY vignettes I would be happy to share in our next Connections Call, but if you can take the time to explore the recording below please do. Rep. Whitehouse (Dem-RI) shared a very clear understanding of what is the hold-up in his “habitat,” Dr. Gail Christopher shared a staggering account of the impacts on health care costs, and Rev. Dorhauer talks about privilege as an impediment to the church. If nothing else, let Shantha Ready-Alonso lead you through a guided visualization of why any of us do this work (start at minute 15 below).
Thanks again so much for being a part of this movement and helping ensure the concerns, efforts, and strengths that come from the Caring for Creation ministries within the ELCA are heard. Meeting with leadership from all sectors of our church in person and focused on the urgent issues of climate was more effective than dozens of conference calls and hundreds of emails. I returned home (via train of course) with a full plate of next steps and a full heart of hope.
Lutherans Restoring Creation partnered with Presbyterians for Earth Care for their bi-annual conference at Stony Point Retreat Center in NY August 6-9, 2019 where over a hundred earth-keepers gathered. Below are some of the remarkable reflections during our time together processing how to take some of the Bible’s directives to bring us to the frontline. Using the World Cafe Method, participants conversed around the three following verses and considered how the Word could help them (and their faith community) progress from movement to action.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ” John 15: 5
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
Romans 12: 4-6
Here are images of our time together at Stony Point Retreat Center:
Collaboration, Commitment, and Action
Sat., March 30 in St. Louis, MO or Sat. April 27th in Columbia, MO
Register for either (or both) here: https://www.css-elca.org/lrc
Please share this flier with local houses of worship throughout this season of Resurrection: April27.2019 LRC Retreat 8.5×11 Poster Columbia
8:00 – 8:30: Gathering/ Registration
8:30-9:00: Opening Worship
Greening the Bible: A Biblical Basis for Creation Care, J. Clinton McCann, Eden Theological Seminary
Breaking the Silence on Creation Care
Toward Regional Sustainability – Jenny Wendt, OneSTL
A request from Kim Acker, member at University Lutheran Church in Palo Alto, to be public witness:
I know you accept the reality of climate change, but what to do about it may remain unclear. Here is my request:
Please take a moment away from the rush, the day-to-day relentlessness.
Pause to feel what’s present for you about climate change. Drop into your vulnerable heart.
Within that space of openness within you, consider my invitation:
We don’t yet know how to talk about climate change. To talk about it in the same breath we talk about Trump, doesn’t do it justice. To talk about the planet our children are inheriting (my children are your children) requires courage and vulnerability. Whether we are conscious of it or not, many of us are feeling the effects of living in the context of ecological degradation and even the prospect of extinction. Our feelings include fear, guilt, and grief. And sitting beside those feelings, there is also joy—joy for the wonder and breathlessness of our natural world and the best of who we are together.
We are experiencing the end of the fossil fuel age.
Many of us are also victims of the fossil fuel industry’s playbook: Create doubt and hopelessness. Doubt the solutions. Debate them. Believe that it’s too late and our personal actions won’t make a difference. All these strategies make us strange bedfellows with the power structures of fossil fuel.
What those powers don’t want us to remember is that we are the sleeping giant. We have power as a people, but we have forgotten it. We don’t feel it when we are alone behind our screens. We have forgotten it because we largely live in isolation from one another and cherish our freedom and independence.
The ending of the fossil fuel era invites us to create a new world of not only using less energy and renewable energy, but also to live in greater relationship to one another and to acknowledge the truth that we live in an interconnected web of life.
In the last few months, I’ve been organizing the 3-day The March for Fossil Fuel Freedom. The march is designed to:
1. build community, develop local leaders, and build local capacity for the movement as a whole (not just this march).
2. show our legislative and corporate leaders with our physical presence on the streets that we stand for the new world, and the ending of the old.
3. use a divestment strategy asking Wells Fargo to be the first American bank to divest from funding new fossil fuel development.
The local indigenous community led by Pennie Opal Plant with Idle No More SF will stand at the head of our march. Having the opportunity to learn from the experience of local indigenous activists like Pennie has nourished and humbled those of us organizing the march. The international women who are leading the indigenous movement have already had success in Europe by working their way into the boardrooms of five European banks to demand divestment. This march follows in their footsteps.
Join this movement. Be part of this community in any way you can. Yes, we need money, but money isn’t enough. We need bodies.
This is your community—it’s local.
These are your leaders—invest in them.
Do this for yourself. Marching will help you remember that we are part of something more powerful than we can imagine alone. Acting together feels good.
How you can support our effort:
· March for all or part of the march (Sunday marchers are particularly needed)
· Come to a dinner. On Saturday, I will be speaking about my passion–divesting from the industrial food system and supporting local farmers growing soil that sequesters carbon. We will celebrate with good food, music, song, and fellowship.
· Come to the rally on Monday, March 18.
· Reach out to your community, share this message, and invite them in.
· Offer your skills (we are in short supply of media professionals)
· Sponsor a marcher.
Thank you for taking time to consider my invitation to be part of building our power as a people.
What is ELCA Coaching? Click here for a Ministry Description
Interested in upcoming trainings? click here.
What happens when Trained Coaches focus on helping those in Caring for Creation Ministries? All the action plans, resolutions, pledges, etc. that have emerged over years of active concern and deliberation are transformed into active progress by accompanying individuals leading these efforts to ensure goals are realized.
Response after Inaugural Creation Care Coach Training (NV- 2/6/19):
“… My most profound feeling is gratitude. THANK YOU to all of you for not only the training, but the preparation that went into it, your expertise, the vision that you invited me into, the people to whom you connected me, and the coming time of transformation. I could never have imagined what these three days would mean for me…and I am just beginning to realize it. Thank you for your partnership, your inspiration, your wisdom, and the HOPE that you have opened up for me! I carry you all with me today and in the days to come, and I look forward to connecting with you through our continued training.”
– Noni Strand, Kansas City – Central States LRC Mission Table Chair
Introduced in 2019, Caring for Creation Coaching is another area of specialty coaching being offered by the ELCA in collaboration with Lutherans Restoring Creation and ecoAmerica. Using a format similar to what has been successful with Stewardship and Discipleship Level II Coaching, this specialty will focus on developing coaching skills and competencies around five pillars (Personal Discipleship, Education, Building & Grounds, Public Witness & Advocacy) of caring for creation in the congregation and local community. Through a series of seven session, participants will be equipped as coaches to accompany individuals and small groups in achieving their dreams through actions that create change related to caring for creation and climate solutions.
In each session special attention is given to sharpening coaching skills and engaging coaching competencies as outlined by the International Coach Federation (ICF). These will help coaches journey alongside leaders involved in God’s work, both loving and serving the world. (Note: ICF is the leading global organization dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high standards, providing independent certification and building a worldwide network of trained coaching professionals.).
From idea to team to movement: Central States Green Team
Central States Synod voted to become a Lutherans Restoring Creation synod in June 2015 and empowered their LRC Mission Table to begin working on ways to help congregations care for creation through worship, education, buildings and grounds, discipleship and stewardship, and education. February 2016 they hosted a retreat at Camp Tomah Shinga in Junction City, KS for over 20 people excited to help churches in their communities integrate eco-justice in their ministries. Then they organized a follow up event that summer to share what they had learned with fellow ELCA members in other areas of their synod. This Green Team Mission Table just keeps hosting workshops at their assemblies and gatherings all over!
In February of 2018 the group “retreated” again to Tomah Shinga!
Twenty-eight passionate youth and adults from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Minnesota gathered at Camp Tomah Shinga (outside Junction City, Kansas) on Saturday, February 17, 2018 to learn more about how to empower their congregations to “green” their worship, education, buildings and grounds, discipleship in daily life, and public life/advocacy efforts. The workshop was presented by members of the Central States Synod LRC Mission Table in partnership with Camp Tomah Shinga. Participants represented Central States Synod congregations from St. Louis, Florissant, Prairie Village, Olathe, Topeka, Waterville, Salina, Manhattan, Lindsborg, and Wichita in the Central States Synod, along with congregations in Lincoln,
Nebraska, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Upcoming this spring the Central States Synod offer more learning opportunities: Register for their next gathering here!
In October 2016 representatives from every synod in California came together for a retreat and rejuvenation at Luther Glen Camp in Oak Glen, CA and wrapped up their workshop with a visit to the Central City Lutheran Mission in San Bernardino to discuss the connections between food, water and jobs with creation care work in CA. Since then, their synod green teams have met and shared their experiences, a congregation became certified with GreenFaith, and they have a vibrant Facebook community (be sure to follow if you are on the West Coast!).
The Southeastern Synod decided to enlist a caring for creation “task force” at their 2013 Synod Assembly and since then a small band of powerful people across several states have gained momentum. After meeting as a small group several times to set goals and evaluate personal assets, the team embarked on a two day retreat in March 2014 to brainstorm and educate themselves on the tools and challenges of this ministry.
In 2016 their assembly passed a memorial to go to the Churchwide assembly asking for more investments in cleaner energy. Reaching out and sharing their resources at the South Carolina Synod Assembly, this team is passionate about sharing significance of the vocation of being a good steward to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Most recently the team sent fifteen members in February 2018 to LutherRanch in Tallapoosa Georgia as a part of a regional retreat and training session. Since then churches in the synod have signed congregational covenants, stepped up their involvement in the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio and created new green teams.
Contact Mary McCoy, member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Marietta GA and chair of the Task Force, or find someone on the Creation Care Ministries map who is closer to where you are!
Many voices come together to make big reverberations!
Twenty-nine Lutherans from across Pennsylvania and beyond gathered at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, PA, the last weekend in January, 2013 to become LRC trainers. They were empowered to return to their synods and congregations with the tools, connections and renewed faith to restore creation.
The workshop was fortunate to have several representatives from the “larger” church’s efforts in advocacy including: Rev. Leah Schade, founder of the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition of the Susquehanna Valley (ISEC), Alycia Ashburn, Director of Creation Care Campaign at Sojourners, Rev. Amy E. Reumann and Rev. Paul Lubold from Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa), and Director of the ELCA’s Washington Office, Rev. Andrew Genszler.
The training facilitator, Phoebe Morad, commented: “While many of us feel at times we are just one small voice, this gathering reminds us that we are not alone and that we are called by and supported with our Lutheran faith to carry out this work.”
As a result of this workshop every synod in the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware is now equipped with a team of LRC trainers who are available and eager to share the techniques and insight necessary to integrate care for creation in every aspect of our Christian lives. Each LRC trainer left the workshop with a plan to reach out to interested congregations in their synod and will eventually hold a networking event for the region to continue the ripple effect of this awareness.
Congregations or individuals who are eager to have this training in their congregation or synod, please reach out to Lutherans Restoring Creation!
The second week in August, 2013, about a dozen and a half Lutherans converged on Singmaster House at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg for a two-day seminar on caring for God’s creation. The training was led by Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) through a grant from the Lutheran Community Foundation (now InFaith Community Foundation).
We shared hopes and dreams – we talked about worship, education, advocacy, buildings, and grounds – we developed plans, as individuals and within our synods – good Lutherans that we all are, we talked and ate – and we worshiped together: an evening Taizé service in a living room with a slightly out-of-tune piano and candles on a coffee table and an afternoon service under a white oak “witness tree” (one that witnessed the Battle of Gettysburg) that also witnessed the sharing of our visions of creation. We left, hopefully, as seeds, to be planted and to grow.
So, why do Lutherans care for creation? Some excerpts and summaries from LRC information:
- We affirm God as creator of all and cherish the continuing presence of God in, with, and under all reality.
- The theology of the cross gives us solidarity with “creation groaning in travail;” our affirmation of resurrection offers hope for new life in this world.
- We see the material as a vehicle of the divine, seeing Christ present in such ordinary elements as grapes and grain. We worship God with creation.
- We believe that the church exists for the sake of the world, continually reforming in response to the needs and crises of this life.
- We have an ethic of action created by faith in love for our neighbor and all of God’s creation.
- With a heritage back to the Reformation, Lutherans have a history of social ministry to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, of being a voice for the voiceless. This includes those people hurt by environmental exploitation and degradation as well as the damaged creation.
So, how do you care for creation? How should we care for creation? What seeds do you want to plant, and have planted within you?
Louisa Rettew, P.E., LEED-AP+BD&C
By Maggie Hutchison
Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA
How many young people does it take to screw in a light bulb? What sounds like the start to an overused joke was in fact a serious question last weekend when high school youth recruited by our synod’s Environmental Stewardship Committee volunteered to help improve energy efficiency at Koinonia. Led by Pastor John Flack of Christ, Floral Park, and Brandon Chenevert, staff member at Koinonia, the team of ten youth spent two days making simple improvements to the camp’s facilities that will save both energy and money in the long term.
The weekend started off with a team-building session filled with games and activities intended to build community and encourage communication among group members from four different congregations. Chenevert, who previously worked for a Minnesota non-profit that improves energy efficiency in private residences, made a presentation on climate change and energy conservation in order to raise the group’s awareness and contextualize the importance of the work they were about to accomplish. The group spent the rest of the weekend working on two main projects: replacing all of the incandescent lightbulbs in the Koinonia dining hall with energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and caulking around windows in three other buildings on site to reduce air flow and heat loss.
Youth participants and leaders alike were enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn more about energy conservation and to make a difference at Koinonia. Olivia Souza of St. Andrew’s, Smithtown, was excited to improve Koinonia’s energy efficiency because she believes that “humans need to leave different marks on the world that aren’t harmful in order to heal the scars we’ve made so far.” Pr. Flack, a member of the Environmental Stewardship Committee, was pleased that the youth learned so much about conservation because he believes that the greatest challenge facing the church–and the world–is thoughtful environmental stewardship. Jack Shipsky and Paul Ulmer of Christ, Floral Park, were proud that they helped accomplish so much in just one short weekend to help save Koinonia both energy and money.
While most of the youth had never replaced lightbulbs or caulked before, they were impressed by how simple it was to make improvements that can have a big impact in both commercial and residential settings. Olivia commented that caulking “had a bit of a learning curve” but that she hopes to use the skill when she returns home to help make sure her parents’ house is better sealed. Paul said that the projects were easier than he thought they were going to be but took some time and planning to implement. Jack noted that “it was fun, not boring to make the improvements.”
At final tally, replacing the lightbulbs in Koinonia’s dining hall saved a whopping 5640 watts. Though it is harder to calculate the energy-saving impact of caulking around windows, Chenevert emphasized,”it’s a critical part of energy conservation because it saves so many therms…I can’t recommend it enough.” Thanks to the work of youth volunteers from the Environmental Stewardship Commitee, Koinonia will be appreciating the benefits of improved energy efficiency for years to come.
Reprinted by permission of the Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA
At the New England 2013 Assembly, June 7-9, voters agreed to urge the restraint of hydraulic fracturing and request an eventual divestment of church funds from fossil fuel companies. LRC Synod Trainer, Nancy Urban, was also there to challenge everyone passing by to see how “cool” their congregation was with a game giving points to those who have taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint. Beyond winning a delicious piece of Fair Trade chocolate as an reward for playing the game, we learned as a community that we are ready to take on the most meaningful challenges of caring for creation. While progress was made on paper and good conversation, it must be seen how the actions of our members and congregations enact the good intentions of these statements. See full versions of what was voted on here and here.
On the recommendation of a bipartisan task group, the Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted on June 20, 2014, to call for all environmental and public health exemptions on shale gas and oil drilling and its related processes, known as the “Halliburton loopholes,” to be repealed and all processes related to shale gas and oil extraction and processing to be subject to the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), the Clean Air Act (1990) and Clean Water Act (1972). Download the press release here.
Lutherans Restoring Creation of the Northwest Pennsylvania Synod held a workshop (Caring for Creation: An Environmental Workshop for People of Faith) on September 13, 2014 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Erie, Pennsylvania. The workshop was advertised for all people of faith.
The workshop was planned and organized by three people (Janet Bischoff, Dennis Groce, and Rev. Kenneth Laber) who had received LRC training in the previous couple of years at Gettysburg Seminary. Since that training, we have had several events at an ELCA camp (Lutherlyn) and two synod assemblies. Attendance at the camp events was limited (perhaps due to travel time / expense), but the attendance at the three 50-minute synod assembly forum events was promising.
Based on the experiences at the synod assembly workshops, we decided to develop an event based in Erie, which has the largest concentration of ELCA members in our synod. The workshop was 3 ½ hours in duration, which we felt was enough to provide an introduction to the topics, but not so long that people would be reluctant to attend. We adapted a sample agenda in the LRC materials.
The response was fairly good. In addition to the three organizers and two invited speakers, we had twenty-two attendees, including twelve from seven ELCA congregations (7 ordained and five lay). The other denominations attending were Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Unitarian. We received organizing support from congregations in each of the three Erie County clusters.
The two invited presentations were great, and the three organizers each led one or more portions of the other presentations. Rev. Amy Reumann (Lutheran Advocacy Ministries of Pennsylvania) spoke about the theology of earthcare and public advocacy. Cricket Hunter (Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light) spoke about opportunities for purchasing clean electricity and other ways of practicing earthcare in life at home and work. The discussions were also good, with some good questions and exchange of information.
One of the non-ELCA participants was an especially good source of information, with his primary message being to make an energy audit one of the first building/grounds earthcare actions. One of the participants said the workshop will lead them to emphasize “educating the congregation and to use products that don’t pollute.” We plan to follow up with the participants the weeks following the workshop, and then in a few months to see what progress they have been able to make.
In addition to the workshop described here, we have previously organized:
- A showing of the movie, “Chasing Ice” at Lutherlyn Camp, Prospect, PA
- A discussion and partial viewing of the ELCA “Earthbound” videos at Lutherlyn
- Two synod assembly forum events (2013 and 2014) that provided a 50-minute overview and discussion of earthcare basics for congregations
- One synod assembly forum (2013) with an invited speaker specifically addressing climate change and the likely impact on hunger.
For more information, please contact Dennis Groce / 814-725-9115 / email@example.com.
Back in the summer of 2018 hundreds of youth and group leaders visited our Lutherans Restoring Creation space in the Interactive Educational Area during the National Youth Gathering in Houston.
Every visitor was asked to spend about 5 minutes walking through a “tour” of their typical day and consider how their daily decisions impacted their global neighbors.
We don’t have to let it end there though! Get your youth group (or adult forum, or bible study, or family…) to read through the tour with pledge form in hand (or on screen) and find solutions in a prayerful way of living. If you use our online form we can stay on touch with you and let your synod leadership know what you’re aiming for.
The two most requested tools for Youth Groups to use as follow up to this discussion starter:
Story of Stuff 20 minute video. (Ask your group what challenges they have with their “golden arrow.”)
“Stirring the Waters: Faith, Science and Action!”
Pennsylvania – Tracey DePasquale, Interim-Director
LAMPa partnered with ELCA Global Mission and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg for two days of worship, service, learning and advocacy on April 17 and 18, focused on the theme “Stirring the Waters: Faith, Science and Action!”
Sunday’s events featured outdoor learning, service, an interfaith blessing of the waters and a meal, music and climate-change lecture in the Capitol rotunda. All events were open to the public. More than 150 people participated in the day’s events, which focused on our mutual call to care for the earth that sustains all of us. Highlights included tree- planting that kicked off a Reformation service-and-advocacy project and a canoe trip led by Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Lutheran Camping Corp. supplied canoes, recruiting and staff for that event.
The second day featured workshops and advocacy training around a variety of topics, with a special focus on the links between science and the issues on which we advocate. The event was an official part of the seminary’s Spring Academy Week. The day also featured a celebration of advocacy successes and recognition of advocates from each of Pennsylvania’s seven synods.
We also unveiled a sample of a video on making advocacy known among our congregations. The video features advocates telling their stories, as well as an introduction by Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia theologian and LAMPa policy council member the Rev. Dr. John Hoffmeyer.