Category Archives: Personal Covenant with Creation

So We Can Restore Creation

While caring for the environment can feel overwhelming, it’s when we stand together, each doing our part, that we find hope, gain strength, and make a difference. Find a tool below to help celebrate God’s gifts to us!

Download (Click Here) the information shared from Portico and Lutherans Restoring Creation at Churchwide Assembly 2019 to celebrate our progress and map the long way we still need to go to restore creation.

Join Up

Adults, start by taking the LRC Personal Covenant.  In 5 – 10 minutes, complete your covenant with creation. You’ll start to receive LRC’s monthly Good Green e-News linking you to other Lutheran earth-keepers and helpful resources.

ELCA Retirement Plan members, invest consciously using Portico’s ELCA social purpose funds. Call a Portico Financial Planner at 800.922.4896 to learn whether you’re in the social purpose funds and how to make that choice.

Children, take the Child’s Pledge With Creation.  Print out this out and discuss with your family. Tip: Frame your completed pledge using a larger piece of cardboard like a cereal box and decorate it with magazine photos that are important to you.

Teens, take the Youth Pledge. Then, walk through the Your Day experience, reflecting on how your daily decisions can impact others with whom we share this planet.

Inspire Others

Rally your congregation to take the Congregational Covenant with CreationThen, use LRC resources to create an action plan with support from LRC mentors.

Active Earth-keepers, become a Green Shepherd in your synodAs your synod’s point person for LRC and ELCA Advocacy and Stewardship outreach, learn to identify, connect and motivate other “green sheep” in your synod.

 

YOUTH: How can YOUR decisions impact your global neighbor?

While the following pledge form was originally poised to the hundreds of Lutheran youth attending the 2018 Gathering in Houston, these questions help people of any age recognize their impact and how many tools their are to make changes of habit that offer fulfilling prayerful actions to every step of their day.  To put the questions in context check out the walk through presentation: Your Day – Your Global Neighborhood.

As you consider the unintended impacts of our daily actions,  commit with hundreds of other youth to try a few things differently. Our collective prayers are being listened to – our collective actions are being felt:

Living the Change: A Tool Connected to Many Faiths

GreenFaith has helped pull together leaders from various religions across the globe to recognize our common concern for the planet and life on it. In doing this they have created a tool that can be customized to each tradition and helps us focus on the major activities which we can alter to mitigate a changing climate. Please use this link to sign up (either solo or as a whole team… youth group, Bible Study Class, family, etc.) we want to know of your efforts and celebrate together!

Living the Change as Lutherans Restoring Creation 

Litany for our Personal Covenant with Creation

L: For the marvelous grace of your Creation, we pour out our thanks to You, our God.

C: We praise you, O Lord
for plants growing in earth and water,
for life inhabiting lakes and seas,
for life creeping in soils and land,
for creatures living in wetlands and waters,
for life flying above earth and sea,
for animals dwelling in woods and fields.

L: How many and wonderful are your works, our God! In wisdom you have made them all!

C: But we confess, dear Lord,
As creatures privileged with care and keeping of Your Creation that we have abused Your Creation gifts through arrogance, ignorance, and greed.
We confess, Lord, that we often are unaware of how deeply we have hurt Your good earth and its marvelous gifts.
We confess that we are often unaware of how our abuse of creation has also been an abuse of ourselves.
For our wrongs, Lord, we ask forgiveness. We offer our repentance. We promise to reverence Your Creation as a gracious gift entrusted to us by You, our God. We promise anew to be stewards and not pillagers of what You have entrusted to us. We offer our covenant with creation to pledge our commitment to care for Your good Earth.

L: Creator God,
You have given us every reason to learn and promote this wisdom of lives lived in harmony with Creation. May You daily be present with us, gracing our service, our loving, our striving, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

C: Amen

 

 

Resources for Creation Care Congregations

The goal of the LRC program is to incorporate creation care into the full identity and mission of your congregation and to foster an ethos in which everyone considers creation care to be part of your life together and your witness to their community. Therefore, choose actions and programs that contribute to this goal.

As you work your creation care congregational program, you may want to expand the choices for the action plan to make bolder plans, to draw upon particular assets, and to address local needs and opportunities.

LRC Self-Organizing Kit. This manual, available here on this site, or as a download, has many ideas for eliciting the full participation of the congregation as well as some principles for pursuing creation-care. There is also an excellent manual for congregations developed by students at Luther College, with many ideas and resources.

An Expanded Action Plan. The congregational self-organizing kit includes a much fuller action plan following the same categories as in your action plan: worship, education, building and grounds, personal discipleship, and public witness/policy advocacy. You will find there more choices and links to more resources. Explore the site for additional ideas.

Renewing your program and taking advanced steps. The manual includes many ideas for maintaining a vital creation care program and for taking it to the next level. If you find that the actions in the action plan have been exhausted by your efforts or you want more choices, consult the ideas in these sections, which come at the end of the manual.

Stories. For ideas and inspiration from others, spend some time on this site to see what programs and projects have been carried out by other Lutheran congregations.  Check out the ever-growing list of contacts on the Creation Care Ministries Map and look for local inspiration.

Theological foundations. There are reflections for each of the five areas (advocacy, building/grounds, education, personal discipleship worship), identifying the biblical, theological, and ethical foundations for choosing programs and taking actions in each area of the action plan. These are helpful for study sessions or adult forums.

Professional coaching support. As the ELCA has offered coaching support for years as members work on stewardship programs, a Caring for Creation specialty program is in development. If your green team is at a point that they have some goals, but don’t know how to put it anything into action, you are likely in need of some coaching sessions to set some mile-markers along the way.

Be creative. We encourage you to develop your own resources for this program. And we hope you will share them with us! so that we can energize and inspire other congregations to join this effort to restore creation.

 

 

Creation Care Congregation: Public Witness/Policy Advocacy Ideas

Public Witness/Policy Advocacy: “Church exists to serve the world”

Hands-on project. Learn what environmental projects are happening in your area and what organizations are sponsoring them. Recruit members of your congregation to partner with them in the effort. Restore a habitat, clean up trash, plant trees.

Informational forums. Learn what environmental organizations are in your community and invite a representative of one or more to present a forum on their program. Promote the ways that your congregation can support their efforts. If you feel called to speak on climate change, there are tools available to help you communicate about the issue effectively according to behavioral science studies. Go to ecoAmerica’s Blessed Tomorrow site for a Moving Forward guide and consider taking their course to train others ineffective climate communication.

Legislative forum. Invite the head of the Lutheran Public Policy office in your area to preach and present a forum at your congregation. Or invite a local official familiar with local state and regional issues around the environment. If there is a critical issue in your area, plan a forum for information and conversation about it.

Action alerts: Invite members to sign up to receive action alerts via e-mail from ELCA e-Advocacy Network: http://www.elca.org/en/Our-Work/Publicly-Engaged-Church/Advocacy/Get-Involved. The process for contacting legislators is made very simple.

Partner with other faith communities. Join with others seeking to green their congregations. If no such organization exists, start one by asking the green team of one or more other congregations to meet with you and share ideas. Or, if you have been active for several years, offer to mentor another congregation in becoming a creation-care community.

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.

Creation Care Congregation: Personal Discipleship Ideas

Discipleship at home and work: “Love your neighbor”

Personal Covenant with Creation: Plan a worship service in which members can identify the Earth-friendly practices they are willing to commit to at home and work. Use a brief ritual that makes these commitments a stewardship offering. Our online form helps you save paper and participants will be sent a copy of what they pledged. Use the link at our site under Personal Discipleship and those eager to make change can be connected with other members of ELCA churches across the country.

Conduct a workshop on making your home Earth-friendly. Use the material available in the Comprehensive Environmental Guide for Congregations, Their Buildings and Grounds as a guide to inform members about the areas of greening they can do.

Support groups. Excellent for change of habits and accountability for “eco-recovery.” Use Simpler Living, Compassionate Life [www.earthministry.org].

Devotional resources: Recommend creation-care resources to members for personal devotions, like this “Stewardship of Creation: A Thirty Day Discipline.” Ask people to sign up to follow a discipline with a resource for a season of the church year.

A retreat in nature. Take a walk outside the next nice day after worship. Lead a retreat for people to get closer to the natural world. For guidelines, see http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/retreat-on-awe-and-mystery

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.

 

 

 

Creation Care Congregation: Building and Grounds Ideas

Building and Grounds: “The church as an alternative community”

Energy Stewards Initiative. LRC program for congregations to reduce your energy use/costs and carbon footprint, with online tracking of energy data via the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio, an action plan, and consultation and accountability through regular webinars. Or get an energy audit and follow steps to reduce energy. For more info contact your local utility or visit: https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/owners_and_managers/congregations

Comprehensive Environmental Guide for Churches, Their Buildings and Grounds. Use a checklist along with the full guide for an overall environmental inventory of your congregation, and take action. Download the entire guide – some details may be outdated, but the ties to faith and ideas are timeless. www.webofcreation.org/Environmental%20Guide.pdf

Choose a specific project: Replace all incandescent bulbs; retrofit fluorescent lighting; develop a recycling program; reduce paper use; purchase green cleaning products; make Earth-friendly food choices; eliminate Styrofoam; develop Earth-friendly lawn care, among others.

Use of land & water: Community garden; restore to prairie; preserve natural habitats; plant trees; create a sanctuary or peace garden; nurture animal life. Phase out fertilizers and pesticides use for lawns. Many free resources, stories, samples and readings to share throughout the LRC site, but local experts are best to build on existing relationships. Consider sharing a broader understanding of our relationship with soil by researching the “Kiss the Ground” program. This educational movement has the potential to involve those interested in agriculture, science, history, gardening and climate change.  Watershed discipleship resources are plentiful and offer a safe entry point for many who may not feel called to other issues in creation care.

Know your property as an “Earth community.” Get to know the trees, plants, animals, insects, birds, and other creatures who live with you on this space. Live in such a way that all of you may thrive together. Pray for them. Worship with them. Include some in your church directory as your creation family. For directions, go to: http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/stewarding-your-property-as-an-earth-community.

For more information about Becoming a Caring-for-Creation Congregation, visit this page.

Creation Care Congregation: Education Ideas

Education: “Know your traditions and your world”

Earthbound: Adult education for this six-part video series produced by the ELCA to explore the theological foundations of Earth care and to examples of Lutheran Institutions carrying them out.

“Caring for Creation.” Organize a forum or study group to read and discuss the ELCA Social Statement. Copies available from the ELCA with guide. See the 52 excerpts from this social statement for use for use in the church bulletin each week.

Awakening to God’s Call to Earthkeeping. A timeless four-session, small group study curriculum for adult forums. Or consider using the ELCA Lenten series “Creation Waits with Eager Longing”

Youth. Try the “Know Trash? No Trash!” program designed by Lutherans Restoring Creation, read stories from other Youth Groups, raise funds through a recycling program. More info here.

Children. Kid’s books abound with environmental themes (The Lorax, The Giving Tree, etc) but for integration of scripture try: I Love God’s Green Earth: Devotions for Kids Who Want to Take Care of God’s Creation by Michael and Caroline Carroll (Tyndale House Publishers, 2010). VBS guides from Lutheran Outdoor Ministries are adaptable to any venue – most are free to download!

Other: For example, organize forums with local experts or develop a Bible study.

For more information about Becoming a Caring-for-Creation Congregation, visit this page.

 

Creation Care Congregation: Worship Ideas

Transformation through Worship: “Let all creation praise God”
(all resources found if searched on LetAllCreationPraise.org)

All Worship: Render every service as creation-care worship: call to worship, confessions, prayers, and blessing/commission, plus scriptures, hymns, and sermons.

Season of Creation. Observe a four-week optional season to celebrate creation as part of the church year, with liturgies, sermons, and alternative scripture lessons, etc.

Special Worship Services. Observe a special day, such as Earth Sunday in April www.creationjustice.org, Rogation Sunday, or a “Greening of the Cross” service in the Easter Season.

Blessing of the Animals. Hold a service near the time of St. Francis Day (in October) or any time in the church year.

Appoint the sanctuary. With creation-care banners, greenery, art.

Green your worship practices: energy-saving lights and heat; altar plants, local wine, green cleaning products, eliminate/recycle/reuse paper, intinction.

Other: For example, develop your own worship resources and occasions for celebration.

For more information about Becoming a Caring-for-Creation Congregation, visit this page.

 

Action Plan Ideas

The goal is to make a difference by transforming attitudes and commitments and by embracing concrete actions that reduce human ecological impact on the earth and contribute to justice for people affected by environmental degradation. The following links will provide ideas for you as you create your congregation’s action plan:

Transformation through Worship: “Let all creation praise God”

Education: “Know your traditions and your world”

Building and Grounds: “The church as an alternative community”

Discipleship at home and work: “Love your neighbor”

Public Witness/Policy Advocacy: “Church exists to serve the world”

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.

 

 

Creating An Action Plan

Action Plan Guidelines

1. Explore our action plan ideas: Consult the Manual and the websites/ resources listed with each item for more information.

2. Choose one project from each category for the year. Count the projects you are already doing and add more where feasible [e. g. celebrate Earth Sunday]. Be sure to choose from each of the five areas. As you proceed fill in the Action Plan Form. Choose more than one project if it seems feasible.

Choose actions/projects that . . .

  • Have support in the congregation
  • Have committed people to carry them out
  • Are affordable for the congregation
  • For which you have energy and inspiration!

3. Delegate the responsibility: Identify which individuals or committee will be responsible for carrying out each project. Contact them to see if they are willing to do it [e. g. The Worship Committee]. Offer access to the resources available to do the project [e. g. two websites].

4. Identify a committee member to follow up: designate a member from the creation-care team to offer support to the committee to whom the project has been delegated and follow up to track the project through to completion. Or use the liaison representatives to the various committees who are on the church council [e. g. a liaison from the Creation-Care team to the worship committee].

5. Make the project ongoing: When it is completed for that year, set things up so that the project will continue into the next year [e. g. Put the celebration of Earth Sunday on the worship calendar as a regular part of each year].

6. Report: Report your successes to the church council, the congregation, and across the entire LRC Network (use this form!) Promote your identity as a creation-care congregation [e. g. Church newsletter with pictures of Earth Sunday celebration. Local newspaper].

7. Start again for the next year. Begin process of choosing projects for the following year. Begin with #1 above. [e. g. celebrate The Season of Creation]. Be sure to revisit the overall vision provided by the five areas.

8. Other. If the projects recommended in the action plan do not fit your situation, consider opportunities that use the resources of your congregation or serve the needs of your community.

Evaluate and adjust: Meet regularly (once a month or once every two months). As you work through the year, evaluate your action plan. Where needed, go back and retrace steps to make sure your action plan is being carried out. Affirm where it is working. When the steps suggested here are not working for you, revise the plan and adjust it to your needs and situation.

Remember the overall goal: To incorporate care for creation into the identity and mission of your congregation so that there is an ethos of care for God’s Earth in all that you do.

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.

 

 

Approving the Covenant

1. The purpose of accepting the program and approving the mission statement is to engage the entire congregation through its leadership to be aware of our Christian vocation to care for creation and to participate in this mission of the congregation. The benefit of pursuing efforts in five areas serves to make the mission comprehensive and to generate an identity of Earth-care as integral to the congregation. The program gives structure to your efforts in Earth-care and makes them intentional and public.

2. A first step would be for those who initiate the process to make the church council aware of the proposal to accept the care for creation mission for your congregation. In turn, the council may want to make the statement known to the whole congregation through a newsletter and/or bulletin insert. Invite input about the program and the covenant’s affirmations.

3. When you distribute the Covenant, make it clear that this is part of a program to be a care-for-creation congregation identified with Lutherans Restoring Creation. Make it clear that this is not a certification program and does not commit the congregation to any particular actions, projects, or expenses apart from what the congregation itself chooses to do. Use the statement “Ten Why Lutherans Care for Creation” to establish the reasons for the program.

4. We encourage the clergy and church council to read the statement carefully and to edit or adapt it to your situation and congregational ethos. In a formal procedure, the council will approve the affirmation, identify/authorize the liaison/green team, and establish any protocols for responsibility and reporting. You may want to have the covenant approved in a plenary meeting by the whole congregation.

5. You may want to consider incorporating into the overall mission statement of your congregation a phrase or sentence reflecting your commitment as a creation-care congregation.

6. Announce the approval of the program and the mission statement through the newsletter, bulletins, and personal witness at congregational gatherings. Urge people to participate in and support the effort. Consider using the brief ritual in this kit that can be part of any worship service as a way of integrating the program into the life of the congregation and acknowledging the sacred nature of our common vocation of Earth-Care.

8. Consider renewing the commitment to be a congregation that cares for creation on an annual basis, such as at an Earth Sunday service in April or perhaps at a service in the fall when you also ask members to make their personal stewardship commitment: (See “Covenant with Creation” and ritual in this kit).

9. You may want to let the larger community in which your church is located know about your Earth-care commitment via a local newspaper or through your synodical media outlets.

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.

 

Green Teams

How to create a “Green Team” with your congregation:

1. Formation. A green team may come into existence in a variety of ways: a self-designated group that approaches the pastor and the church council for authorization, appointed by the pastor and the church council, or recruited in response to an educational program on Earth care or a care for creation worship service.

2. Maintain Momentum. Maintain the green team through regular meetings, representation from various committees, invitations to current and new members.

3. Choose a name: Green Team, Creation Care Task Force, Earth-Care Committee, Stewards for Conservation; choose a name that acts as a welcoming banner to all. Discuss what words in your community have politicized connotations and try to veer away from those that may alienate anyone in your congregation.

4. Leaven for the Entire Congregation: The use of “Team” is our term for the group that sees that the commitments to care for creation are carried out, because a “team” functions differently from other committees. The team may take the leadership on some projects, but mainly it does not serve like other committees. It is like leaven in the congregation to see that the various committees, staff, youth group, older adult organization, Bible Study Groups, and functionaries of the church carry out the various programs. [See the directions for the use of the action plan.]

5. Alternatives. We recommend that a distinct group, such as a Green Team, has the responsibility to give leadership in carrying out the Earth care commitments. However, there need not be a separate group. The functions of the Green Team can be carried out by a standing committee such as the social ministry committee or the stewardship committee or by the church council representatives from the various committees, as long as the arrangement is working well to carry out the commitments of the mission statement.

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.

 

 

 

Getting Started, First Steps

Getting Started

The program, becoming a creation care congregation, can begin from any place—pastor, interested lay people, a standing committee, the church council. Once there is some interest, take the program to the pastor and church council for discussion, approval, and implementation on behalf of the congregation. If desired, have the congregation approve the plan at a duly constituted congregational meeting.

This is not a top-down program. It is directed by you at the congregational level. You are free to change, adapt, and add to the program. Edit the mission statement to meet your needs and commitments. Develop your way of implementing the program and adjust the action plan to serve your situation; celebrate all that you do.

1. Approval of a Covenant with Creation. The pastor(s) and church council approve the mission statement on behalf of the congregation, expressing your creation-care commitment in the following five areas: worship, education, building and grounds, member discipleship, public witness. You can make the commitments public in a brief ritual within a worship service.

2. A Green Team and the Action Plan. As part of this process, the pastor and church council authorize the establishment of an individual liaison or “green team” to record, carry out and report the commitments through the action plan. The church council or another committee may serve to carry out the creation care commitments.

3. Promote your identity. Fill in and display the certificate identifying your congregation as a creation care community affiliated with Lutherans Restoring Creation. Promote this identity among the members. You may also want to display “Ten Reasons Why Lutherans Care for Creation.” Encourage the congregation members and request the committees to participate in carrying out the commitments.

4. Report and renew. We encourage the green team to report their projects and events to the church council/ congregation and to redo the action plan process on an annual basis.

Lutherans Restoring Creation stands ready to assist you in providing this program, in making resources available for its implementation, and for promoting your story online as you choose to share it with us.

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.

 

 

Ten Reasons Why Lutherans Care for All Creation

To join with other Lutherans in caring for creation, help your congregation become a Creation-Care congregation; visit this page for more information.

Lutherans care for creation for many reasons, including:

1. Theology: We affirm God as creator of all. We have an incarnation theology that cherishes the continuing presence of God in, with, and under all reality. We see redemption as the restoration of creation, as “new creation.” We see the future straining toward the fulfillment of creation.

2. Cross and Resurrection: The gospel leads us to see God in solidarity with the human situation in all its pain and agony, especially the most vulnerable—humans and non-humans. A theology of the cross gives us solidarity with “creation groaning in travail” and stresses that God redeems all creation. Our affirmation of resurrection offers hope for new life in this world.

3. Worship and Sacraments: We affirm that the material is a vehicle of the divine and that Christ is present in such ordinary elements of life as grapes and grain—the basis for our delight in and reverence for creation. Our worship invites us into transforming encounters with God deep in the flesh and in the world. We are called to worship God with creation.

4. Ecclesiology: Our human vocation is “to serve and to preserve” Earth. We believe that the church exists for the sake of the world. We do not have an escapist theology. We are called to continual reformation in response to the needs and crises of this life. When Luther was asked what he would do if the world would end tomorrow, he apparently replied, “Plant a tree.”

5. Ethics: We have an ethic of faith-active-in-love for neighbor and for all creation. Liberated from a legalism that enslaves, we are freed to address new situations, such as the ecological state of the world. We do so not to dominate but as servants to our human and non-human neighbors. We do so not out of fear or guilt or arrogance but joyfully out of grace, love, and gratitude.

6. Social Ministry: With a heritage back to the Reformation, Lutherans have a history of social service to the poor, the elderly, the sick, the oppressed, the marginalized—through hospitals, homes for the elderly, social ministry agencies, Lutheran Immigration Service, and Lutheran World Relief. We extend that service to healing Earth community.

7. Advocacy: We ELCA Lutherans have relevant social statements: “Caring for Creation” and “Sustainable Livelihood for All.” We have a staff person in environmental/hunger advocacy in Washington and Lutheran Public Policy offices in many states.

8. Scholarship and Education: Many Lutheran scholars have written and spoken on ecology—in theology, ethics, biblical study, and social commentary. Colleges and seminaries of the ELCA have environmental ministry courses that prepare Lutherans for leadership in church and world. Many continuing education events for clergy and laity highlight creation care.

9. Caring for Creation across the church: Several synods with creation-care committees have declared themselves to be Care-For-Creation Synods. Many Lutheran congregations incorporate Earth-care commitment in their life and mission—worship, education, building and grounds, discipleship at home and work, and public ministry. Lutheran camps have brought environmental concerns to many people. The ELCA headquarters has a Green Team that works to model environmental action. The ELCA offers grants for environmental projects.

10. Organizations for Earthkeeping: Lutherans have led in the Green Congregation Program, the Green Seminary Initiative, the Web of Creation, promoting creation-care worship throughout the church year and the Season of Creation (www.letallcreationpraise.org), and, of course, Lutherans Restoring Creation (this network, this site!).

Lutherans are in a critical position to listen to the cry of the poor along with the cry of Earth and to take leadership in addressing these critical issues of our day. In whatever context you may be serving, we encourage you to participate in this endeavor.

These ideas are also shared in our congregational self-organizing kit. For more details, visit this page.