I was certainly the only person in my UMass Boston cohort of Senate-aspiring public policy classmates to research a church as the focus of my capstone project in 2006. As an environmentalist growing up in the Lutheran church, I had always been frustrated by the assumption that I was a bit of a hippy because I respect nature and conserve resources. In academic settings, I felt need to muffle my faith in fear that it cast me as some sort of sheep following a herd. However, wasn’t it church communities throughout history who influenced progress in the public sphere and challenged the status quo? Reformation, Liberation Theology, the Civil Rights Movement…
I was compelled to do a research project investigating the “social capital” of my congregation and tried to determine what factors were preventing this relatively progressive church from making simple changes like: ending the use of Styrofoam cups at coffee hour. After reading a lot of sociology and conducting a number of interviews with a spectrum of church members and staff, I realized the lack of progress often came from simply having no catalyst. So, there was my calling: stop feeling isolated as the token “tree-hugger” and integrate my passions into existing work of this House of Prayer. I could make it part of our faith conversation – not a guilt-trip or response to outside political pressure.
Six years later, after trying to instigate some changes in group behavior from my corner of the ring, I was invited to attend a Lutherans Restoring Creation (LRC) training in Chicago. I got to meet then diaconical minister (now Deaconess), Kim Winchell, whose work I referenced in my master’s research (she never expected anyone else to read her thesis, much less source it!). Since then, I have been grateful to discover a whole network of fellow Lutherans who see this work as critical to our mission in caring for one another as God’s gifts. The inspired writings of theologian, David Rhoads, gives legitimacy and focus to our work. Opportunities to meet with one another across the country refreshes and empowers us, just as every worship service sends us into the world. While there are many other parallel faith-based organizations within the larger eco-justice movement, LRC offers a unique invitation for Lutherans to connect and empower one another to be proud “green sheep” in their congregations and help those who may not yet understand our collective vocation to care for God’s good creation.
A decade after meeting the founders of this grassroots movement I am honored to be its Executive Director as LRC moves into the next chapter of its existence. With a foundation of materials from theologians, educators and clergy, our network is now prepared to ensure these treasures are used to help people connect and empower their congregations to live their faith into the world… for the sake of the world.