ecoAmerica helps leaders from the local government, the public health sector, and faith-based cohorts figure out how to usher people into urgent action on climate change. This brief guide provides you with information and resources to reduce energy use, to build resilient houses of worship as refuges from a changing climate, and to encourage support for policies that better care for creation.
See especially the section: Roadmap to Clean Energy by 2030 for clarity on steps to make once your congregation affirms the need for urgent action.
VTIPL has created two manuals, one with a Christian emphasis, Congregational Watershed Discipleship Manual: Faith Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Christian edition) and another with an interreligious emphasis, Congregational Watershed Manual: Religious Communities as Stewards of the World’s Waters (1st Interreligious edition).
Each one of these inspiring and practical manuals is available by free download from the pdfs on VTIPL’s website (www.vtipl.org) and this website. Alternatively, if you’d like one copy or multiple copies of the printed and bound manual(s), you can fill out and mail in the order form (attached below). These are high resolution print copies, spiral bound to conveniently lie flat. If you’d like to order one or more copies online, you can do this through the website of the organization Voices of Water for Climate (VOW). VOW is working with VTIPL to take orders and distribute printed copies of the manuals. Donations to VOW for printed copies will cover costs incurred, including shipping and handling. The link to order online is below.
Prepared by Pilgrims Caring for Creation Pilgrim Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN in response to a request from Mary Beth Nowak, ELCA Churchwide Assembly Coordinator, January 22, 2009.*
Adapted for events in observance of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation by David Rhoads, Founder Lutherans Restoring Creation.
*please note some resources may need updating – if you find anything we should alter please let us know!
Publicity about sustainability efforts; through planning, implementation, and beyond:
• Use your website, event program, press releases, opening, signage and post-event publications to tell the story of the green event.
• Put together a brochure with actions taken by your organization to make the event green. Print a limited number for attendees and the public and make it available electronically. Include green actions that individuals can adopt at the event, in their congregations, and beyond. For example:
• Adjust the thermostat in the hotel rooms (and at home) when not there so the heat or air conditioning is not running unnecessarily. Take advantage of hotel policies for less frequent washing of linens.
• List other relevant information related to getting around in the location of the event.
• Set up an onsite sustainability booth to provide information about the event’s greening initiatives. Items at this table could include: transit passes; transit information/maps; bike rental/bike trail information; tips included in the above brochure.
• Invite the local and national Lutheran creation care organizations to have booths and provide consultation to congregations regarding their greening goals.
Procurement of services and products
• Purchasing staff can keep in mind the environmental, social, and economic impacts of purchased goods or services—throughout its lifecycle. Favor goods and services that result in minimal environmental impacts and create good social and economic development. Use environmental criteria as well as quality and price.
• For example, if speaker platforms are created by staff, the wood could be sustainably grown and harvested. If rugs or fabrics are used to soften the areas, they could have minimal adhesives and be reusable or recyclable.
• Develop contract riders to hold suppliers accountable to sustainability commitments.
• For example, ask subcontractors and vendors to consider the lifecycle of the products they use and create.
• There is a precedent for event sponsors to calculate the energy used by the whole event—services, transportation, venues and so forth—and then purchase carbon offsets to cover their energy use. They can choose to ask participants to help bear the costs. There are several calculators to use for this. Consider http://www.nativeenergy.com, but browsing “carbon calculator” on the internet yields comparisons among several. For carbon offset groups, try http://www.co2offsetresearch.org/consumer/OffsetRatings.html .
Communications to participants prior to the event
• Provide opportunities for sending conference information electronically.
• Reduce the use of paper and the need to mail that paper by providing as much pre-event information electronically.
• Allow for and encourage electronic registration.
• Whenever paper is used: Decrease the margins around printing to one-half inch, copy on both sides of the paper, use 100% post-consumer recycled paper, print using soy/vegetable ink, avoid bright colored paper.
Travel to the Event
• Ask attendees to think about others living in nearby communities who will also attend the event and encourage them to consider renting a van or bus and traveling to the event together.
• Encourage each attendee/vendor/presenter/staff person flying or driving to the site of the event to consider purchasing carbon offsets to help mitigate the environmental impact of their travel.
• Encourage people to bring their own water containers or mugs that they will rinse themselves. No Styrofoam or plastic bottles, please.
• Encourage delegates and others coming to the event to consider bringing their families and making the location of the event a vacation destination rather than taking a second trip and thereby emitting additional greenhouse gas emissions. Come early or stay later.
• Consider providing videoconferencing options to individuals who do not need to be physically present at the event.
Lodging for Attendees
• Inquire about the environmental practices of hotels, including their waste and resource management.
• Are bulk dispensers for shampoos and soaps used in hotel rooms?
• Are low-flow water-conserving fixtures used in sinks, toilets, and showers?
• Are paperless check-in and check-out available?
• Are post-consumer recycled paper products used?
• Negotiate room blocks with hotels that are within walking distance, are on the transit line, and/or have green policies.
• Ask guests to participate in linen re-use programs at their hotels. Ask them to shut off lights, TVs, and heat/ A/C when they leave their rooms.
• Ask that the hotel staff to put the thermostat up/down when the room is empty. This is already the standard practice in some hotels.
Transportation around the Event Site
• Discourage the use of single rider rental cars, and encourage carpooling.
• Encourage the use of local transit.
• Inform attendees that bike rental is an option for local transportation.
• Inform attendees that idling is prohibited in many areas, unless the car is in traffic. Avoid idling for more than three minutes.
Event Site Amenities
• Inquire about the environmental practices of the site where the event is being held, including their waste and resource management: Do they employ energy- and water-efficient equipment and practices? Do they minimize the use of harmful chemicals when cleaning? Is recycling available in all common areas Are recycling receptacles readily available and clearly marked? Is staff trained to ensure that recycling and garbage are not co-mingled? Are food-rescue, food-to-animals, or food composting practices followed? Ask if they could schedule heat/ A/C resources around meeting requirements. Can the temperature be changed a little, keeping the halls comfortable but conserving energy?
• Encourage the event site to purchase wind energy during the period of the event. If not, consider purchasing carbon offsets for the event itself.
• Do not distribute plastic water bottles. Instead each table should have a pitcher of water and glasses.
• If you choose to use disposable products such as cups, and cutlery, consider purchasing compostable products made from cornstarch or similar materials. If this option is chosen, then provide for composting services and education to attendees to ensure success.
• Be sure not to put compostable waste inside large non-compostable plastic bags for disposal.
• Encourage attendees to bring their laptop computers and then provide wireless internet service to them. Make all printed materials available electronically so participants can choose to read the materials from their laptops rather than receiving handouts. Individuals may also choose to take notes on their computers rather than on paper.
• Compost food waste.
• Request that food providers use organic, locally produced food and beverages (contract with the site to use local food as much as possible). If it is not possible for all meals to be from local sources, have one or two meals designated as locally grown and publicize them that way.
• Provide only Fair Trade organic coffee and tea throughout the event.
• Direct event staff NOT to pre-fill water glasses at meals. Allow guests to fill their own glasses with pitchers at the tables.
• Do not use disposable water bottles. Provide for glasses and pitchers of water.
• Eliminate disposable items, including containers, plates, bowls, cups, cutlery, napkins, and tablecloths. Earth-Centric has cups that are compostable: http://www.Earth-Centric.com
• Arrange to donate leftover food to local charities. Local charity organizations may be able to assist with this effort. Individuals or groups can volunteer to assist.
• Ensure that any seafood served is harvested responsibly.
• Provide vegetarian and vegan meals or options.
• Choose reusable centerpieces and decorations.
• Make on-line registration an option and encourage attendees to use it.
• Encourage attendees to bring their own name-tags if they have them. Encourage them to be reusable.
• Provide lanyards that are made from recycled materials. Ask participants to return them after the event to be used again later, and provide an incentive for them to do so. For example, if there is a drawing at the end of the event, let people know that their name will be entered only upon the return of the lanyard.
• Give everyone a reusable event bag. The bag can be made of organically grown cotton or canvas, or recycled plastic. Put a logo on it that people will be happy to reuse. This reduces waste and is good advertising.
• Consider the environment when determining giveaways. Provide giveaways that are useful and sustainable, like a bicycle (LED) flasher, keychain with light on end, 3” x 3” recycled leather paper pad.
• Encourage vendors and exhibitors to consider the environment when making choices about giveaways, banners, displays, paper, post-conference waste, etc.
• Encourage them to provide giveaways that are made from recycled materials, or will biodegrade, or are reusable, or are consumable (e.g. note pads made from recycled paper, coffee mugs, Fair Trade chocolate).
• Request/require exhibitors to use recycled and recyclable paper.
• Invite people/companies to exhibit who can sell potentially green things to congregations (eco-friendly Good Friday palms branches, organic communion wine, etc.).
• Encourage exhibitors to reduce waste (and cost) by reusing or recycling displays and other materials, rather than disposing of them after the event.
• Request that exhibitors use sustainable design and construction of their exhibit booths, if possible.
• Attempt to hire “green” display/decoration/production companies for décor (banners, cutouts, platform decorations, posters). Can you reduce? Do you really need everything you think you need? Using less is good for the environment and good for the budget. What are displays and decorations made of? Do they emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)? Can they be reused?
• Use organic communion wine and locally produced communion bread made from organic ingredients, at large group meetings. Practice intinction to avoid plastic communion cups or washing glass ones.
• Encourage presenters to provide their presentations in advance on discs or on the Assembly web site. Remind attendees that materials will be available on a designated website after the event.
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.)
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.” Psalm 119:105
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:
Watershed Discipleshipis a website and organization based on the idea that the best way to orient the church’s work and witness is through bioregionally-grounded planning and action which focuses on the actual watersheds we inhabit. The website includes a blog, links to articles by Ched Meyers and others, and information about watersheds. Read more: Watershed Discipleship Movement and Resources
Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade first started helping Lutherans Restoring Creation as she joined us in a training at Mar-Lu Ridge camp in Maryland in 2011 and shared her personal experiences being a pastor on the frontline of the fracking issues in Pennsylvania. Then, in 2013, she graciously gave a group of LRC trainers at Gettysburg Seminary a sneak peek of her eco-feminist work as she was in the midst of crafting her doctoral thesis. That work evolved as she pursued her vocation of teaching and published her book, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit.
Most recently she has been sharing her gifts as Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Her book, Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide, explores how clergy and churches can address controversial social issues (including climate change) using nonpartisan, biblically-centered approaches and deliberative dialogue. She also co-edited with Margaret Bullitt-Jonas a timely tool for all of us in this ministry: Rooted & Rising : Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis, a collection of 21 essays from a cross section of faith leaders and activists offering their spiritual wisdom and energy for facing the difficult days ahead. Leah has also written a Creation-centered Lenten devotional, For the Beauty of the Earth. She is a sought-after speaker and has keynoted and led workshops across the United States.
Below is a listing of Leah’s various offerings to Lutherans Restoring Creation. We are proud to have her as a part of our church and larger cloud of witnesses.
2016 – present: Supply preaching
2011 – 2016: Pastor, United in Christ Lutheran Church, West Milton, PA
2009 – 2011: Bridge Pastor, Spirit and Truth Worship Center, Yeadon, PA
2000 – 2009: Associate Pastor, Reformation Lutheran Church, Media, PA
• Kentucky Council of Churches Award, 2019
• Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania Service Award, 2016
• The Mark McCollough Religious Leadership Award, presented by The Central Susquehanna Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 2013
Environmental and Justice Advocacy and Activism
Member of Blessed Tomorrow Leadership Circle, a coalition of diverse American faith leaders committed to inspiring others to lead on climate solutions in their congregations, homes, and communities. Blessed Tomorrow is one of the sector programs of ecoAmerica, an organization committed to building institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate solutions in the United States.
Trained workshop leader for Lutherans Restoring Creation, training congregations for starting care-of-Creation teams and programs.
Involvement with several different interfaith groups on environmental issues, including Interfaith Power & Light, the Poor People’s Campaign, Pa. MORALtorium on Fracking, etc. Prayer vigils, press conferences, government testimonies and protests.
Founding member of the Isaiah 1:17 Justice Team of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod, 2018 – present.
Sponsor of memorial to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly calling for divestment from fossil fuels. Motion passed by Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly (USS), June 2015.
Sponsor of memorial to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and resolution to the Upper Susquehanna Synod Assembly calling for integration of Eco-Reformation into the 500th Anniversary commemoration of the Reformation. Motions passed, June 2015.
Community organizer and spokesperson for the Tire Burner Team, a group of community activists and grassroots citizens who successfully defeated a proposed tire incinerator in White Deer Township, Union County, PA; 2013 – 2014.
Representative for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania (LAMPa) and the ELCA, testifying in favor of the EPA’s Clean Air proposal for coal plants, 2014.
USS Bishop-appointed task group on fracking, 2013 – 2014.
Primary author of three resolutions on slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing for Upper Susquehanna Synod of the ELCA; one calling for formation of synod task force; one calling for ELCA to establish task force; one for the synod to call for a statewide moratorium; all three passed; 2012.
Clean Air Advocacy Conference participant and representative for the National Council of Churches in coalition with the US Climate Action Network; meetings with four congressional representatives in support of the Clean Air Act; Washington, DC, 2011
Over 100 radio, television and newspaper interviews, features, and op-eds covering topics such as local and national environmental issues, religion, and politics
SAMPLE KEYNOTES, WORKSHOPS, RETREATS “Creation, Climate, and the Church: Healing Our ‘Vitamin C’ Deficiency”
In an increasingly polarized society, how can the church respond to the rising crises of environmental devastation and climate disruption? Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will share her research about pastors, preaching, and environmental issues, and suggest an approach that honestly and creatively names the reality of the “eco-crucifixion,” while proclaiming an “eco-resurrection” through Christ’s redemption of Creation.
“Beyond ‘Creation Care’: Building the Eco-Ethical Ark in the Age of Climate Disruption”
For many years, religious environmental activists used the term “Creation Care” to instill a sense of moral and ethical responsibility around ecological issues. Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will make the case that we need to expand and deepen our understanding of the phrase “Creation Care” so that it conveys the urgency needed to act on what is happening. She will propose adding three other alliterative phrases: Creation Clarity, Creation Compliance, and Creation Compassion, and will explore what they might entail for the church responding to the climate crisis.
Deliberative Dialogue on “Climate Choices: How Should We Meet the Challenges of a Warming Planet?”
Climate change is an issue that affects virtually every American, directly or indirectly, often in deeply personal ways. How can the church address this issue given the red-blue polarization of our time? Is there a way to faithfully engage important questions about the climate crisis that moves us beyond the current political debate and frames the conversation within a biblical and theological perspective? Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade will facilitate a nonpartisan deliberative dialogue in which we’ll explore the church’s role in engaging this difficult issue.
“Who Is My Neighbor” Mapping Exercise
Drawing from her book, Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015), Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will present practical suggestions and questions for mapping the ecological, social, cultural and political location of a particular congregation to help churches better contextualize their ecology ministry. This workshop will be helpful for pastors looking to “green” their preaching and for church leaders wanting to find ways to create or expand their ecology ministry.
“Council of All Beings”
This workshop invites participants to spend time outside and connect with an aspect of nature that calls to them. Drawing on her book Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis co-edited with Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade leads participants through a ritual of deep listening to the natural world in order to foster compassion for all life-forms and heal the splits that separate human beings from God’s Creation.
“Art as a Window into the Intersection of Religion, Gender, and Ecology”
Rev. Dr. Leah Schade shares provocative and moving images from artists depicting humanity’s different conceptions of the environment, religion, and the male/female dichotomy. How do our understandings of gender impact our theology and how we view the natural world? What impacts do these images have on everything from our religious language, to our environmental policies, to our treatment of males, females, transgender, and non-gendered persons? Through discussion, meditation, journaling, and group exercises, participants will be led to deepen their relationship with themselves, the natural world, and the Divine.
Creation-Crisis Preaching: Strategies, Tactics, and Text Studies
Preaching “good news” in the face of environmental devastation, the climate crisis, and extreme energy extraction can feel overwhelming to pastors and congregations alike. Rev. Dr. Leah Schade will introduce a three-fold approach for preaching that addresses environmental justice issues with a particular eye towards congregational context (geography, culture, community, political tensions, economics, etc.). The goal is to help preachers develop an environmentally-literate approach to preaching that honestly and creatively names the reality of our ecologically-violated world, while emphasizing a hope-filled “eco-resurrection” through Christ’s redemption of Creation.
Sermons preached as Earth, Water, or Air
“I Am Ruah: The Holy Spirit Speaks to the Climate Crisis”
“Ruah” is the Hebrew word for the spirit, air and wind that comes from God. How might Ruah, the very breath of God, experience the climate crisis and pollution? What insights can we gain from Jesus’ teaching about blaspheming the Holy Spirit when considering the moral and ethical implications of climate disruption? In this creative and engaging sermon, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade speaks as the character of Ruah and invites listeners to consider how their faith will shape their response to the climate crisis.
“I Am Water, I Am Waiting: John 4:1-42 (The Woman at the Well).
How does Water respond to being called hudor zoe, living water, by Jesus? How does she feel about baptism? About the pollution from fracking? In this dramatic and imaginative sermon, Rev. Dr. Leah Schade preaches as the character of Water telling the story of God’s Creation from the beginning, her relationship with Jesus, and her perspective on the story of the Woman at the Well in John 4:1-42.
Earth Speaks: What’s Next?
In this sermon listeners begin to see how the ideas of Earth-as-body, Earth’s co-creativity with God, the intrinsic value of Earth, and the relationship between Earth, its flora and fauna, human beings, and God are so intimately related. The sermon dramatically portrays what it looks like when the relationships between these entities are violated by human beings. Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade illustrates what it might be like if Earth were to hear and interpret a biblical text and provides insight into humanity’s relationship with God and Creation, as well as God’s in response to suffering, from Earth’s perspective.