By Rev. Jenny Phillips*
A community farm to strengthen food security.
A conference creation care ministry.
A low-emission church building.
A book on African-American nature spirituality.
These are examples of the projects that 17 EarthKeepers will launch in their communities following their training at Mount Sequoyah Retreat Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Delilah Clark teaches EarthKeepers Terry Tremwell and Brenda Nickels about healthy soil during a tour of TriCycle Farm, a farm established to address food insecurity in the Fayetteville, Arkansas, community. PHOTO: MICHAEL BLACK
Participants spent nearly a week immersed in discussions on theology, United Methodist resources, entry points into creation care, and community organizing. “The entire structure of the training compels you to start a specific project that relates to creation care,” said Nathan Brasfield, a student at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. “Through this training, you learn how to be guided by your own personal story of faith and your experiences in the world.”
United Methodist faith demands a response to the environmental crisis and learning to articulate the connections between faith and action is a crucial skill. To learn these skills, United Methodists can attend EarthKeepers, a training established as a response to the growing awareness of creation care and environmental justice.
“Before the training, I was confused as to the direction to go to start my project,” said Becky Harp of First United Methodist Church of Canyon in Canyon, Texas. “Now I know I must have the theology, the facts, and ability to communicate the needs of the project.” Harp plans to partner with other churches and local government to develop a recycling center.
Global Ministries Mission Theologian Jerome Sahabandhu leads a discussion on climate justice. PHOTO: JENNY PHILIPS
The training was facilitated by staff from Global Ministries and Church and Society, but participants also brought significant expertise. “The wealth of knowledge, wisdom, passion, support, and resources that came from both the facilitators and other participants helped me to know I am not alone in the work of creation care,” said Jeff Potter, a seminarian at St. Paul School of Theology and pastor of Harveyville United Methodist Church in Harveyville, Kansas.
The sense of connection with a larger community of creation care leaders provides real inspiration. “As a lay person, I welcome the solid connection that a theological approach provides,” said J.P. Smith from Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa, Arizona. “There was no politics, just God's gift to consider.”
The Arkansas EarthKeepers class of 2017 was blessed and sent forth by Trinity United Methodist Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas. PHOTO: MICHAEL BLACK
Learn more information about the training and apply to be an EarthKeeper today.
*The Rev. Jenny Phillips is the Creation Care program manager for UMCOR.