MCCN Liaison Bonnie Portzline, Fairfield Mennonite Church, Fairfield, Pa., has compiled a collection of suggestions to share with other congregations. They range from book suggestions to worship tips to community outreach ideas. One way Portzline shares her love of creation is through a program entitled, “Birds with a Gettysburg Address.” She is an avid nature photographer. The insect pictures is a clearwing hummingbird moth.
A CHALLENGE TO LIAISONS AND THEIR CHURCHES
How about writing a 21st century version of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in which the injured one is the earth… Who would be your good Samaritan?
EARTH SUNDAY has been an annual event in April at Fairfield Mennonite Church even before MCCN. But since mid-2012, our church also has five to eight Sundays a year when we focus on various aspects of nature and “the theology of ecology.” Given a choice from the weekly lectionary, those who plan services often choose “green scripture.” That helps to keep us spiritually and intellectually focused upon our responsibilities, our Source, and the fact that the Bible is a gorgeous green!
“THEO ECO NOTES” As MCCN liaison, I often submit “THEOlogical ECOlogical NOTES” for the Sunday bulletin. These include hints about reusing, reminders about recycling, facts and figures that
surprise, quotes of wisdom and introspection.
Are you flying to your location? Consider planting a tree or having one planted to make up for the tons of pollution that your one-way flight put into the atmosphere. And buy or support companies that work to reduce the carbon footprint that their products would create. For example, some publishers plant trees to make up for the new wood fiber (used with recycled product) in making paper for their books.
WHEN YOU’RE PREACHING TO THE CHOIR
MCCN liaisons are likely to represent congregations such as mine at Fairfield Mennonite: progressive activists who have long practiced (as a church and as individuals) simpler, greener living. But what if your congregation is no longer physically able to take on big idea projects? What if they already understand the science of global climate change? Suppose they are politically and religiously committed to God’s first calling to sustain his great gardens and care for all living things so that all may have enough?
At FMC I consider our worship and prayer as important as any political or environmental project. (Surely, any project is best preceded by seeking God’s inspiration and direction.) We celebrate, using many wonderful Psalms. We sing praises from the Word. We ask forgiveness (for ourselves and the big decisionmakers.) We share. We pray. We give. We seek to be led. And we discover again and again just how “green” the Bible actually is. How did we miss it? How has any part of The Church across the world missed this?
Consider Job 12:7-9 and the terrific recognition of what nature can teach us about God and ourselves:
But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this? (NRSV)
NATURE PHOTOS CALL US TO WORSHIPThe church is generous in allowing me to share digital slideshows of recent nature photos (particularly of wild birds.) With a few minutes of images shown during contemplative music I play on the piano, the congregation can share in the praise and celebration of “the trees of the field” and the “clapping leaves” as they worship and thank the Creator.
I am in the third year of sharing my chat and slideshow, “Birds With A Gettysburg Address.” It features stories and photos of local birding experiences I have had and creaturely drama I have witnessed with my camera. Depending upon the type of audience, I find an appropriate way to speak about climate change and our responsibility to nature. If I can encourage conservation of woods and grassland habitat for the birds we enjoy, then perhaps our grandchildren will still have birds to enjoy.
TWO IDEAS in the THINKING STAGE
- OUTREACH to COUNTY CHURCHES This year, I feel led to reach out to all churches within Adams County to encourage a scriptural basis for preaching creation care and studying the theology of ecology. I would do this in the name of and with the support of Fairfield Mennonite Church, It might provide an opportunity to share resources and partner with other congregations that believe in green living and our responsibility as stewards of nature. However, it might also identify congregations that teach global climate change as false science and/or believe that there is no need to repair the harm done to earth because God gave it to humans to use until the second coming. But who knows what a simple act of outreach might do in starting dialogue and thinking?
- ORGANIC ‘FIRST-FRUITS OFFERING’ and COMPOSTINGI’ve wished that the local trash haulers and recyclers would add organic “garbage” to the pick-up! I hope to explore this. In the meantime, since a member, Darv Gebhart, constructed two composting bins for the church and its Menno Gardens, I am going to ask Church Council if we could supply each household with a container and lid to tote organic refuse to church on Sunday as a “first-fruits offering” for the composting bins.
I RECOMMEND THESE BOOKS for Study, Prayer, and Discussion
The Travail Of Nature: The Ambiguous Ecological Promise of Christian Theology
by Paul H. Santmire, Augsburg Fortress Press: 1986.
Earth Prayers from around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the
Earth Eds. Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, HarperOne: 1991.
While Creation Waits: A Christian Response to the Environmental Challenge
by Dale and Sandy Larsen, Harold Shaw Publishers: 1992.
To Heal The Earth: A Theology Of Ecology
by Frederick Quinn, Upper Room Books: 1994.
Nature Reborn The Ecological and Cosmic Promise of Christian Theology
by Paul H. Santmire, Fortress Press: 2000.
Creation and the Environment: An Anabaptist Perspective on a Sustainable World
Edited by Calvin Redekop, Johns Hopkins: 2000.
The Splendor of Creation A Biblical Ecology
by Ellen Bernstein, The Pilgrim Press: 2005.
Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action
by J. Matthew Sleet, Zondervan: 2007.
The Green Bible Devotional: A Book of Daily Readings
by Carla Barnhill, HarperOne: 2009.
The Green Bible
Editor, J. Matthew Sleeth
The Gospel According to the Earth
by J. Matthew Sleeth
Global Warming and the Risen Lord Christian Discipleship and Climate Change
by Jim Ball, Evangelical Environmental Network: 2010.
The Season of Creation A Preaching Commentary
Editors Normal C. Habel, David Rhoads, and Paul Santmire
Fortress Press: 2011.