The Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions and Mennonite Creation Care Network began offering pastoral retreats on climate change in 2018 because they believed that educating and inspiring pastors was the best way to engage congregations. The hope was that cohorts would support each other as they worked on climate change in their congregations and communities.
Here is a summary of what pastors in Ontario have been up to following a November 2018 retreat at Hidden Acres Mennonite Camp and Retreat Centre, New Hamburg. Thanks to the Ontario cohort for sharing the highlighted resources with the broader network.
Tamara Shantz, a pastor for young adults who works with Pastors in Exile, is working on Grounding: Discovering Our Sacred Gifts in a Climate Emergency. This is an intergenerational and ecumenical prayer retreat focused on climate change, November 15 to 17. “Facing deep grief and dying ecosystems, we come together to ask God: ‘What is emerging?’” she asks.
The Global Climate Strikes during the last two weeks of September energized a number of congregations. Multiple pastors encouraged their members to be part of local versions of the strike. In addition, four of the pastors who participated in the retreat planned and led a prayer service for the community beforehand.
“We wanted to ground our climate strike action in an intention of prayer,” said Josie Winterfield, pastor at Stirling Mennonite Church.
September brought a profusion of creation care series. Many congregations were observing the Season of Creation, a liturgical focus celebrated in September around the world.
Ottawa Mennonite Church has begun the Ottawa Mennonite Greens, a small group that explores environmental themes. The congregation has also held several outdoor prayer services inspired by worship experiences that took place at the pastoral retreat on climate change. Pastor Anthony Siegrist describes one such experience here.
St. Jacobs Mennonite Church organized a six-week worship series on creation and climate this fall. Sermons from this series can be found on the church website.
Rockway Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., combined worship and Sunday School for an activity-based morning with discussion tables and action groups. Some people painted signs for September’s climate strike.
Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., is also doing a worship series on faith communities and climate action. Scott Morton-Ninomiya, who attended the pastoral retreat as a presenter, preached and took part. “They are very passionate about it!” he reports. He now has a sermon and study session ready to take on the road.
Toronto United Mennonite Church held a series in May that included sermons, adult Sunday school, a recycling demonstration and vibrant and engaging conversation. A geologist in the congregation who is an expert on ice-core sampling and dating provided input.
The church also explored forest church themes during a retreat and a gathering of the Greater Toronto Area Mennonites.
At least three congregations engaged with a film entitled, Beyond Crisis: A Story of Hope for a Rapidly Changing World. The creator of the film is from their region and has Mennonite connections.