Karl Shelly, who pastors at Assembly Mennonite Church, Goshen, Ind., attended the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions’ first Pastoral Retreat on Climate Change in September 2018. In January 2019, he brought the topic to a new group of Mennonite pastors in his area. He reports:
When it was my turn to lead the monthly meeting of the Goshen-area Mennonite pastors, I chose the topic of climate change. I was interested to hear what congregations were doing about what is arguably the most pressing ethical issue of the 21st century. I was also interested in what might be holding us back from addressing it. I offered those gathered a list of reasons for not engaging climate change, and asked them to identify which, if any, applied to them.
The most common responses were that congregations are so busy and that climate change is just one of many things competing for time. Others said it has the potential to be politically divisive and it’s not what people necessarily come to church wanting to address. Some don’t feel there is much a congregation can do about it.
While many said the issue of climate change is huge and depressing, the tone of the conversation shifted when people started talking about ways we can say yes to honoring God’s creation. People talked about the ways we pray; of their commitment to pray in nature; of the forest church movement; of giving voice to the environmentalists in our congregations; of helping us see creation in new ways.
At the end of our discussion, people said that they were surprised to leave this conversation feeling more hopeful than when it started. They said that focusing on the “little ways” we can say yes to God’s good creation felt like an important step in the face of such a huge issue.