Caring for Our Planet Leads to Care for People
by Donna Hankins, with contributions from Jesse Turner and Justin Schott
Jesse Turner had a devotion to Christian environmental stewardship instilled in him at a young age. Through the examples of his family and a minister of music at First Broad Street UMC in Kingsport, Tennessee, he learned a love and respect for creation. In time, Jesse gained a broader understanding of how the local and global environment is adversely affected by our unwise and excessive use of resources, both as individuals and as a society. He realized that loving God with all his heart and loving his neighbors as himself involves being a good steward of creation.
Jesse's early lessons were gained through experiences at church camps, environmental camps, and spending time with God in the wilderness. Now his graduate school studies at the University of Michigan have brought him back to Holston Conference. In February 2005, a "Discerning and Following God's Will for the Earth" project was spearheaded by Jesse and other graduate school students from the university. In a written statement from Jesse and classmate Justin Schott, the project is described as folllows:
"Guided by surveys, focus groups, and interviews, we seek to understand the connections between faith and concern for the natural world among Holston's United Methodists and what level of responsibility we Methodists feel as stewards of God's creation. This information will assist the development of Christian environmental stewardship programs, such as Bible studies and Sunday school classes, church beautification, recycling and energy conservation efforts, and youth programs."
Unique to Holston, this study is a partnership between Bishop Swanson's office and the General Board of Church and Society. This endeavor reminds us that as disciples of Jesus, we should be concerned for the fate of people around the globe whose livelihoods and very survival depend on the well-being of the environment.
Clergy and laity throughout Holston Conference are encouraged to continue filling out the online survey recently posted. Jesse Turner and Justin Schott plan to continue gathering responses through the end of January 2006. They have been meeting with churches throughout the conference and are available to assist your church with starting a creation care program.
Here are a few ways that Holston churches have already been inspired by this project:
- Wesley Memorial UMC in Johnson City, Tennessee, has formed a "Green Team" to support and promote environmental stewardship within their congregation.
- First Broad Street UMC in Kingsport, Tennessee, is beginning an environmental stewardship committee to "support Christian envrionmental ministries...and act as a resource to guide care for God's creation through church decisions and practices and will share [their] experience as a model congregation as a witness to other churches and non-believers."
- Members of Hiltons Memorial UMC in Hiltons, Virginia, have signed an environmental stewardship covenant and have explored the theological grounding for an effort to increase energy efficiency of member's homes in time for winter.
- Pennington Gap UMC in Pennington Gap, Virginia is exploring Christian environmental stewardship and applying the discussion to guide their treatment of an abandoned lot owned by the church.
Jesse and Justin wish to express their gratitude for the way in which Holston Conference members have supported this project. We will follow-up with them at a later date to share the outcome of the study. If you have not had the opportunity to complete the online survey, please share your individual voice at http://environmentsurvey.holston.org.
For assistance in your church with environmental stewardship resources, planning, etc., contact Jesse Turner or Justin Schott at firstname.lastname@example.org.