Anabaptists around the world care for creation

Stories from around the world teach how we respond as faith communities to the challenges of climate change.

The 353 responses to the Creation Care Task Force survey contained many stories of churches caring for creation. This month, we highlight responses that emphasize how congregations creatively enact local solutions as faithful response to the injustices of environmental degradation.

Creation care can be integral to worship and study…

“The church has engaged with the topic [of climate change] on the biblical fact that God is the Creator and [we are] the steward of the resources entrusted [to us].”—Francis Kamoto, pastor, Mpingo Wa Abale Mwa Kristu (Brethren In Christ) Malawi.

“In addition to changing our lighting (to automatic), starting a recycling program, etc., we are also in line to install solar panels on the church building.”—Rebecca Helmuth, North Goshen Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana, USA. 

Rebecca Helmuth

“The Meserete Kristos Church Head Office sends a bi-weekly bulletin in three languages which includes Bible-based devotional materials that address the thematic areas of MKC’s five ministry pillars. Climate change is addressed under peacebuilding and holistic ministry.”—Desalegn Abebe, president, Meserete Kristos Church, Ethiopia.

“We’ve had sermons, classes and workshops to help us understand the scope of global climate change and to develop responses. Specifically, we've focused on changing eating habits. We have also advocated for local and state legislation to address climate change.”—Rod Stafford, Portland Mennonite, Oregon, USA.

And it can be integrated into church activities in other practical ways…

A banner at First Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ontario, promotes action for climate justice. Photo: Donna Bender   

“We try to minimize our creation of garbage in church events (e.g., use dishes rather than disposables). We use LED light bulbs when possible. We keep heat turned down when church is not in use. We try to reduce road salt in winter.”—Eleanor Nash, Rouge Valley Mennonite Church, Markham, Ontario, Canada.

“We hosted an intergenerational climate change conversation; have quarterly newsletters on creation care/climate change; hold an annual creation care Sunday during Season of Creation; host Wild Church monthly; installed solar; insulated our building; established permaculture gardens and onsite composting; and our members wrote a cookbook (Sustainable Kitchen).”—Heather Wolfe, Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship, Woodstock, Vermont, USA.

Which helps churches engage with their local communities.

“We engaged with A Rocha in an eco-church evaluation. We grew a vegetable garden for donation to our local food bank. We participated this year in the Season of Creation for three Sundays, worshipping outside and drawing nature into our contemplation.”—Lori Matties, River East Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

“We dug up a large portion of the grassy lot next to our building and divided it into plots. Each summer, church members and church neighbours plant gardens for food.”—Karla Braun, Crossroads MB Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Natural solutions such as tree planting are good for the planet and for our communities

Tshims Mafuta

“MB Malawi works to develop a strategy for combating deforestation and for improving forest governance. Complementary site-based interventions have been initiated to address drivers of climate change, while also helping to generate livelihood opportunities for vulnerable households.”—Bahati Mutabesha Safari, Mennonite Brethren church of Malawi.

“The church has always encouraged members to plant trees and today those trees produce fruit and protect houses against the wind.”—Cristiano Mafuta M. Ngoma, Igreja da Comunidade Menonita em Angola 

“[As part of the GREEN Legacy to plan 5 billion trees], our church members planted trees in their church compounds, open spaces and community lands.”—Desalegn Abebe, president, Meserete Kristos Church, Ethiopia

Dedicating groups to creation care often help churches engage more effectively

Wendy Janzen, Eco-Minister for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, gave an outdoor sermon at First Mennonite Kitchener in January. They had a month-long sermon series on creation care and regularly invoke it in prayer time. Photo: Noa Bergen.

After an all-ages worship series on creation care, “We formed a climate action sub-group. We had a vegetarian potluck and sharing of recipes to encourage folks to eat less meat. We planned a tree-planting event. We installed solar panels on the church roof several years ago and installed a water station to promote refilling of reusable water bottles.”—Donna Bender, First Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

Youth are critical for catalyzing action

“A few years ago, the youth planted trees around the spring that supplies our town with potable water, and it had such a great impact on our community and our youth in terms of preserving and caring for what we have.”—Omar Pérez Reyes, president, Asociación Iglesias Cristianas Menonitas de Costa Rica.

“Church youth usually take advantage of evangelism sessions to make people aware about the consequences of climate change and how to stop its effects.”—Thioro Bananzaro, president, Eglise Evangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso.

Churches can take actions that impact larger systems

“In the early 2000s, we were involved in an interfaith and civil movement to reject a plan from the government to build a nuclear plant power. That was a controversial issue…but this became a meeting point for interfaith networking.”—Danang Kristiawan, GITJ Jepara, Indonesia.

“Our church joined forces with other civil society organizations to protest against the mega mining project, ‘The Colossus’ in Cajamarca which was supposed to be the biggest open pit gold mine in Latin America. We have participated in citizen actions to defend the land, water, and natural resources.”—José Antonio Vaca Bello, Iglesia Menonita Ibague, Colombia.

Photo: José Antonio Vaca Bello

All of these steps serve as important acts of hope

“During a church service for Erntedankfest (Thanksgiving), the church members were invited to plant an apple tree on the church lawn. Together, we stood on the grass and watched as the children took their little shovels and filled the hole where the new tree (a heritage variety) stood. This year at Erntedank, three little apples were presented as the first gifts. We were reminded of the goodness of our Creator who makes all things new.”—Dora Schmidt, Mennonitengemeinde Enkenbach, Germany.

Children harvest apples from a tree the congregation planted. Photo courtesy Dora Schmidt

Response

“As organizations founded on Christian faith in the Anabaptist tradition, we recognize the significant threat to global communities, economic justice, and the next generations from climate change. We are committed to explore our work and mission in support of sustainable and just climate solutions.”

Statement from Anabaptist Collaboration on Climate Change meeting,26-27 Jan 2022

 

CCTF March 2022

Welcome to a series on environmental problems and the global church.

These stories illuminate

a) how Anabaptist-Mennonites are affected by environmental degradation,
b) what Anabaptist-Mennonites think about environmental issues,
c) how Anabaptist-Mennonites are responding.

Story #1: How environmental crises impact church communities
Story #2: How do environmental problems make people feel?
Story #3: How does climate change intersect with other community challenges?
Story #4: Are our churches and leaders engaged with creation care?
Story #5: How do churches practice creation care?
Story #6: What would help churches engage more with creation care?

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