We are a generation of recycling bins. Many of us have taken on the challenge of having bins in our garages where we sift and sort the glass bottles, the aluminum cans, the plastic, and the cardboard. In some of our communities, we have one-stream recycling bins trusting that the sorting and recycling is happening once it has been picked up at our home.
The one thing we often overlook is the remaining parts of the “recycle, reduce, reuse” initiative. The recycling piece is an important part of the equation, but I often wonder how we might focus more on the reduction and reusing portion of this effort. For some of us, downsizing our homes and our cars can make a significant difference. Buying less and investing in things that will last longer and not have to be replaced as often are ways to make a difference. Thinking about your diet and the food you consume is another important decision. Every step is a shift in our lifestyle that affects our consumption.
What does it mean for us to do this as people of faith? How does this relate to our call as stewards? It really comes back to the way in which we view the abundance of God’s creation. How might we live deeper into God’s abundance, taking only what we need and reminding ourselves that God’s promise of abundance was for all creation?
Becoming stewards of creation begins in our homes. Like all our stewardship work, “it is everything we do after we say we believe.” It is a way of life, and every action we take is a spiritual discipline, a spiritual act of gratitude for all that God has provided for us every day to live a healthy and abundant life. We are called to care for all that God created.
Today is Earth Day which is observed every year on April 22 since 1970. Earth Day became an “environmental movement working with more than 75,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet.” This year’s theme is, “Restore Our Earth.” We could easily add the word “restore” to “recycle, reduce, reuse.” It would complete the circle.
How might we as congregations take our understanding as stewards of creation a step further than just having the recycling bins in our buildings?
During the pandemic, many of us made significant changes that brought about some unexpected positive results. The first thing we did was begin to spend more time outside. It was important for our health and well-being to get outside and get some exercise. We stopped driving our cars as much. Instead of long commutes to work and meetings, we began working from home, spending less money on gas for our cars, and reducing our carbon footprint by meeting by Zoom instead of flying to meetings. Air quality improved significantly because of the change in our lifestyle.
Soon, we will return to doing many of the things we did before the pandemic, but it does cause me to think that we have an opportunity to make some changes that could “restore our earth.” Here are a few ideas for you to consider in the coming months as we begin to re-enter the world around us:
- Creation Care Clean-up Day: Choose a date for a neighborhood clean-up and encourage your congregation to pick up trash in their neighborhoods. Invite them to post pictures of their labors online.
- Nature Prayer Walk: Get to know the habitat around your church by prayerfully walking through it. Take time to notice everything—plants, animals, insects, water sources, birds, everything. Offer a prayer of thanks for each part of creation you encounter, and then take time to learn more.
- Creation Care Leadership Team: Invite people of all ages to be part of a group that will help shape what creation care looks like in your congregation. Be sure to include children and youth on this team.
- Creation Care Summer Ministry: Host a summer ministry focused on creation care. Here are a few ideas from our sisters and brothers in the faith. Earthkeepers VBS, ReNew: The Green VBS, Caretakers of God’s Creation, God’s Good Creation VBS
- Peace Garden: Plant a Peace Garden on your property using as many native plants and pollinators as possible.
I hope you will see this as an opportunity not to add more to your “stewardship to do list” but rather a way to deepen your relationship with God as you live more deeply into your call as a steward of God’s creation.
Deborah Rexrode, PhD
POJ Associate for Stewardship