Stewards of Creation

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

Grief, Gratitude, and Giving

Changing the calendar to a new year looked somewhat different this time. It did not feel the same as it has in the past where the excitement of a new year brings resolutions and goals for what we hope to accomplish. It is hard to think about planning for what we might do this year when we are limited in our ability to be together as we have been in the past. Some days it is hard to think about what we can do at this moment let alone think about next month or the month after.

Wholehearted Stewardship

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful in a few things,
I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
(Matthew 25:21)

In the Parable of the Talents, we are reminded that we are called to steward that which God has entrusted into our care. We are called to receive what we have been given, nurture and grow it, share with those in need, and return to God what belongs to God having been faithful stewards of many things.

Stay Focused on God

“They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.”
(Isaiah 40:31)

In a recent blog, Olanda Carr, Senior Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation, writes that over the past few weeks, he has been drawn to this passage of scripture…perhaps because all we have been doing for weeks and months is waiting…

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

Grateful: Finding Hope in Every Day

 “For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Diana Butler Bass’s most recent book is entitled, “Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks.” We know that gratitude is good, but many of us find it hard to sustain a meaningful life of gratefulness. Most of us report feeling gratitude on a regular basis, but those private feelings seem disconnected from larger concerns of our public lives.

The Stewardship of White Privilege

One of my favorite definitions of stewardship, generally attributed to Clarence Stoughton, is “stewardship is everything we do after we say, ‘I believe.’” Stewardship is love in action—it puts feet to our faith.

What does that really look like? It’s easy for those of us who are white to join the crowd in professing “Black Lives Matter,” make a donation, and return to business as usual without doing the learning, listening, and soul searching required to join the movement for lasting systemic change.

Stewarding Congregational Wellness

Some stewardship committees focus most of their attention on the fall Stewardship emphasis. Frankly, that’s plenty of work. But our calling as stewardship leaders is not just to the fall “ask.” We are also called to help shape the identity of stewards among our peers and as a community. We are entrusted with many assets, some of which are physical (like buildings and money) and some of which are relational (like our congregational community or our congregational mission). All of these are inflection points where we can invite others to think and act like stewards.

Giving to God

Stewardship is not just a way of life; it is a good way of life. In fact, for many, it is a way to a better life. Stewardship means belonging to God. It means allowing God to rule our lives, putting God in charge of everything, including our time and our money. Surrendering control does not come easily to any of us. But God is good at ruling people’s lives. If we really do belong to God and if we really do put God in charge of everything, we will not be the worse for it.