By Tyler Sprouse, TWK Communications Specialist
The magnitude of the climate crisis is overwhelming and can lead people to feelings of despair and helplessness. What can everyday people do in the face of such an all-encompassing and urgent issue? Here in the TWK Conference, the answer may be closer than you think.
But first, some larger context.
From November 6-18, world leaders gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for the 27th annual Conference of the Parties (COP27), the United Nations Climate Change conference, to discuss the intricacies of the crisis and seek solutions to help prevent worst-case scenarios. Among the vast array of countries and organizations present, a contingency of United Methodists and other faith leaders gathered in Egypt to raise their voices in advocating for climate justice.
Alongside COP27, Wespath hosted a two-part webinar series (part 1; part 2) with numerous United Methodist agencies, such as the General Board of Church and Society and United Women in Faith, to discuss the United Methodist perspective(s) on the global climate conference.
Geopolitical leaders deliberating on the daunting questions of climate change; representatives from the global UMC and its agencies discussing denominational positions–all important work. However, the global scope can, at times, feel far away from the immediate day-to-day realities of our own local contexts.
But we know that this issue is not “somewhere out there.” It impacts all of us in a myriad of ways that will continue to unfold in the coming years and decades; it demands our attention now. Yet the question remains: how can local churches get involved? Where should folks begin?
The TWK Creation Care team is here to help.
“For us, it begins with prayer,” said Rev. Ann Cover, co-chair of the TWK Creation Care team. “Discernment is a crucial part of the work. We need God’s help to show us how our unique gifts can correspond to particular areas of creation care.”
Our conference’s creation care team seeks not only to help churches get engaged, but also to remind us that this work is crucial to who we are as Christians.
“We are called to be stewards of God’s good creation,” said Cover. “That means that we take care of it–both for ourselves and for future generations. This is, for us, an essential part of discipleship.”
They emphasize that what we do as humans impacts everything around us; the consequences of our actions and systems reverberate throughout the wider world.
“As Wesleyans, we take ‘reason’ seriously,” said Dan Joranko, the ministry coordinator for the TWK Creation Care team. “We listen and respond to what science tells us about the ways our society is harming the environment. First, though, I view this through the scriptural lens of the ‘covenant’: if we are faithful, the wider creation flourishes; if we are not, the earth is harmed–which, in turn, harms us, particularly the poor and others throughout the world most vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis.
“Eventually, though,” he continued, “it will harm us all.”
How can churches make an impact?
Their message is simple. “We encourage churches to start where they are,” said Cover. “Everybody has a piece in this work—each congregation has gifts it can use to make an impact.”
“Churches can begin by looking at the way they use their buildings,” added Joranko. “They can cut down on energy use or move to more energy efficient infrastructure. If done with care this saves money for ministry and mission.
“We have also seen churches begin creation care projects on their own grounds, such as planting community gardens or engaging in recycling initiatives,” he said. “All of these are good ways, not only to combat climate change, but additionally to build community, raise awareness, and educate.”
These recommendations are not one-off actions relevant only to individual churches. The team envisions churches engaging in local initiatives that link with others to form a diverse tapestry of mutually reinforcing climate action, connecting thereby to the broader global movements for climate justice. In other words, for this work to have a global impact, it has to be local, and vice versa. Of course, this action must be paired with committed advocacy as well.
And yet, how can people move beyond despair or helplessness and get engaged? The creation care team embodies an answer: hopeful action empowered by love and sustained by joy.
“This is our time and place–this is the crisis of our day,” said Cover. “Christian hope originates in our experience of the love of God in Jesus Christ, which opens new possibilities. We build hope by relying on that love as we participate with our communities in this work. In order to sustain this, we must find the joy that God gives along the way.”
Start where you are–and know you are not alone.
“We want to hear from anyone interested in getting involved!” said Cover. “Even if it is just a couple people from a local congregation–we are here and ready to start the conversation.”