The inauguration of Holston Conference’s Creation Care was very successful and very well received. Fifty people attended and more than half of the conference districts (7) were represented.
The Rev. Pat Watkins, event speaker, was very impressed by the number of districts that participated. He told me when he first initiated Creation Care in the Virginia Annual Conference, he had representation from only a third of the districts. Another factor that impressed him with Holston was the number of clergy who attended.
Watkins introduced each workshop (plus other speaking engagements) with primary emphasis that for one to understand about God and his creation we need to go back to Genesis and general scriptures throughout the Bible pertaining to creation. He openly welcomed any questions and comments. “I love it when people interact and question. It means they’re interested and listening, whether they agree or not,” Watkins said.
The second part of his workshop pertained to what churches can do to take care of their environment and how this can lead to evangelism, mission, and even new members into the church. Handouts were given with “Tips Your Church Can Do to Go Green” and a list of suggested scriptures.
Suggestions included sharing Sunday School and Vacation Bible School materials with other churches, sponsor a “Go Green for God” day where you clean church property (inside and outside), plant communal gardens if there is space, publicly display in your church utility bill invoices and even visit your church at 3 a.m. to check on the temperature.
Watkins ended by telling stories from other churches that have initiated Creation Care ministries themselves. One group began a "bring your own mug" to church. Just a few diehards continually brought their own mug to church functions. Soon afterward, a few more, then several others began bringing their own mug and even taking it back home to wash.
The best story of all is a family of four that visited a church for the first time. The husband goes to the restroom and noticed the men’s restroom using a waterless urinal system. A plaque on the wall indicated that the waterless urinal will save 45,000 gallons of water in one year. When the husband returned to his family, he exclaimed, "We’re joining this church today! If this church is that concerned about our environment and actually doing something about it, we’re here.”
So what is on the horizon now for Holston’s Creation Care? “The pebbles have been dropped and the seeds are being sown,” says Brenda Haymore, chair of Holston’s Creation Care ministry. Those that attended the workshops will be emailed to see if they want to be an active part in their respective district CCare team. The goal is to still have 2-3 clergy and 3-5 laity per district.
We will primarily communicate via email and tele-conferencing. We have a proposed 2012 budget of under a $1,000. There is nothing in the budget to even consider snail mail. Our main communication will be to those individuals interested, each district superintendent office and their administrative assistants, the bishop’s office and connectional ministry chairs. We will also continue to send each district office a monthly eco-tip that can be published in their monthly newsletters.
Most important is we want to hear creation care-environmental stewardship stories within Holston and share.
Holston is truly on the cusp of something really big, not only within our conference but also within the entire United Methodist denomination. On Jan. 27-28, Virginia Conference's Caretaker’s for God’s Creation will be hosting an inaugural meeting to discuss hopes, dreams, and visions for a Creation Care ministry within the denomination and how we can connect creation issues with other passionate issues of the church. Watkins will be the host.
“Holston will see what evolves through this denominational-wide meeting and how we can incorporate within Holston,” says Haymore.
If any group within the conference would like for someone to speak about Creation Care, contact Brenda Haymore at email@example.com or Gaye King at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brenda Riggle Haymore is chair of the Holston Conference Creation Care Ministry Team.