WASHBURN, Tenn. (April 24, 2019) -- It’s standard behavior to use paper plates and plastic cups for our church dinners – and then throw them into the trash during cleanup.
Sara Orellana thinks we can do better.
“Every church can step out and do just one thing to foster ‘creation care’ this year,” she says. “Rediscover the beauty of your church’s china and reduce your use of plastics and paper.”
Orellana is Holston Conference’s new Creation Care chair, a ministry that falls under the Outreach/ Advocacy Team umbrella. She follows the late Brenda Haymore, who led Creation Care for Holston Conference for many years. Haymore died in December 2017.
It’s a fitting time to relaunch Holston’s environmental ministry, especially during the week for Earth Day, which fell on April 22, says Orellana.
“With all the turmoil our church has been through, there are things we can all agree to and even embrace: the beauty and the gift of creation that God has given to us and the importance of our role in caring for it,” she said.
Orellana is a member at Beeler’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Washburn, Tennessee, the same town where Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center is located. Orellana has lived in a solar-powered, “off the grid” home at Narrow Ridge since she retired five years ago.
Narrow Ridge was founded in 1991 by the Rev. Bill Nickle, a retired Holston Conference pastor. The nonprofit organization was created for studying, teaching and demonstrating sustainability, currently on more than 500 acres of mountain land in Grainger County.
“This is a transformational place,” said Orellana, referring to Narrow Ridge. “Finding God through creation makes caring for our home more personal.”
The United Methodist Church embraces care for God’s creation through its Social Principles, which refer to water, air, soil, minerals, plants, energy resources, animals, global climate, space, science, technology, and food among its concerns.
“... Let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation,” the Social Principles state.
Among the ways the denomination lives out its commitment to creation care is EarthKeepers, a training program of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. In November 2018, Orellana was one of 45 new EarthKeepers commissioned in Atlanta, representing 13 annual conferences.
“People worldwide are suffering the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation,” said Thomas Kemper, UMC Global Ministries general secretary. “EarthKeepers equips United Methodists to address the root causes of that suffering.”
Orellana said she hopes to use her training to engage more congregations, and especially younger United Methodists, in making creation care a priority. Her suggestions include:
- > Start (or expand) a recycling program with bulletins, plastic bottles, and/or soda cans.
- > Work with youth to create a straw bale garden. Donate produce in your community.
- > Don’t use plastic bags for anything you can carry in one hand.
For more ideas, Orellana (a certified United Methodist lay speaker) is available to speak in churches. She is also seeking Holston members who wish to join Holston’s Creation Care Ministry Team. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.