Project seeks new life using discarded plastics in Birmingham

Project seeks new life using discarded plastics in Birmingham

Amber Harrison and Celeste Vanhoose (back to camera) de-label and crush plastic bottles for shredding. Photo: Mollie Erickson

By Christie R. House
Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church

February 2020 | ATLANTA

The Rev. Adam Burns, an ordained deacon in full connection with the North Alabama Conference, encounters many challenges as pastor of the Church of the Reconciler, a United Methodist mission church in downtown Birmingham. Members of his congregation often struggle to find permanent housing and jobs, and they work hard to stay clean and sober despite their circumstances.

Burns has worked for eight years with this congregation that seeks to reimagine ministry with low-income men and women, some of whom live on the streets. “We hope to create a path toward employment and an abundant life so that it is easier to make positive, life-giving choices than to submit to a drug of choice. We hope to transition the community away from hopelessness toward embracing an ethic of support, positivity and encouragement,” Burns said in an interview.

The downtown community is also challenged to find a place to recycle plastics, even for those who are motivated to do so. While this may seem less immediate than the struggle to meet basic needs, Church of the Reconciler hopes to turn this challenge into a benefit for the church and community.

Burns describes his interest in EarthKeepers as taking place in stages. “I have always been interested in stewardship of the earth and climate justice,” he noted, “but felt overwhelmed by the information about what is happening and the apathy that seems to exist on several levels of our society.” He noted that becoming a father was what propelled him to get personally involved. “When my kids get older and ask me why we left them a planet in such a mess, I can at least tell them what we tried to do.”

“I am usually a glass half-empty sort of person,” Burns admitted, “but I was inspired.” He Googled “climate change and The United Methodist Church” and found the Climate Summit that took place in Nashville, Tennessee, last year. At the summit, he learned about Global Ministries’ EarthKeepers network of United Methodists concerned about care for the earth and the environment and experienced a “lightbulb moment.” Why not unite EarthKeeping and climate justice with the marginalized community he serves?

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