By Karlah Y. Burton

In July of 2019, I attended the “Just Energy for All” training on behalf of United Methodist Women and the Creation Care Summit, Nashville, TN, for the first time. I received so much information, met so many people; but most of all I was inspired to return to my local church Saint Matthews (SMUMC) in Greensboro, North Carolina, and make a request that we establish a Green Team with the chairperson to become a voting member of the church council (in accordance with the UMC Book of Discipline). The request was readily approved.  

In February, 2020, I became a certified United Methodist Earthkeeper, receiving my training from Global Ministries. As chairperson of the SMUMC Creation Care Ministry and UM Earthkeeper, I considered undertaking the task of developing an external communication project. I expected to be working on advertising at local sporting events and other entertainment venues, posting billboards with the theme of Creation Care.

But the Coronavirus Pandemic not only put a stop to the 2020 Greensboro Grasshoppers minor league baseball season and other entertainment venues, but also to my initial plans. However, 

using an interest survey with the church, the Green Team chose the idea of hosting a community garden. Several church members, a recent graduate student, and the owner of our church landscaping service were especially supportive. We presented the request to our church’s Board of Trustees and planting began! 

 Our garden consists of tomatoes, pumpkins, green beans, collard greens, and a flower bed.  The pumpkins have been the easiest to grow and were part of the original idea to plant a church garden. We are hoping to open a pumpkin patch and a fall festival. Future plans include expanding our existing garden space and also becoming a part of a Partners in Health and Wholeness Collaborative with our North Carolina Council of Churches.  

At first, I was convinced that a large, fenced in area was what we needed to make a statement. However, I’ve fallen in love with the two raised beds that we have and the idea of starting small!  There is so much room for growth not only in our community garden, but also across the denomination and on behalf of the UM Creation Justice Movement! 

Our Board of Trustees has already given approval for the construction of a third raised bed and the tilling of a fifth garden space! In under a year our church moved from the position of no Green Team to the establishment of the Saint Matthews UMC Creation Care Ministry and our church’s Community Garden!  

Saint Matthews United Methodist Church was organized in 1866 and has the distinction of being the oldest and largest African American church in the Western North Carolina Conference. Located in historic East Greensboro, Saint Matthews has been an integral part of the community for over 150 years!   

As Chairperson of the SMUMC Creation Care Ministry and as a UM Earthkeeper, I am pleased with the progress we are making. I am so grateful for the dedication and commitment of all our supporters. Practicing environmental stewardship is crucial to the fate of our world, and together I know that we can make a difference.

All things through Christ Jesus!  
Karlah Y. Burton CNMT, AAS, BS, BA, is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Greensboro College, Greensboro, NC, a United Methodist Church supported institution. In 1986 she was an Ethnic Young Adult (EYA) Intern through the General Board of Church and Society. She currently serves as Mission Coordinator for Social Action for United Methodist Women at her local church.  See also: 7/21/2020 Letter to the Editor in the Greensboro NC News & Record