November Movement Café:
Green Teams and Local Church Engagement
November 15th 2023
10am PT / 11am MT / 12pm CT / 1pm ET
Green Teams and Local Church Engagement
The leaves are changing color, but in this month’s Movement Café, we are focusing on GREEN—specifically learning about Green Teams and their important role in caring for God’s Creation and justice. Local churches and their Green Teams can be true powerhouses in this important work.
Join us via Zoom, November 15th, 1:00 pm ET, to hear from Green Team leaders and advocates.
Green Teams—sometimes called by different names, such as a Creation Care Committee—are a group of people in a congregation who are committed to raising awareness about the urgent need to protect God’s Creation. They help the church and the church community in a variety of ways to develop sustainable practices, such as energy efficiency, conservation, and the use of clean energy sources. Their efforts range from replacing styrofoam coffee cups to building community gardens to leading the effort to install a solar roof. They may also encourage advocacy and engagement in policy and environmental justice issues.
The November Café will be a great opportunity for learning how to start and engage your Green Team, as well as for providing ideas for building and bolstering this important work at the local church level.
Couldn’t make it? Here’s what happened.
The November Movement Café focused on Green Teams and their important role. Presenters covered a range of information including the role of green teams in the church, resolutions related to green teams, resources, theology, and more.
Reverend Richenda Fairhurst opened the Café, and introduced the panel of presenters.
Bob Downs founded the green team at his church in Ohio, chairs the Creation Care Task Force of the West Ohio Conference, serves on the board of Interfaith Power and Light, and is an Earthkeeper. He discussed the evolution of green teams, but first noted that green teams can have a variety of names, such as Creation Care, Green Stewards, and so forth. He shared that the history of the UMC’s emphasis on creation care began with an early eco-theologist James Nash (1938–2008), who promoted environmental stewardship and inspired the formation of green teams. Bob also noted that in 2009, the Bishop’s Letter called for the formation of green teams and work on environmental stewardship. Scripture reminds us that we are caretakers of God’s creation.
For his Earthkeeper project, Bob developed a lay leader training devoted to environmental stewardship, which became the Loving People and Planet in God’s Name course. Together with a team of UMCJM leaders, the course has been tested and now published by Discipleship Ministries for dissemination to a wider audience. The course is designed to lift up, encourage, and build green teams and is available to all.
Crys Zinkiewicz is the author of the United Methodist Creation Justice Tips, which were her EarthKeeper project and are now entering their fifth year of monthly publication. She is also a member of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference Creation Care Ministry Team. She began her presentation with a reminder that “ripples” are important in this movement: By sharing your creation care work, your outreach can “ripple out” and broaden the impact.
Crys was the author of the recent model GreenTeam Formation resolution, which passed in five conferences in 2023 and has been submitted to the General Conference. She defined a resolution as an official document that gets the conversation started and then moves people to action. This resolution started with theological grounding based on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. The resolution stated:
“That every local church, charge, cluster, or district is urged to create a “green team” or strengthen an existing one for ACTION.”
The resolution also called for those actions to be done annually in the areas of worship, education, practice, and advocacy. She provided ideas, including creating Earth Day celebrations, hosting educational speakers or events, creating community gardens, and more. The resolution and a listing of ideas are on the Creation Justice Movement’s website.
Rev. Marty Toepke-Floyd is the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Jamestown, North Dakota, and has led Mission U studies on climate justice and poverty. He shared that the Green Team Formation resolution passed at his annual conference in oil-dependent North Dakota, but they are still in the process of getting green teams started at the local level. He noted that there are many resources to support green teams at the UMCJM level and that churches should take advantage of those.
Kim Richmond is an EarthKeeper who started the green team at her church. She is the Creation Care Ministry Team coordinator for the North Carolina Western Conference. She shared that the conference team had successfully engaged about 15–20 churches in their work, but with the passage of the Green Team Formation resolution at their conference, their reach has expanded to a broader audience and opened the door for them to lead trainings at the district level focusing on theology, practical tips, and resources. They will also be presenting at the 2024 Leadership Conference for Laity in January as well as hosting a workshop at the 2024 Annual Conference.
Anita Dygert-Gearheart is a former social worker who—with her husband, Bob, a retired pastor—created a book study group to learn about the climate crisis. Their study convinced them of the severity of the situation and the need for a public willing to take action. They felt that faith groups could play an important role in finding solutions.
Consequently, the couple’s EarthKeeper project was designing a curriculum for faith and community groups, which they entitled Wake Up World, which was published in January of 2023 and includes a website, www.wakeupworld.org. The program can be done as an independent study, provides many resources and concludes with ways to work at your local church. The curriculum looks at why we should care about the crisis, the science, what we can do on a daily basis to help creation, environmental justice, possible partners, and action items. An outgrowth of the curriculum is the new series of weekly one-minute video clips, A Minute for Mother Earth, for use especially in congregational settings.
Dawn Lewis is a recently ordained EarthKeeper who started the green team at her United Methodist church in Austin, Texas. A long-term advocate for creation care, she went through the nuts and bolts of how they got started at her church and what they did. Her small group began with pastor support as they garnered approval. They also were able to secure a permanent green team representative to serve on the board of trustees, ensuring a commitment to a green voice on church infrastructure decisions.
Dawn noted there were challenges in building the team, getting support for projects, and securing funds for projects. Her group worked to keep people connected, developed fundraising strategies, and accomplished sustainable projects ranging from eliminating styrofoam coffee cups to building a pollinator garden. She also recommended networking with a larger community of churches to share ideas and provide support.
Rev. Mel Carroway, retired clergy of the North Texas Conference, is the convener for the conference green team and is a long-term climate activist. He reminded us that this work is deeply entrenched in our Methodist tradition; that climate change is tied to justice issues including migration, healthcare, racism, and so forth; and that we have a biblical mandate to respond. He also noted that there may be barriers including climate deniers. Hosting a book study, (he recommended Katharine Hayhoe’s, Saving Us) to help educate others is one way to address the challenge.
Mel had several recommendations:
- Get a member on your church’s leadership team.
- Build a community garden, which serves as a great tool for modeling sustainability as well as educating and giving back to the community.
- Utilize resources including books, UMCJM resources, Interfaith Power and Light, and networks to build education and advocacy.
The Café concluded with breakout rooms on each of the topics discussed. Links referenced in the Café are provided below:
UNITED METHODIST CREATION JUSTICE LINKS:
is grounded both theologically with a Masters in Christian education and practically with a background in communications. She is the writer of the Creation Justice Tips (her EarthKeepers project), the Green Team Formation resolution, and the tipsheet for starting green teams. She is past chair of her local church’s Creation Care Committee, a member of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference Creation Care Ministry Team, and member of the Creation Justice Movement’s Communications Team. She lives in Nashville. where she has had a 30-year career of curriculum development at The United Methodist Publishing House.
is a UM EarthKeeper. She started the Creation Care Ministry in her home church, Maple Springs UMC, in Winston Salem, and is active in the Western NC Conference Creation Care Ministry, serving currently as the convener (coordinator) for that team. She is also a Climate Reality Project Leader and the Advocacy Chairperson for her local Audubon chapter.
As a long time Creation care advocate, Dawn Lewis founded the Green Team at her church and has worked to support other green teams.
is a retired clinical social worker. She and her husband developed a curriculum for faith groups and community groups to learn about the climate crisis and how we can all become a part of the solution. Wake Up World, A Curriculum on the Climate Crisis for Faith and Community Groups, was their project as they became UM EarthKeepers in 2022. They have developed a series of short videos called A Minute for Mother Earth based on the curriculum and available to churches. All materials are available free of charge on their website www.wakeupworld.earth.
is the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Jamestown, ND, and an Elder in the Dakotas Annual Conference. He has an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the University of Redlands and a Masters of Divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion. He has led several Mission u studies on Poverty, Climate Justice, the Gospel of Mark, and Living the Kin-dom of God for the Dakotas United Women in Faith. In the past ten years, he has traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic with Solar Oven Partners on short term mission trips. He is married to Tammy, a UCC pastor, and the father to two grown & married children and grandfather to Micah—an absolutely adorable two year-old.
A retired engineer and biophysicist, Bob Downs is a General Board of Global Ministries’ EarthKeeper. He attends Christ United Methodist Church in Kettering, Ohio. He is also the chair of the Creation Care Task Force in the West Ohio Annual Conference.