Current Goals and Activities of Caretakers of God's Creation
Year End 2010 Report
2010 was a very productive year for Caretakers. In February we hosted the “Bishop’s Convocation on Caring for God’s Creation.” It was the first conference event we have hosted. The Bishop was our keynote speaker and in addition we had other conference leadership and staff to do presentations and workshops. We dreamed about having 100 people there and we had 150! We couldn’t have been more pleased. It was significant in several ways. The participation by the Bishop and other conference leadership indicated that we have “turned a corner” in that we’re not seen by the conference as a group of “greenies” over in the corner, but we have been embraced as a real and legitimate ministry of the VA Conference. I have attended several conference creation care events in other Annual Conferences but never have I seen a Bishop involved or even other conference leadership. We have done a great job of integrating ourselves into the VA Conference and have become well respected and recognized for our contribution to the ministries of the conference.
In the spring of 2010 we re-focused our goals to concentrate on implementing creation care teams in our local churches because we believe wholeheartedly that ministry happens in the local church. But we knew that we would need to involve more people in the leadership of Caretakers in order for that goal to become a reality. So we developed a Power Point presentation that can be used to offer programs in local churches. We did sort of a trial run with the Richmond District in June, then after some tweaking of the Power Point, we hosted a Train the Trainer event in September to train individuals in how to present the Power Point. We had 50 people there from 15 of our 18 districts. We are beginning to publicize them in their districts so their congregations will know of their availability to do programs. These “District Caretakers of God’s Creation” will enhance the ministry of Caretakers and we will continue to train leaders, not only in this movement but also for the conference itself.
When we began two years ago, our hope was that we could develop a model on an Annual Conference level of how to create and operate a creation care ministry. Just within the last month, two representatives from the Florida conference have had conversations with us because they know of our work, have spent time on our website and want our guidance as to how they can put together a similar team in the Florida Conference. I was invited to be the Bible Study leader and also to do a plenary presentation for the Mississippi Annual Conference session in May of 2010. While there I met with a brand new creation care ministry team in that Annual Conference. They too, knew of our work in VA and wanted to seek my advice for how they could get started. So already we’ve been recognized by many people across the connection and are being sought out as having paved the way for the implementation of conference creation care teams.
After a lot of work 2010 marked the beginning of a paper purchasing program in conjunction with Staples Office Supply Company and BW Wilson Paper Distributor. United Methodist General Conference Resolutions and the Women’s Division have been advocating for years for the use of paper products in our churches that do not use chlorine in the manufacturing process due to dioxin concerns, dioxin being a known carcinogen to cause breast cancer. So Caretakers has established our own standards and we are able to offer tissue paper products, copy paper, and cleaning supplies that are free of chlorine. This represents a good partnership between the church and industry attempting to “do the right thing.” We will continue to do more publicity for this program in 2011.
Statistically, I presented workshops and/or preached in 23 local churches, presented workshops at 6 district events, 4 conference events, 1 jurisdictional event, and 1 denominational event. I also presented at 9 “other” events, non-United Methodist events and I wrote 3 articles for national United Methodist publications. Our board members did an additional 10 Virginia Conference events.
In 2011 we will continue our goal of implementing creation care teams in local churches and will expand our list of District Caretakers. For the first time, we will offer “A Sojourn to Sacredness; A Theological Ecological Pilgrimage for Young Adults” in which we’ll hike the Appalachian Trail for two days and canoe the Shenandoah River for two days, along with theological experts, science experts, environmentalists, etc., to introduce our young adults to the beauty of God’s creation in Virginia as well as to some of the stressors that God’s creation faces, and the theological implications of both.
2011 will probably mark the beginning of Caretakers as it’s own 501-c 3 as we incorporate as a non-profit rather than remain under the non-profit status of the church. We may likely have better funding opportunities by incorporating ourselves.
In 2010 we just began an exploration of a relationship between Caretakers, particularly the Green Church Initiative, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. This exploration will continue in 2011 with the goal of enabling churches that complete the Green Church Initiative to also quality for DEQ’s Environmental Excellence Program.
As a result of the Bishop’s new document, “God’s Renewed Creation,” we will complete a carbon footprint calculation of both the Episcopal office and the VA Conference office in 2011.
There are conversations happening regarding a new home for our bishop that will be either LEED or Earth Craft certified and possibly even solar panels at our conference office. Caretakers has not been directly involved in either conversation, but we are certain that our presence in the VA Conference has definitely made a difference and is sparking conversations such as these. We consider it a huge success that these conversations are happening independent of Caretakers because it means more and more people are beginning to think in terms of energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy. 2011 may prove to be a very exciting year indeed.
Also in 2011 we will consider writing a resolution that could be offered to General Conference in 2012 that would establish an office of creation care for the denomination. We plan to do research and talk to others around the connection, seeking lots of advice as to how to best go about such a resolution. But we feel as if the United Methodist Church is ready for such an office. Currently we have a denominational staff person who works for the General Board of Church and Society for whom environmental justice is part of his portfolio. He does a good job lobbying in Washington DC on behalf of God’s creation, but we feel as if God’s creation deserves a much more broad exposure in the church, perhaps through our General Board of Discipleship.
We also expect to expand our outreach to other annual conferences, particularly Florida, Holston, Mississippi, and Missouri. We are poised to make a difference in 2011, not just in Virginia, but for the denomination as a whole. Virginia is leading the way among annual conferences in our efforts to care for God’s creation.
Please keep us in your prayers during 2011 and please consider supporting Caretakers financially.
Respectfully submitted, Rev. Pat Watkin
Caretakers of God's Creation is a Church and Community Ministry of the United Methodist Church