Caring for Creation | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
April 2011

Caring for Creation

By John Hodges-Batzka
This last weekend I had the joy of attending the “Caring for Creation” experience at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. At the historic Methodist retreat center, nestled in the beautiful and peaceful Carolina mountains, I spent four days sharing and hearing about how we can better live in connection with the creation that God has gifted to us. I also heard great stories about how the Church can be involved in issues related to the environment. It has not been an easy few years for the environmental movement: poll after poll shows falling rates for belief in climate change, lower instances of people engaging in environmental activities such as recycling, and a renewed political push to eliminate environmental protections for our water and our air. I’ve watched as my own hometown has eliminated its curbside recycling program, greatly increasing my own impact on the environment. It has also become increasingly difficult to have conversations with those we are in relationship with about the issue without falling into political arguments. Despite these difficulties, I have faith that it is still incumbent upon us, as creations of God, to make sure that we sustain creation in a way that it is able to provide a standard of living for all people. In Matthew 27, Jesus reminds us that not only are we to love God with all of our hearts, but to love our neighbor as ourselves. John Wesley’s three famous words echo this passage by reminding us to do all of the good we can, do no harm, and to stay in love with God. It is often hard and uncomfortable to recognize, but our lifestyle does impact the access to a sustainable environment for people around the world and even in our own communities. But I am convinced that we can live lifestyles so that our environmental impact does no harm to others and conveys our love for them. I am also convinced that we create young disciples who will do the same. A story that my wife told me sticks to me whenever I think about involving young people in care for creation. When she was younger, she remembers driving in the car with her father around their neighborhood like any young person. However, whenever a stray can or piece of paper caught his eye, he would stop the car, get out, grab the trash, and make sure that it was disposed of properly. While you can imagine that this mortified my wife as a teenager, it taught her a valuable lesson that caring for the environment in which we live is worth a little discomfort. With small acts of witness such as this, we can truly disciple young people to care for God’s creation. I cultivated a list of great resources for the workshop that I led at the Caring for Creation event; they include things such as worship liturgies, action plans, and environmental audits. I invite you to go to the site and use them in your context to involve your congregation and your young people.