Action Plan: Part Four
Discipleship at Home and Work
Commitment: We encourage members of all ages, economic levels, ethnic groups, and walks of life to care for creation at home and at work knowing that our habits and practices can make a significant contribution. We encourage people to embrace a closer relationship with nature, to live simply and walk lightly upon Earth, and to make a spiritual discipline of our actions on behalf of Earth.
People: Pastors, lay professional leaders, governing body, heads of committees, all can serve as models for the whole community. All will seek to embrace a vocation that will allow their lives to witness to the commitment to justice and care for the earth.
Goals: To make a personal commitment to embrace disciplines that respect the Earth community, that seek to restore creation from human degradation, and that enable us to relate more intimately and more gently with the rest of creation.
Actions: Consider developing an “Action Plan” for your congregation or household. Below are some suggestions and resources to help you grow personally and to sustain your Earth-keeping activities. The materials below include ideas in the areas of:
For a collection of inspirational reflections, see the following:
3. Adopt a change of lifestyle to “simple living.” We cannot depend on technological changes to make a difference. We must adapt our lifestyles to a radical Earth-friendly posture. There are many resources available for this—either as personal guides or as group study. Keep in mind care for communities that live simply out of necessity or poverty. Seek their participation and leadership. Share with others the savings from efforts to live simply.
5. Make a Covenant with Creation: Adopt a personal “Covenant with Creation” that lists a variety of actions you will take to lessen your footprint on the Earth—home, work, lifestyle, relation to nature, advocacy. For examples, see http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/covenant-with-creation.
B. Transforming your home and work into Earth-friendly places.
1. Do an environmental assessment of your home. Use the material available in the Comprehensive Environmental Guide for Building and Grounds of Congregations at http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/Home/congregations/building-and-grounds.
This guide has information for the congregation as well as suggestions for implementation at home and work. Use this material to assess every aspect of your life at home—house, yard, habits, and practices of you and/or your family. Over a period of time, work to turn your space into an Earth-friendly zone and a witness to others. Join with others to have a vision-time to imagine what a green home might look like!
Your home in the global web of creation: You living space is connected to virtually every ecological problem plaguing the planet. Consider the energy that comes in from power plants, the food that is transported from great distances or raised in ways that pollute, the water that goes out to sewer plants, the carbon that goes outside from your furnace, the toxic cleaning products that go into the waste stream, the gas burned in your lawn mower, the toxic treatments in lawn and garden that go into the waste stream, and on and on. We have choices to make on a daily basis that have an impact for good or ill on the planet. Make a list of everything that comes into your home and onto your property. Then list everything that goes that out from your home and property. Consider how efficiently it is used and reused while in your home. Then take action to minimize risks to the planet by all these items.
Room by Room: Or take a room and assess everything that makes a negative environmental impact. For example, look at your kitchen in terms of appliances, refrigerator settings, paper use, food choices, detergents, cleaning products, certified wood for tables and chairs, natural lighting, fluorescent lighting, water-use practices, means to disconnect small appliances when not in use, comprehensive recycling, food conservation, composting of food wastes, and so on. Then go room by room in your house and make the changes necessary to make a difference.
2. Reconsider eating patterns and food choices: Buy locally rather than purchasing food that traveled halfway across the globe. Eat organic and eliminate pesticides and herbicides in your diet. Purchase fair trade products that ensure the value of resources and the people who survive off the land. Reduce meat consumption and eat meat “humanely raised.”
3. Green your lawn and garden: Find ways to make your yard eco-friendly. There are organic ways to grow a lawn without pesticides or herbicides. Plant low maintenance grass. Use an electric or battery-driven mower. Put trees in strategic places to lower heating/cooling costs in your home. Make your property a sanctuary for trees or creatures. Where possible, turn part of your yard into a natural prairie with native species of grass and wild flowers. Check with your local Soil Conservation District office for guidelines. There are many sites online that give detailed instructions for green lawn care.
4. You are part of an Earth Community: See your property as a community of livening things: people, pets, plants, trees, flowers, grass, insects, beetles, birds, rabbits, among others. Get to know them. Take stewardship of your Earth community and manage your property so that all may thrive and none be harmed by your actions and practices. Consider the “Backyard Habitat” program of the National Wildlife Federation www.nwf.org/In-Your-Backyard.aspx.
5. Green your Christmas: There are many thoughtful suggestions for gifts and wrapping, for decoration and celebration, for being generous to your family and generous to others. Consider having a live tree that can thereafter be planted in your yard or at the church or in an oppressed area of the city.
6. Take your commitment to work: Whatever your work, opportunities abound to make your place of work and your activities more Earth-friendly. Make use of the guidelines you used at home to apply to your work. There are manuals to green offices, workbooks for corporations, guidelines for factories and small businesses. This is part of the vocation of a Christian—to express justice toward humans and care for creation in every aspect of your life.
C. Provide support for individual commitment by the congregation.
1. Create an atmosphere of commitment: Seek opportunities in congregational life to make a profound personal commitment to care about the Earth, to make decisions and to take actions that are earth-friendly, and to refrain from actions that are Earth-harmful. Be creative and intentional about finding individual and communal ways to strengthen and reinforce those commitments in various aspects of the Christian life.
2. Form support groups/ commitment groups/ interest groups: Support for environmental practices and disciplines can serve as a focus for small groups that serve to support the commitment to lead Earth-friendly lives. Each session, participants could discuss a different area of commitment to earth-care, practice that commitment for the week or month, and then return to discuss the results and give encouragement. Groups that meet around a meal could learn about food and practice ecological disciplines related to eating. Perhaps the groups could meet during a season of the church year, so as, for example, to be part of a Lenten discipline.
3. Group Study: Foster the formation of groups around an educational course on Simple Living or the Ecology of Food. Consider these educational materials for small groups:
4. Take cooperative congregational actions: Choose congregational actions that make personal commitments easier—sell compact fluorescent light bulbs as a fundraiser; do cooperative buying of recycling bins for the home; provide a recycling center where people can bring hard to recycle items such as plastic bags, household batteries, and printer cartridges; sell fair trade coffee and other fair trade products; distribute devotional material. Find out what needs people have in their quest to be green and seek as a congregation to make the process easier. Hold an eco-fair. Put environmental tips in the bulletin and newsletter.
Lutherans Restoring Creation: www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org;
Creation Justice Ministries: www.creationjustice.org.
The National Religious Partnership for the Environment: www.nrpe.org.
5. Tree Planting Challenge. We encourage you as individuals or as a congregation to embrace a challenge to plant trees as a way to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Martin Luther was once asked what he would do if he knew the end of the world would be tomorrow and he replied, “I would plant a tree today.” As a commitment to our common life together, to our shared future, and for the sake of Earth Community, please consider the Tree Planting Challenge for your congregation. For biblical and theological resources for tree planting, see http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/tree-planting-project. For a ritual for tree planning, go to: http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/worship-services/tree-planting.
6. Ritualize your Covenant with Creation: Provide members with a “Covenant with Creation” that lists a variety of actions to be taken by the members of your congregation. Make this covenant part of a worship service with a brief liturgy within the service and to give it as an offering. Participants check the practices they agree to follow. They give one copy in the offering and keep another to post in their apartments/homes. For sample covenants and the brief liturgy, see http://www.letallcreationpraise.org/covenant-with-creation.
7. Creation-Care Training: You can hold brief training sessions for members as a means to encourage people to develop Earth-friendly habits and choices in their personal lives: simple living, food choices, recycling instructions, paper guidelines, energy conservation, devotional practices, connection with nature. Perhaps these training sessions could be coordinated with the items in the “Covenant with Creation” or with the Environmental Guide. This can be done in a Sunday morning forum, Saturday workshop (perhaps with many churches), or some other venue.
8. Witnessing/Sharing: Make use of meetings of the LRC Team, worship services, and other gatherings to allow members to make announcements and to share with others their personal environmental practices and disciplines.
9. Website and Brochure: Be sure to have your commitments and accomplishments regularly updated on a website. Make a brochure that outlines your congregational green commitments. Put your activities as a green congregation on your church website.
D. Connect with the rest of nature.
1. Kindle your love of nature Renew your appreciation for the natural beauty of the area in which you live. Plan trips to a local arboretum, gardens, or a lake/river area. Hold meetings in a place of natural beauty. Where feasible, procure the services of a naturalist to acquaint you with the flora, fauna, geological formations, and natural history of the area. We will not save what we do not know! We will not restore what we do not love!
E. Support local community-based environmental actions
1. Join an environmental group. There are many environmental groups that need your support and participation. National environmental groups have local chapters that are active at local, regional, and national levels of commitment. Find out the local environmental organizations in your area and promote these among members. Consider inviting a group representative to tell about and explain their work to their congregation.
2. Local opportunities for action: Arrange for members of the community to participate in public efforts to restore a habitat, clean up a beach, rally for clean air, protest a polluter, or do write-in campaigns for environmental legislation.
3. Green contributions and investments. There are many local and national organizations, some faith-based and others secular, that are certainly worthy of support. Consider membership or regular contributions to such organizations. Also, there are many green mutual funds and green investment opportunities that harbinger the future of an ecological age. Invest now!