Register by May 1 to attend the second Earthkeepers training conference, August 1-6, 2017, at Mount Sequoyah Retreat and Conference Center, Fayetteville, Ark.
At the end of the training conference on Sunday, Rev. Terry Gosnell, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church, will commission new Earthkeepers to advocate for and lead community projects to renew God’s creation. Earthkeepers are trained by cohorts in regional jurisdictions. The Missouri Conference is in the South Central Jurisdiction, so this is our training opportunity. In 2009, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church published a pastoral letter, a foundation document and study material titled, God’s Renewed Creation: A Call to Hope and Action. In it our Council of Bishops challenged United Methodists to boldly step out in faith to help renew God’s good creation. “Despite the ways we all contribute to these problems, God still invites each one of us to participate in the work of renewal. We must begin the work of renewing creation by being renewed in our own hearts and minds. We cannot change the world until we change our way of being in it.” (The Pastor Letter, p. 1) In 2014, the General Board of Global Ministries created a new global Creation Care Team of six. Rev. Susan Mullin, Minnesota Conference, represented all of North America. Former professional geologist Mullin; Rev. Pat Watkins, recently retired United Methodist missionary for the care of God’s creation; and Dan Joranko, professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School who specializes in community organizing; envisioned this new Earthkeepers ministry. Mullin describes Earthkeepers as United Methodists who are aware of the ecological challenges in our world today and feel called to be part of a movement to transform the world.
Earthkeepers are laity and clergy, students, part-time and full-time workers, and retirees. They may have a vocation that allows them to focus on caring for creation during their regular work hours, or they may choose to volunteer their time. Regional cohorts of Earthkeepers participate in four days of intensive training in creation care theology and community organizing, and then commit to devote 10 hours per month to lead a community project or advocacy campaign that aims to transform our relationship to God, the earth, and one another. Each Earthkeeper selects his or her own project or focus area, for example: advocate for renewable energy, clean water, sustainable agriculture, or pollinator protection policies; organize a community recycling program; clean up toxic waste sites; establish a community garden in a rural or urban “food desert.” To receive ongoing support and training, Earthkeepers must attend quarterly meetings with other Earthkeepers in their regional cohort.
The first group of Earthkeepers were trained and commissioned in Atlanta in November 2016. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Request an application from Rev. Susan Mullin, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please apply by May 1 for the August training. This new Global Ministries Earthkeepers ministry aims to commission 500 people across the U.S. for creation care ministry within the next seven years. It is housed within the new United Methodist Center for Mission Innovation in Atlanta. “Many people have thought of God’s creation in terms of advocacy but not as a valid mission of the church,” said Watkins. “God’s creation is as appropriate a mission field as Nigeria or the Philippines or wherever else. In order to be in mission to God’s people, we have to be in ministry to God’s creation.” Marcum, creation care ministry leader at Stockton United Methodist Church, is the Missouri Conference member of the South Central Region Earthkeepers Conference planning group.