Church Communities Matter

Written by Anthony Siegrist (A Rocha Ontario Director)

March 20, 2024

I’m fairly sure that my son could sense my uncertainty. He had done his part though—helped me navigate the maze of streets and ferry things in from the car—so I encouraged him to grab a cookie and wander off to explore the church building. He has a budding interest in architecture, so the juxtaposition of old stone and modern glass in the large structure intrigued him. I wasn’t terribly worried, just uncertain. What happens when you call together church leaders interested in exploring environmental ministry and promise time for conversation?  

As much as people familiar with A Rocha’s work usually ‘get’ the connection between the life of the church and nature conservation, it’s far from obvious for others. For many, Christians are seen to be part of the problem not part of the solution. The Christian community has historically not done a great job bearing witness to God’s love for creation or the link between ecosystem health and justice. Combine that history with the state of things ecologically, and it’s clear that there is much work to be done. That was why our A Rocha Ontario team had partnered with the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto to host an exchange of ideas on congregations caring for creation.  

My son wandered back a few times during the afternoon, providing a bit of tech support and checking the status of the cookie pile. The conversation was going well. As I had hoped, representatives of several local congregations had a lot to share. I speak on this subject quite often, but it’s always better when local groups can speak from their experiences. 

Some of the congregations represented that afternoon had been engaged in the ministry of creation care for years. The leaders who were new to the conversation were presented with a rich set of possibilities: planting a garden to benefit wildlife and the community, working to reduce a church’s greenhouse gas emissions, connecting worship with local biodiversity, using recycled materials in congregational art, advocating for specific political changes, and much more.    

On the drive home my son and I chatted about the afternoon. I observed that, as with so much of what A Rocha does, the event went well because of what the others brought to the table. The ministry of creation care is a bit like the church building itself: the drawing together of the old and the new, ancient wisdom and modern challenges, different languages being harmonized.

My hope is that one day perceptions about the link between the life of the church and environmental concerns will be viewed positively. I hope that when my son is an adult, it won’t seem odd for church leaders to show up in nature conservation circles. 

The stories that were shared that afternoon reminded me that communities of faith have a lot to offer in this regard. Churches know how to organize events. They know how to recruit volunteers. They know how to partner with others. They know how to take a public stand on important issues. And they know how to encourage us to make changes to our way of life.

If you were going to start a movement to make a significant and positive difference in how our communities engage with nature, the church would already have in place much of what such a movement would need. This is one of the reasons A Rocha is invested in encouraging churches to make creation care a part of their presence in the community. 

If you’re curious about what caring for creation at a congregational level might mean in your context, we’d be happy to chat. In fact, this year A Rocha Ontario is offering free one-hour consultations for people interested in catalyzing creation care within their community of faith. 

Maybe your congregation has already caught this vision. In that case, we encourage you to look for opportunities to share our experience with people from other communities. Maybe they can learn from your success . . . or your mistakes. The way forward is far from certain, but when we learn from each other and look for ways to work together our impact is bound to be more significant.  

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