I know my calling to a caring for creation ministry for SSUMC is kind of an outlier. I will testify a bit to my experience. In 2004, our churches merged. I had been teaching the youth and doing a small garden at Marvin Memorial. I had discovered a set of plants that attracted butterflies there and at my home. When we started meeting as a joined congregation, we had our first Time and Talent survey, but I was no longer teaching Sunday School. At that time, some of us Marvinites felt a bit out of place, some still do. But the church ministry staff was fantastic in selling the idea together we could be a strong church as a merger of two congregations.
We cannot hide the fact, that we have every few years the conference or a circumstance changed our senior pastor. But, each senior pastors so far have brought visionary ministry. Anyway, I asked Rev. Rachel if I could use my time and talent to plant a butterfly garden at our downtown campus. I am kind of a John the Baptist:
I would prefer to live out in a wilderness among God’s creations or in hillbilly parlance in some lonely holler where the sun never shines, like where I grew up, in Southwest Virginia. I had to come to the big city for work and was never able to go back to the mountains to be the activist I trained to be. Elizabeth always said that I got happy as soon as I got out in the countryside and my country accent started coming back.
My wife asked me at some point change my attitude and to grow where I was planted, this included a lot of things including where I was working. Anyway, at church, the butterfly gardens attracted 5 types of the common butterflies. A church member told me that there was a workshop called Sacred Grounds. Really, Sacred Grounds is a visionary project that believes the places of worship in our area can have an interfaith ministry to raise up God’s creation. I was really smitten by the idea—if I can not go back to the wilderness, I can bring some wildness to the city.
This has been spiritually fulfilling work. The church has a cistern, two rain garden complexes, a trench, 5 separate butterfly gardens, 9 new canopy trees, and a grove of shrubs. Silver Spring United Methodist Church has a Rob the Environmentalist problem. I will say that I have gotten myself into a lot of “good trouble.” The work described was accomplished without a lot of true believers other than myself, I will say Rob and his friends brought the church grounds to the state they are in now with the permission of the board of trustees. This came at essentially zero cost to the church.
If I were to disappear, I sometimes wonder whether all these improvements would gradually be un-installed.
SSUMC leadership gave me five years to transform the church grounds and I have created something that is amazing to me. I am not done yet. Now I want to change the rest of you or at least 30 or 40 of you for 2020. I had a short career in Appalachia as an activist and I got the idea that people did not want to be changed. To see the mess they made of my beloved mountains makes me cry. What is the point of having scientists, if no one is going to believe them. If we get the Earth-saving work wrong, the species that will go extinct is all of them. We will have to hope that the New Jerusalem is on a still living planet somewhere in outer space.
So the point is can we, as a church, take the next step to fully and faithfully participate in this Caring for Creation program. We have four people signed up in the focus groups through the sign-up genius, one being me and one being my lovely wife Elizabeth. We cannot think about step two if cannot take step one. But, SSUMC has already done some impossible things. We were re-born from two broken pieces, we became reconciling to people who thought they would be forever forgotten, we have worked for a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
I know I am a big troublemaker, but if I get about 20 sign-ups on for the Sacred Grounds focus groups, that will keep me happy for a few days. Anne Metcalf, Elizabeth and I will make calls in the next few days also to try to fill up the focus groups. The three focus groups are next week. My faith tells me that the sessions will have a good number of virtual attendees. My faith tells me that you will make an important difference for me.