There is only one Earth but there are many faiths that are caring for creation in their own distinctive ways.
Representatives from various religious communities will gather April 16 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville to participate in a “Care of Creation” event. It is designed to generate dialogue about what various faiths have to say about caring for creation.
The interfaith meeting, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., will explore various ways faith communities can live out their beliefs by being good stewards of the earth. The cost is $10 per person and includes lunch. Sunshine State Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based environmental concerns group, is organizing the event.
Other interfaith events are planned for the next few months. On May 4, a conference in Orlando will feature the Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland Church and Jerry Lawson of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington. There will also be a clergy luncheon in Orlando on June 15 and a community event on October 8, also in Orlando.
Sean McLendon, the sustainability program manager for the Alachua County Board of Commissioners, said creation requires great care.
“The earth is an incredible gift from God,” said McLendon who has been helping organize the event. “It is awesome in its beauty and bounty. When we spoil it through our inadvertent or deliberate actions, we’ve not only caused ecological harm but also harmed God’s legacy to us and future generations.”
As McLendon began to prepare for the meeting he soon realized that reaching out to people of faith would be critical in gaining momentum for the cause.
Faith communities are important in the fight to champion environmental causes because more than 80 percent of the world's inhabitants -- nearly five billion people -- identify with a major organized religion.
McLendon is anticipating representatives from various religious groups attending the event and giving advice and tips on what has worked for their faith communities, as well as collaborating and learning from others. He is encouraging people from a multitude of religious backgrounds to attend.
“There is great power in diversity,” McLendon said. “The world in which we live in right now is very diverse and it is important that we respect one another and live out the importance of loving our neighbors.”
Florida Annual Conference Director of Justice and Outreach Ministries Melinda Trotti said the meeting will be a place where differing perspectives will be heard.
“This will be a place where people can come and talk about caring for creation in a non-violent, non-politically charged atmosphere,” Trotti said. “We will have a framework that is one of peace and understanding.”
Trotti, who also serves as the treasurer of Sunshine State Interfaith Power and Light, said the event will be a place people can learn and share information with one another, as well as gain knowledge about how other faiths perceive their connection to the environment.
The event will feature portions of films designed to start conversations surrounding the topics of consumption, energy, food and transportation. A solar car will be present to shed light on alternative methods of transportation. Menu items for lunch will be organic and locally grown. A variety of panelists will be present to offer their input and answer questions.
The Rev. Dan Johnson, senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville said he is excited about the meeting.
“This event is particularly exciting in that it is both an interfaith and also a ‘Care of Creation’ event,” Johnson said. “These are two areas that should be of great interest to all followers of Jesus.
“We Christians, along with other major religions, have a robust doctrine of Creation, one that calls for healthy sustainability practices and policies. As the world becomes increasingly polarized along religious lines, it is important that we followers of Jesus practice his and the Old Testament’s command to ‘love our neighbors.’”
If people of faith leave the event armed with information and resources, McLendon said, the possibilities for the future are endless.
“In a world increasingly constrained by access to clean water, rising food prices, diminishing cheap fossil fuels and battered by increasingly extreme weather the religious communities of Florida have much to say on how we address these global challenges,” he said. “An important part of the answer lies in caring for creation as a shared responsibility of all religions. In our coming together as a group we have the potential to appreciate our traditions while addressing the deeper, moral concerns of how we treat this world.
“Our faiths have much to say on how we can leave this gift from God better than how our parents left it to us.”
For more information about the Care for Creation gatherings, see the Sunshine Interfaith Power and Light website, sunshinestateipl.org.