Film festival tackles latest environmental issues, the Christian response

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Film festival tackles latest environmental issues, the Christian response

By Jenna De Marco | May 26, 2009 {1021}

Because climate change and environmental issues are much-debated and multifaceted, organizers of this year’s Florida Annual Conference Event are offering a contemporary, faith-based context for discussing the topics.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil. Source:

The medium is a film festival titled “Green Film Festival: Cherishing Creation as Christians in Florida.” It will be held June 10, a day before the official start of the annual event and in connection with the event’s theme, “Transforming the World by Cherishing the Creation.” Each of the scheduled films offers a unique environmental perspective.

The films will be shown during various afternoon and evening time slots and clustered around three primary subthemes, said the Rev. David Berkey, organizer of the festival and executive director of the conference’s camp and retreat ministries.

“(They are) short films, mostly documentary, and they are very current, and all of them were produced within the last three to five years,” Berkey said.

“We thought that it would be fun to show some of these films and have conversation afterward,” said Melinda Trotti, director of the Florida Conference’s justice and spiritual formation ministries. “And some of the films are really fun … they take really heavy and complex issues and put them in fairly short formats so that people can really take it in and not be overwhelmed.”

Berkey and Trotti selected the movies from many they previously viewed through their interest in Earth Cinema Circle ( and the Renewal Project (, organizations that communicate information about climate change.

The first cluster of films examines using energy for sustainability, including how energy use relates to “carbon footprint” — a measure of how human activities affect the environment and climate change. These films will be shown from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil. Source:

Within the first cluster is “Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-energize America.” “(It) talks about where we get our electricity in the Southeast — primarily through coal — and what that is doing to the people in coal country,” Berkey said.

Another film in the cluster is “Going Green,” a 15-minute production about a New Jersey congregation that examines and modifies its carbon footprint.

A third documentary within the subtheme is “Interfaith Power and Light,” which lasts about 10 minutes and discusses the national role of an organization with the same name in environmental issues. “The (orgnaization’s) affiliates help people of faith reduce their use of fossil fuels and increase their reliance on renewable energy in all aspects of their lives,” according to the Renewal Project Web site.

The second cluster of films focuses on consumption, lifestyle and the environment. It takes place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and 8:30 to 10 p.m.

Photo by Linda James. Source:

In this subtheme, the film “Trashed,” a story about American garbage and its consequences, will be featured. “The True Cost of Food,” a 15-minute educational video developed by the Sierra Club, and “The People’s Grocery,” about an organization of the same name that helps West Oakland, Calif., residents meet their need for healthy, fresh food, will also be shown.

The third subtheme is films about the environment, justice and faith. These will be shown if time permits at the end of the other sessions. One title is “Eco-Justice,” a 12-minute movie about coastal Mississippi communities that are dealing with the effects of chemical and petroleum pollution. A second 10-minute film titled “Sacred Celebration” shows the rituals and unity among several cultures that are trying to protect New Mexico’s land and water.

The films have been scheduled so it is possible for attendees to see all of them, and each will be followed by a panel discussion. Information about where to obtain copies of the movies will also be provided.

“I have seen a couple of the films, and they are engaging and educational,” said the Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller, director of the conference’s Connectional Ministries. “We hope that folks will use them in their local churches.”

Earth care begins by examining spirituality

Although taking steps to better care for the earth can be overwhelming, both Trotti and Berkey believe looking at one’s Christian faith is the best starting point for making a change.

“It’s really a spiritual matter, and that’s where you need to start,” Berkey said.

Berkey says it’s part of his “spiritual life and practice daily, hour by hour, to be aware of what I do that impacts the environment.” He says “bringing into a spiritual consciousness” the times when doing something harmful can and cannot be prevented “is what we need to be about.”

Trotti hopes Christians will look at their everyday actions and how they can leave behind a safer planet.

“I think the most important place is for people to begin (asking), ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to our children and our grandchildren?’— whether they be our biological children or all of the children of the earth,” she said.

More details about eco-justice, a concept that combines social justice with environmental sustainability, are available through the recently created Florida Conference Eco-Justice Task Force, which is open to new members. Its related Web site is

“The amount of resources and information out there is enormous, and that is why we established the Web site — for folks in Florida to get current information,” Berkey said.

Pre-conference workshops focus on variety of topics
Pre-conference workshops for all laity and clergy will also be held during the afternoon June 10.

Attendance at the conference event is not required in order to attend the workshops, Fogle-Miller said.

“(The purpose) is to provide some skills and knowledge that will enable … churches to be more effective at the mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” she said. “And people are interested in learning things that will help them personally and in their churches.”

The workshops will be held at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. and include “Next Generation Ministry” by the Rev. Vance Rains, “Who is Your Neighbor?” by the Rev. Dr. Mont Duncan, “Building the Discipleship Pathway” by the Rev. Dr. Phil Maynard, “Closing Our Congregation’s Back Door” by the Rev. Dr. Jeff Stiggins and Kristy McAdams, “Safe Sanctuaries” by Trotti (2:30 p.m. only), and “Do You See What I See?” by the Rev. Harold Lewis (4:30 p.m. only).

Two other workshops will focus exclusively on working with and reporting the conference’s new Missional Vital Signs. East Central District Lay Leader Janet Kelley will lead “Implementing the Missional Vital Signs,” which covers the purposes of the Missional Vital Signs. Don Youngs, conference coordinator for video and web production, will facilitate “Reporting Missional Vital Signs.”

“(Youngs’) workshop is for people who are actually doing the reporting,” Fogle-Miller said. “It is practical — how to use the (Missional Vital Signs) Web site. It will teach people how to submit their monthly reports.”

About 630 people registered for last year’s pre-conference workshops. This year’s workshops will occur during Bethune-Cookman University’s summer school hours so classroom and building space will be at a premium. Early registration is suggested.

“We will have online registration. It is not required, but it will help us match the workshops to the right rooms,” she said.

Individuals who plan to attend the workshops are asked to register at

Conference from the comfort of home

The “Transforming the World by Cherishing the Creation” 2009 Florida Annual Conference Event will be webcast live in its entirety beginning June 11 with the 11 a.m. memorial service celebrating the ministry of clergy and clergy spouses who have died.

The web cast enables those not able to attend the annual gathering at Bethune-Cookman University June 11-13 to see the activities and hear the important news taking place.

Individuals who would like to view the events via the webcast may visit June 11 and click on the webcast link.

More information about the conference session, including a schedule of activities, is also available on the Web site.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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