Creation care stars at pre-conference film festival



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Creation care stars at pre-conference film festival

By J.A. Buchholz | June 11, 2009 {1031}

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The idea of advocating for and protecting the environment is not just a social issue, but a faith-based belief that hits at the core of Christianity.

That was the message behind a series of films shown June 10 at Bethune-Cookman University, the site of the 2009 Florida Annual Conference Event.

Clergy and laity watch one of the documentaries featured in the film festival. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #09-1201.

“Green Film Festival: Cherishing Creation as Christians in Florida” was part of pre-conference events held a day before the official start of the annual session June 11-13.

The films scrutinized the day-to-day aspects of living that can be changed to positively impact the environment. They explored a variety of topics, from consumption and lifestyle choices to sustainability and how energy use relates to “carbon footprint” — a measure of how human activities affect the environment and climate change.

The power of one

The first film, “Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-energize America,” tackled energy. It touted making small changes, such as switching from an incandescent bulb to an Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), as a way to impact the environment and the wallet. Each fluorescent bulb pays for itself in about six months, uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent light bulb, according to the film.

The film also stressed the importance of using energy efficient appliances, which are easily available in dishwashers, home electronics, refrigerators and washing machines. The narrator found an energy efficient refrigerator at a used appliance store for $200.

Another segment of the film showed a man making simple changes, such as caulking around windows and doors to cut cooling and heating costs and using ground-up newspaper for insulation. Those steps, the narrator said, greatly reduced the homeowner’s electricity bill.

The point of the film wasn’t lost on the Rev. Andy Bell, who works as a counselor at Lakewood Methodist Counseling Center in St. Petersburg.

Bell said he wanted to view the films because he has been on the “environmental bandwagon” for 25 years.

“Whether it’s hiking or being on a sailboat, I feel connected to the Creator,” he said. “And then I see the destruction, and it breaks my heart.”

Many people don’t go the extra mile to be environmentally sound simply because it’s not easily convenient, Bell said.

“It’s about John 3:16,” he said. “God so loved the world, not just you and me, but all of the cosmos. We have to respect all of creation, all living things. It’s time for us to repent and be good stewards of the earth.”

Multiplying the effect

The film also explained how businesses and other organizations can impact the environment by making environmentally friendly choices.

The city of Birmingham, Ala., switched to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) at 700 intersections and experienced the many advantages the electronic light source offers — lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size and faster switching.

A compact fluorescent light bulb pays for itself in about six months, uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent light bulb, according to “Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-energize America.” Photo by Petr Kratochvil. Source: PublicDomainPictures.net

A hog farmer in Iowa is using wind power. A dairy farm in the Rocky Mountains converts methane gas from cow manure into an energy source. And the Taco Burrito King, a restaurant in Chicago, was the first business in the country to use solar energy to produce hot water.

There were numerous examples of the different ways people are using energy to be socially conscious.

Another film titled “Going Green” featured a New Jersey congregation as it explores different options to adjust its carbon footprint.

The Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J., recently installed solar panels and made the transition from paper to ceramic cups for coffee. The church of about 300 members also reduced the amount of trash it sends to the landfill by recycling more and adding a compost bin for organic material. The church even reduced water consumption used in toilets.

“True Cost of Food” followed an animated, frazzled mother of two small children to the “Buy It All Mart” to pick up items for dinner. Produced by the Sierra Club, the film counted the hidden costs of farming, harvesting and transporting food to local stores. The message: it’s better to shop locally because it lowers transportation costs and supports resident farmers.

And “The People’s Grocery” demonstrated how residents can farm in their own communities. A California community of 30,000 didn’t have access to grocery stores, but it did have more than 50 liquor stores in the area, so it decided the least it could do was produce its own organic food. The group also provides adult cooking classes that promote making meals using fresh and healthy foods.

One of the last films of the festival called “Trashed” illustrated the amount of garbage Americans create — their tendency to throw pretty much anything in the trash, from cellular phones to televisions — and how landfills process it. The end result is the country running out of space for its garbage.

The best way to lessen what goes into landfills, according to the film, is reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.

A matter of faith and action

During discussion after the films, one filmgoer described how a Florida Conference church helps its community by offering its parking lot to local farmers to sell their produce.

Members attending activities related to the 2009 Florida Annual Conference Event are gathering under the theme “Transforming the World by Cherishing the Creation.” Photo by Caryl Kelley. Photo #09-1202.

The idea of churches getting involved in environmentally conscious endeavors is nothing new to Mark Johnson, a member of the Creation Ministries team at First United Methodist Church in Kissimmee. The ministry, Johnson said, is part of the church’s administrative council.

“This is what God called me to do,” Johnson said. “We want to educate the church, as well as the community. This is exactly what the church should be doing because it’s about earth stewardship.”

Dr. Laurel Kearns, associate professor of Sociology of Religion and Environmental Studies at Drew Theological School and keynote speaker for the event’s opening session June 11, said she has known since she was a girl growing up in Florida that her faith was deeply rooted in protecting the environment. A part of the evangelical church at the time, Kearns said the church didn’t want to hear her, but she knew there was a connection between being a Christian and caring for creation.

“We can make a difference,” she said. “I think the kids are reading the headlines, they see what’s happening. They are looking to us for leadership. My generation, this mid-generation … are we doing enough?”

Kearns said one thing Drew Theological Seminary is doing right is requiring students to take five classes focused on caring for the earth.

“If we want to prepare the church to do these things, then we have to prepare future leaders now,” Kearns said.

The Rev. Dr. Warren Clark, associate director of Faiths United for Sustainable Energy (FUSE), said environmental concerns have to be a major issue within the walls of churches.

“We, as Christians, need to call for a change in public policy,” Clark said. “Our voice must be a clear moral call to protect our children. We have to pass on this planet.”

FUSE encourages church members to implore their elected leaders to make and pass laws that favor the environment.

“Only then will people in the environmental movement not be seen as tree huggers,” Clark said.

What churches are doing now, he said, is only a trickle in the ways they could be impacting the environment. He said a first step is asking church members for a commitment to reduce electrical consumption by 25 percent by 2020.

The Rev. Dr. Warren Clark (left) answers questions after a film. The Rev. David Berkey (right), director of the Florida Conference’s camps and retreat ministries, helped coordinate the festival. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #09-1203.

Clark said he is optimistic, however, that 20 years from now, caring for creation will be vital church ministry on the same level as efforts to end homelessness and hunger.

“Churches can make a start by seeing what’s out there and what’s possible by researching on the Internet,” he said. “They don’t have to create the wheel. Churches are already doing great things.”

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

More information about the films can be found at http://www.earthcinemacircle.com and http://www.renewalproject.net.

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, enabling those not able to attend the annual gathering to see the activities and hear the important news taking place.

Individuals who would like to view the events via the webcast may visit http://www.flumc.org and click on the webcast link.

More information about the conference session, including a schedule of activities and reports presented, is available at http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=1540.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a freelance writer based in Seffner, Fla.




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