Guest preacher says healing planet may heal souls

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Guest preacher says healing planet may heal souls

By Jenna De Marco | June 13, 2009 {1034}

Caring for the earth is not a choice made by a select few, but an intentional mission and call that belongs to all Christians, says the Rev. Dr. Denise Honeycutt. And it’s time to get started.

The Rev. Dr. Denise Honeycutt tells members that caring for the environment and caring for the poor are intertwined because it is the poor who suffer when others do not practice environmental responsibility. Photo by the Rev. Dr. Armando Rodríguez. Photo #09-1210.

That was Honeycutt’s core message as guest preacher during the evening communion service June 11 at the 2009 Florida Annual Conference Event.

Honeycutt, who is director of mission and global outreach for the Virginia Annual Conference, has served as a missionary in Nigeria and mission interpreter for the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker introduced Honeycutt, highlighting her prior service as the Bible study leader during the 2004 annual conference session, which, like this year’s session, took place at Bethune-Cookman University (then a college) in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Honeycutt framed her message around the conference event’s theme, “Transforming the World by Cherishing the Creation.”

“We as Christians have a responsibility to care for creation,” she said. “We, of all people, should be leading the way in caring for this precious creation because it is God’s. It’s God’s (creation); it’s not ours.”

Honeycutt suggested those members should also consider the personal outcome of environmental stewardship. “By caring for creation, we may very well find … ourselves transformed,” she said.

Honeycutt acknowledged the difficult financial times the United States and other countries are facing, as well as the effect the economic downturn is having on local churches. While the situation has “knocked the wind out of a lot of folks” here, she said, she wondered about the impact on people living in less wealthy parts of the world, including three countries that have relationships with the Florida Conference.

“The troubles in our country are, of course, magnified in struggling countries like Angola and Haiti and Cuba,” she said. “Last week I was in Sierra Leone (where) matters are life and death.”

Drawing from the text of Ezekiel, Honeycutt illustrated how God puts people back together when they are brittle and broken. She likened this to the “sweet breeze” wished for by the children she encountered on a hot day during her recent trip.

Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker leads communion. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #09-1211.

“Where do we find that ‘sweet breeze’ that puts us back together … that reminds us of God’s cooling breeze?” Honeycutt asked. “Is the structure of our environment silencing the earth’s life song?”

Contrasting the modern-day desire for increasingly sophisticated cures with Biblical healing, Honeycutt talked about Jesus restoring the sight of a blind man using simple elements like saliva and dirt.

“Through the earthiness of creation, this man is healed,” Honeycutt said. “I wonder if by reconnecting to nature, if we too might find some healing for our own souls?”

One current dilemma for humankind is seeing the environment as something that should be controlled and harvested, even if it means destroying it, Honeycutt said. A better way to think of the Earth, she said, is as a “sacramental means in which God encounters us and requires an ethical response.”

The communion service, especially when celebrated in the joyful manner of the early Christian church, provides a first step in going forward in compassion for all who suffer as a result of inadequate creation care, Honeycutt said. She emphasized that in the early church the ordinary nature of bread and wine, elements that even the masses and the outcasts could afford, stood in contrast to the costliness of animal sacrifices. She also noted that even the earliest Christians were busy caring for widows, healing the sick and feeding the hungry.

“This Lord’s table propelled the early church to go into the world with their eyes wide open to tackle the critical challenges for their day,” she said.

The Wesleyan heritage of The United Methodist Church records actions John Wesley took to eliminate air pollution in England, Honeycutt said. It’s that form of service that continues today through the global church.

“The United Methodist Church is at work audaciously all around the world caring for the poor and God’s creation,” she said.

Honeycutt believes that Christians’ care for creation is a critical mission, particularly as it relates to the disadvantaged and outcast.

Members praise God during the communion service. Photo by Greg Moore. Photo #09-1212.

“I am convinced when you care for creation, you are going to be caring for the poor because they are the ones who will suffer the most (without it),” she said. “All of creation has a special place in the heart of God and especially those who find themselves without a song.”

Care for partners in ministry

Immediately following Honeycutt’s sermon, the Rev. Steve Price shared the purpose for the evening’s offering.

“The gifts that you bring tonight are an expression of our love for East Angola,” Price said. “So tonight we come with offerings ready that will enable our conference to continue our partnership there.”

The money collected will support the East Angola/Florida Partnership. It will provide funds for the School of Theology in Quéssua, help pay for the Rev. Dr. Armando and Icel Rodríguez and their daughter, Amanda, to work for a year beginning in August in East Angola as missioners of the Florida Conference, and assist in providing grants to Florida Conference churches that would like to send teams to serve in East Angola.

A traditional communion service led by Whitaker followed the offering. The service concluded with a prayer by Whitaker.

More information about the conference session, including a schedule of activities and reports presented, is available at

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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