By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen has a ministry team to help focus on taking care of God’s creation — the earth.
Congregational goals are made every three years and one of the goals in 2011 was to focus on creation care, said the Rev. Karl Shelly.
So the Creation Care Ministry Team seeks to help the congregation better understand our impact on the earth, Shelly added.
“The group is made up of volunteers interested in guiding the congregation in the goals,” he said.
In May, church officials host an annual blessing of the bikes and encourages people to ride their bikes as much as possible, Shelly said.
Then Shelly blesses the bicycles and cyclists with an evergreen branch and water during the ceremony.
Glenn Gilbert attends the church and has a passion for sustainability, which is also part of his job at Goshen College, he said.
“It’s been an interest of mine all along.” Gilbert said. “I think there’s an interest in the church and a lot of people want to do right with the environment. We raise awareness and teach...ways in changing and caring for the environment. It’s inviting people to look at how they are living and what they can do in sustainability.”
The ministry team has joined with Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) organization that provides services and useful tools for reducing energy consumption and energy costs.
A 12-month action program breaks down home energy reduction into a task a month with Hoosier IPL. Church members can sign up to do tasks at home, said Ben Beyeler, another Creation Care team member.
Some of the tasks include insulating a water heater and hot water pipes, installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators, sealing large air leaks and weather-stripping and insulating the attic.
The congregation has been encouraged to sign up, commit themselves to the different tasks and have fun while doing it, Gilbert said.
“We have put their names in for a raffle for ice cream if they commit to increase their air conditioner thermostat by 3 degrees or not use it at all,” Gilbert said.
And Beyeler added, “People enjoyed the ugly sweater raffle for turning down their thermostat in winter by 2 degrees.”
There have been a number of sermon series on the scriptural basis for creation care and how the Bible focuses on the connection of love of neighbor and neighborliness toward all creation.
“As a Christian, we are to treat everyone with the same care and love as what Jesus taught. It means that the whole earth is for everyone,” Beyeler said. “We need to act, corporately and individually, to reduce the negative impact on earth. The earth is our home where our needs are all met. Christians have an understanding that God created the earth and we are one of the species. We interact and care for the whole of the earth. We survive along with all the species that God created and we have to share and sustain it.”