If you find the notion of caring for and healing creation formidable or even hopeless, Mennonite Creation Care Network (MCCN) has a resource that just might change your perspective.
With an accessible approach that draws upon science and faith, MCCN has shaped a special 13-week creation care curriculum around biblical teachings. The original edition of Every Creature Singing (ECS) was directed toward an American audience, but with support from MCCN and Mennonite Central Committee Canada, Mennonite Church Canada has adapted it for Canadians. While the participant guide has been online for some time, all components of the electronic resource including guides and supplemental materials are now available free from CommonWord.
Not Just Passing Another Statement
Every Creature Singing emerged in response to a Mennonite Church USA resolution supported by MCCN and passed in July 2013: to study creation care within American ecological and social contexts.
“We didn’t just want to pass another statement; we wanted to call people to a personal response,” says Jennifer Schrock, who developed and wrote ECS. “And so we proposed that Mennonite churches study creation care within their own context. The resolution passed, and therefore we took the responsibility to develop a curriculum.”
The result is a rich and comprehensive resource that incorporates a wide array of internet-based support materials for those who wish to dig deeper.
Schrock, who divides her time between communications management and leadership at MCCN and serves on the board, says she worked hardest on developing the biblical aspects of the curriculum. “I was grateful for the incentive to read eco-theology and eco-hermeneutics and think more deeply about how Christian faith and our great, wide world intersect.”
Learning About the Local Community
Every Creature Singing isn’t strongly prescriptive, so congregations or study groups can shape sessions to meet their needs and their resources, and pick and choose among them. Each session has four components:
- “Ecological Lens” questions enabling a closer look at creation care through biblical texts.
- A local ecosystem focus to familiarize participants with the environment in their local community.
- Suggested spiritual practices such as prayers, meditations and Bible studies.
- Suggested household practices that range from learning where food comes from to reducing consumption and replenishing natural habitats.
“Jennifer did an amazing job with this curriculum,” says Mennonite Church Canada Director of News Services Deborah Froese, who oversaw the Canadian adaptation. “It’s rooted in biblical perspectives of creation and supported with biblical stories. It approaches the topic of creation care with an attitude that embraces social justice and faith, and at the same time, incorporates a can-do attitude. This is encouraging, uplifting study material.”
Karen Martens Zimmerly, Mennonite Church Canada’s Executive Minister, Formation and Pastoral Leadership, concurs. “Every Creature Singing is a hope-filled and practical curriculum that can also be adapted for congregations wanting to have an annual creation care focus in their worship and formation ministries.”
Matthew Veith, designer for the Canadian edition, says the task of inviting people into the environmental stewardship conversation can be daunting, but ECS provides a variety of practical ways for people to respond. One of the biggest challenges he faced in the design process was incorporating the digital elements in a way that would reflect “readability and engagement, not trend and kitsch.”
“I’m confident that more people will use the curriculum because of its added accessibility,” Veith says, “and I’m hopeful they will find it easy to navigate and easy on the eyes as well.”
“I think this is such a wonderful resource,” says Joanne Moyer, assistant professor of Environmental Studies and Geography at The King’s University in Edmonton, Alta., and a member of the MCCN Council. She commends Schrock for weaving Anabaptist theology and peace commitments together with new ideas about watershed discipleship and caring for creation.
“I am so pleased to see a version of this curriculum that speaks specifically to the Canadian context. I am grateful to MCC Canada for the funding they provided to get this work done, to the design team at Mennonite Church Canada for creating such a beautiful piece, and to Deb Froese for her hard work in pulling it together.”
“I hope the curriculum helps people encounter the Spirit of Jesus Christ and experience God’s love of all creation,” says Schrock.
Download Every Creature Singing at www.commonword.ca/go/1054.