Volume 4, Issue 3
May 2023
Annual Meeting Is the Place to Boost Your Creation Care Ministry
Last year’s Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting provided a great opportunity for creation caregivers. Many of us who had not yet met in person finally did. Our Creation Care Team’s table in the exhibit hall was abuzz with fellow pollinators, meeting and greeting friends old and new. A Saturday evening circle brought together Earth stewards from a dozen congregations to swap dreams and best practices. One result of that gathering: our first annual fall creation care retreat at Daycholah Center, held in October.

The 2023 Annual Meeting, scheduled for June 9-11 at Green Lake Conference Center promises to be even better. In addition to a table in the exhibit hall and a Saturday evening gathering of fellow creation caregivers, we are adding a Saturday lunch opportunity to welcome the curious as well as to strengthen the bonds among those of us working together across the Conference to encourage our congregations’ creation care work. We would love to see you at Green Lake, even if you are not the pastor or official delegate from your congregation. Register today to join us. 

We are especially interested in meeting young people and those who work with them from your congregations and the wider communities you serve. We know there are young people across the state who are taking the lead in creation care witness through their schools and other organizations, if not through our churches. Invite them to join you at Green Lake as we explore together our next steps.

Here’s what to expect:

  • Get project know-how in our Solar How-To Workshop.
  • Learn to raise up new leaders in our Using Creation Care for Leadership Development in Congregations workshop.
  • Discover new ideas at our booth in the Exhibit Hall.
  • Connect with others at our Saturday lunch and Saturday evening gatherings.
  • Worship with us on Sunday at a special creation care worship experience

Even if you’re not a delegate, you can attend and enjoy these great Creation Care activities. Learn more and register.
Great News! More Kairos Grant Funds Available
Many thanks to the Wisconsin Conference allotting an additional $10,000 to creation care projects for this year and beyond. We encourage congregations to apply for grants, especially with the spring and summer planting and construction seasons coming up. 

We are very grateful for the support of all of our congregations for this important work to save our earthly home. Your contributions and pledges to Our Church’s Wider Mission help make it possible. If your congregation has a project in mind to exercise care for creation – it could be anything from a faith formation curriculum, to special speakers and events, to native plantings and energy efficiency initiatives, and everything in between – we encourage you to apply. Our grant application can be found on the Wisconsin Conference website.  
Three More Congregations to Receive Creation Care Grants
Congregations from Ashland, Fitchburg and Ripon have received Kairos grants for Creation Care projects in recent months.  

Memorial UCC in Fitchburg ($1,000) is hosting a discussion of Daniel Cooperrider’s book “Speak with the Earth and it will Teach You.” Grant funds will be used to underwrite the cost of the books; books that participants donate back will be handed on to other churches. Church members and Sunday School students also are planting an herb “pizza garden” to enjoy nurturing plants together. 

First Congregational in Ripon ($1,000) is converting a portion of the church lawn to a native plant garden for pollinators and to provide a small gathering area for the members and community.

The Joint UCC and Presbyterian Church in Ashland ($1,000) has made a commitment to installing a 53-panel solar energy system this summer and fall. This project will reduce carbon emissions by 23 tons and save the congregation an estimated $4,000 to $5,000 a year in electrical costs.

We are very pleased with the number of churches and the variety of projects that have been boosted through this special Wisconsin Conference funding.

TO APPLY: Our grant application can be found on the Wisconsin Conference website.
Connecting the Dots: Climate, Immigration and Fair Trade
Elizabeth Hazel provides this update from the Conference’s Immigration Working Group to help explain the decision to share information about Fair Trade at the Annual Meeting and beyond: 

Farming practices, climate change and migration are deeply intertwined, and the story behind Fair Trade provides a profound and easily accessible link. The Immigration Working Group will provide a learning opportunity in a workshop called “Why Fair Trade,” scheduled for 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept 28. A gathering at Daycholah to explore the topic of global migration is also being considered. Details will be forthcoming.

Contact Lisa Hart to begin receiving updates about the work of the Conference’s Immigration Working Group, including its monthly meeting notices.
Wisconsin Conference-wide Earth Day Observances
Congregations throughout the Wisconsin Conference recognized Earth Day (April 22) with a range of activities in the month of April.

Earth Day began as a teach-in about environmental issues on April 22, 1970, through the leadership of environmental activist and former Wisconsin governor Gaylord Nelson.

You can read about some of the activities in the Conference here:

  • Memorial UCC (Fitchburg) celebrated with a land acknowledgement “ … In gratitude, we honor this land and the untold generations of its indigenous caretakers ….”
  • First Congregational UCC (La Crosse) held a community creation care product fair “The Green team’s goal at First Congregational La Crosse was to provide a welcoming space where ‘eco-anxiety’ could be reduced and to encourage participants to choose one or two doable actions that could support the Earth and ensure the health of future generations.”
  • First Congregational (Wisconsin Rapids) focused on sustainable products from “Eco Evie" “ … an amazing young girl with her own apparel company. Her clothing is made from recycled water bottles and she is dedicated to helping endangered species.”

Looking ahead, Easter falls very early in 2024 – on March 31! Now is the perfect time to start talking with interested leaders in your congregation about creation care activities for Earth Day in April 2024!
Three Creation Care Opportunities Planned for Fall
Now’s the time for your congregation to think about fall opportunities to lift up the message of creation care:

  • Budgeting for Stewardship (September/October)
  • Blessing of the Animals (early October)
  • Indigenous Peoples Day (Oct. 9)

Each of these is a chance to involve members who might not yet be engaged in your creation care programming.

Many congregations hold property “work days” and start budgeting for stewardship soon after the return from summer vacation. It’s great time to ask: “How are we reflecting our creation care values in our stewardship – including our church facilities?” A great place to start is with this UCC resource: “Become a Carbon Neutral or Carbon Negative Church”

Has your congregation ever held a Blessing of the Animals? This is a great way to build community, and to emphasize care for creatures beyond the human species. Blessing of the Animals services usually take place around the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4. One resource is this order of worship from the Season of Creation website. Be sure to invite the whole neighborhood.

Finally, think about ways to lift up Native perspectives on creation care in connection with your congregation’s observance of Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 9. In 2021, many congregations participated in the Conference-wide “big read” of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. (Click for a study guide and additional resources.) 

(Have you had a great experience with one of these activities in the past? We want to share it with others. Send submissions for the Kairos Newsletter to Joe Scarry.)
It’s Wildflower Season at Daycholah
Visitors to Daycholah are encouraged to share your best pictures of flora there for upcoming editions of the Kairos Newsletter. Send to Joe Scarry at [email protected].

Daffodils shown here courtesy of Kaitlyn Boscaljon, head of human resources for United Church Camps, Inc.
Awesome FREE Imagery for Use in Congregations
Looking for awesome royalty-free creation care-related images? NASA has great resources, especially imagery from the James Webb Space Telescope. At the recent meeting of the Wisconsin Conference Southwest Association, Pastor Zayna Thomley of Middleton Community Church shared an array of resources for digital art, including images from NASA. Check out the full gallery of Webb images, and the user guidelines. (The image here is super-bright, massive Wolf-Rayet star – a mere 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius!)
A Fundamental Congregational Resource on Creation Care:
Climate Church, Climate World by Jim Antal
Review by Cathy Putman

Our church library at Union Congregational UCC, Green Bay, has acquired several books on how the reality of climate change interacts with personal and church responsibilities, including the 2018 book Climate Church, Climate World by Jim Antal, the former Massachusetts UCC conference minister and a veteran of more than 20 years of climate activism.

Antal embraces the importance of moral indignation that propels urgency, and of self-examination that seeks to be reconciled to the Earth and its fullness. Drawing from Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination, Antal repeatedly asks us to “imagine if.”

Antal quotes important justice voices such as Wendell Berry, Desmond Tutu, Pope Francis and Abraham Joshua Heschel to stress the urgency to act, and the grief we feel for climate change consequences. Tutu sums it up: “(Jesus’) supreme work is to reconcile us to God and to one another, and, indeed, to reconcile us to all of God’s creation.” And that’s the crux for Antal. Addressing the consequences of a changing climate does not supersede the classic work of the church, but rather lifts up a neglected dimension.

In lifting up how a congregation can become reconciled to the Earth, Antal sketches out some possibilities, including: new sacraments that might help us transcend our anthropocentric focus; recognition of our accountability to future generations as a form of loving our neighbors; and civil disobedience. His book is chock-full of examples of peaceful protests that have worked to raise concerns and pressure lawmakers to grapple with the science and consequences of rising temperatures.

With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the nation is accepting the reality that Antal and others have been lifting up for decades. This sets the stage for how churches and congregants will choose to mitigate their carbon footprints. 

Anyone seeking to design congregational ministry activities – whether in stewardship, social justice, worship or other areas – would do well to look at the writing of Antal and his mentors.
Creation Care Good News!
Carrying the message of Speak With the Earth and It Will Teach You to Ohio

Wisconsin UCC author the Rev. Daniel Cooperrider was in Ohio in the past month to spread the gospel of creation care. He reports: “Heading back after a wonderful weekend of book events in my hometown Chagrin River valley. Thank you to The Federated Church for an engaging book workshop on Saturday, joy-filled Sunday worship and the opportunity to preach, and to Federated + Living Water Association ONE, Heartland Conference for a special Beltane-inspired celebration of spring in its fullness with a pop-up ‘Wild Church’ among the hemlocks, pines, winter wrens, and falls of the sulfur springs tributary of the Chagrin River. Heart is full.” 

Something Wild in Church

Have you heard about “Wild Church”? More and more people are leaning into the spirituality found outside the four walls of traditional church buildings. “Popping up all over the land, like wild mushrooms after a spring rain, Wild Church communities are responding to a call from deep within to change the way we relate to the natural world, moving ‘from a collection of objects, to a communion of subjects’” (Thomas Berry). Learn more on the website of the Wild Church Network.
Another Solar Installation On Line!

We received this image of the new solar installation at Greendale Community UCC, which was turned on at 11 a.m. on May 11.
More Earth Day Resources from the UCC

Here are links to the Earth Day event sponsored April by the national setting of the UCC:

General Synod: Creation Care resolutions

The 2023 General Synod of the UCC, to be held June 30-July 4 in Indianapolis, will consider resolutions including: Encouraging a Plant-based Life, A Resolution Urging Planning for and Implementing Electrification, and Free from Plastic Pollution. (Details on the General Synod website.) Talk to your delegates to the General Synod, and look for an update in the next edition of the Kairos Newsletter.

Fall 2023: Save these dates!

The Creation Care team has set aside tentative dates for retreats in fall 2023: Sept. 29-Oct. 1 (Moon Beach) and Oct. 13–15 (Daycholah). Look for more details in the next Kairos Newsletter.

Do you have a news item for the Kairos Newsletter? Send it to Joe Scarry.
Oppenheimer: A Summer Blockbuster Offers an Opportunity
What will you be preaching about this summer? What will you be discussing in small groups? There will be an opportunity to “preach into the moment” when a unique cultural event occurs this summer with the release on July 21 of a major motion picture: Oppenheimer. The film centers on the choice to develop and use nuclear weapons as told in the book about the Manhattan Project leader entitled American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The $100 million production promises to deal with issues of faith and conscience, and to stimulate a national conversation on dangerous technologies and social practices – nuclear weapons, but also AI and all environment-threatening behavior. “We imagine a future, and our imaginings horrify us. … I don’t know if we can be trusted with such a weapon. But we have no choice. Is anyone ever going to tell the truth about what’s happening here?” says Oppenheimer in the film’s trailer.

The midsummer release is timed to coincide with the anniversary of the first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945, and the use by the United States of atomic weapons against Japan weeks later at Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9. 

For more on the UCC commitment to confronting the danger presented by nuclear weapons, read “Synod calls U.S. to pull back from brink of nuclear war.” Contact Joe Scarry for additional materials related to the Oppenheimer release.
Do you have something for the Kairos Newsletter?
We’re grateful to the many talented writers, and photographers and other content creators who help make the Kairos Newsletter possible. Would you like to help? Please email Joe Scarry. We want to help congregations throughout the Wisconsin Conference lift up the work of caring for God’s creation.
COMING SOON: Annual Meeting Recap and Fall 2023
The next edition of the Kairos Newsletter will feature a report from Annual Meeting 2023 and plans for fall 2023. What is your congregation planning for fall? Let us know so we can share it in the upcoming edition. Contact Joe Scarry at [email protected].

View Franz Rigert's video Announcing the Wisconsin Conference UCC Kairos Call To Action and share with your congregation!

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