Over the past year, the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions has hosted four Pastoral Retreats, titled “Who Cares About Climate Change?” Created and hosted by Pastor Doug Kaufman, the Center’s Director of Pastoral Ecology, the goal of these multi-day retreats is to educate pastors and other Mennonite leaders on how they can lead ecologically-minded congregations and face the ethical and social challenges presented by climate change.
So far, the outdoor-oriented events have been held in Michigan, Kansas, New York, and Ontario. Nearly 65 people have attended in total; attendees have included pastors, scholars, environmental professionals, and political activists from around the world. For example the first retreat in Michigan included a panel of experts from the Global South Voices on Climate Change delegation; a group of three MCC delegates who toured the US in late 2018 to share their personal experiences with climate change and how it impacts their home countries of El Salvador, Nepal, and Zimbabwe.
These events offer a time to connect with fellow Mennonite leaders other through various workshops, and discussions on various topics, ranging from political advocacy to sustainability for congregations. Discussions also challenged attendees to confront controversial or uncomfortable topics related to the causes and impacts of climate change. The retreat in Ontario included discussions about personal and communal feelings of denial, guilt, or hopelessness experienced by those who are concerned about climate change. Some of the discussion at the New York retreat revolved around environmental injustices faced by minority groups in the United States.
The main focus of the retreats is to try to encourage attendees to funnel their emotions and efforts into creating sustainable communities within the larger Mennonite church. Attendees have been passionate about making positive changes. Organizer Doug Kaufman sums up the successes of the first retreats:
“What a privilege to meet with pastors and other leaders over the past nine months, stretching from Kansas to New York, from Michigan to Ontario. Close to 65 pastors and leaders have gathered at these four retreats to learn from one another about pastoral response to climate change. Each place has been unique and each group has brought a little different set of gifts to the discussion. I have discovered a deep commitment to God and God’s people, and a growing commitment to God’s creation. These are deeply creative leaders who engage with honesty and compassion. Pastors bring a sensitivity to both the emotional and spiritual dynamics of climate change, and so we have explored these in depth. I am happy that we have a chance to have a reunion of sorts at the MC USA convention, with pastors who are alumni of these retreats having a special invitation to the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions event.”
Article by Whitney Ricker2018 Climate Advocacy Intern