Question: When is a “Green Team” not a Green Team?

Answer: When it is a Creation Care Team as is the case at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Lancaster, PA. Team Leader Stephanie Lower explains that “the name derives from our denomination’s—The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or ELCA—Social Statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice.”

Stephanie, who qualified as a Master Watershed Steward through Penn State Extension in 2019, was doing some reading in 2020 on ways to celebrate Earth Day and came upon a list that included starting a green team at your church. She had a conversation with Good Shepherd’s Pastors, and, as she says now, “that was all the encouragement it took.” She completed the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake’s Faithful Green Leader training and was followed by four other church members in a later class.

The five-member team now meets every other Sunday with an established agenda for each meeting.  The have created a Facebook page and communicate via social media, weekly e-mails, monthly newsletters, and pre-service announcements. Stephanie cites sharing and collaboration during and after the training, along with the check-ins and learning labs, as being invaluable. “It is a comfort to know we are all in this together and that together, we can make a difference,” she says.

And what differences they have made! The Good Shepherd property now includes a 16,000 square foot wildflower meadow; a prayer walk with five prayer stations, benches, and a picnic area; and a concrete platform by a pond with a meditational labyrinth. Planned future enhancements include rebuilding a fireplace at the end of the concrete pad into an altar, adding bluebird boxes around the property, and creating a “Little” library for Creation Care material.  

Good Shepherd’s spaces have been used for sunset prayer services and other activities, and they look forward to adding educational forums and workshops, a plein air painting event, and outdoor movie nights featuring environmental films. Fortunately, they were one of two congregations in Lancaster awarded an ELCA Open Door grant, which will help defray the associated costs. 

Yet Good Shepherd’s team’s successes to date present them with a challenge. “Many in our congregation,” says Stephanie, “think our team only maintains our green space.” Our team, however; “views Creation Care as an umbrella over the entire church covering the areas of discipleship, education, worship. communication, advocacy, and property (DEWCAP).”

As a result, Good Shepherd’s team plans to conduct an extensive education program, has created an impressive event booth and their own logo incorporating the “DEWCAP” acronym. These were introduced at an event for their own congregation and at a festival at another IPC congregation. They look forward to further outreach with other congregations and community partners.

Good Shepherd has just learned that they’ve been chosen to participate in ELCA’s Net Zero 2050 Program to reduce the denomination’s carbon footprint. The result will be a significant series of projects that will ensure the church’s team will be active in Creation Care for years to come.