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Go Green (and save money) This Summer

By Cynthia Coe

Summer VBS and camp season looms, and children will soon attend programs centered on outdoor fun, bugs and critters, water play, and nature.  Will the programs themselves be “green”?

One of the “5 Marks of Mission” of the Episcopal Church is “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”  A focus on “going green” in children’s summer programs could be an easy – but transformational – way to “do” this fundamental ministry in our parish programs and camps.  Better yet, a focus on going green could also save your parish or camp money, too.

Here are several ways summer programs and camps could both go green and be good stewards of resources:

  •  Use leftover art supplies – Use arts and crafts materials you or your volunteers already have on hand. Why use funding, time, and transportation costs to buy yet more materials, when your program (and participating families) likely have paper, crayons, and other craft materials sitting on shelves, unused? Asking families to clean out their cabinets and donate unused materials would be a great way to engage participants in reducing and re-using materials…and children and youth will have an opportunity to use their imaginations with oddball and leftover materials.
  • Use natural materials when possible – In the summer all kinds of flowers, sticks, leaves, and vines are likely right outside your door for the picking. Why not make use of these natural materials in making arts and crafts projects? Children might gain an appreciation of nature while exploring and collecting materials in the process.
  • Make something useful and practical – the best camp and VBS craft projects are those that are used over and over again long after summer is over. Coasters, pot holders, frig magnets, baskets, and even simple bracelets can be made and used by families as both useful objects and reminders of the summer program. Please don’t send home arts and crafts projects that serve no purpose and go straight to the trash can.
  • Play outdoors – make use of parks, nature trails, gardens, and other venues in nature. Young people need to spend more time outdoors, just playing. Giving them the opportunity to do so will help them feel calmer and enhance creativity. And do you really need to rent that expensive water slide to make your program a success?
  • Snacks – keep them healthy. If we are serious about respecting the dignity of each and every person, that includes their bodies. Junky, sugary, processed snacks serve no purpose except to make money for corporations. Set an example; serve good food. Consider planting a garden as a summer activity. Children will eat what they have participated in growing.

This list includes just a few ideas on how you can “walk the walk” of care of creation and of helping children and youth grow into healthy, environmentally aware adults. If you have additional ideas or examples of ways you have gone green in your summer program, feel free to comment and add to this list.

Blessings for a green summer, Cindy

What Would “Missionary Society” Formation Look Like?

By Cynthia Coe

Recently, the Episcopal Church has sought to re-brand itself as the “Missionary Society.”  Generally, I like this re-branding.  Most real life is experienced out in the world, not within the walls of a church building for a couple of hours a week.

In keeping with this re-branding, should we also re-think our Christian formation programs?  If we focus our efforts on equipping our members for “mission” out in the world, do we need to radically re-focus our efforts to “form” people to function as missionaries in their everyday lives and as they live and work outside the Church?

Here are some ideas of what we might seek to accomplish as central objectives of Missionary Society formation:

  •  Create awareness of the needs and issues around us: Inside a lovely church building or living in suburban America, we may honestly not know what is going on in our cities, in our regions, or in other parts of the world.  Before we seek to send others out into the mission field, we might highlight needs and urge parishioners to actively read up or think about needs around them.
  • Equip missioners with the basics of the Christian faith: We need to offer “basics” courses on scripture, theology, and how we might address needs as Christians.  Often, we ask for volunteers to “help” with various ministries without any reflection or theological basis for doing the work in the first place.
  • Skills building: If we want missions to be successful and effective, we might offer training in subjects like pastoral care, language skills, fundraising, asset-based community development, causes of poverty, and other helpful tools.  Training could be offered by networks or on a regional or diocesan basis.
  • Support and Companionship: Fellowship with others working in a mission field is often one of the most rewarding parts of any ministry.  Intentional efforts to offer support groups for those in similar ministries might go a long way towards preventing burn-out and supporting on-going efforts.
  • On-going Praxis:  What do we learn from ministry?  What often do we stop to think about incidents in our ministries and how they form and inform our faith?  Regular times and places to do just this might be terrific means of actually “doing” lifelong formation.

These programs could be offered via online courses, in person, in small groups, diocesan-wide, or through regional weekend retreats – the possibilities are endless. Some of these topics are currently offered by seminaries and other institutions to M. Div students or for clergy or other professionals as continuing education.  But if we want to function truly as a Missionary Society, we need to make this support and these tools available to all laity – a radical but likely necessary step as we continue to re-think the Church.

Copyright 2014 Cynthia Coe. All Rights Reserved.

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