Tending the Seminarium: Creation Care in Chicagoland’s Theological Schools was a strong success. On Friday, February 20th, approximately 40 seminary faculty, administrators, staff, and students gathered at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary to strategize about practical on-campus ways to integrate creation care into their practices, student life, and curriculum. The five Chicagoland SSA schools were Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, North Park Theological Seminary, Northern Seminary, and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
The day kicked off with a welcome and introductions by Dr. Tim Eberhart, one of Garrett-Evangelical’s liaisons. Dr. Seth Bible, SSA president, followed with a short devotion from Proverbs 16.
Aaron Durnbaugh, Director of Sustainability at Loyola University Chicago shared an inspiring opening plenary detailing the breadth of the sustainability programs at Loyola, a Jesuit institution. Loyola has thought deeply about integrating sustainability goals into their student projects, campus jobs, and curriculum. Many of their ideas seemed to be concepts applicable to the field studies requirement of theological education.
After Aaron’s talk, Pam and Lan Richart, directors of the Ecojustice Collaborative, shared about the organizations working on environmental issues in the Chicagoland area. Their handout included a wide variety of places, such as experiential learning centers, community gardens, advocacy groups, and neighborhood watchdogs.
The day was permeated by group discussions with both attendees in similar roles at their seminaries, and discussions with each seminary’s team. The purpose of the discussions was to help the institutions identify next steps for advancing creation care on their campus.
During lunchtime, Brian Sauder, a credentialed Mennonite pastor and executive director of Faith in Place, the Illinois affiliate of Interfaith Power and Light, shared about how his organization has worked with over 1000 congregations across Illinois using their community organizing model. They work very locally, hiring people already living in the communities they hope to serve. Brian mentioned that in order to make a difference in congregations, the change agent needs to identify two to three early adopters who “get it” and then empower them to start green teams at their congregations.
The day wrapped up with a collective brainstorming session about next steps. The seminary representatives decided to continue the discussions of that day with future planning about shared worship events, conferences, Good Friday walks, and regional retreats. Dr. Barbara Rossing, New Testament professor from LSTC, asked Janeen Bertsche Johnson, AMBS Campus Pastor, to lead the group in song as part of the closing benediction. The attendees left inspired and energized about their creation care work at each institution.
While we missed photographing several of the attendees and speakers, as well as Amy Oxendale from North Park, we were able to capture several candid discussion shots as well groups representing four of the schools.
The Northern Seminary group
The LSTC group (not pictured, Bob Berridge)