Christian Citizenship Seminar Considers Our Relationship with Carbon

Photo by Carol Fike
Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS) 2012 poses for a group photo at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Many of the advisors said that this was the best agency presentation that they had ever been a part of,” reported CCS coordinator Carol Fike.

Fifty-two Church of the Brethren youth and adult advisors met for the 2012 Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS) on April 14-19 in New York City and Washington, D.C. The theme focused on “Stepping Out: Our Relationship with Carbon.”

The 41 high school youth and 11 advisors came from 11 congregations in eight districts across the denomination. Staffing the event were CCS coordinator Carol Fike, a Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) worker in the Youth and Young Adult Ministry; Becky Ullom, director of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry; Nathan Hosler, advocacy consultant for the Church of the Brethren and the National Council of Churches, along with past advocacy consultant Jordan Blevins; Jonathan Stauffer, BVS worker in the Advocacy and Peace Witness Office in Washington; and Jeremy McAvoy, BVS recruiter.

The group experienced four sessions on different aspects of the theme. Session 1 addressed the “Personal Carbon Footprint” led by Emma and Nancy Sleeth, a mother/daughter team and authors of “Almost Amish,” “Go Green, Save Green,” and “It’s Easy Being Green.” The Sleeth family have given up a comfortable, wealthy lifestyle to live simply as better stewards of the earth, and shared about the simple things that they are doing in their everyday lives to reduce their personal carbon footprint.

Photo by Carol Fike
Tyler Edgar of the National Council of Churches (NCC) leads a session on the “National Carbon Footprint” for the Christian Citizenship Seminar group.

A second session on the “National Carbon Footprint” was led by Tyler Edgar of the National Council of Churches, who works with a variety of environmental issues for the NCC including mountain top removal.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted the CCS group for a session in one of its large meeting rooms in a downtown Washington building. Shakeba Carter-Jenkins and Jonathan Stauffer worked together to set up the meeting. Included in this presentation was Dru Ealons, director of the Office of Public Engagement for the EPA; Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator, Office of Air and Radiation; Jerry Lawson of Energy Star; Marcus Sarofim of Climate Science; and Ullom as the Church of the Brethren representative.

“Many of the advisors said that this (session with the EPA) was the best agency presentation that they had ever been a part of,” Fike reported. She added that others who met with the CCS group were impressed by the level of understanding among the students. “Tyler (Edgar) was blown away by the questions that our youth asked,” she said.

Other CCS activities included viewing the documentary “The Story of Stuff,” and exercises to help youth learn about carbon and its effects in items of daily use, such as foods, and how to calculate a personal carbon footprint. Participants also gathered in congregational groups to come up with three new things they will do on their return home, and one thing they will encourage their church to do, in order to reduce carbon’s effects on the earth’s environment (see listing below).

The event closed with each and every participant visiting and talking with a governmental representative in Washington. The group from California, for example, had breakfast with their senator. Participants from Indiana met with staff of both of their senators, and the group from Illinois and Wisconsin District was able to talk with staff of senators from both states.

Daily worship was an important part of CCS, led by Ullom and Fike, and included an anointing service. Scriptures used for worship included Ezekial 34:17-19, Job 12:7-9, Esther 4:14, Romans 8:18-21, and Matthew 25:25-29.


Photo by Carol Fike
What will you take home from CCS? Youth work on this question during the Christian Citizenship Seminar that addressed themes of carbon and the environment.

What are you going to do to be pro-active?

Youth and advisors who attended Christian Citizenship Seminar were challenged to come up with new ideas of things they can do to curb the effects of carbon on the environment–personally and in their churches. The Youth and Young Adult Ministry hopes to offer an insight session at Annual Conference this July reporting back from these youth initiatives:

Black Rock Church of the Brethren, Glenville, Pa.: place timers on air and heat, teach lessons about small things that churches members can do to help the planet, talk about long-term investment in solar panels, go styrofoam free, clean out the kitchen and get rid of appliances that aren’t needed.

Glade Valley Church of the Brethren, Walkersville, Md.: host an Information Sunday, lead a children’s story about carbon, print bulletins on recycled paper.

Goshen (Ind.) Church of the Brethren: install light motion sensors, turn down the water heater.

Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, Elgin, Ill.: speak at church, have a dumpster diving event.

La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren: host an eco-friendly worship and lunch on May 20, wash dishes by hand, have some carbon activities, make carbon footprint placemat, change light bulbs at the church.

Manchester Church of the Brethren, North Manchester, Ind.: plant prairie grasses at their church, rather than grass that needs mowing.

Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren: the church already hosts community gardens, start a youth garden and donate the food to local pantries, host an Environmental Sunday, host a recycling campaign at church, start a community compost site.

Palmyra (Pa.) Church of the Brethren: lead a Sunday school class for adults, hold a fundraiser, sell reusable bags and mugs, have a youth room project to “be more green,” update the church kitchen to install Energy Star appliances.

Richmond (Ind.) Church of the Brethren: hold a Sunday school class for children, with visuals.

— CCS coordinator Carol Fike contributed to this report.

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