Q: How can I encourage my church to get actively involved in promoting good stewardship of creation?
A: As we become more aware of the plants and animals around us and what the Bible says about our role as stewards and the relevant environmental issues of our day, we learn to appreciate God’s earth and our place in it. Barbara Kingsolver, author of Small Wonder, says the first steps toward stewardship are awareness and appreciation. Where is your congregation on this journey toward environmental stewardship?
The best way to begin is to take inventory of what your congregation is already doing (as a congregation, in the community, as individuals) and what resources are available (land, building, finances, people).
Then brainstorm which areas you could improve. Invite others to brainstorm with you. Dream big, don’t block ideas, and be sure to consider areas such as church education (Sunday school, adult studies), worship (songs, liturgy, sermons), grounds (green space, gardens, parking lot), fellowship (walks, camps, gatherings), and church life (food choices and preparation, bulletins). See the website http://en.arocha.org/caresources/index.html for additional ideas.
Then choose two or three things to focus on (depending on the interest and energy level) and set a time for another gathering.
You can’t do everything, but you can do something. Making a start is the most important thing.
Cindy Verbeek is the Church and Community Group Liaison for A Rocha Canada—Christians in Conservation and an active member of Houston Christian Reformed Church, British Columbia. For more ideas contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.arocha.org.
Q: My best friend said she is planning to have an abortion. We are both 18-year-old students at the same university. The father of her baby is no longer in the picture. I feel I should tell her parents what’s going on, but I promised not to tell anyone about it. I’m against abortion, but my friend says it’s the best solution. I want to protect her baby, but I also don’t want to betray her confidence. What should I do?
A: You are in a very difficult dilemma without easy answers. Revealing your friend’s secret may not stop her from going through with the abortion, while at the same time it may destroy your friendship and perhaps create irreparable anger and hostility within her family. You just don’t know. Although you are right to be against abortion, you do not have any legal right to protect your friend’s unborn child under the present laws in both the United States and Canada. No one can force her not to have an abortion by law. As an adult she has the right to make that decision—and to make it without telling anyone.
However, she has chosen to take you into her confidence. At least in part, you can consider this a cry for help. Tell your friend how much her decision grieves you and God. Encourage her to tell her parents and offer to do it for her.
If your friend is open to it, offer to pray with her for guidance. Explain to her that abortion might feel like a solution, but you worry about the long-term effects of this decision, since carrying such a secret with its attendant shame and guilt can produce much harm to her emotional health. Offer to go with her to an adoption agency so she can at least consider all the alternatives. Encourage her to speak to a counselor who shares her faith, if she is a Christian, and offer to help with that cost. Share with her honestly your distress about the thought of her unborn child being destroyed, but also tell her you will always be her friend no matter what she decides and will stand by her even when you disagree with her decision.
This burden is too difficult for you to carry alone. Tell your friend you plan to speak to your pastor or another trusted mentor about what this is doing to you. Reassure her that this is not a betrayal of confidence (that you will not mention her by name), but that for your own peace of mind you need to sort this through with someone older whom you trust.
Know that God’s mercy is infinite and his leading often surprising. When you have done all you know to do within the bounds of confidentiality, leave the outcome in God’s hands for healing and redemption, knowing that God loves your friend and her unborn baby even more than you do.
Judy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario.