Feb 22, 2022
At our annual meeting on Jan. 30, Plymouth UCC of Eau Claire voted to become a Kairos Covenant church. It all started with a strip of splotchy grass and weeds about 5 feet by 40 feet, visible from the sanctuary.
From Little Seeds . . .
The process began a few years ago when I was looking at a small strip between the retaining wall and the woods on the east side of our property. That strip of splotchy grass and weeds sat on the top of the wall. It is visible from inside the sanctuary, and at the time, was not a very welcoming thing to look at. “What if we could reclaim it?” I wondered. “What might happen if we planted it with things that monarchs and other butterflies like?”
Our congregation is fortunate to have a real plant expert among its members—Cindy—and she enthusiastically suggested we go ahead and do it!
Rolling Up Our Sleeves
What began as a little project soon became a major effort. The wooded area near that strip of grass was filled with buckthorn and other invasives, so Cindy thought we ought to remove those first. But those invasives were part of a thick and continuous growth of buckthorn, mustard grass, leaning trees, and other plants in the woods, mixed together with old garbage (we found a very old milk can!) and dead wood, forming a continuous border on three sides of our property.
The work eventually included the removal of about 160 pickup truck loads of buckthorn and other invasives, plus a few days of having professional tree cutters come in to take out the really big stuff – I had no idea that “weeds” could be a foot in diameter! – and the application of poisons to the stumps.
The whole thing ended up requiring about a thousand hours of labor. Of course, that translated into a thousand hours of congregational togetherness!
And . . . we didn’t have to do it all on our own.
In Community Together
We benefited from a green grant from the Northwest Association and a Creation Care grant from the Wisconsin Conference Creation Care Team. We had the opportunity to do two seminars for the wider community, and we did mailings to our neighbors about invasive and native species. This has led to an ongoing conversation between our congregation and our neighbors about to returning our land to native flora and fauna as much as possible.
Having discovered our botanical superpowers, we didn’t stop there. We are now planting a much larger garden area in a sizable section of our property (in a part whose slopes makes it unusable as a conventional yard). The native grasses and flowers will provide food and shelter for insects and small animals, and we will save the effort, gas, and noise that previously went into mowing.
Our congregational leadership has taken up additional creation care activities. When we built a new building in 2017-2018, we made it a priority to design a one that would be as “green” as possible. Recently, we’ve added a policy against Styrofoam and other wasteful products being used in the building, and moved to a garbage service that allows us to compost.
Through these activities, we have become more and more intentional about creation care in the decisions of our congregation.
Last summer, Cindy brought the idea of becoming a Kairos Covenant church to our Leadership Team.
We worked on a covenant last fall. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, we borrowed heavily from another church’s covenant from the Wisconsin Conference’s website, and modified it to our context.
After we had a covenant that fit us, the Leadership Team presented it to the congregation to be discussed and voted on at our annual meeting at the end of January. The congregation voted unanimously adopt it, and those present joined together to sign a copy as a reminder.
Some Lessons Learned
Here are some of the takeaways from our experience with adopting a Kairos Covenant:
A member-led effort: I am thankful that a church member took so much initiative with the creation care efforts overall, and, in particular, brought the idea of the Kairos Covenant to the congregation’s leadership. Creation care and a Kairos Covenant are major commitments, and require far more support than the pastor, alone, can provide.
A natural step: It was after a series of projects related to sustainability and creation care that we adopted our covenant. In other words, it felt like an organic process. It was not as if we were taking a radical step in a new direction, but rather that this was a natural development from what we were already doing.
Putting our hope into words: We see the Kairos Covenant as a way to codify our hopes and vision for how we want to live in harmony with our land and our neighborhood.
Reproduced below is the text of the Kairos Covenant we adopted. We ask for your prayers as we work to live into this covenant!
The Rev. David Huber is pastor of Plymouth UCC, Eau Claire and a member of the conference Creation Care Team. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org
KAIROS CALL TO ACTION COVENANT
We, the members of Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire WI, pledge to be devoted stewards of Creation.
We are called by God our Creator to take action personally and in the community to help sustain our planet. Recognizing the many threats to pure air, clean water, productive land, and the health of all living beings, we covenant with each other and the greater church.
We join the United Church of Christ Kairos Call to Action to identify actions we can take individually and as a congregation, to work toward recovery and sustainability.
We will ensure appreciation and care for creation is part of all of the work of the church: in worship, church activities, community outreach and upkeep of our buildings.
We will continue the work we started in November, 2020, learning how invasive species affect the environment, removing invasive plants that are taking over the church campus, replanting with native species, reducing the amount of grass/ yard that requires mowing and involving our neighbors in this project.
We will work with neighbors, churches, schools, organizations and the community to raise awareness of invasive species and work together to make a difference for future generations.
We make this covenant together because we believe that peace and justice are God’s plan for all creation. The earth and all creation are God’s. God calls us to be careful, humble stewards of this earth, and to protect and restore it for its own sake, and for a safe, healthy, and peaceful future home for all. As God offers all people the special gift of peace through Jesus Christ, and through Christ reconciles all to God, we are called to deal justly with one another and the earth.
Adopted by the Members of Plymouth UCC, Eau Claire, WI