Sunday school class looks at environmental issues in biblical context

August 29, 2003|HERB BROCK

A longtime popular environmental slogan says, "Think globally. Act Locally." A new Sunday school class at The Presbyterian Church of Danville might cause a new environmental slogan to be developed: "Think Globally. Act Locally. Connect Theologically."

The new class, "Caring for Creation: God's Ecology," looks at several environmental issues in a biblical context. The six-week class started Sunday and will be held the next five Sundays from 9:30-10:30 a.m. People attending the class should use the West Walnut Street entrance to the church; a sign will guide them to the classroom.

"Genesis talks about God giving man dominion over the earth," said Patsi Trollinger, a local self-employed writer and former coordinator of public relations at Centre College who is teaching the class.

"In addition to that passage, what is there in the Bible, in Christian teachings, about man's concern for the earth?" said Trollinger, underscoring a central question that the class will be attempting to answer. "If the Bible is so clear about man's dominion and care of the earth, how could we have gotten in the environmental mess that we have today?"


Class evolved from Saving Creation Committee discussions

The class evolved from discussions by the church's Saving Creation Committee, an environmental awareness group. The class is the latest of many efforts by the committee to provide information about improving the environment and promote steps parishioners can take in their homes and communities. The committee works closely with Donna Fechter, director of the Clean Community Commission.

The church itself is not exempt from the community's mission to make community facilities environmentally sound, said chairperson Sarah Vahlkamp, noting that the panel promotes and monitors and energy conservation and other environmental measures at the church.

Trollinger credited Vahlkamp and former committee chairperson Kathy Miles for getting the ball rolling for the class. She also cited parishioner Ann Young, the volunteer services coordinator at Centre whose gotten students involved in several recycling and other environmental projects on campus and in the community, and Joannie Lukins, one of the "church's many avid readers," with helping to do research and gather reading materials for the class.

Trollinger said she does not profess to be an expert on the topic of the class but has been reading a lot of books and articles on the class subject matter and has a strong interest in it.

"At our church we encourage members with interest and at least some expertise in an area to teach classes and do so with the help of other parishioners with the same interest," she said. "We have special, topical classes on a rotating basis where class members have opportunities to serve as teachers."

On the topic she will be teaching, Trollinger said there is such an abundance of both material and people interested that it could cause a problem: "We have such a wealth of information and parishioner interest that it will be difficult to squeeze everything and everyone into six classes," she said.

"There is a ton of materials, both secular and religious, that specifically discuss environmental issues and how they are addressed in the Bible and by Christian doctrine, historically and contemporarily," Trollinger said.

"We have so many people in the church who read and are concerned about the connection of God and the environment and who are committed to the proposition that the Christian faith should work on the matter of man's stewardship of the earth," she said.

"Are We Stewards, Consumers or Emperors?"

The first session of the class was titled, "Are We Stewards, Consumers or Emperors? The Challenge for Christians and the Environment."

Trollinger said the first class last Sunday involved establishing a theological basis for the discussion of environmental issues and then dividing the class into groups of two or three members who are to develop some biblical standards for evaluating environmental issues. She said those issues are being presented as case studies that she has developed.

"One case study involves fuel. I pose the question: 'Why citizens of the United States use a lot more fuel than people in any other countries and why other countries, especially in Europe, are so much more progressive environmentally than we are?'" she said. "Then, class members use the biblical standards they have been developing in asking themselves and each other about the consumption of fuel.

"Every Sunday there will be some contemporary environmental issue put forth and a case study and then the class will apply biblical standards and background to the issues. Each person will be asked to take a few minutes to discuss the issue not only in a biblical context but also in the context of their households, their community, their country, their world and their relationship with God."

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