In the Ordination of Deacons, there is a sentence in the Examination stating, “You are to interpret to the Church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.” This sentence highlights the unique calling of the order of Deacons, which is to bring the needs of the world to the Church, and to bring the Church out into the world in response to those needs.

The deacons of West Tennessee have been engaging in thoughtful and prayerful discussion around bringing one such need of the world forward each year and inviting all of us into awareness, ministry, and prayer together around that need. Our congregations have important ongoing ministries that address a variety of concerns in our communities, and this will be an opportunity to focus on one specific area each year as lifted up by the deacons.

The first area identified by the deacons will be focused on the care of God’s creation. We invite all congregations to begin with prayer. 

A Prayer for Creation Care

Gracious Creator, we thank you for the glorious and infinitely varied creation that you have given us. The land and water, mountains and valleys, forests and deserts. The seasons in their times. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the satellite moon that drives our tides, and the myriad stars and planets in their courses. We give thanks for our fellow inhabitants of this earth – human, animal, and plant. May we see the grand design in all of your creation, and know that even the rocks sing to your glory.

At times we fail to recognize that the gift of wondrous creation you have bestowed upon us comes with the responsibility of care. For to truly worship you means that we must be mindful of the natural world around us. Help us to view our surroundings through your eyes – our faith communities, their buildings and grounds; our homes, yards, neighborhoods, places of employment; and destinations where we seek respite. To examine our impact, to lament, and to repair where we have failed in our stewardship.

May we remember that what we do in your name today is not only for ourselves, but for generation to generation in your church. We ask all these things through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-The Rev. Deacon Gerri Endicott
Church of the Holy Apostles (Collierville)

Ready to start or expand your church’s creation care practices? Here are a just a few ideas from across the Diocese of West Tennessee!
Incorporate green practices into campus maintenance and renovations.

Erected in 1881, Calvary Episcopal Church‘s nave is the oldest public building in continuous use in Memphis. As the campus has aged, the church has intentionally included energy-efficient and green practices into its maintenance and renovations. From biodegradable bags in its hospitality ministry to creating a community greenspace out of a former parking lot, Calvary’s commitment to creation care is something every parishioner and visitor holds stake.

Incorporate food-recovery practices into your feeding ministry. 

Recover Food, Feed Hope, an outreach ministry based at Church of the Holy Communion, evolved from efforts to feed unhoused people in Memphis during the pandemic. The ministry has grown to include other parishes and faith groups interested in addressing food insecurity and eliminating food waste. Learn more here. 

Lend a hand at St. Columba.

St. Columba Episcopal Camp and Retreat Center is a hidden gem not only of our diocese but for the entire Mid-South. Many hands make light work of caring for this space, and gratefully, there are many kinds of hands-on tasks for all ages and abilities. In Spring 2024, diocesan youth and young adults came out to help prepare St. Columba for its busy summer camp season. 

Switch from single-use plastics.

“It took a minute to convince people to switch over from disposable plates, cups, and flatware for parish meals,” said the Rev. Deacon Tommy Rhoads who serves St. Thomas the Apostle in Humboldt. “But we have a parishioner who scoured secondhand stores and yard sales and was able to outfit the church with more China dishes and glasses than we would likely ever need!”

St. Thomas the Apostle’s use of reusable dishes for its parish events is just the tip of the iceberg to its commitment to creation care. Because municipal recycling services are not available, the church invites parishioners and community members to drop off their recyclable items there; Deacon Tommy then takes the items to Jackson, Tennessee for recycling. The church has also formed a partnership with the Lyon’s Club in Jackson that transforms recycled plastics into park benches. 

“We’re on track to collect enough plastic to provide a bench for the Boys & Girls Club Playground we’re helping with.”

Cultivate an earth-friendly campus.

Church of the Good Shepherd is located in the dense urban setting of Midtown Memphis, but the congregation is making the best of its physical footprint. Its pollinator gardens provide food, shelter, and habitat for bees, butterflies, and birds, which then in turn promote the health of its vegetable garden. 

Invite leaders to speak at your church.

Advocating for creation care includes educating ourselves. Many thought leaders and people working in environmental and climate sciences are eager to share their work with faith communities.

Barth House welcomed Jazmin Miller, whose documentary film Jonesland illustrates the problem of environmental racism, to present a case study to a diocesan audience in 2023. Calvary hosted Dr. Emily Holmes for a presentation on how people of faith can respond to climate change.

Consider inviting someone to speak on environmental racism, eco-justice advocacy, or renewable energy at your church during a Sunday forum or at a midweek lecture.

Cut down on single-use papers during worship. 

Many churches and ministries in West Tennessee – Holy Apostles, Holy Trinity, Good Shepherd, and Barth House just to name a few – are saving paper (and money!) each week by foregoing a full printed worship leaflet, instead using copies of the Books of Common Prayer already sitting in the pews. 

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