What is Care of Creation? A Personal Reflection…

Care of Creation’s Kermit Hovey, Director of Operations and Development, weighs in with his first monthly blog post to Our Father’s World.

What is Care of Creation?

It is many things – attitude, activity, vision, people-holding-hands-around-the-world-mdmission, method, lifestyle and more. For me it is especially a fresh call, a poetic understanding and a hopeful dream. It is also a small faith-based Christian environmental action outreach mission & ministry with a global reach headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin (www.CareOfCreation.org).  Somehow, it is all those things at once.

My Fresh Call to Care of Creation

I can’t remember when I have not felt an essential general call to know, follow, obey and honor God. More specifically, in and through the words of my step-grandfather to me as a young kid, I received, promptly put aside yet never totally abandoned a call to pastoral ministry. As I walked my faith out through adolescence to the brink of college I chose to attempt to do it all. As an adult with an Electrical Engineering Bachelor’s degree I volunteered in church for various pastoral, leadership and caring roles while I worked professionally in various engineering, technology and managerial roles. While that proved doable for a season, it felt less so over the years as the call to pastoral ministry clamored in my spirit for fuller expression. After much prayer, discussion and discernment I embraced afresh a renewed call to pastoral ministry. As family, friends and fellowship encouraged me I pursued that call to care for church and Christian community through North Park Theological Seminary and beyond to Madison and Middleton Wisconsin, to Faith Community Bible Church and Mustard Seed Groups Christian Community.

As I expressed that pastoral call, I responded to an ongoing parallel call to social justice. That call I recognized and expressed in terms of Matthew 25.  For a season, on staff with Middleton Outreach Ministry and then Madison-area Urban Ministry, I cared for the disenfranchised “least of these”.1 Yet that season of formal ministry for the church and the “least of these” wound down over the years.

Eventually I heard in my heart fresh echoes of another old call, the call of creation, the call of creation waiting for the children of God to be revealed, the call of God to care for creation.2 Networking, activism and advocacy gave me chances to care and act, learn and do through groups such as Sustain Dane, Sierra Club, Citizens Climate Lobby, 350.org, Sojourners and Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Yet as I heard and responded to that call, I looked around wondering where were the faith communities, where was the church. Numbers of us in some of those groups wondered together and encouraged one another to look for answers, make connections and build bridges.

CofC_Staff_2014-18 copy
Ed Brown, Executive Director of Care of Creation.

As I looked God brought me face to face with Ed Brown, Care of Creation’s founding Executive Director. Background research had impressed me with their intent to mobilize the church in pusuit of a God-centered response to the environmental crisis. As he and I sat down in the coffee shop for our first fateful meeting he asked “So, why are we here?” The prospect of a risky response gave me pause. Nevertheless a part of my heart sent words hurtling to the tip of my tongue, words I chose to speak . “I am here to talk about anything from seeing how your organization and others I am involved with can work together in caring for creation,” I said and then continued more riskily, “to finding out that you are wanting to add someone like me to your staff.”

His response replaced my hopeful anxiety with joyful anxiety. “As a matter of fact we just completed our strategic plan and are looking for somebody.” A deliberate series of correspondence, calls and conversations followed that meeting over multiple months.

In the end, Care of Creation invited me to join their journey. I had found a group and a man helping the Church embrace and express the importance of creation care for our God, ourselves and our world. By opening my heart to this man in that moment God called me to the brink of a new journey. Over the years I had received calls to care as God does for the Church,  for the disenfranchised “least of these”, and for all of creation . Through Care of Creation I received a fresh call. A call that reunited those three past calls of mine into one. A call to help the church grow to care for creation and so care for the disenfranchised “least of these”. A call I am delighted to respond to and live out as Care of Creation’s Director of Operations and Development.

My Poetic Understanding of Care of Creation

I have a painting that hangs in my living room, obtained decades ago from Pete (Patterson) Oakley , an artist friend then also at Reba Place Church, Evanston, IL. Vivid greens, blues and golds in

Pete Patterson's painting captures and conveys my poetic understanding of care of creation.
Pete (Patterson) Oakley’s painting captures and conveys my poetic understanding of care of creation.

contrasting juxtaposition with one another combine with celestial black and negative space allusions from the Sistine Chapel to evoke all of creation made, broken and redeemed by God, through Christ with Man. The outlined forms of Jesus Christ’s hand overlays Adam’s, both reaching down as God the Creator’s hand reaches up, as if about to touch. Cogently symbolic, the painting did not fully reveal itself to my mind at the beginning, although over time it has fed my soul and transformed my heart. It has come to say it all.

Beyond time and through time God made, Man broke, Christ redeemed. As we were and have been, we are yet inter-dependent and inter-connected to make, to unbreak and redeem anew. The painting lists with muddled mirror writing the still plain-to-see King James Version of Romans 5:19, For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Just as that disobedient man was Adam and that obedient one was Christ, in turn each affected many for ill and for good. Even so, reflecting on the painting and its text leads me to consider how as we are in Adam and in Christ and in Creation we too may yet affect many for ill and for good.3 Creation has been broken. One and all of us have broken creation. Creation has been redeemed. One and all of us can redeem creation. Let us each and all join our hands with Christ’s to receive God’s touch and touch God’s creation with healing grace.

My Hopeful Dream for Care of Creation

Kermit Hovey pausing during a bike ride through a forested path in 2013.
Kermit Hovey pausing during a bike ride through a forested path in 2013.

I dream to see the church so engaged with God’s kingdom work of creation care that the oddity will not be the few and occasional environmentally aware and engaged Christians, but the few who are not. I dream of a church leading the world to love and care for what God has loved and created. I dream of a church that has so thoroughly interwoven and integrated stewardship and care of creation into the banner of love over it that hearts, minds and creation entire will be redeemed. I dream of a world that has moved from careless and cavalier thoughtlessness for tomorrow. I dream of a world that has embraced responsibility to act for the benefit of the least of these now and not yet, whether they be island dwellers in the third world about to be washed away or Midwestern Americans in the first world teetering on the verge of agricultural collapse. I dream that climate change will be reversed and that humanity and creation will flourish together.

And for me personally I merely dream to be active in whatever way God guides and provides me to support, encourage and nurture these dreams. And if these dreams take 5, 10 or 25 years to accomplish, I dream that God will give me the wisdom and grace, strength and courage, endurance and provision to continue until I see them come to pass.

And for all of us together, whether at Care of Creation or concerned to take care of creation, I dream that we will unite in a journey to not only see but to bring these dreams to pass.

1Matthew 25:40

2Romans 8:19

3 While this understanding may stretch beyond the strict confines of grammatico-historical exegesis, it apprehends through the Holy Spirit an artfully posed prophetic truth.