Welcome to the 
Association of UMCRM

Creation Formation: Overview From 10/11/21 UMCRM Community Conversation

13 Oct 2021 8:28 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

Connecting faith with nature has long been a part of the Wesleyan tradition. The possibility of preaching outside first came as a revelation to John Wesley in 1731:

“In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if it had not been done in a church."     –John Wesley journal entry

Have you noticed that the vast majority of faith-based camp and retreat centers are located within or adjacent to natural surroundings?  Even where civilization has encroached, center staff and volunteers plant gardens and landscaping to assure that nature remains. Our commitment to nature isn’t just utilitarian. The historic predecessors to modern-day camp and retreat ministries intentionally sought opportunities to spend time outdoors, including the Camp Meetings, Chautauqua, Scouting, and Epworth League movements.  

What value does an outdoor setting bring to a person’s discipleship journey? 

  • Society has “othered” nature. Nature is perceived by many that it is something different from “us.” God’s Creation, of course, encompasses people and the rest of the natural world. 

  • When people are asked, “Where have you felt closest to God?”, many name places like a lakeshore, forest, ocean, or scenic mountaintop. Camp & retreat ministries steward places like this and help create opportunities for powerful encounters with the Creator and Creation. 

  • People can see their place in the natural world when they are interacting with their environments. 

  • We don’t grow closer to God by only reading books. We grow closer to God by interacting with God (natural world along with the people in it).

  • Earth is not just a “setting” that we wait in until we get to Heaven. Earth is part of us and we are part of it. 

Camp provides people the opportunity to learn more about the natural world:

1 Kings 4: 29-34    God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, ...his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish. People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

We not only learn scientifically from observing nature, we also learn spiritual truths, since all life has its origins in the Source of Life. 

The United Methodist Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation. From our Book of Discipline:


All creation is the Lord's, and we are responsible for the ways we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God's creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation.”

How do we teach respect and care for Creation to our campers and guests?

  • Leaders can allow nature to be the teacher. Let the trees speak. 

  • Environmental education programming

    • It is easy to incorporate faith and environmental education during the summer

  • There is something innately spiritual about gathering around a tree and discussing the natural world.

  • If we listen to the stories of native people we know they had a profound connection to nature. God will reveal God’s self in stories beyond traditional Christian faith lessons.

  • We can teach without speaking. Actions speak loudly.

  • Interpret to your campers, families, and supporters why you are doing what you are doing

    • Create displays about the fair trade coffee you are using and how they can use it at home

    • Talk about how and why your site recycles or composts

    • Invite guests to partner in saving water and electricity and connect it not only to the budget but also to Creation care values

How do we show respect and care for Creation through camp and retreat ministries?

  • Simple

    • Recycling and Composting

    • Vendor choices – what kind of coffee, tea, paper products, etc., you purchase

    • Use both sides of printer paper

    • Combine trips when going into town 

    • Use intentional language (during communion use “Come and receive” opposed to “Come and take.”)

    • Talk to campers about portion sizes, electric use, and use of disposables. Teach gratitude 

  • Bold 

    • Create a camp garden to use homegrown vegetables in the dining hall.

    • Talk to community organizations about installing solar energy generation

    • Set goals for net-zero emissions. 

      • Install solar or wind turbines

      • Carbon offsets (could we partner with church & community to plant trees on our grounds?)

    • Build LEED-certified buildings for new construction and renovations


Questions?  Please contact our Association Registrar

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software