Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

EarthKeepers commissioned to creative service for God’s creation

ATLANTA — A new class of 44 EarthKeepers was commissioned via an online service Nov. 12, 2018, making the EarthKeepers movement 132 people strong. This 2018 class of EarthKeepers, ranging in age from 13 to 80, are strengthening the movement of United Methodists taking bold action on behalf of God’s creation. EarthKeepers, a training program of Global Ministries and the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is designed to equip United Methodist clergy and laity to lead their communities in environmental stewardship.

The service gathered the new EarthKeepers, their family, friends and others in a digital space, allowing an unlimited number of people to participate while reducing the carbon footprint that would have been required for all of the 2018 EarthKeepers to travel to one place for the service. This is the second online commissioning service for the EarthKeepers program.

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Para Drake discusses a project plan at the Atlanta EarthKeepers training in May, 2018.

“Each EarthKeeper logged into the service from their home contexts,” said the Rev. Jenny Phillips, UMCOR Creation Care program manager. “When they joined the service and their faces appeared on the screen, it felt like a great reunion. Several participants had family and friends alongside them. Prior to the service, those who did not know one another eagerly introduced themselves, and they shared stories of what they recalled from the training and what they have learned since.”

The service, led by Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Southeastern Jurisdiction; Thomas Kemper, Global Ministries general secretary; Phillips; and the Rev. Dr. Jerome Sahabandhu, Global Ministries mission theologian, included a video in which many of the EarthKeepers introduced themselves and the projects they are implementing in their communities. The highlighted projects include initiatives such as starting creation-care ministries in their churches and annual conferences as well as community gardens that will nourish both the environment and members of their community.

Global Mission Fellow Emily Burns, Christy Newhouse and the Rev. David Newhouse, pastor of Sunnyside United Methodist Church, are addressing food insecurity around Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their approach has three components to reach the community at multiple entry points: a community garden, partnership with a local food pantry and a children’s education program.

Our call to care for God’s creation has no age limit. Shirley Alcorn, 80, is teaching United Methodists in the North Georgia Annual Conference how to use plastic shopping bags to create sleeping mats for people who are homeless. Henry Morgan, 13, is working with his mom, the Rev. Jenny Partch, pastor of Highline UMC, and Michelle Danagol, a member of Highline UMC, to create a community garden that addresses food insecurity in their community near Seattle.

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Robert Prud'homme, Emily Burns, Marilee Woodworth, and Phil Harrington present a project plan at the Detroit EarthKeepers training in October 2018.

Leigh Williams of Cary, North Carolina, proves that the ways in which we can work to conserve and preserve creation are limited only by our imaginations. Williams is addressing single-use plastic waste by developing a silverware-lending library at her church.

Each of the newly commissioned EarthKeepers attended a three-and-a-half-day training program to equip them for environmental stewardship. During that time, they were immersed in learning and discussions on theology, United Methodist resources, community organizing and anti-racism, which helped them to develop an environmental project to engage their churches and communities.

The 2018 EarthKeepers and the conferences where they reside are as follows:

California-Pacific Conference: Susan Rothrock Deo

Dakotas Conference
: Jo Flesner

Desert Southwest Conference: Jeanne Festa and Ann Jarrell

Florida Conference: Cara Fleischer, Elan Miavitz-Brown and Tiffania Willetts

Holston Conference: Sara Orellana

Illinois Great Rivers Conference: Curt Keller

Michigan Conference: Tom Allen, Emily Burns, Philip Harrington, Stuart Jacobson, Rene Johnson, Christy Newhouse, David Newhouse, Asti White and Marilee Woodworth

Mountain Sky Conference: Kristen Bell, Steve Bell, Mary Beth Downing, Terry Haven, Stephanie Moffit and Jay Vestal

North Carolina Conference: Para Drake, Ben Lasley and Leigh Williams

North Georgia Conference: Shirley Alcorn, Caleb Jeavons, Aylis Mceuen, Valerie Rawls, Rebecca Ricks and Deidra Wright

Pacific Northwest Conference: Michelle Dangol, Cindy Haverkamp, Marie Kuch-Stanovsky, Henry Morgan and Jenny Partch

Tennessee Conference: Lloyd Doyle and Victoria Rebeck

Upper New York Conference: Andrew Hartley

Virginia Conference: Joshua Dalton and Morris Fleischer

Western Pennsylvania Conference: Kristi Painter

A photo of each EarthKeeper is available online at