Creation Care Shares Tips for a Sustainable and Safe Christmas

Although COVID-19 has put a damper on our usual plans, it seems that the entire country is hoping the holidays will bring some joy into our lives during this difficult time. As we reevaluate our holiday practices, we can make some simple changes that will keep our families safe and are also good for the earth. At the November “Eat, Pray, Grow Zoom” meeting hosted by the FLUMC Creation Care Task Team, United Methodists around Florida shared ideas on how to have a green Christmas. See the video here:  

Did you know that Americans throw away more trash between Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time? In fact, it is DOUBLE the usual amount, according to the Mother Earth Living Magazine, who says “Americans throw away a million tons of trash weekly, but during the holidays there’s an extra million per week, including 38,000 miles of ribbon and 4 million tons of shopping bags and gift wrapping.”

We have the chance to reevaluate what is important to us this holiday season, and here are some ideas to help you make safe and earth-friendly choices this year:

When holiday shopping, protect yourself from exposure to the virus by making purchases online from local businesses, sustainably-made gifts from ETSY, or online free-trade food gifts. Cloth novelty masks, scented hand sanitizer, and UV disinfecting lights are popular virus-fighting gifts this year. Emailed gift cards are easy and always appreciated. Consider reigning in the excess and buying fewer, more meaningful gifts. Think quality vs. quantity.

Real vs. Fake Christmas tree? The age-old question of which is better for the environment is easy to answer, according to The Nature Conservancy. They state that real trees are best because of these reasons: Christmas tree farms keep land open instead of being developed, real trees suck carbon out of the air while they grow, they are a renewable resource, and are completely recyclable. Most areas even pick up real trees after the holidays and turn them into mulch. If you really want an artificial tree, find a used one on Craig’s List or a thrift store to minimize their impact on the earth.

Make your holiday meals more sustainable by using real dishes instead of disposable, recycling cans and bottles, and if you are able, composting vegetable scraps. If washing dishes isn’t feasible, use paper goods over plastic or foam. To avoid spreading the virus, keep gatherings within your family “bubble” or move them outside, masked, and socially distanced.

Look for recycled content holiday cards, or better yet, send a waste-free e-card this year.
LED Christmas lights use 80-90% less energy than incandescent lights, so make the switch when it is time to buy new ones. Use timers on holiday lights so they turn off during the day and while you are sleeping to save energy.

Researchers say consumable homemade gifts like holiday breads, jams, or soaps are still safe to share during the pandemic as long as good hygiene practices like handwashing are used. This is great news because homemade gifts are fun to make, warmly received, and top the list for sustainability. A live plant is a nice gift that can be enjoyed far beyond Christmas. A basket of fresh fruit is healthy and delicious, and even more special if it comes from your own tree. Thrift shopping is another way to get a deal on quality used items (including baskets and baking pans that homemade gifts can be delivered in) and nonprofit shops have a wide array of treasures.

Consider gifts from an Alternate Christmas Market where you make a donation to a charity in the receiver’s name. Memberships to state parks are always a hit with families, and children love “Adopt an Animal” gifts from zoos, Heifer International, or World Wildlife Fund and many times will receive an adoption certificate, photo, and stuffed animal with your gift.

Use recycled content wrapping paper, butcher paper, or reusable cloth or paper gift bags, and reuse tissue, bows and ribbons that are still in good condition. Have a paper bag or box ready Christmas morning to collect all the paper wrappings and cardboard for the recycling bin.

Cut out pretty pictures and sayings on old holiday cards to make gift tags, and attach them by hole punching and threading on a ribbon, or using glue dots.

Challenge yourself to decorate for the holidays with only what you already own or can find in nature. Beautiful table arrangements can be made with holly cuttings, citrus, and candles.
These simple ideas can go a long way in making your holidays more environmentally friendly, safer, and may even save you money.

Have a happy and sustainable holiday!

Contact Cara Fleischer, FLUMC Creation Care Task Team Chair, at

Cara Fleischer’s daughter Lauren picked out the family tree at the Havana Tree Farm outside of Tallahassee.

Seven Ways to Embrace the Season of Creation this Fall

By Cara Fleischer, FLUMC Creation Care Task Team Chair

Around the world, United Methodists and other Christian denominations are celebrating the Season of Creation from September 1 through St. Francis Day on October 4. The theme for 2020 is “Jubilee for the Earth” and focuses on reaffirming our relationship with God and creation by acknowledging our sins against the world, making positive changes, and rejoicing together. Through sermons, songs, prayers, daily reflections, events, and personal actions, the Season of Creation is an opportunity to lift up our spiritual call to be good stewards of the earth. Resources are shared for all to use at and there is still time to incorporate some ideas into the life of your church now, or begin planning for next year.

COVID has required that churches develop creative ways to celebrate the Season of Creation. Some are moving their Blessing of the Animals service online, and at Cornerstone UMC in Naples, they are encouraging pet owners to hold their pets during the service to receive a blessing over the internet. Under the leadership of Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, the North Carolina Conference has embraced the Season of Creation with a weekly webinar series and a conference-wide worship service that can be enjoyed here

Why are so many United Methodists celebrating the Season of Creation? The answer is found in our faith, as scripture guides us to be good stewards of the earth, to love our neighbors, and to take care of those in need. Sadly, 2020 has unleashed a worldwide pandemic, record fires, floods, droughts, and hurricanes that have left a trail of human and ecological suffering. We are at a crossroads, and our UM Book of Discipline encourages us to make changes that support a more “sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.”  United Methodists across America and the world are responding to the call, and there are many ways to get involved.

Here are seven simple actions you can take during the Season of Creation and beyond to make a difference:  

  1. Pray for creation regularly. See the Season of Creation prayer to get started.
  2. Enjoy time in nature and learn how to make your backyard a haven for wildlife.
  3. Read what United Methodists believe about the environment in the “United Methodist Book of Discipline, Social Principles: The Natural World.”
  4. Email your church leadership and ask how you can get involved in caring for creation at your church. There may already be an active Creation Care ministry that you can join, or if not, you can learn more about starting one.
  5. Register for a webinar about the environment that interests you. Join United Methodists all over Florida for the monthly Eat, Pray, Grow Creation Care Zoom gathering held on the fourth Tuesday of the month from 12-1 pm by registering here: To learn from national leaders, sign up for the UMC Virtual Creation Justice Summit on Zoom held on October 16-17 at
  6. Find your Carbon Footprint at home and at church by using an online calculator like the one at and then set goals to reduce it.
  7. Watch an environmental film. “Global Weirding with Katharine Hayhoe” are short PBS videos that can be found on YouTube that answer big questions like “The Bible Doesn’t Talk About Climate Change, Right?” and “What’s the Big Deal with a Few Degrees?” Beautiful nature shows like the “Planet Earth” series celebrate the diversity of ecosystems, as well as hopeful documentaries like the Netflix “Kiss the Ground” narrated by Woody Harrelson that explores how soil health can capture carbon and heal the planet.

During this Season of Creation and all year long, we can live into our spiritual call to be good stewards of the earth, to love our neighbors, and to take care of those in need. Learn more about Creation Care and make sustainability a priority in your life and your church by visiting and remember to go outside and enjoy the beautiful creation that God has made for us all.

Creation Care Rises in the Time of COVID

By: Cara Fleischer. incoming Chair of the FLUMC Creation Care Task Team,

Now that COVID-19 is forcing us to stay apart, church ministry looks very different than it did just six months ago. At Saint Paul’s UMC in Tallahassee, we used to build bunk beds together in our parking lot, bring meals to new parents, visit senior living centers, and travel together on mission trips. Sadly, these activities are just too dangerous to continue during a pandemic.  Instead of staying on hold until the virus passes, the Missions team was directed by our Pastor Rev. Kandace Brooks to reevaluate our goals to reflect this new reality, while heeding Bishop Carter’s call to join the Million Meals effort. Although many of our ministries were unable to continue, our Creation Care group was still actively working in our church garden and providing organic vegetables to local food banks and homeless shelters. The team practiced social distancing and wearing masks while gardening to protect each other and were grateful for the fellowship during what was otherwise a lonely time being quarantined at home. This success inspired the Missions team to increase our garden efforts to address food insecurity in our own community.

The threat of COVID-19 has crippled our economy and caused millions of workers to lose their jobs, many of whom were already living on the margins. The demand for food assistance has risen sharply and we recognized this was a need our church could fill with our garden team. Instead of expanding our own church garden, we decided to partner with a nonprofit called Tallahassee Food Network (TFN) that manages community gardens in food insecure and historically African American areas. Residents use plots to grow vegetables, attend classes on how to start their own gardens at home to provide food for their families, and learn about healthy living to protect against diseases like diabetes. TFN also brings bags of groceries to the elderly and veterans who can’t leave their homes and gives away backpacks full of supplies to school children.
Our Missions team felt that by supporting this frontline organization, we could increase racial unity and directly help alleviate hunger in our community. We reallocated funds to give TFN a donation, but perhaps more importantly, our Creation Care group came to the iGrow Community Garden in Frenchtown every Monday morning from 9 am – 12 pm to work alongside neighborhood organizers. We formed friendships while tackling weeds, clearing areas for new plots, hauling debris in wheelbarrows, and trimming trees. This time became known as Divine Dirt and we invited houses of worship all over Tallahassee to join us, and before we knew it, we had a dedicated group of volunteers working together in the garden. Miaisha Mitchell, the Director of Tallahassee Food Network, said “It is amazing to see the transformation in the garden thanks to Divine Dirt, and we are all excited about that.”
Creation Care ministry has been a source of joy for Saint Paul’s UMC for the last four years and is one of the few ministries that continues to thrive in this COVID-19 world. Our team enjoys spending time outdoors growing food in gardens, adventuring with our Youth group on hikes and paddling trips, and working to reduce our buildings’ carbon footprint.
Now more than ever, our world needs Creation Care. All are invited to join leaders across the country at the United Methodist Creation Care Summit on October 16 & 17, 2020 to learn how to start your own ministry and become an advocate for the earth. Find all the details here:

“Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” to Connect Underserved Leon Residents with Community Leaders

COVID-19 has exposed the challenges underserved communities face in accessing information, financial assistance, and healthcare during emergencies like a pandemic. Luckily, we can get accurate information in Leon County right from the source at the “Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” on Thursday, April 30 from 6-7:30 pm. The town hall will be held virtually on Zoom so everyone can attend safely from their cell phone or computer.

At this virtual town hall, the community is encouraged to ask local elected officials and experts questions about how to receive help and stay safe during the pandemic. Topics include access to food, utilities, and financial assistance, health care, business resources, virtual school, protecting the homeless, and more.

The CDC reports that there is a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 illness and death among ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic lines caused by a variety of factors including the need to continue working that increases exposure risk, a lack of health insurance, and limited access to information about the resources available.

The “Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” was organized to provide our community a direct line of communication to leaders who can hear concerns and solve problems in real time.  
Panelists include Jeremy Matlow, City Commissioner; Rick Minor, County Commissioner; Tim Center, CEO of Capital Area Community Action Agency;  Rosanne Wood, School Board Member; Sylvia Smith, Executive Director of Big Bend Homeless Coalition; Dr. P Qasimah Boston, CEO at Golden Rod Consulting; and Dykibra Gaskin, Director of WIC for Leon County.

You can learn more about the “Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” event, register, and submit questions in advance at or text questions to (850) 888-2565. The event will be streamed on Facebook Live at Tallahassee is a strong and resilient community, and we must do everything we can to support our neighbors through this challenging time.

Cara Fleischer, Leon Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor

Lighting the Way Hike Brings UMC Youth and College Groups Closer to Nature

March 1, 2020

What a great day for a hike! For our second Lighting the Way activity, we gathered the youth groups of Saint Paul’s UMC and New Life UMC along with FAMU Wesley UMC college group making a pack of 35 students and 10 adults at the Lafayette Heritage Trail in Tallahassee.

Our Saint Paul’s UMC Creation Care team has secured a $10,000 grant from UMCOR and United Methodist Earthkeepers to integrate our communities and bring us closer together through God’s creation. The year long project will bring FAMU Wesley and New Life UMC, and SPUMC Youth Group students together for nature outings like hikes, paddling trips, and lake clean ups; provide funds to upgrade the outdoor lighting at both facilities; create “turn off the lights” reminder cards; and more.

The weather was perfect for our hike! We started with a snack of sandwiches, fruit, chips and cookies and gave out some upcycled reusable water bottles for anyone needing one. Then we split up into five groups and each one received a Nature Bingo card and a pair of binoculars and the competition began to find objects in nature to fill the card. The trail led us up to a boardwalk and a covered bridge to a beautiful overlook, and then winded around into the forest and then out around the lake onto fingers jutting into the water.

We saw a red shouldered hawk eating a snake, a large turtle shell, lots of wild flowers, and water birds on the beautiful lake. We also met some friendly horses and their riders! We picked up trash and one of our leaders even pulled out some invasive plants. Our Creation Care leaders helped students learn how to use the binoculars and guided the groups along the trail. It was a two mile, 90 minute hike, and some of the students said they enjoyed it so much that they wished it was longer! Others were tired and ready for more snacks. When we returned to the parking lot three teams tied for first place in the bingo game and they won Saint Paul’s UMC metal water bottles. There were so many smiles and laughs throughout the afternoon and as we said goodbye, we looked forward to the next Lighting the Way activity that will bring us together again through Creation Care.

Lighting the Way Grant for Saint Paul’s UMC, New Life UMC, and FAMU Wesley Students Kicks Off

The Lighting the Way Kick-Off Party last Sunday, February 23, 2020 was a special time of fellowship through Creation Care with Saint Paul’s UMC Youth Group, New Life UMC Youth Group, and FAMU Wesley College Group.

Our Saint Paul’s UMC Creation Care team has secured a $10,000 grant from UMCOR and United Methodist Earthkeepers to integrate our communities and bring us closer together through God’s creation. The year long project will bring FAMU Wesley and New Life UMC, and SPUMC Youth Group students together for nature outings like hikes, paddling trips, and lake clean ups; provide funds to upgrade the outdoor lighting at both facilities; create “turn off the lights” reminder cards; and more.

When attendees arrived at the Kick Off Party, they received name tags that corresponded with their table theme based on locations around the world including places like the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon to mix up the groups. Then we played Four Corners with an eco-twist, we prayed together, and then enjoyed a big dinner of BBQ chicken sliders, mac & cheese, chips, fruit, and a big chocolate cake and peanut butter cookies that was all prepared by our wonderful Saint Paul’s Creation Care team.

During the meal, I gave a 15 minute presentation on Creation Care including this Young Voices for the Planet Video to share the issues our planet faces as well as what kids can do to help: I then explained the Carbon Fast for Lent and invited the group to sign up for the reminders at
Then we heard from Dara Miles aka Miss Science about her love of nature and her hiking group, Outdoor Afro. She encouraged everyone to download the iNaturalist app to be able to identify plants and animals around us.

Next, our Creation Care team shared about reducing plastic pollution and taught the group how to make a no-sew reusable, upcycled t-shirt bag to take home. The group cut and tied the t-shirts as the Creation Care team helped out at each table. As a way to remember this special time together, we also gave everyone a gift of an air plant in a seashell that had decorated their tables.

Finally, we came together in a circle and sang the Rooted closing song “Sanctuary,” and said our benediction. Many smiles and words of thanks were shared and we were grateful for the new friends that we made and look forward to coming back together for our group hike next Sunday!


Greta Blazed a Trail in 2019. Will 2020 be the Year of the Adult?


n 2019, Greta Thunberg went from holding small climate strikes in front of the Swedish Parliament building to being named “Time Magazine’s Person of the Year” for mobilizing millions of activists all around the world. With her small stature and signature braids, she embodies the innocence of childhood, but don’t let her looks fool you. When Greta talks, her laser focus on the climate crisis that is threatening her future and her ability to lay blame directly at the feet of the wealthy adults in power is masterful. Her voice has captured the world’s imagination because bravery is universally applauded and the dismissive political labels slapped on adults who speak out don’t apply to her. Greta proves that no one is too small to speak truth to power, and her example is empowering kids and adults all over the globe to stand up for what they care about — a livable, safe future.

Greta was a kid who learned about climate science in school, got so depressed that she stopped eating, and convinced her parents to stop flying and eating meat. Even though they didn’t support her missing school, they allowed her to strike for climate because it was helping her depression to get involved. Her father says that action saved her from despair, and now she laughs and is able to be a normal teen because she is working to solve the problem instead of just feeling helpless on the sidelines.

Greta says, “Our house is on fire. Now is not the time to speak politely.” Social norms hold most of us back from speaking the truth because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but Aspergers allows Greta to see the world in black and white. She says that this condition is her super power because it frees her from the social rules the rest of us live by. At this point, the world was hungry for some blunt talk.

Last December I attended the COP25 U.N. Climate Conference in Madrid, and I was excited to hear that Greta arrived after crossing the Atlantic by boat to avoid flying. I was attending the conference as a Christian Observer and heard that she was part of a youth demonstration in the main hall, but just as I arrived, it ended. What happened next made it clear that she was not being managed at these events by adults as has been suggested in the media. Greta and her young climate activist friends were trying to leave the area, but were mobbed by photographers and others who were hoping to get a glimpse of her. She was trapped, and her friends circled her to keep her safe. I remember seeing her small face peering out of a sea of humanity, looking scared. As a mom, I wanted to break it up and get her out of there, but there was no way to penetrate the crowd. The entire group started moving together, making its way across the exhibit hall, moving in tandem, but no one would step aside and let Greta leave. After about ten minutes, the mass of people made its way to the courtyard into the cold morning air, and we all just stood there, silent. I wanted to yell out “Leave her alone!” or “We love you Greta!” but it was all so surreal and I couldn’t find my voice. Finally some police came to break up the hold the paparazzi had over the group, and Greta was able to make her escape. At that moment I realized the sacrifice she makes every time she goes out in public, even at a U.N. conference, and how she has traded in her safety and childhood for the chance to make a difference. That evening I joined in the climate march alongside 500,000 people who were cheering and dancing our way through downtown Madrid, all wanting to see Greta on the main-stage at the end, and I hoped she was safe.

Greta has inspired kids and adults all over the world to get outside our comfort zones and use our voices to demand change. Jane Fonda, who just turned 82, said Greta inspired her to move to Washington D.C. and start #FireDrillFridays where she was arrested multiple times for protesting the government’s lack of climate action. Many of her celebrity friends joined her in this action, and it got me thinking. If we have the young folks and older folks protesting every week on Friday, where are all the people in the middle?

What if 2020 is the year the adults show up on Fridays and strike for climate action? We all have a reason to want to preserve the planet. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. We already have the solutions to solve the climate crisis, and all we lack is the political will so our leaders will finally act.

Tallahassee Green Faith Alliance will be holding signs that say FAITH FOR FUTURE this Friday from 11-1 in front of the Old Florida Capitol alongside the local Fridays for Future group on their first strike of the season. There are so many other signs that I can imagine: PARENTS FOR FUTURE, FARMERS FOR FUTURE, TEACHERS FOR FUTURE, BEACH-LOVERS FOR FUTURE, FLORIDIANS FOR FUTURE, GRANDPARENTS FOR FUTURE. What will your sign say?

Let’s make 2020 the year that the adults ended our apathy and made our kids proud, and let them go back to being kids. Resolve to take the first step and show up on Fridays. Be on the right side of history and maybe the simple action of striking on Fridays just might change the world.

If You Go:

Fridays for Future youth-led climate strike

Friday, January 17

The Old Florida Capitol (parking in Kleman Plaza)

Any time between 9 am – 1 pm

When North Florida Gives You Meyer Lemons, Make Marmalade

Over the holidays I decided on a whim to make some Meyer lemon marmalade and was surprised to find how easy it was to create. I’m crazy about these softball-sized sweet lemons and my five year old tree went into overdrive this year growing so many that its small branches were pulled to the ground in a cascade of golden fruit. With lots of folks growing Meyer lemons around here the fruit can be hard to give away, so I found a simple recipe to preserve their delicious flavor for the rest of the year.

I learned that we are lucky to be able to grow Meyer lemons in abundance in North Florida when I asked the New York Times Cooking Community Facebook group for recipe ideas and the comment section filled up with jealous foodies wanting to buy them. (I am not in the Meyer lemon shipping business but it sounds like the demand is there if someone wanted to start one.)

Meyer lemons are native to China and according to Wikipedia were introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer and USDA employee Frank Nicholas Meyer. The compact tree is evergreen with dark glossy leaves, and its fragrant white blooms in springtime will scent the whole yard with lovely citrus notes that attract bees and butterflies.

Meyer lemons are ideal for making marmalade because their mild flavor and thin skin allows you to use the entire lemon (except the seeds), providing all the pectin needed to firm up the mixture. The recipe couldn’t be simpler — just pick a few lemons and grab the sugar and a vanilla bean out of the pantry and you are ready to make this golden, fruity spread. The whole vanilla bean could be replaced with a tablespoon of vanilla extract, but the bean adds a rich, creamy flavor and visually pleasing specs of vanilla seeds throughout the marmalade. A nice bonus while making Meyer lemon marmalade is that your whole house will smell amazing.

This marmalade is equally delicious spread on toast or mixed into yogurt as it is along side smoked salmon. The slices of peel throughout the marmalade are especially tasty, giving a burst of that signature flowery lemon flavor and satisfying bite. If you’d like, you can add herbs or red pepper flakes to spice it up for a winning sweet and savory combination. I’ve made two batches using vanilla and with my little tree still weighed down with lemons, I’m ready to try some new combinations. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to use Meyer lemons, so email me at to share your ideas.

Vanilla Meyer Lemon Marmalade

6 Meyers Lemons

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla extract (optional)

Clean mason jars, lids and rings.

1. Wash the lemons, slice in half and juice them. Remove any seeds and pour the juice into a non-reactive sauce pot.

2. With a sharp knife, slice the lemon peels and any remaining pulp into thin two-inch long strips. Add to the juice in the sauce pot.

3. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.

4. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Split the vanilla bean by cutting down the middle and scrape the seeds into the mixture, then cut the whole bean into small sections and add to the pot (or add the vanilla extract if not using the whole bean.) Bring to a boil until a candy thermometer reaches 223 degrees and the marmalade “wrinkles” when pushed across a cold plate after being cooled in the freezer for a minute. (Mine took about 20 minutes to get to this stage.)

5. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes and then add to clean jars with a ladle, taking care to add a vanilla bean section and an equal amount of peel into each jar. (A jarring funnel helps with this step but isn’t necessary.) Wipe the jar rims, add the lids and tighten with the rings. You can either stop here to make refrigerator marmalade, or follow the instructions on Ball Canning to preserve them in a water bath to be shelf stable.

Recipe adapted from The Alchemist: Meyer Lemon Marmalade found at


COP25 Coming to an End, and the Strong Finish Prayer

Hi everyone — sorry to just stop writing about my trip but I got so overwhelmed with the breakneck pace of the conference that I had to take a break from writing if I wanted to get any sleep! I am home in Tallahassee, FL now and will be catching up on the last two days soon. My friends are still in Madrid and shared this message that I wanted to pass on. If you are the praying type, the process could really use some prayers right about now. Thanks so much – Cara


Special Report: Requesting Urgent Prayer for COP25
COP25 is scheduled to adjourn on Friday, but serious concerns exist that even an extension until Sunday will not be enough to finish the work of COP25, putting at jeopardy the work of 2020’s ambitious ramping-up of emission reduction goals.  People are frustrated.  We invite you to please join us in the following prayer.  Please invite others into the  prayer.  To learn the background of the “Strong Finish” prayer, please visit our website here.

Thank you,
Lowell and Brian and the CCOP team

The Strong Finish Prayer
O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

This is a prayer of a strong finish that yields a strong beginning.  We appeal to the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of all creation to deliver COP25 from a failure that we and our neighbors in this world can no longer afford. 

May the negotiating nations finish the work of the final days of COP25 in such a just, merciful, and humble way that the year 2020 is rendered free and serious.  

May the run-up to next year’s COP26 be freed up, without distraction, to be focussed on an ambitious ramping up of the emission reductions (NDCs) which will finally MATCH, not simply approximate, what scientists tell us can prevent the warming that will surely cause our worst suffering.  

May a strong finish at COP25 send a signal that the governments of the world are serious about the Paris Agreement, that they have listened to the voices of our youth, our indigenous neighbors, our Pacific Island neighbors, indeed all our neighbors.  Lord God, may they send the signal that next year’s COP26 is not some false hope, not some promise kicked down the road one more year, not some deus ex machina ready to save us in November, 2020—but instead that the next eleven months will be spent with the eye kept firmly on the prize: the promotion of the Common Good through serious and cooperative effort.  

Creator God, at this moment at COP25, we feel like we are asking for a miracle, and so that is why we have come to you.  We believe you are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to your power that is at work within us.  We say NOW, NOW, NOW to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! 

In and with the name of Jesus Christ,

Picasso’s “La Guernica” in Madrid
(COP25 reflections by Lowell Bliss)

Read how a visit to the Reina Sofia art museum figured into the writing of the Strong Finish prayer.  Click here.

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A Full Day at COP25: Mind, Body, & Soul

Day 3 – COP25, Madrid, Spain

We are half way through our week at the U.N. climate conference on the Christian Observer program, and I have settled in. I’m relieved that I’ve learned to navigate the metro, get through the security at the conference, maneuver in the enormous Blue Zone of the convention site, and connect with the leaders and groups I hoped to see.

Our third day started with a devotion from our program leader and spiritual guide Lowell Bliss, who shared from Revelations 12:11 “They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” As climate advocates at COP25, we dive into the suffering of people around the world who have lost their lands to sea level rise; their loved ones to hurricanes, cyclones and diseases; their communities to drought and famine; and their childhoods to activism. We also brace for the devastating losses to come that will hurt people all over the world if we don’t make the changes to reduce green house gas emissions within the next 11 years. As Christians, we are compelled to participate in this testimony, to not look away, and to perhaps even risk our lives, for the people who are suffering. This work hits close to home as a native Floridian because in our own state, people are hurting from climate change impacts like the devastation from Hurricane Michael, the Zika virus, sea level rise, adverse weather that impacts crops, and extreme heat.

As I made my way to the conference site, I passed rows of armored police trucks and saw the Spanish equivalent of SWAT team security guards stationed all around the building. I realized this convention would be an attractive target for terrorists, and that all thirty thousand attendees were exposed to potential violence. Perhaps as climate advocates, we were even risking our lives by attending COP25. I hurried into the building to get out of the cold and what felt like the danger zone.

Inside, I rushed over to meet our group who was having a private session with renowned British author and climate communicator, George Marshall, who founded the nonprofit Climate Outreach, conducts research, and writes books like “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.” I found our group sitting in a semi-circle around George off to the side of one of the meeting rooms, so I sat down quickly to join the conversation. He was sharing his latest research and ideas to help us be better communicators, and I scribbled notes as he poured out his ideas. He said his research showed that most people are accepting that the weather is changing and climate change is happening, and the next step is to engage about how to prepare and protect the places and people we love. He also felt that sharing our own perspective with mutual respect about climate change with our friends, families, churches, and business circles is the best way to plant the seed of understanding that will continue to grow. George was generous with his time, he answered our questions with thoughtful responses, and I felt so lucky to meet him.

After we said our goodbyes to George, I headed back to the side session area in Hall 4 to attend a talk that I thought might be helpful for my Leon Soil & Water Conservation District work called “Raising Ambition for Climate Action: Transformation Action for a Food Secure Future.” We heard from a farmer named Ishmal from South Africa about the enormous problems farmers were facing from the extreme weather caused by climate change. They were experiencing more droughts and floods that were degrading their soils and making it very difficult to grow food for their families and communities. Dhanush Dinesh, a Global Policy Engineer, said that he was developing a tool box of solutions including educating farmers about climate change; providing them with the basic essentials of food and water when these extreme weather events strike; issuing climate insurance for lost crops to stabilize farmer’s incomes; looking at the larger picture of reducing emissions through diets of less beef and dairy and curbing deforestation for agriculture; focusing on rebuilding the soil health to capture carbon and avoid erosion; and increasing nature-based solutions like forestry farming. Dhanush’s group will be coming out with an important report providing more details about these issues in February so I made a note to check their website at

Another speaker shared that a recent “EAT” Lancet report implores us to reduce our meat and dairy consumption and to increase our plant-based food choices by fifty percent. “Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience and constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation… Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and today’s children will inherit a planet that has been severely degraded and where much of the population will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease.” As challenging as this news was, it seemed fixable by reducing our meat and dairy intakes. I have been pescatarian (seafood + vegetarian) for ten years but realized that I should rethink my dairy choices as well.

I finished up at COP25 and I jumped on the metro headed to the shared flat that 15 of us were staying at in the center of Madrid. I was excited about my dinner plans with my friend Christine Dallet who lived in Madrid that I hadn’t seen since 10th grade at Florida High School. I sent her a Facebook message about a month ago that I was coming and it turned out that she worked close to where I was staying, so we made plans for dinner at 9 pm. It’s true that in Madrid, everyone eats dinner late, and I was already used to it after just a few days. I waited outside my old stone building for her and before I knew it she was there giving me a big hug and looking just like I remembered her: blonde, blue eyed, and such a great smile! We used to play sports together and she always had a sharp wit and was kind to me even though I was two years younger than her. We made our way to a seafood restaurant she picked called Il Barril, and as soon as we walked in the door the staff expressed their affection for her with hugs and kisses on the cheeks, and she spoke beautiful Spanish as I watched in awe of her and the lively interaction.

The next three hours included some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted, and the chance to catch up with my friend who has lived a beautiful life in Madrid since she fell in love with the city on a study abroad program in college. We feasted on adobe seasoned fried fish bites, small zesty green peppers sprinkled with sea salt, tender octopus and potatoes with smoked paprika, divine poached artichokes in olive oil, and a rich chocolate lava cake that I was almost too full to enjoy. Almost. As a sangria lover, I also had to try a glass and this one was traditional and delicious. It was midnight by the time we took our last bite, and as we walked together through the cobblestone streets of Madrid, I was filled from the amazing meal, our special time together, from all that I learned at COP25 that day, and a sense that I was gaining just as much from my advocacy work as I was giving.