Rev. Sheri Smith, her son, Taylor, 13, and Isaiah Robinson, 13, are collectively the Green Mountain Earth Stewards.
On Dec. 2, 2021, the three Vermonters were commissioned as Global Ministries EarthKeepers
after completing the program this spring. EarthKeepers is a training program to equip United Methodists in the U.S. for environmental stewardship. There are currently eight commissioned EarthKeepers in the New England Conference. Here's a link to the Dec. 2 Commissioning Service
According to Rev. Smith, the Green Mountain Earth Stewards (GMES) “will use the arts to enhance understanding of environmental stewardship and sustainability at the local church, district, and annual conference levels.”
The GMES Virtual Vacation Bible School 2021 focused on art and nature for children ages five to 10; it was held Aug. 20-22.
GMES’s next project is to create public service announcements (PSAs) about environmental stewardship and sustainability that can be used by local churches and others.
As they were about to be commissioned, we spoke to the Green Mountain Earth Stewards about their ministry. Here’s what they had to say:
How did you find out about EarthKeepers?
I actually found out about EarthKeepers when they first started programming, I think it was six years ago. I knew it was something I wanted to participate in, and it finally worked out for this year, with it being in the Zoom format; it's a lot easier with kids to be able to do it from home.
I found out from my mom.
I found out from my mom [Green Mountain District Superintendent Rev. Jill Colley Robinson] and Sheri.
What made you want to become an EarthKeeper?
I care a lot about nature, and I know a lot about animals; I just care about the outdoors.
That's my answer to a T.
I'm passionate about connecting people to God nature and faith, so this was an extension of that.
What was the training like? What did you do?
We had a discussion group, and there were whole-group activities, there were small-group activities; there was a lot of reading, right guys? Head nods all around.
You had to have a project idea, and throughout the course of the training, you have to further develop your project idea and then be able to present it to the whole group at the last session.
Tell us what your project is and why you chose it?
Since I really like to do documentary filmmaking, I'm planning to make documentaries to show how people can help the environment.
: We talked about calling them public service announcements. [The PSAs] will then be forwarded to local churches to use in worship services or in Sunday school classes, or with other groups associated with the church.
We've already done a Vacation Bible School and we’re planning to do another one; also doing more interactive things with kids to let them know more about how to help the environment.
: [Taylor and Isaiah], along with to six other youth from throughout the annual conference put together live and prerecorded sessions for a virtual Vacation Bible School that we did in August. They’re passionate about taking care of the earth with younger kids.
We had two 11-year-olds that wrote the script for a play that four of them performed. We had to other people who did opening and closing prayers and songs that were prerecorded. We had two others that had done a bug decomposition of an animal, so they did a recording over time and then they discussed the whole process with the kids during a live Q&A.
: I like the idea of sending things out, but I also like more of an interactive thing with younger kids, because just watching something doesn't always like teach them enough, but if you do interactive things, it really helps some people.
The big focus is on teaching others to care.
This is the video the Green Mountain Earth Stewards made to describe their EarthKeepers project. Click the link to watch.
What is something that you learned in this training that was really interesting to you?
: I liked learning there’s lots of people around the U.S. that have done EarthKeepers and about their projects and what they are doing to help. And I liked learning about all the different ideas people have come up with to help.
Were there any ideas you thought were really cool?
We talked to someone who did the training a few years ago and they’re taking plastic and making new items out of it.
: It’s kind of what Isaiah said; I was happy to learn about how many different ideas that people have had to help the environment.
h: We were really excited about working with people from all across the United States, within our small group … within the larger group, we even had people from the Philippines, and so to know that there were other people that were equally passionate about taking care of the earth … no one project is the same as anybody else's and just the creativity was astounding.
Taylor and Isaiah are the youngest people to go through the EarthKeepers training so far. What was the most challenging part?
The reading [there was a lot of reading].
For me, it was just getting all the work done on top of all my schoolwork.
What is something that you do every day or do regularly that's good for the environment?
: One thing is, my whole family always tries to recycle and compost as much as possible and have the least amount of trash as possible.
: We try to reuse as much as we can, and if we have any redeemable cans, we redeem them and we get the 5 cents. Just the other day, my cans tried to blow away, so I had to go and run after them all. They didn't get very far, but one got stuck under the car.
h: Our newest pursuit is trying to figure out what we want to create with some ‘found things’ and we have a store that has offered to sell whatever we create.
: Like taking a hunk of scrap metal and turning it into a lamp post.
: Or taking a shirt and making ornaments out of it or Christmas stockings or something like that. We're bouncing ideas around ...
If you were telling another kid your age about EarthKeepers, what would you tell them?
Well, I’d say the first step you want to take when you're trying to help the environment is just learning the most about it as you can; find out about what is best to do or what is really helping.
: I would help them to take care of the environment, help them to clean it up, if it's dirty; give my advice on how you can clean it up.
Can you sum up the experience in a couple of words?
: The course is a lot of work, but it was an amazing experience to be with other people who really want to help the environment.
Number one: exciting, and the second word: tiring.
: It gave them a good biblical foundation for creation care, because they got to review a lot of the stories from scripture that talk about why we should take care of the earth and the mandate that we have been given by God to do that. I would also say that it was a lot of fun and hard work.
We’re looking forward to making connections with the other people that have gone through the EarthKeepers training from the New England Conference; we've already reached out to the people at [Cape Elizabeth UMC in Maine] in terms of how we can do some more things together at the conference level.