With a growing recognition of the causes and impact of climate change and governments’ attempts to step up action to address the climate crisis, the Church is also seeing a role for itself in the global effort.
Some young believers in Singapore have chosen to take up the challenge to spread the message of being good stewards and caring for God’s creation and natural resources.
Dennis Tan Wei Jie is one of them.
The third-year environmental studies undergraduate at National University of Singapore and research assistant, is working on solutions to mitigate carbon emissions in urban areas. Deeply interested in marrying his Christian faith with Creation Care and environmental protection advocacy, the 24-year-old who attends Sengkang Methodist Church co-founded Creation Care SG (CCSG), a local volunteer-run group with likeminded people, and heads the Projects and Partnerships teams.
Dennis counts the guided reflective walks in Dairy Farm Nature Park, one of CCSG’s current programmes, as his most notable achievement yet.
“I’m really proud of our guided reflective walks at Dairy Farm Nature Park. It took months of preparation, recces and test runs to get the product that you see today. We wanted to create an experience that would inspire people to reflect on their relationship with our Creator and the rest of creation, and we wanted to allow people to be able to experience it beyond Creation Care SG,” explained Dennis.
“We [also] launched an audio-guided version on Spotify and Soundcloud that allows people to do these walks on their own. This is also our most successful project, having reached 381 online plays and 50 guided walk participants!”
A new guided walk with Wesley Methodist Church that will see participants traversing Fort Canning is also in the works.
In September, CCSG has bigger plans to push the message of being good stewards of God’s creation to the wider Christian community by hosting the inaugural Creation Care Conference on 9-10 September 2022. Themed around the Garden of Eden, Dennis hopes that it will help move churches in Singapore towards better care for God’s creation. A new publication produced by CCSG, Guide to Creation Care for the Church in Singapore, will be launched during the conference.
“We have been working for nearly a year now to interview pastors and church leaders to develop a resource that will help [groups who are interested in this topic] take action. We will be conducting fundraising efforts from June to August for the conference, such as terrarium workshops and selling the works of Christian artists,” said Dennis. He also shared plans to work with students from Fairfield Methodist School (Secondary), St John’s-St Margaret’s Nursing Home (SJSMNH) and National Parks Board (NParks) to kickstart a therapeutic horticulture programme for the elderly SJSMNH residents.
Despite the success of CCSG’s programmes, Dennis is mindful that the future holds many challenges.
He said, “Many of us [in CCSG] are graduating next year and things will be quite different then, although I definitely hope to continue growing our community in the long-term. Honestly, I still don’t know where God is bringing us, but I hope that we will continue to be faithful no matter where he leads.”
Walking into the heart of nature
Creation Care SG organises guided walks through nature parks to immerse believers in the tranquility of the island’s green pockets and prompt them to contemplate the awesomeness of God’s creation, his ever-present providence of natural resources and humanity’s neglect of our collective duty to be good stewards of his creation.
A typical venue for the contemplative walk is Dairy Farm Nature Park at Upper Bukit Timah, which gets its name from the fact that the 75-hectare park used to be grazing pastures for more than 800 cows providing milk for the colonial residents in Singapore.
Over two hours, the walk took participants through eight different stations where the guide posed questions to spark discussion. These stations included a pile of logs (bringing to mind rampant deforestation) and flowering shrubs (leading to conversations about the importance of honey bees and other pollinators in nature, without which entire crops may be threatened).
Issues like humane animal husbandry and thoughtless food wastage were also raised to drive home the message that creation care covers a spectrum where everyone can do their part.
Through the various discussion topics, participants were encouraged to view climate change and environmental destruction through Christian lenses. The emphasis was on the important role the Church can play in championing the cause of caring for and protecting God’s creation.
Sophie Gan, 28, a new volunteer guide, sees her role as one of sharing the message of Creation Care with Christians who may not have grasped the gravity of various environmental issues.
“I think the walks are important for Christians to be able to take time and reflect about their role as stewards of God’s creation. This is not something that usually comes to our mind while living in an urbanised city like Singapore. I hope that these walks will provide Christians with an opportunity to think about how their actions in daily life affect the environment, and what they can do to minimise the impact,” explained Sophie.
Taking part in his first contemplative nature walk together with his friend, Stephen, was Swee Kong, 63, who worships at Bartley Christian Church. A fervent spokesperson among his peers on the importance of Creation Care, Swee Kong was delighted to be a part of the trek.
“God has called us to be stewards of his creation. The earth we live in belongs to God. Our sin has environmental consequences. Our greed has caused more land to be cleared for our use, seas to be over-fished, leading to huge loss of habitats of other creatures,” lamented Swee Kong.
“If the Church does not speak up, we risk becoming irrelevant as climate change has become such a global topic. We also risk being seen as culpable. Critics of the Church will point out, ‘Does not the Bible clearly state that we have to care for the earth? Yet you have been silent.’”
Creation Care SG conducted a beach clean-up with Church of Singapore (Marine Parade) at Area C East Coast Parks and its surrounds on 23 April, as part of their Earth Day commemoration activities. More than 20 participants signed up for the event; some were from other faiths. Several bags of trash were collected between the groups, and the trash was categorised and logged into an app for beach clean-ups.
“Picking up trash that other people have left is what good citizens are taught to do. But this exercise did give me pause as made the connection between faith and the physical surroundings. ‘Am I leaving behind more waste, in inconsiderate ways?”
~ Shane Seah, 32, Kampong Kapor Methodist Church
Jason Woo is Communications Executive at MCS Comms. / Photos courtesy of Dennis Tan