The topic of climate change can sometimes have the unintended effect of stirring up feelings of negativity, as one calls to mind teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s “How dare you” speech and the pessimistic urging of environmentalists everywhere we turn. The idea is to paint a grim picture in the hope of instigating action. But while such strategies can spark action in the short term, it can be unhelpful in the long run as negative rhetoric gradually erodes a sense of hope.
It was therefore timely that Creation Care SG—an organisation started by a group of undergraduates—organised its inaugural conference. Titled “The Garden of Eden”, the conference steered away from pessimistic rhetoric and, instead, sought to advocate Creation Care by invoking a sense of wonder for God’s creation. Held at Katong Presbyterian Church (KPC) from 9-10 September 2022, about 100 participants gathered to hear a keynote address, attend various workshops, and discuss with a diverse panel.
Creation Care: A dignified aspect of discipleship
The keynote address, titled “Creation Care and the Gospel”, was delivered by Mr Leow Wen Pin, Lecturer in Biblical and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Biblical Graduate School of Theology (BGST). In his address, Mr Leow surveyed Scripture to trace a tri-fold pattern of creation, uncreation and new creation that repeats throughout God’s salvation story. Creation (referring both to things created and the act of caring for creation), he explained, is intrinsic to both the Good News and discipleship. God’s New Creation—the “new heaven and new earth” in Rev 21—is an embodied and created reality. Learning to live sustainably within a created order, whether new or old, is a dignified aspect of discipleship.
The keynote’s theme was shared across the various workshops conducted, as they sought to advocate a way of life that was more conscious of sustainability. Different workshop speakers proposed different means. Among them are Rev Lam Kuo Yong, Senior Pastor of KPC, who spoke of the joys of nurturing a simple lifestyle (as defined by the Lausanne Movement) amidst a culture of uncritical consumerism; Dr Eunice Ng, Lecturer at NUS’ Ridge View Residential College, who suggested making financial and business decisions taking into account how commons (i.e. shared communal resources like water and the environment) are treated; and Ps Jenni Ho-Huan, founder of To Really Live, who raised the awareness of how a fast and hurried pace of city life is distinct from a savoured, abundant life of gratitude and joy.
A particularly memorable workshop was conducted by Mr James Khoo, who calls himself a ‘bug educator’ seeking to inspire an appreciation of Singapore’s biodiversity. He also nurtured an amiability between the participants and his insect friends to dispel any misconceptions about insects. Participants got to examine a beehive up close, hold a grub, and even taste two species of ants! Also, by raising awareness of the ecological function of insects, Mr Khoo roused a sense of wonder for God’s creation and even drew theological lessons from them.
The conference concluded with a Q&A session with panelists of diverse backgrounds. Alongside KPC’s Rev Lam were environmental studies undergraduate Ms Kezia Khoo, missiologist Dr Kwa Kiem Kiok and Hitachi engineer Mr Jonathan Lee. Despite their diverse backgrounds, there was a shared sentiment that infusing Creation Care into Christian discipleship, through a sense of wonder for God’s creation, will derive more sustainable action than employing shame-based methods. Particularly inspiring was Rev Lam’s sharing of KPC’s 10-year journey of incorporating Creation Care into the church’s ethos—from furnishing their then-newly-built church with pre-owned furniture, to installing pre-owned playground apparatus and partnering local authorities in a beach cleanup at East Coast Park.