Photo: The Rev. Dr. Sarah Fernsler (center, wearing t-shirt) is flanked by members of the training staff (from left): Rev. Susan Mullin (EarthKeepers founder); John Hill (UM Church & Society), the Rev. Jenny Phillips (Global Ministries’ Creation Care Program Manager), and Rev. Jerome Sahabandhu who specializes in eco-theology.  Mel Caraway photo.

Sarah Fernsler, Eastern PA’s new EarthKeeper 

After decades of caring for patients and parishioners, the Rev. Dr. Sarah Fernsler will soon be caring for our planet. She was commissioned a United Methodist EarthKeeper on Monday, Jan. 22, after training in environmental stewardship provided by staff from the UMC’s Global Ministries, Church & Society and UMCOR agencies.

Fernsler, a pediatrician for 25 years before attending seminary and becoming an ordained elder, previously served White Haven UMC from 2012 to 2017. She began EarthKeeper training last year. Now, she and her fellow graduates in the second year of the UMCOR program—which began as part of Global Ministries’ new Mission Innovation Unit—are expected to design and launch local creation-care projects.

Sarah Fernsler at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

The EarthKeepers Arkansas Class of 2017 were immersed in a week of intensive learning about environmental stewardship and theology—learning to articulate the connections between faith and action—as well as community organizing and where to find UMC resources and other help. The commissioning service affirmed their call to the ministry of creation care—and blessed them for future work in their communities.

The new EarthKeepers participated in the service from their homes and churches via videoconferencing that was livestreamed from a production studio at the Atlanta headquarters of Global Ministries.

EarthKeepers commit to spend 10 hours per month working on creation care projects in their communities. During the service, they shared information about their creation-care projects, including recycling programs, sustainable gardens, renewable energy initiatives and cultivation of “green teams”—teams of United Methodists working on environmental initiatives in their local churches.

“My project,” reports Fernsler, “is to make EarthKeepers resources and also resources I have from my years as a gardener and naturalist available to my conference, and to affirm through preaching and other avenues of communication that we are called to biblically-based ministries of creation care…”

“The entire structure of the training compels you to get to work on a specific project relating to creation care,” said participant Nathan Brasfield, a community farmers’ market manager in Memphis, Tenn. “You learn how to be guided by your own personal story of faith and your experiences in the world.”

“Caring for the earth is an essential part of who we are as United Methodists in mission,” saidThomas Kemper, General Secretary of Global Ministries. “We are called to participate in God’sredemption of creation.” To receive information on future trainings, please email the Rev. Jenny Phillips Creation Care Program Manager at jphillips@umcmission.org.

EarthKeeper training dates for 2018 will be announced soon. Those wishing to be notified when dates are announced should email Lawanda Gooch, UMCOR Sustainable Development Program assistant at lgooch@umcor.org.

Also, you can view the recorded commissioning service on Global Ministries website at “EarthKeepers Commissioned via Virtual Service.”  Sarah Fernsler’s greeting and reading of her project statement can be found at 5:13 -6:23 of the video.