New Dundee ELCIC congregation’s unique worship service and focus on creation enables them to surpass Reformation Challenge tree planting goals
It began as a typical Sunday morning service on the outskirts of Kitchener/Waterloo in early spring of 2017, until the tractors rolled in& As a component of the ELCIC Reformation Challenge, Rev. Bonnie Schelter-Brown, pastor of St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Dundee, Ontario, led the gathered members of the Eastern Synod congregation in a very unique service that morning.
"So, we held what we called a Blessing of the Seed and Tree service that Sunday," Schelter-Brown explained. "We invited people to drive their tractors to church that day while we provided a short blessing of those tractors. We also blessed some marigold seeds and handed them out to everyone that came. We basically spent the whole day focusing on creation, by affirming and honouring that part of our community."
After the pre-service blessings, those in attendance at St. James were treated to a Reformation-themed message from a familiar face.
"We also had a guest speaker at that service," Schelter-Brown reflected. "It was actually Jesse Sop, one of our former youth-turned young adults who had planted trees up north and in B.C. for a couple of summers. He gave us a great idea of what it was like to plant trees for the summer and the amount of hard work that it took. And after that service we actually went out ourselves and planted roughly 100 trees on the grounds of one of our parishioners."
Schelter-Brown and her congregation of twelve years were not done there.
"Every May 24th there is a big celebration in town," Schelter-Brown said. "Typically, we have a garage sale during the day and fireworks during the night. This year we assembled a float on a pickup truck for the lunchtime parade; as well as having a big sign, we walked in the parade and handed out trees to people to plant. Along with the trees were little notes explaining what we were doing, why we were doing it, and a piece of encouragement for the recipients in hopes that they would indeed plant the trees."
Although the church of St. James only sees a weekly average attendance of roughly 52, the rural congregation has been able to deliver on its promises. Already surpassing their total number of pledged trees, Schelter-Brown and her church hope to continue with their support of the ELCIC’s Reformation Challenge again as the congregation reconvenes after the summer.
"I would call New Dundee an incredible congregation with incredible people, who always seem to step up," Schelter-Brown said."I offered this Reformation Challenge idea to them, and they picked up the tree planting aspect and have already surpassed their goals. We are certainly not done with our challenge yet we have even had a suggestion to look outside the box and consider planting some trees in Fort McMurray. We definitely plan to revisit our goals in the fall, and as the reformation anniversary comes up again I will be reminding the congregation again of the other options out there. Whether its trees or not, I have the utmost confidence that this group will be able to deliver again, if we do go that route."
Find out more about the ELCIC Reformation Challegne here: www.elcic.ca/ReformationChallenge