Join us Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, Click here or read below about the day’s sessions.

Check In – 8:30 am – come early to meet and greet, enjoy a cup of coffee and walk the camp grounds.

Program – 9:15 am – 4:30 pm


*This low registration price is made possible by generous donations to underwrite this event. With thanks and gratitude to: Methodist Theological Seminary (MTSO) and Rebecca Karason.


Who should attend?

Everyone is invited. Youth and Adults from:

Anyone interested in healing the planet, caring for people (especially those in under-resourced communities), and caring for the non-human world.

Anyone who believes that clean air, clean water, thriving forests, lands and waterways, clean cities and communities are vital.

Anyone who is curious about how to begin, as well as those further on in the journey.

Anyone who wants to connect with others who are also interested in doing this important work.

Overview of Schedule:

Check In – 8:30 am – come early to meet and greet, enjoy a cup of coffee and walk the camp grounds.

Program – 9:15 am – 4:30 pm

Title: The Ministry of Place

Presenter: Rev. Michael Howard, Minister of Faith in Action at the Living Water Association

Topic: What is our place in nature? Does our faith lead us to imagine a paradise that ignores our relationship with Creation? Will humanity’s technological advances solve our current predicament? How does our understanding of the Gospel shape the dreams we have for the places we inhabit? In this short address to our communities of faith, Rev. Michael Anthony Howard will explore the paradigm of Watershed Discipleship and our calling to rethink humanity’s relationship with Creation.

Keynote BIO: Rev. Michael Howard has been serving as the Minister of Faith in Action for the Living Water Association since March 2019. He is a cofounder of Friends of Elizabeth Park and is a chief catalyst for the Akron Area Food Forest Initiative, a local inter-organizational collaboration that actively works to undo environmental racism and systemic racist city planning by building community, educating and inspiring neighborhoods, establishing food security, and increasing biodiversity. From the wooded knobs of Kentucky countryside, Michael is a teacher, interfaith organizer, social ecologist, and prophetic Christian leader. He has taught and served around the world, including Peru, Brazil, India, Ethiopia, Virginia, and New Jersey. In addition to traditional pastoral ministry, Michael has coached and co-founded numerous community organizations, media design organizations, small businesses and nonprofits. Michael is an ordained minister in the UCC and has an MPA from Morehead State University and an MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary.


Title: Cultivating a Creation Justice Designation

Presenter:  Rev. Brooks Berndt, National UCC Minister for Environmental Justice

Session Description: The word “inspire” comes from the Latin word that connotes “to breathe or blow into.” When we think of the air we breathe as a gift from God, it is easy to see how caring for God’s creation can be an inspired act. In this workshop, the Rev. Brooks Berndt will lead us in a conversation about how churches can answer the call to care for God’s creation with an inspired commitment to love and justice. The national setting of the United Church of Christ recognizes churches that live out this calling by designating them as a Creation Justice Church. This designation is not about jumping through hoops. It is about a congregation collectively discerning God’s presence and Call in caring for creation with its own unique gifts and expressions of commitment.

Presenter BIO: Before becoming the UCC Minister for Environmental Justice in 2015, Berndt served as a pastor in Vancouver, Washington, where he was active in two successful environmental campaigns: transitioning the state of Washington away from its only coal plant and preventing the establishment of the largest marine oil terminal in the country in Vancouver. During his time as pastor, Berndt co-authored a book with the Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith entitled “Sounding the Trumpet: How Churches Can Answer God’s Call to Justice.” Berndt’s second book is “Cathedral on Fire!: A Church Handbook for the Climate Crisis.” Berndt co-hosts a monthly webinar that has featured a range of guests from climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe to Senator Cory Booker. During Berndt’s time at the national setting of the UCC, the World Council of Churches has nominated the UCC’s Environmental Justice program for a UN Prize, and the American Climate Leadership Summit jointly awarded $10,000 to the UCC’s Environmental Justice Program and the People’s Justice Council as a finalist for the 2021 American Climate Leadership Award.


Title: Reducing the Carbon Footprint in Church Operations & Its Impact on the Community

Presenter: Rebecca Karason

Session Description: Learn effective ways to reduce the owning and operating costs related to your Church buildings and homes while also being a good environmental  steward in your community.

Presenter BIO: Rebecca Karason is the Environmental Strategy & Sustainability Director for Huntington National Bank and oversees Environmental Strategy across Huntington’s eleven state footprint. She is an environmental expert with over fifteen years of energy efficiency and renewable energy experience. Throughout her career, Rebecca has worked with companies to help them develop decarbonization strategies to lower their carbon footprint. Rebecca is a certified Energy Manager and serves on the board for the Epilepsy Foundation of Ohio, Columbus chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers, and the Ohio Environmental Council. Committed to connecting people to the environment, Rebecca created the first Green Team at Huntington and at David’s UCC in Kettering, Ohio.


Title: Touching Nature–Encountering Awe and Wonder

Presenter: Greg Wittmann

Session Description: Take a short walk up to the woods to personally connect with nature as we see and touch critters we gather from our wetland vernal pool. Be inspired by organisms you might rarely get to see and enjoy. Find ways that you might help to preserve these precious habitats.

Presenter BIO: Before Greg Witmann started his own business as the Neighborhood Naturalist, consulting on backyard habitat sustainability, he was an elementary school teacher and a Naturalist at the Metro Parks for 22 years. Greg completed the Ohio Master Urban Farmer certification program in 2017. He currently serves on the Heartland Conference UCC Creation Care Network promoting climate justice and offering nature education. Besides visiting his grandchildren in California, Greg spends his time fishing, woodworking, making pottery, and tending his organic garden.


Title: THINK BIG, start small– Enter the Movement From Any Point

Presenter: Jennifer Shonle & Maren Koepf

Session Description: The environmental crisis is BIG. What can ordinary people do? We share a host of ideas for every congregation to find entry points into meaningful actions and initiatives around environmental care and justice. Build momentum and expand your mission reach using thoughtful strategy to hone in on high-impact collective actions. Participants will come away with a wealth of resources, constructive ideas to implement in church communities, a framework to evaluate assets, and encouragement to take small, deliberate steps as we all build habits of showing up in support of God’s creation.

Presenter BIOs: Jennifer Shonle (Bethany UCC, Lebanon, OH) leads the Creation Care Team at a small, semi-rural church in SW Ohio. She has learned a lot about doing a lot with a little! Team successes include installing a pollinator garden, instituting recycling initiatives, starting a compost taxi, and redesigning narthex space for a Little Free Justice Library.

Maren Koepf (Federated Church, Chagrin Falls, OH) serves as a lay leader for the Social Justice Advocacy Ministries at a mid-sized suburban church in NE Ohio. She is co-founder of the Community Life Collaborative, a 501(c)3 social impact nonprofit sparking critical conversations, resource-sharing, advocacy, and collective action around social and environmental justice.


Title: From Watersheds to Waste Sites: Know & Advocate for the Places Around You

Presenter: Hank Stonerook

Session Description: Why should a church know about watersheds and waste sites? Obtain links to maps of pipelines, watersheds, waste sites, oil and gas wells, and other environmental data in the Heartland Conference. Many of these sites are in close proximity to Heartland Conference churches. Hank draws on extensive knowledge and experience using data to better understand the risks involved living within a specific watershed and/or near toxic sites.

Presenter BIO: Hank Stonerook is a retired environmental engineer and a charter member of Westerville Community United Church of Christ in Ohio.


Title: Food, Fellowship, and Community: Your Neighbor Beyond Next Door

Presenter: Gabrielle Fields

Session Description: The climate and our churches are changing, but who our neighbors are has not changed. Jesus never had a home, but he ate at more than forty table fellowships and suggested we invite particular neighbors to our tables. The outcome of our future will depend on how well we take care of each other now. Might we start with food?

Presenter BIO: Gabrielle Fields is a scholar, community builder and collaborative systems strategist. She is passionate about food sovereignty, advancing symbiotic relationships, and loving people.


Title: Discovering God in Our Neighborhood: Unveiling the Ministry of Place

Presenters: Rev Will Jones & Rev. Michael A. Howard

Session Description: What is God’s dream for the places we inhabit? Delve into “The Ministry of Place” in this exploration of finding the divine in our surroundings. Join us to uncover the profound significance of caring for our local landscapes as sacred “fields of care.” Through real-life examples of community partnerships and collaborations, witness how this ethos of stewardship blooms, nurturing environmental and social justice. Embark on a spiritual journey that celebrates the interconnectedness of faith and bioregionalism, revealing God’s presence in every corner of our world.

Presenter BIOs: Rev. Michael Howard serves as the Minister of Faith in Action for the Living Water Association in Northeast Ohio. He is a cofounder of Friends of Elizabeth Park and is a chief catalyst for the Akron Area Food Forest Initiative, a local inter-organizational collaboration that actively works to undo environmental racism and systemic racist city planning by building community, educating and inspiring neighborhoods, establishing food security, and increasing biodiversity. Michael is an ordained minister in the UCC and has an MPA from Morehead State University and an MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary.

Will Fenton-Jones, from Akron, OH, is the director of Multicultural Ministries for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church where he has served since January of 2017. Will previously has served in both youth ministry and worship leader roles in United Methodist churches and other contexts since 2005. He enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Chaplain Assistant at Ft. Bragg, NC where he deployed twice to Afghanistan where he worked to build relationships with Afghan religious leaders. In 2013, after completing a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, Will entered into a commissioning program and attended Cleveland State University to earn a Master’s of Urban Planning, Design, and Development. After commissioning into the U.S. Army Reserves as an Engineer Officer, Will pursued community development as a focus to encourage churches and leaders to engage and transform their communities.


Title: Why Should Churches Go Native? The Benefits of Planting Local Flora

Presenter: Michele Colopy

Session Description: Learn how native pollinators, beneficial insects, and native plants contribute to a balanced ecosystem and support biodiversity. Explore how churches can use their land for multiple purposes, such as play, worship, food production, water conservation, and wildlife habitat. Consider how churches can educate their parishioners and their community about the importance of going native and restoring balance to our ecosystem. And ponder how going native can enhance the spirit of the faithful and inspire them to care for God’s creation.

Presenter BIO: Michele Colopy is Executive Director, LEAD for Pollinators, Inc., an Ohio nonprofit acting as a catalyst, facilitator, and collaborator to support the work of local and state beekeepers and others who work for environmental sustainability. 


Title: Food, Land, and Climate Chaos: Constructing Resilient Community

Presenter: Dr. Tim Van Meter

Session Description: Climate change presents a unique challenge for our current reality and future generations. We have opportunities to reduce the challenges created by climate change, but we need to move rapidly and wisely. This session explores both the challenges and the possibilities by focusing efforts in food sovereignty and regenerative farming.

Presenter BIO: Dr. Tim Van Meter, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, serves as ecological initiative coordinator and leads youth initiatives & training at MTSO, teaching about trauma-informed responses to Climate Change.


Title: Speak with the Earth and It will Teach You, Exploring the Bible Through the Lens of Nature

Presenter: Dawn Dole

Session Description: Come explore in this session as we engage with the new book Speak with the Earth and It will Teach You: A Field Guide to the Bible. In his book, Speak with the Earth and It will Teach You, Daniel Cooperrider writes: “From the climate crisis to the sixth mass extinction event that marks the beginning of the Anthropocene, what is this critical moment in the history of our journey as a species but an opportunity and an urgency to fall more deeply in love with the earth? The rivers, the mountains, the trees, the clouds, all of it. This, then, I believe, is the call of our times that is coming to us from the direction of the earth—to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind. To love God through loving the world.” Everyone, and every being on earth deserves clean water, air and land. If we listen to the earth it will teach us what we need to do.

Presenter BIO: Dawn Dole is a member of the Federated Church, UCC, Chagrin Falls, OH. She is the chair of the Creation Care and Justice team at Federated. She is also part of the planning team for the Worship With Nature series at Federated, an outdoor gathering to encounter God within the natural world: humans and non-humans alike are part of God’s family, and all need to be cared for, nurtured, and protected.


Title: Butterflies & Bees: A Ministry of Pollinator Gardening

Presenter: Rev. Carolyn Pettigrew

Session Description: Increasing biodiversity matters to the survival of Earth’s fragile web of life! Learn five ways to attract pollinators to our gardens and sacred ground as they live, pollinate crops, and migrate through our community wildlife corridor. You can create a certified wildlife habitat, a certified butterfly garden, and or a certified monarch garden.

Presenter BIO: Rev. Carolyn Pettigrew has been a bird & butterfly gardener for over 31 years and created a certified wildlife habitat, a certified butterfly garden, and a certified monarch garden.



If you wish to stay in a hotel instead of the camp, there are hotels within 10 mins of the camp. (Days Inn, Comfort Inn..) at the Route 97 exit off of I-71)

Why should I go to this retreat?

For more information about the Creation Care Network or the retreat, contact Network Members Hank Stonerook or Jennifer Shonle.

Resources & Digital Handouts:



Tell me more…

What is Environmental Justice?

What is Creation Care and Justice?

(Taken from

Why does it matter to a church?

(Taken from

Who is your neighbor and why work towards creating environments that are healthy for all your neighbors?


Creation Justice – About the UCC, Creation Justice, and Environmental Justice

For more information: 

For more information about the Creation Care Network or the retreat, contact Network Members Hank Stonerook or Jennifer Shonle.