Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 16, 2013

Church opts for simplicity, environmental awareness

BY CAROL SOUTH
Special to the Record-Eagle

— TRAVERSE CITY — Transcending chocolate, Facebook or coffee, parishioners at a local church are going green for Lent.

Pastor Jane Lippert is challenging her congregation at Traverse Bay United Methodist Church to think out of the personal penitent box and consider the big picture: the earth.

The church is tapping Lent 4.5, a Christian simplicity program that guides participants to “abstain from over-consuming or damaging God’s creation.” An inter-denominational offering, Lent 4.5 is a seven-week program for faith formation.

“What if we took on something that had real impact?” said Lippert, leader of the 200-family church. “Like what if I gave up bottled water for Lent, after 40 days you have a habit formed.

“What I consume can not only impact me, but people around me.”

The decision to embrace Lent 4.5 stems from a goal-and-objective-setting session held by church leaders a year ago. One of the results was to focus on Christian simplicity. Lippert envisions her congregation both informed and engaged on a range of environmental and consumption issues.

The goal of the Lenten program is to help individuals find and nurture simplicity in their lives. Each week has a different topic, with themes covering food, consumption, water, energy and transportation. During Holy Week, the focus will be gratitude and generosity.

“It’s certainly not a foreign theme to do things in moderation,” Lippert said. “I’m really excited about this.”

Lippert is emphasizing each topic during weekly services and the church will also offer discussion classes on Thursdays. These classes will include both morning and evening hours to help congregants fit them in. Each session stands on its own, so attendees can come to one or as many classes as they like.

Raised by a mother who grew up during the Great Depression, Lippert learned simplicity naturally. Sharing both the concepts and practical ideas of living simply is one of her passions.

“I realize not everybody had that experience,” she said, noting the Lenten program can help build new habits. “These days, we all want to do what’s best for kids, but sometimes that translates into giving them too much.”

She believes the varied experiences and skills of her intergenerational church will help boost individual participants’ success in Lent 4.5.

“I’m really fortunate that this congregation has a lot of folks who do canning, for example,” Lippert said.

For more information on Lent 4.5, see www.earthandspiritcenter.org/lent45/