Creation Care efforts at AMBS

The AMBS community cares deeply about its interaction with the natural environment God created. We care for creation as part of being disciples of Jesus Christ, as an essential facet of our commitment to peace and justice.

This commitment becomes evident in many ways, from restoring native grasses and trees on the campus to raising some of our own produce for meals to making our buildings energy efficient. What isn’t immediately evident are the ways in which we work to make creation care an integral part of our campus culture, courses, worship services and spiritual formation.

  • AMBS has been a member of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance (SSA), a consortium of seminaries dedicated to reconnecting Christians with the bibical call to care for God’s creation, since 2013. The goal of SSA is for member seminaries to teach, preach, live, inspire and hold each other accountable for good stewardship practices.
    As part of the SSA, AMBS is working on an action plan for future creation care efforts. AMBS’s SSA liaisons are Janeen Bertsche Johnson, AMBS campus pastor and Indiana Master Naturalist since 2008; and Brian Miller O'Leary, a Master of Divinity student from Goshen, Indiana.

  • AMBS is a member of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (along with Eastern Mennonite University, Goshen College and Mennonite Central Committee).

  • Creation care is one of three current issues (along with conflict resolution and migration) featured in our institutional strategic focus.

  • The AMBS Library, completed in 2007, was the first theological library to register with the U.S. Green Building Council and earned Gold Certification in the LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Use of indirect natural light, local cherry wood trim, ground-source heating and cooling, water-saving plumbing features, and energy efficient windows make this space inviting for study, reflection and collaboration.

  • The Chapel of the Sermon on the Mount was renovated in 2011; one major goal was to improve energy efficiency.

  • Other main buildings have been equipped with energy-efficient heating/cooling, high-efficiency lighting and recycled carpeting.

  • Bicycle racks and showering facilities encourage students and employees use bicycle transportation.

  • Recycling bins are present throughout the campus, and the seminary contracts with a firm that separates recyclable materials from trash.

  • A professional energy audit was conducted in December 2014.

  • AMBS's 60kW solar array — the largest in Elkhart — offsets energy use by 72,000 kWh and saves 52 tons of CO2 emissions per year. See how we're doing.

  • Seventeen acres of our 42-acre campus are not mowed. Six acres have been restored to native prairie.

  • More than 50 species of wildflowers and grasses grow on the campus, and seeds are harvested to share.

  • Rain gardens around the chapel and library restore water to the aquifer.

  • A walking path of nearly a mile takes walkers through the areas of prairie and woods.

  • Hundreds of trees from more than 20 species grow throughout the campus.

  • The grounds provide habitat for deer, bats, birds, skunks, raccoons, squirrels, hawks, bees (via a hive) and more.

  • A student-run garden provides space for growing produce while also building community. Features include a three-section compost pile and an herb garden. Several areas of campus have edible landscaping. AMBS also has a garden that contributes to the Seed to Feed program of Church Community Services in Elkhart.

  • A prayer labyrinth is mowed into taller grass for use by individuals and small groups (Chartres design).

  • Students and employees tap campus maple trees each spring to make syrup.

  • A weekly potluck meal, organized by students, often features items grown in the campus garden.

  • Occasional morning breaks feature vegan foods or foods made with campus-grown produce.

  • The first class required for Master of Divinity students (Leadership Education in Anabaptist Perspective) includes a segment on creation care and awareness of context.

  • A few AMBS classes focus specifically on creation and creation care issues (see descriptions in the AMBS Catalog):

    • HTE531: Creation Care: Theology, Ethics and Spirituality (biennial — Malinda Berry)

    • HTE541: Thinking Ethically (biennial — Malinda Berry)

    • CHM589: Spiritual Practices: Water of Life — Creation, Conservation and Faith (biennial — Janeen Bertsche Johnson)

    • Three courses at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center are part of the Environmental Sustainability Leadership concentration
      - Integrated Social and Ecological Systems
      - Sustainable Communities
      - Community Leadership Experience in Sustainability  

  • Several spiritual retreats have been canoeing experiences; another involved a visit to a local Community Supported Agriculture farm.

  • Numerous weekly forums have centered around issues of food, care for non-human animals, ecosystems, green buildings, composting and other creation care themes.

  • A Creation Care Preaching Contest was held for students in fall 2015.

  • Occasional tours of the prairie are offered for the AMBS community and its neighbors.

  • The AMBS community holds an annual campus retreat at a nearby camp.