At AMBS, we care deeply about our interactions 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.
- Creation care is one of three current issues (along with conflict resolution and migration) featured in our institutional strategic focus.
- AMBS is a strategic partner of the Anabaptist Climate Collaborative and a member of the Green Seminary Initiative.
- AMBS was a member of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance (SSA), a consortium of seminaries dedicated to reconnecting Christians with the biblical call to care for God’s creation, from 2013 until the organization disbanded in 2018. The goal of SSA was for member seminaries to teach, preach, live, inspire and hold each other accountable for good stewardship practices.
- An Environmental Sustainability Leadership concentration is offered in our Master of Arts: Theology and Peace Studies program and our Master of Divinity Theological Studies major through a 15-week residency at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen (Indiana) College. For more information about this experience, read more about two students who recently completed this concentration.
- Rooted and Grounded: A Conference on Land and Christian Discipleship brought participants from across North America to campus in September 2014, October 2015, April 2017, September 2018 and October 2021. The sixth conference will be held Sept. 28–30, 2023. Rooted and Grounded: Essays on Land and Christian Discipleship was published in January 2016, featuring papers from the first conference.
- AMBS was recognized as 13th of more than 250 seminaries in North America for course offerings in creation care by the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development in October 2017.
- 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 to 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 50 and 80kW solar arrays — the largest in Elkhart — offset our energy use and save tons of CO2 emissions per year. See how we’re doing with the first array, installed in April 2017, and with the second array that went live in February 2020.
- 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.
- 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.
Community meals and gatherings
- 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.
Presentations, classes and retreats
- The first class required for Master of Divinity students, Leadership Education in Anabaptist Perspective, includes an introduction to our creation care commitments and a session on being aware of context.
- Chapel services are frequently held outside, including prairie prayers, a Sukkot observance and a celebration of St. Brigid’s Day.
- A few AMBS classes specifically focus on creation and creation care issues (see descriptions in the AMBS Catalog):
- HTE670: Earthkeeping (biennial — three credit hours)
- HTE541: Thinking Ethically (biennial — three credit hours)
- CHM589: Spiritual Practices: Water of Life — Creation, Conservation and Faith (biennial — one credit hour)
- CHM592: Spiritual Practices: Trees of Life (biennial — one credit hour)
- Three courses at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center are part of the Environmental Sustainability Leadership concentration:
– SLS601: Integrated Social and Ecological Systems (four credit hours)
– SLS602: Empowering Sustainable Communities (four credit hours)
– SLS603: Leadership Experience in Sustainability (four credit hours)
- Several spiritual retreats have included canoeing experiences; another involved a visit to a local Community Supported Agriculture farm.
- Numerous forums have centered on 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 and fall 2018.
- 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.