Rooted and Grounded:
A Conference on Land and Christian Discipleship

Theme | Land: Loss, Connection and Imagination
Oct. 14–16, 2021

Student in the prayer labyrinth on the AMBS campus. Credit: Peter RingenbergA people’s identity is intertwined with the land — soil, water, plants, animals and seasons. The geography of home-place generates meaning and spiritual connection to Creator-God. Our relationship with land has been — and is — repeatedly broken by empires, doctrinal systems, climate change and injustices like forced migration. When generative ties to the land are severed, the vitality of our psyche and soul diminishes.

This year, Rooted and Grounded will be a gathering where we contribute to the work of forming regenerative connections, essential for the reorientation of our beings and communities. Working with the gifts of imagination — theologically and socially — will yield a vision and course of actions towards healing and renewal.

What to expect

The three days will weave together worship, theology, biblical study and praxis. In addition to keynote presentations, papers and workshops, participants will join in several worship services. An afternoon of immersion experiences will give participants opportunities to explore conservation and restoration efforts in the region. Download the schedule (PDF).

Keynote speakers

Our keynote speakers will be Laura Meitzner Yoder, PhD, and Timothy R. Eberhart, MDiv, PhD. 

Laura Meitzner Yoder

Laura Meitzner Yoder is a political ecologist who serves as Director and John Stott Chair of Human Needs and Global Resources, and Professor of Environmental Studies at Wheaton College, Illinois. Previously she taught at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College and was seconded by Mennonite Central Committee to state universities in West Papua and post-tsunami Aceh, Indonesia. Her current work with global scholar-practitioners who understand ecological awareness and action as integral to Christian discipleship is reflected in Living Radical Discipleship (Langham, 2021) and John Stott on Creation Care (IVP, forthcoming September 2021).

For many years she has lived, learned and advocated with marginalized smallholder farmers and forest dwellers who make their living in precarious circumstances, especially in Latin America and Asia. Her research and writing focus on human-environment interactions in isolated areas of Southeast Asia and the enduring legacies of colonial land law and policy worldwide.  She is a founding board member of Tearfund USA.  Her family is active in a local Mennonite congregation.

Timothy R. Eberhart

Timothy R. Eberhart is Murray H. Leiffer Associate Professor of Public Theology and Ecology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where he directs the MA in Public Ministry degree and oversees a concentration in Ecological Regeneration. He teaches in the areas of theology and ethics, concentrating on the relation of Christian doctrine to environmental, economic, political, and social change theory. His publications include Rooted and Grounded in Love: Holy Communion for the Whole Creation (Wipf and Stock, 2017), The Economy of Salvation: Essays in Honor of M. Douglas Meeks (Wipf and Stock, 2015), and chapters on mission, ecclesiology, and ecotheology.

He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a trained permaculturalist, UMC Earthkeeper, North American Secretary for the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies, and co-founder and co-chair of The Institute for Christian Socialism. He, his spouse Rebecca, and their three children live in Evanston, IL, where he is active with Citizens Greener Evanston, Environmental Justice Evanston, and the city’s Equity & Empowerment Commission.

Conference location

This year’s conference will be offered in a hybrid format. Some elements will be available only to in-person participants, and some will be available to participants joining via livestream.

In normal years, the AMBS campus, with areas of native grass and wildflowers, rain gardens, a prayer labyrinth, a community garden and a walking path, provides opportunities for learning, recreation and meditation.

COVID-related adjustments

Unless fully vaccinated for COVID-19, individuals attending in-person will be required to wear face masks on the AMBS campus. (See our COVID Update Center for more information.)

Depending on pandemic restrictions, in-person attendance may be limited to 50, 75, or 100 participants. If that is necessary, we will invite participants based on when they submitted their registrations, and others will be asked to attend virtually (with cost adjustment). Register early to secure your in-person registration slot.

Immersion Experiences

Four immersion experiences will be offered as pre-conference activities (in person only). Participants will arrive and register between 12:15 and 1:00pm on Thursday, October 14 and pick up a brown bag lunch. They will leave AMBS at 1:00 pm and return in time for dinner. The extra cost of $40 ($15 for students) covers transportation, entrance fees, and lunch). The four options are:

Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center: Merry Lea is a nature sanctuary and learning center owned by Goshen College, with almost 1200 acres of wetland, prairie, savanna, and sustainable agriculture. This tour will include a visit to Rieth Village, a small-scale sustainable farm (a teaching and producing farm) and ecological restoration projects. Led by staff members of Merry Lea. 

Camp Friedenswald: This Mennonite camp near Union, Michigan, is home to a variety of landforms, including two prairie fens (unique, glacier-formed wetlands). One of the fens, with a boardwalk through it, is habitat for the endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterfly. It is one of six viable sites for the butterfly in North America! Participants will learn more about efforts to protect the Mitchell's satyr habitat, including the ecological restoration of an oak savanna adjacent to the butterfly's habitat. They will also see the camp's solar array and other sustainability projects. Canoeing, kayaking, and hiking will be available to explore the fen, lake, oak savanna, prairie, and woodland. Led by Amy Huser, Sustainability and Outdoor Education Director at Friedenswald.

Urban Gardens of Elkhart: The Wellfield Botanic Gardens are an Elkhart treasure. Participants will hear a history of the land and water, from Native American use to industrial site to wellfield to creation of the gardens. The description of the organization will explore the partnerships between the City of Elkhart, Elkhart Rotary, and private business supporters. Participants will then take a walking tour of the different gardens and learn about the variety of activities that happen there. Next, the group will visit the new Remembrance Garden at Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church, which honors the stories of Native Americans, African Americans, and others who have lived in the south Elkhart area. Led by Melissa Kinsey, environmental educator, and Suella Gerber, pastor.

Regenerative Activities in the Elkhart River Watershed: This learning experience will explore regenerative activities that are happening within the watershed of the southern branch of the Elkhart River. The tour will stop at sites where individuals and churches are responding to injustices to the Earth and people. The stops include Potawatomi history sites, sustainable agriculture, water monitoring, solar installations, and native plantings. Discussions will also examine root issues that are being addressed by the initiatives. The tour will be led by Luke Gascho and Rich Meyer.

Rooted and Grounded logo

Schedule

View the 2021 schedule

Registration now open

In Person Registration Costs
  • Regular rate: $100 entire conference (includes 3 meals).
  • Student rate: $35 entire conference (includes 3 meals). If three or more undergraduate students register from the same college or university, their registration is free.
  • Keynotes only: $10 each session (walk-in)
  • Pre-conference immersion experiences: Extra cost of $40 ($15 for students); covers transportation, entrance fees, and brown bag lunch
Virtual Registration Cost
  • Regular rate: $75
  • Student rate: $30
  • Keynotes only: $10 each session

Co-sponsors

The Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions and Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, Goshen College

Contact us

For more information, email [email protected]