Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Creation Care Terroir

Written by: on June 6, 2019

Discerning the best avenue a congregation may take while living out their creation care witness is one that takes vision and refinement.  Certain congregations have a thirst for justice ministries and through advocacy, letter writing, and other campaigns their ecclesial energies may be steered into generating tangible change in our beautiful yet broken world.  Other congregations prefer to steer benevolence funds to certain non-profit organizations and the prayerful conversations and willing support that comes from these grants provides necessary funding for the routine work of issue awareness, education and care.  Still other congregations prefer to make the work they do within their walls demonstrate their witness and so those that choose to lower their own carbon footprint, or perhaps create butterfly gardens, are able to do their part while feeling divinely connected to the whole effort.

But how to best know which creation care route is the most appropriate for a given congregation? Perhaps using Martyn Percy’s wine (dare I say, communion) related “terroir’ method is best applied here.  The term terroir “refers to the combination of factors that might make one wine slightly different from another, even when they are geographically proximate in origin.”[1]  Different temperatures, soil acidity levels, rainfall, and the overall skill of the folks working the vineyard all combine to make wines taste different.   “And this analogy has something to teach theologians as they reflect on the composition of local ecclesial identity.  On one level, one might say church is church, just as wine is wine . . . yet to the reined palate the manifold differences are detectable and telling.”[2]

In keeping with the terroir imagery, allow me to make a few suggestions on how best to steer your Creation Care energy.

Does your congregation have large swaths of rarely used land?  If so, a community garden could be in your future.  Remember, the members of your congregation do not need to be the ones who actually maintain your garden, though this is a phenomenal community building activity. And fruits or vegetables do not need to be the crop either, as native plants and wildflower gardens provide safe haven for pollinators and migrating birds.

Does your congregation have young families?  Perhaps participating in a food sharing co-op is in your future.  Imagine the possibilities as your family of faith doesn’t just pray together . . . but actually eats together.  There are many models to choose from, some that even encourage the opportunity of building a relationship with your local farmer.  As Western Society removes us further and further from our local food sources, it is a formative experience to remember our connection to the soil.

Does your congregation maintain a building that is only used once or twice a week?  If so, then perhaps finding another space user is in your future.  Not only is it practical to share space with other organizations or another community, but you may be able to share additional resources as well.  And if finding another space user is not a possibility, performing an eco-audit on your building would be prudent, as this would guide you in both keeping costs down, and best maintaining your facility.

As Percy writes, “the “ecclesial terroir,” . . . is something that scholars need to be able to read sensitively and deeply if they are to understand the dynamics of congregational life.”[3]  So too must congregational leaders read the “creation care terroir” of their faith community.  The possibilities are only limited by our imagination, but it helps to provide an appropriate framework.


[1] Martyn Percy, “Response to Part II “Savoring the Social-Sacred”: Reading the “Real Church,”” in Reasonable Radical? Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy, ed. By Ian S. Markham and Joshua Daniel (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2018), 128.

[2] Percy, “Response,” 128.

[3] Percy, “Response,” 129.

About the Author

Rev Jacob Bolton

5 responses to “Creation Care Terroir”

  1. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Brilliant how your applied Percy’s contextual theology “terrior” motif to your creation care research. Thanks so much for the practical options to consider in discerning what is best for one’s local congregation. I pray your research is going well!

  2. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Great connection to Percy, Jacob. His broad perspective on the disciplines was encouraging and broad in scope. Do you see how to best broaden the perspective of the Church on this important issue? Does your denomination as a whole, embrace and encourage your stance?

  3. Sean Dean says:

    This is great Jacob for a couple reasons. Firstly, terroir is one of my favorite words and concepts. Secondly, you apply the concept in a really great way and the concept of terroir (of the dirt) sort of the perfect term for what you’re looking to do. Thanks.

  4. Mario Hood says:

    Love this Jacob. The concept of terroir speaks to me in leadership in the understanding of social location. For far too long we have demanded that people become like “this” without considering the soil in which they were produced and accepting the uniqueness of wine. You have done a great job of seeing the soil and giving examples of the different wine it could produce.

  5. Digby Wilkinson says:

    One of the criticisms of Percy is that he doesn’t always apply Terrior evenly. In the scholastic academy there is a sense that the context does not always need to be applied to logic, or quantum logical thinking. Likewise, academic truth may be completely at odds with contemporary realities yet remain true just the same; that is, the church or its theology must endeavour to change the context because of truth. In this latter sense evangelicalism draws on its activist roots claiming that the status quo is wrong or evil and must not be engaged other than for the purposes of change. It’s possible that a church’s Terrior maybe entirely faulty. I guess that’s the challenge of thinking and engaged leadership – how do we know when contextual theology is little more than the manipulation of politics or evangelism for the sake of expedience to some other I’ll thought through end?

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