The 43rd Annual Rural Ministry Conference

March 3-5, 2024
Best Western Hotel and Conference Center, Dubuque, Iowa

The Creation Groans, the Creation Waits,

the Creation Hopes, the Creation Sings:

Congregations Responding to Climate Change


An Invitation from the Director of the Center for Theology and Land, Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen:

You might remember in 2023 wildfires ravaged Maui, Hawaii. The impact is still being felt. On a human level, it is tragic, but I was particularly aware of the well-being of the 150-year-old Banyan Tree at courthouse square, a non-human part of God’s creation. My family sat on its branches and rested under its canopy and felt its role in the history and life and community of Lahaina Town and Maui. We hear from a tree specialist that it is still producing sap and still absorbing moisture through its roots—that it may still live. But the expert said, “It is traumatized.” At the same time, wildfires burned in Canada and my eyes were sore in NE Iowa from the haze crossing international boarders, fires burned in Greece, Australia, and in Spain. Epic floods and heat waves were recorded in the US and around the globe. For the first time in recorded history a hurricane hit Southern California. The creation is groaning, waiting, and hoping.


As part, the human part, of God’s creation, God’s word reminds us that we are intimately related to, and co-dependent with all of creation. And we as humans are uniquely oriented as co-stewards with God of God’s creation. Small town and rural congregations have an intimate relationship to land and food production and natural resources, which give them important insight into the issues of climate change. But all congregations—rural or urban, small or large—are impacted by the challenges of climate change and are equally called by God’s word to respond. Let us gather and learn—what we are called to do, what we can do, and what others are doing. And let us stimulate dialogue across congregational contexts and denominations, rural and urban, small and large, and explore how we are already and how yet we need to tip the groaning, waiting, hoping, of creation into singing.


Our Keynote Speakers and our Bible Study Leader will engage us in theological reflection, and our breakout sessions and workshops will inspire us with examples of how to faithfully engage this calling on behalf of creation and provide opportunity to dialogue, dream, and network in practical ways toward that goal.

Leaders and Speakers

Featured Keynote Speaker: Rev. Dr. Kathryn Schifferdecker

Rev. Dr. Schifferdecker is professor and Elva B. Lovell Chair of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. She has researched and written extensively on creation theology from a Hebrew Bible perspective and is a regular contributor to Word & World journal and workingpreacher.org. She is also author of the book, Out of the Whirlwind: Creation Theology in the Book of Job, published by Harvard University Press.

Tuesday Keynote Speaker: Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen

Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen is the Director of the Center for Theology and Land and Director for Small Town and Rural Ministry at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. He has been engaged in Creation Care ministry for over 30 years particularly through Shalom Hill Farm an education and retreat center which he co-founded and directed for 25 years. In his recent book, Everyone Must Eat: Food, Sustainability, and Ministry, he addresses signs of hope in terms of environmental sustainability and agriculture as well as God’s call to us to respond faithfully to the needs and suffering of the Creation.

Bible Study Leader: Rev. Dr. Martin J. Lohrmann

Rev. Dr. Martin J. Lohrmann is Associate Professor of Lutheran Confessions and Heritage at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. Though his specialty is Lutheran confessions and church history, he has developed a deep passion and acumen for issues of Care of Creation which has manifested itself in his preaching and teaching and practical pursuits in the Wartburg Community and beyond.


Sunday, March 3, 2024

3:00 pm – Registration

5:45 pm – Introductions and Prayer

6:00 pm – Dinner

7:00 pm – Keynote – Rev. Dr. Kathyrn Schifferdecker

Learning our Place: Hearing Creation’s Groans and Creation’s Hopes


Monday, March 4, 2024

9:00 am Welcome Opening Prayer –Bible Study –

Rev. Dr. Martin J. Lohrmann

10:15 – Break

10:30-11:45 – Keynote – Rev. Dr. Kathyrn Schifferdecker

Command and Promise: Sabbath and Creation’s Songs

12:00-1:00 –Lunch

1:30 – 5:00 Breakouts

6:30 – 8:00 pm– Banquet


Tuesday, March 5, 2024

8:30-9:15 am–Bible Study Rev. Dr. Martin J. Lohrmann

9:45 – Break

9:30 – General Session – Rev. Dr. Mark Yackel-Juleen

11:00 am – Worship Service –

12:00 – Boxed Lunches and Farewell

43rd  Annual Rural Ministry Conference

Schedule coming soon!

Workshop Options

Breakout session information coming soon!

Registration Details

More information coming soon!