WTS Students Play Key Role in Churchwide Initiative

Savanna Sullivan, Program Director of ELCA Young Adults and current WTS Master of Arts student, launched #NoPlasticsforLent as part of her role with the ELCA and as a project for an independent study this semester.

The initiative encourages practicing sustainability together – in our homes, congregations, and communities – by sharing tips and tricks in a weekly video series over the course of the season. Read about the initiative below from Savanna and other WTS students who contributed to the lenten movement and how it shifted in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Idea: From the ELCA Churchwide Assembly to the United Nations Climate Change Conference

Baird Linke, WTS Master of Arts student, and Savanna Sullivan, Program Director of ELCA Young Adults and WTS Master of Arts student traveled to Madrid, Spain in December 2019 as part of the the ELCA and Lutheran World Federation delegation to the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference (also known as COP25). The delegation, pictured below, was comprised fully of young adults who had also led the call for the ELCA to increase its commitment to caring for creation at the most recent Churchwide Assembly held in Milwaukee, WI in August of 2019.

The Project: Beginnings


Adapted from its original post, published on the ELCA Young Adults blog on February 17, 2020.

So why plastics?

This year at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly the body gathered – including a huge number of young adult voting members – called on the ELCA to get serious about its commitment to care for creation.

The #NoPlasticsforLent initiative, led by young adults across the church, calls us to prayer for creation, to lament the ways we have been complicit in the degradation of the earth, and to action to care for our neighbor in fasting from the things that are hurting our planet.

Our suggestion is that individuals, families, and communities fast for 40 days from single-use plastics. We want this initiative to be accessible to all, and if this is not possible for you in your context or community, we invite you to sustainability practices that make sense for you.

We will publish a sign-up next week where individuals, families, and communities can share whatever it is that they’ve pledged to do to fast from degradation of creation this Lenten season!

Over the course of the next two weeks we will publish videos with how-to tips and easy switches to make, and we encourage you to share your ideas for fasting from plastics with each other on social media with the hashtag #NoPlasticsforLent.

We will have weekly devotionals published each Monday of Lent. These devotionals will be by young adult writers who are passionate about their spirituality and about care for creation.

We know that it will take more than giving up plastic cups at communion to heal the earth, but we hope that walking together as the Body of Christ in this initiative during this Lenten season will help us both individually and communally be better neighbors to plants, animals, the earth, and each other in our day-to-day lives. We also hope that it will move us toward more long term justice-seeking for the creation in our care.

We invite you to this Lenten practice of prayer, lament, and fasting as we walk for these 40 days with Christ.

The Video Series: Pre-Lockdown


Videos and information adapted from posts on the ELCA Young Adults Facebook Page.

Every week of Lent, diaconal ministry student Kellie Lisi will hopped on Facebook Live to talk theology and practical tips for individuals, families, and congregations living sustainably with #NoPlasticsforLent! Click below to learn more and watch each video.

Week 1: Introduction to #NoPlasticsforLent


This Lent, the ELCA invites you to join us for our #noplasticsforlent campaign! We’ll be sharing tips and tricks in this weekly video series over the course of the season. We look forward to practicing sustainability together.

Week 2: Sustainability in Faith Communities


Today Kellie and Rev. Martin Lohrmann will discuss sustainability practices congregations and other spiritual communities can join in together! What does Luther have to say about care for creation? What do clear sustainability practices have to do with hospitality? Join us for the second week of conversation about #NoPlasticsforLent and leave your own community’s ideas about hospitality and sustainability in the comments!

Week 3: Sustainability in the Kitchen


This week we’ll be discussing kitchen swaps, but we’ll also be discussing what it means to be good stewards and live sustainably in light of current events. Come join the conversation, we can’t wait to learn with and from you while talking hospitality and reducing consumption! How do you practice sustainability in the kitchen?

The Project: Effects of COVID-19 Physical-Distancing Measures


Prior to this point, the plan was to host Facebook Live conversations with a different WTS Sustainability Task Force member each week. Lars led with me the first week, Martin the second, and Elise the third. We had plans to engage each of the leaders on STF (and their own areas of expertise) throughout the series – and even had ideas to reach outside the WTS community to connect with leaders of different faith groups to learn about sustainability in their own contexts/faith communities. Because of the pandemic and the capacity limitations that resulted, the conversation became smaller.

I worked to make connections between sustainability and the current context and to continue to offer swaps and actionable items even once everything shifted. Both Savanna and I felt that this was essential to the series. In the midst of this, I focused on actionable steps that could still be used in the midst of societal and cultural shifts.

The work did not change in the sense that the objectives remained the same. Here are a few of the objectives I was personally focused on:

  • to educate around habits of consumption
  • to provide action-focused opportunities to initiate change
  • to connect the work of sustainability to theological grounding
  • to create a community of dialogue and resources

Given this was an online movement, we were largely able to press on as planned.

Mostly our content had to be flexible enough to respond to the current situation – this happened both on the blogs and in the videos.

This change in content was well-received by folks who started sharing what sustainability differently looked like as they were at home more and more.

– Savanna Sullivan

The Video Series: Remainder of Lent


Videos and information adapted from posts on the ELCA Young Adults Facebook Page.

The video series continued and provided practical sustainability tips, though without the partnership of a WTS Sustainability Task Force member.

Week 4: #NoPlasticsforLent in a "New Normal"


The world has changed a lot and quickly. What does caring for the earth and our neighbor look like in this moment? Our weekly #NoPlasticsforLent check-in is still happening tomorrow at 3 PM Central! Come join the conversation about lament, sustainable consumption practices, and the promise of God. And share your ideas for living sustainably at home!! Our world is different. What does it mean to practice sustainability today? What might it mean for us in the coming days and weeks. Kellie shares an intro to this “new normal.”

Week 5: Bathroom Swaps


Join Kellie and Jason as they talk about reducing plastic use in the bathroom. Also join the conversation about re-using items in your house during this time where we #stayathome to care for ourselves and our neighbors!

Week 6: Waste Reduction in the Kitchen


Let’s talk about cooking! You’re probably spending more time in the kitchen right now. How can we reduce waste and support others in need during this time?

Week 7: Closet/Laundry Swaps and Wrap Up


It’s the final week of #noplasticsforlent! Kellie’s here today to talk about swaps in our closets and laundry rooms and how to carry forth in love and faithfulness on our continued journeys.

The Graphic & Closure

The #NoPlasticsforLent image (below) – shared across the wider church – was designed and created by WTS Master of Arts student Baird Linke.

Baird was among the delegation that represented the ELCA at the United Nations Climate Change Conference and also contributed to the ELCA Young Adult blog with the closing post, titled “What Good Is a Meal?” found here.

In the blog (centered on the Last Supper), Baird shared: “I am terrified by the challenges we face. I worry that I am not enough to confront them on my own and that nothing short of a miracle will be able to save me. But Jesus tells us, ‘on the night in which he was betrayed,’ that we have exactly what we need. Throughout the No Plastics for Lent campaign I’ve seen people sharing the small, holy ways that they pay attention to the world around them and I’ve gotten so much hope from the small and the holy. Thank you for walking this journey with me, and I look forward to breaking bread with you.”

The Impact: Over 100,000 Reached Globally

Kellie and Savanna led a workshop titled “Creation Care for Lent, Creation Care for Life” during the one-day digital conference Creation in Crisis: Science and Theology Respond. They shared the impact of this young-adult led movement globally:

Visit the Creation in Crisis conference page linked above to view a video of Kellie and Savanna’s workshop to hear even more about this exciting and impactful initiative.