Park Road Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC

Park Road Baptist - Genesis Class

Matt Kinney and Katie Oates of Park Road Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC, created a four-week Sunday school series around RENEWAL.  The class was open to all age groups and focused on two segments of the film each Sunday.  Matt and Katie selected appropriate verses of scripture to go along with the segments and developed two discussion questions for each session to guide the conversation.  They report that the series was a great success and even attracted non-church members from the community as well.  They will be following this series with a full screening of the film on a Thursday night so that people who could not attend the sessions can have a chance to see the film.  This will precede the Charlotte Clean and Green Festival, at which Katie and RENEWAL will be present.  At the screening, they will serve fair trade, sustainable coffee, and have tables set up to advertise local environmental organizations with representatives on hand to provide information on how to get involved.  The event will be held at Park Road Baptist Church but will be advertised at churches throughout the area.  Donations will be collected to go towards one of the environmental organizations or to fund Park Road's Caring for Creation budget to sponsor more events like this in the future.  Their Sunday school material follows:

Renewal Project Documentary Discussion Series Guide

What is it?

The Renewal Project is the first feature-length documentary to capture the breadth and vitality of America's religious-environmental movement. In rural communities, suburbs and cities, people of faith are rolling up their sleeves in practical and far-reaching ways. Offering a profound message of hope, RENEWAL shows individuals and communities driven by the deepest source of inspiration - their spiritual and religious convictions - being called to re-examine what it means to be human and how we live on this planet.

Throughout, RENEWAL attempts to paint an honest picture of how much work will be needed to stem the tide of environmental devastation. Its compelling characters and stories inspire the vision and commitment that addressing the challenge will require.

The 90-minute documentary is designed for theatrical and community screenings, and for broadcast, yet each of RENEWAL's eight stories also stands on its own.

How will it work?

We will screen (hopefully) two chapters of the documentary each week with discussions following each chapter. We'll do our best to focus the discussion not on simply re-stating the problem but on how we (as individuals, as a group, and as a church) can become part of a solution.  The chapters have been linked together loosely by subject matter and the schedule is:

March 2nd: A Crime Against Creation and Interfaith Power & Light

March 9th: Compassion in Action and Going Green

March 16th: Ancient Roots and Sacred Celebration

March 23rd: Eco-Justice and Food for Faith

What do you need to do?

1. Read the 1-Page Session Brief: Each week you will receive the Session Brief to read for that week's topics which will include a summary of the two chapters as well as some questions to ponder during the week and while you watch the movie. We will use that session brief to guide our discussion each week.

2. Watch the documentary together as a group: As you watch each chapter, jot down any notes or impressions you have of some of the images and concepts to help add to the discussion.

3. Complete the survey each week: After each session we will pass out Beta Test Surveys from the producers of the film.  They want us to be a part of this...they need our eyes, our feedback and our ideas.  These surveys will be sent to the producers after all the sessions are completed.

Session Brief #1:

Chapter 1: A Crime Against Creation


Evangelicals bear witness to mountaintop removal and the destruction of Appalachia. In the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia today's mining practices are literally removing the tops of mountains to extract coal to feed American power plants. The natural environment is being decimated, while burning the coal fuels global warming. Evangelical Christians have participated in an interfaith tour to bear witness to this devastation and to begin organizing against the practices that are destroying the land and polluting the waters of Appalachia.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)     As the view from the airplane rises through the hills and the mountaintop removal sites did you feel?

2)     The impact of this practice on the environment and the communities living within is significant. How can we take a stand against this practice locally?

From the Scriptures:

-          Ps. 24:1: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it."

-          Prov. 31:8: "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute."

Chapter 2: Interfaith Power & Light


Across America people of all faiths mount a religious response to global warming.  While much of the religious-environmental movement is local, Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), with over 20 state affiliates, has grown to national proportions. The affiliates help people of faith reduce their use of fossil fuels and increase their reliance on renewable energy in all aspects of their lives. At their annual gathering in Washington, DC, IPL leaders lobby Congress for legislative reforms to bring America into line with energy policies to reduce pollution and reverse climate change.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)     Why are environmental messages rarely heard from the pulpit?

2)     Not only do CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) save energy and carbon dioxide emissions, they save significant money as well. How can we better drive adoption locally?

From the Scriptures:

-          Psalm 96:1, 11-12: "Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth . . . Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy."

-           Isa. 55:12-13: "'You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.'"


Session Brief #2:

-          Compassion In Action

-          Going Green

Chapter 1: Compassion In Action


Green Sangha, a Buddhist community, leads a campaign to save trees.  Buddhists in the San Francisco Bay area are working to save trees by encouraging greater use of recycled paper, especially by major magazine publishers. Their organization, Green Sangha, combines meditation and environmental education to promote non-confrontational forms of action emphasizing the interconnectedness of everyone and everything on the planet.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)     What are some other things we can make sacred like the trees the monks wrapped?

2)     The Green Sangha group tries to focus on loving those who disagree with their views or who they feel are responsible for poor legislation.  Should this be our goal and how do we practice this?

From the Scriptures:

  • - Romans 13:9 - The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet,"and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."


Chapter 2: Going Green


GreenFaith helps congregations take the first steps to environmental action.  In New Jersey, GreenFaith, an interfaith coalition helps houses of worship make their buildings more environmentally sound and the members of their congregations more spiritually in tune with becoming better stewards of Creation. From workshops that invite people to explore their personal impact on the environment, to implementing recycling and composting, on up to the installation of solar panels, congregations in New Jersey are making remarkable strides. As GreenFaith's Executive Director says, "The hardest thing about taking action is sometimes just taking the first step."

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)     Why do all churches not switch to solar power??

2)     Complete the Ecological Footprint Quiz to see what your responsible for:

3)     We have completed an environmental audit but haven't enacted all the steps to correct it.  How can we make this happen at Park Road Baptist Church?

From the Scriptures:

-          Lev. 25:23 "'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.'"

-          I Cor. 8:6b: "There is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live."


Session Brief #3:

-    Ancient Roots

-    Sacred Celebration

Chapter 1: Ancient Roots


In rural Connecticut, two programs offer unique opportunities for Jewish environmental education. At the Teva Learning Center, elementary school children encounter the natural world as they explore the woods, learn where their food comes from, and take responsibility for waste.  At Adamah, a three-month environmental leadership training program, a small community of twenty-somethings engage in organic farming, sustainable living, and contemplative spiritual practice. These future leaders of the Jewish community offer an inspiring model to the Teva students. Together they are renewing the ecological wisdom inherent in Judaism and building a genuine commitment to tikkun olam, healing the world.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)   Is becoming involved in environmental causes a way to make religion more living, current and relevant in 2008?

2)  How are the acts of praying outside or experiencing nature different than indoor worship?

From the Scriptures:

Genesis 1:12 "The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good"

Chapter 2: Sacred Celebration


The remaining historic farmland in the South Valley of Albuquerque, New Mexico is being rapidly devoured by commercial and residential development. Under the leadership of Franciscan Sister Joan Brown, this community of Hispanics, Native Americans, and Anglos is fighting back. During the festival of San Ysidro, patron saint of agriculture, they gather to consecrate the land that nourishes them and bless the waters that help the crops grow. Religious ritual and sacred celebration become a seedbed for their effective environmental action.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)   What role does over-development play in contributing to the water shortages in Charlotte currently?

2)   Notice how a common thread in this story is interfaith cooperation and organization. How can caring for creation be a stronger tool for bringing together people of different faith traditions?

From the Scriptures:

Psalm 65:9 "You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it."


Session Brief #4:

-    Eco-Justice

-    Food for Faith

Chapter 1: Eco-Justice


In coastal Mississippi, pollution from the chemical and petroleum industries has for decades caused elevated levels of disease - nervous disorders, asthma and cancer - in African American and other poor communities. Then, the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina made these medical problems even worse. Now, through their churches, citizens are finding inspiration to conduct their own health surveys, to demand accountability from industry and to insist on action by government officials.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)  Do you believe the companies that own these contaminating facilities are exploiting the poor people of Moss Point?

2)  How did the following quote strike you from the film: “It takes courage to speak out and that is often derived from the church, its pastors and the leadership churches provide?”

From the Scriptures:

Proverbs 31:9 “Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Chapter 2: Food for Faith


In Chicago, which has a growing and diverse Muslim community, the interfaith organization Faith in Place has supported the development of Taqwa. Taqwa supplies organic meat to the Muslim community and everyone else who wants to support sustainable farming.  This chicken, beef, and lamb is "Eco-Halal." The animals are humanely raised, fed an organic diet, and slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. During the holy month of Ramadan, Taqwa members extend their tradition of charity to insure that poor communities can also eat this healthy and environmentally friendly meat.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

1)   How does this peaceful representation of Islam differ from the images seen in the news?

2)   Do you care if the meat you eat is humanely treated prior to appearing on your plate?     Do your shopping and eating habits reflect this?

3)  Again, we see here how people from different faith traditions bond over an issue they share passion about. How can we find these types of connections with people of other faiths?
From the Scriptures:

The Reverend Dr. Billy Graham has written, "The Bible teaches that we are not to abuse or punish animals in a cruel way. God has created them, and while mankind is given dominion over the animals, we are not to treat them cruelly.”

Christian theologian, Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, has written, "I do not believe a person can be a true Christian and at the same time deliberately engage in cruel or inconsiderate treatment of animals."

Copyright © The Renewal Project.