by Jennifer Schrock, director of Mennonite Creation Care Network

Working with Mennonite Creation Care Network has been a part of my job at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center since MCCN’s  inception over 17 years ago. I was present for its first council meeting, and  I haven’t missed a meeting since then.

I am now over sixty and ready to pass this ministry on to new leadership. I know MCCN will benefit from a new skill set as well.

As I moved toward downsizing my work life, I spent a lot of time thinking about the future of MCCN. It is very important to me to do all I can to set up my successor for effective ministry. Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College has been a wonderful home base for me. But for MCCN, being embedded in a nature center whose primary audience is the children and young adults who come to our property in Northern Indiana has presented challenges related to logistics and mission. 


I am delighted that MCUSA is interested in responding to our current environmental challenges. I am also pleased that it is willing to become the new institutional home of MCCN. This move should enable greater access to congregations and broader participation.

Photo: Carol Good-Elliott, an environmental educator at Merry Lea, and Olivia Smucker, a 2019 MCCN intern, look for macroinvertebrates in a vernal pond.

As I reflect on my years with MCCN and Merry Lea, I am grateful for many things. Here are a few of them:

For the love of God’s creation that undergirds Merry Lea and is part of our organization’s birthright. Recently I was listening to our environmental educators reminisce about their adventures on our 1200-acres of wetlands, woodlands and prairies. These are folks who walk with preschoolers as they discover “dinosaur bones” and see angels in scattered rocks.* As my colleagues laughed over mishaps and muck holes, days of beauty and days of canoeing in the sleet, I was struck by this embodied way of knowing our world and the Spirit that breathes life into it. For me, their stories became not just light humor, but parables of the incarnation. Our roots as an organization are planted in real mud!

For the long, slow work of those who came earlier: for Lee and Mary Jane Rieth who founded Merry Lea; for the Mennonite Church’s Environmental Task Force, at work between 1989 and 2004; for Luke Gascho, former director of Merry Lea whose leadership called MCCN into being; and for those at Everence whose vision for stewardship provided financial support for us our first year and every year since. Their faith and persistence are a sturdy foundation on which to build.

For the many network members whose creativity brightened my inbox and made me proud of you. Your gifts are varied; you are donors and activists, teachers and farmers, building geeks and artists, and I pray that God will bless and multiply your work. Twenty-four of you have served on the MCCN council. Your companionship, good humor and hope kept me going. Two of those council members, Dave Hockman Wert (US) and Joanne Moyer (Canada) have been with us since we began. Special thanks also go to Russell de Young who provides funding for our Net Zero Energy Grants and to the Stoesz Family Foundation which funded Green Mustard Seed projects.

I covet prayers for those who will carry MCCN forward: for Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, minister of peace and justice at MCUSA, for the future coordinator she will hire and for each of you as you seek to live in harmony with the earth.


* The “dinosaur bones” were a cow carcass left behind by a farmer and the angels made out of rocks were inspired bv snow angels.