God’s Gardeners: Creation Care Stories from Singapore and Malaysia
by Melissa Ong and Prathini M. Selveindran (Editors)
Graceworks Private Limited (2020)
FES Library book call number: 241.691 ONG
When I was a student entering university, I wondered if the Christian faith was connected to the seemingly ‘secular’ issues that my life on weekdays revolved around. For one, climate change was one of the issues that my friends were talking about, and I was exposed to a diversity of perspectives on climate change. On one hand, some friends cared deeply about climate change, going the extra mile to think about how their everyday life affected the environment. On the other hand, there were friends who thought that environmental degradation was an inevitable outcome that abided by the natural laws of entropy.
At that time, many Christians around me premised discussions about environmental issues on the God-given mandate for humanity to have dominion over the non-human environment. In Scripture, we see God entrusting humanity with the following responsibilities in Genesis 1:28 (NRSV, emphasis mine): “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
But I wondered if the concept of dominion comprehensively captured the breadth and depth of what my Christian faith had to say about the environment around us. Does this God-given responsibility over God’s awe-inspiring and intricate Creation give humanity the license to do as we please?
Enter God’s Gardeners: Creation Care Stories from Singapore and Malaysia. In this book, we have a rich storehouse of personal stories, commentaries, and case studies in five main segments of Ecology, Beauty, Dominion, Shalom, and St Francis. The editors, Melissa Ong and Prarthini M. Selveindran, recognise there is no fixed way to “do” creation care, and that our finite efforts cannot possibly save the planet. Rather than imposing the heavy burdens of eco-anxiety and consumer guilt upon its readers, this book is a joy-filled invitation to work alongside our loving Creator as gardeners in our places and patches of creation. This book also issues a call to pay attention to the beauty that surrounds us, even as we live in a highly urbanised and pragmatic society. In such a society, to enjoy and appreciate Creation for its intrinsic value and its reflection of God’s character might seem to be unintuitive, but the stories invite us to childlike wonder at God’s good work that is unfolding around us unnoticed.
Through this book, I have gained a deeper appreciation for the indigenous voices calling attention to certain issues around us. For example, Mary-Ruth Low’s piece (pp. 22–27), Paying Attention in the Anthropocene, draws attention to the work she is doing in conservation and the esoteric connection between fruit bat pollinators and the durians that Singaporeans and Malaysians enjoy. This helped me better appreciate how the flourishing of humanity (Imagine a Singapore without durians!) is very much dependent on the non-human environment and how we take care of the different animals and plants in our shared ecosystem. The case study of “The Community Building Project” undertaken by Katong Presbyterian Church (pp. 14–20) was also inspiring in drawing attention to how a seemingly ordinary renovation project can serve to build and nurture disciples and servants in the process. This challenged me to see how creation care can be integrated in the shared life of my church community, as Dr Goh and Rev. Lam has done.
I would recommend this book to Christians who are interested to see how their Christian faith is connected to the issue of climate change. Importantly, the editors’ approach to this is neither didactic nor formulaic – rather, they are issuing an invitation for their readers to enter into a better story that is firmly rooted to the reality and challenges that we are facing as humanity. Through this book, I am also challenged to see that creation care is more than just the three ‘R’s of reduce, reuse, and recycle – it is also a glad response to the work of our Good Creator.
This monograph is primarily written for FES staff workers and students, in particular student leaders who are considering how ministry should look like on campus. May this book be a tool to help us rediscover the identity of the FES student ministry.
Loo Kee Wei
FES Staff worker
NUS VCF Graduate 2019