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Cara Fleischer: Creation Care is Personal

Saint Paul's UMC Mosaic Garden. Photo: Simon Webb

Starting simply and to the point, self-described “mom with a mission” Cara Fleischer begins her journey to becoming a Creation Care advocate from a personal place:

“My daughter has asthma.”

Mrs. Fleischer, Tallahassee native, current Creation Care leader at Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church, found out after relocating to Atlanta, Georgia the crippling effects air pollution had on her family.

“Unfortunately, I learned the hard way about air pollution, and how it can affect health because my daughter suffered terribly from the smog in Atlanta. We lived in a cool in-town neighborhood and suddenly had a very sick child – to the point that her doctor recommended that we come back to Florida,” said Fleischer.

Even after relocating, Mrs. Fleischer continued to see the evidence of a changing climate in plain sight.

“So we left our cool home and in-town neighborhood and left our business and actually went down to the St. Pete area because the air was so clean. And that was the summer that we got hit by four hurricanes back in 2004. And then I really connected the dots between air pollution and climate. And climate change, and what humans are doing to our planet on a larger scale. The hurricanes were terrifying. And they just continued to get worse. And we couldn’t even get our house properly insured because we were in a flood zone. And it was just really affecting our life dramatically. So at that point, I started paying a lot more attention to climate issues.”

After another move, this time back to Tallahassee to escape rising flood zones, the Florida native recalled the final environmental straw that led her to follow a path of advocacy.

Cara Fleischer’s daughter Lauren picks out the family tree at the Havana Tree Farm outside of Tallahassee. Photo: Cara Fleischer 

Describing the home and area to which she moved her family she continues. “It’s beautiful. It’s got lots of oak trees around a lake. But because we’re near forests, they ‘control burn’ the forest. And so there are seasons of the year where we have smoke problems. And so that’s when I stopped and said, ‘Okay, God, I can’t run away from this. You are putting this into my life for a reason’.”

The former communications specialist began to look around for ways to become involved in the conversation.

“I just felt incredibly led to follow this path that God had put me on to learn everything I could about the environment and the climate crisis and to use my gifts to try to amplify the message that this (climate change) is happening,” shared Mrs. Fleischer.

After joining Citizens’ Climate Lobby and immersing herself in advocacy for a cleaner environment, Mrs. Fleischer began to look around her, even at her own church. After having a conversation with her pastor about the church’s carbon footprint, the longtime Methodist first learned of the Creation Care movement and thus found her calling.

“So I just really took it on my heart to create a ministry at my church, that was fun, that was inclusive, that was biblically based, that was embracing and celebrating the earth, and bringing people together of all generations and, you know, races and everything, and just kind of having this opportunity for us to celebrate (the earth) together.”

The ministry started as a garden. With a grant from their local sustainability office and an Earth Day Sunday blessing from their pastor, Mrs. Fleischer’s local church Creation Care ministry was off.

Cara Fleischer working at the iGrow Community Garden in Tallahassee. Photo: Wayne Fleischer

Now a full-time advocate and Creation Care Chair of the United Methodist Florida Conference, Mrs. Fleischer’s goal is to grow the ministry she helped start in her own church to other church communities throughout the state and beyond.

“What I’ve tried to do is take the model that we started at Saint Paul’s and help different churches all over the state – equip them to start their own Creation Care ministries, because I just have seen it as such a beautiful, positive way to get our members to learn about the environment (and) about stewardship. And it kind of grows once we build that trust with our members that they know that we’re coming from this for the right reasons.”

She puts a ribbon around our conversation summarizing why it greatly matters to her as a person of faith.

“You know, Creation Care isn’t just the earth, it’s also animals and it’s people. So we love the people in our community, we love the people in our state, we want to take care of them as well. And so equipping these different churches to be able to start these ministries we feel is the best way to bring them this message that we can make a difference in what happens to our climate, and how that affects our state. We can do it in a really positive way that brings people closer to Jesus.”

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