Sustainability Summit 2019

Join us at Merry Lea’s 6th Annual Sustainability Summit!


Six years ago, the Sustainability Summit at Merry Lea was born out of a desire to raise up more sustainability leaders on college campuses in our region. The Summit has proven to be an energizing and refreshing venue for like-minded peers to network, get creative, eat good food and have fun.

This year, our theme is “Urban/Rural Sustainability“. We will explore the similarities and differences when it comes to building sustainability in those contexts, as well as the philosophies and practices needed to do so.
What role(s) can we play? What do we need from others? How do we lean on God through this work? Our key verse will guide us:

For every house is built by someone,
but God is the builder of everything.

-Hebrews 3:4

When: Friday, February 15th – Sunday, February 17th

Where: Rieth Village (4415 W 200 S, Albion, IN 46701)

Cost: $60 covers housing, meals, and activities (scholarships available – see registration form)

Attending the 2019 Summit provides an opportunity to:

  • Connect your faith with sustainability issues
  • Prepare to build sustainability in your place
  • Hike a 1200-acre nature sanctuary
  • Stay in LEED Platinum buildings
  • Network with peers from other colleges
  • Participate in skill-building workshops
  • Interact with experts in the field

Keynote Events:

  • Placemaking: An Interactive Workshop with Brian Blackford

As the Project Manager for the Indiana Communities Institute at Ball State University, Brian knows a thing or two about what contributes to making a place healthy, resilient, and sustainable. He will lead us in an evening of figuring out how to boost quality and capacity for communities in the places we love. Passionate about enriching community through local food and art, Brian has been instrumental in the creation and leadership of both Dig IN and Indiana Artisan. He also loves spending time outdoors and with his family.


  • Closing Address by Pastor Jonathan Brooks (“Pastah J”)

Senior pastor of Canaan Community Church in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, Pastor Brooks is a firm believer in returning to and investing in the place where you grew up. After earning degrees in Christian community development at Northern Seminary and art and architecture at Tuskegee University, he has dedicated himself to being fully present in his community. Learn more about his diverse and impressive work here. Pastah J has served as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools and currently spends time as a recording artist with the hip-hop group Out-World. A devoted husband, father, and neighbor, he is living out his holistic vision of creating sustainable communities for forgotten people and places.


Customize your Summit experience! Saturday will consist of separate tracks for those who wish to focus on urban contexts, and those who are more interested in rural places. Then we’ll all come together for some awesome cross-pollination of ideas.

The Urban Track

…will include guidance from South Bend’s Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem. Staff from “BCe2” will share about their model for building a grassroots sustainability movement and equipping young leaders through the use of asset-based community development. Then, spend time figuring out how to adapt it to your context! (BCe2 Program Lead, Sara Boukdad, pictured left)

The other half of the Urban session team is Therese Dorau, Director of the Office of Sustainability for the City of South Bend (pictured right). She brings experience working on sustainability initiatives within multiple levels of government, as well as non-governmental organizations.


The Rural Track

…will be led by Merry Lea’s own Director of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, Dr. John Mischler (pictured right). John’s experience is wide ranging, including research and community development work in both domestic and international rural contexts.


For questions regarding the 2019 Sustainability Summit, please contact Tom Hartzell at