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Living Sermon: Pastor Builds Tiny House

A small house can open many doors. The months that the Rev. Rebecca Rutter spent building a 98-square-foot house gave her a chance to reflect on how one person can leave a smaller footprint on God's earth.

Rutter spent a year of "Sabbath days" teaching herself carpentry and electrical wiring to build the 14.5-by-7.5-foot home. All this while pastoring a church, raising a family and finishing seminary. When Rutter moved to De Pere, Wisconsin to pastor New Hope United Methodist Church, the tiny house relocated, too.

In 2016, Rebecca Rutter was among a group of 37 pilgrims who visited significant sites in England related to the birth of Methodism and founders John and Charles Wesley and Francis Asbury. The group saw "shepherd's huts" similar to Rutter's tiny house where shepherds would stay in the fields close to their flocks during lambing time.

This video was produced by United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.
Media contact is Joe Iovino.

This video was first posted on October 24, 2016.


(Locator: De Pere, Wisconsin)

(Voice of the Rev. Rebecca Rutter) “The toilet is something called a composting toilet. I simply took a cat litter bucket and built a frame and a toilet seat around it. The house I built is 7 1/2 feet wide and 14 1/2 feet long in the inside. It measures about 98 square feet.” 

(Rebecca talking to tour group) “That converts to a full-size bed where you're sitting. Hi, my name is Rebecca Rutter. I am the pastor at New Hope United Methodist Church in De Pere, Wisconsin. Today we were at Saint Norbert College in De Pere to explain to people a project that I started working on about three years ago in building a tiny house.”

(Rebecca talking to tour group) “And it was a little bit of a sanity saver for me too. I built it when I was in my final year at seminary as well as pastoring a church and parenting three children, and I just needed a little project to get away from all that for a while.”

Rebecca Rutter: “It helped strengthen my faith during this time and think about things not just from the theological standpoint but also ‘How can I make a difference in the world right now with what I'm doing?  With what I'm building, how can I learn more about sustainable practices?’”

Katy Gertz: “I came here to see the house today and it was amazing to see how many people are interested. There was a 20-minute wait for the tour.”

Nicolette Sylvain: “I was inspired by it, it kind of made me think about ways that I can help, use less water. I feel I take really long hot showers and less, like five-minute showers, would be better.”

Rebecca Rutter shows shower tank: “And I hooked it up to a kitchen sprayer and this really preserves water.”

Nancy Jakups: “I think we all think we need a lot of space and if we really took a hard look at our life we can all scale back and cut all things that aren't necessary, maybe those material things. When we take these opportunities to scale back, it just leaves a better footprint for our future generations.”

Katy Gertz: “As people of faith I think we should be inspired by both the tiny house movement and other movements to be better stewards for the Earth and leave it better than we found it.” 

Jordan Wood: “There are stories in the Bible of like people and then God asks them to give up all their possessions and they did that. I think people of faith should take a look at that and be like 'Wow, I don't actually need everything that I have.' Everything that you really need to live is in that house.” 

Rebecca Rutter: “The United Methodist Church has a lot of opportunities to be more concerned about stewardship and environmental preservation and develop a culture of that in our congregations. People are hungering for more simplicity and a focus in life that goes beyond all the material possessions that we have and they realize that in the end that is not what brings us the peace that we need. The peace comes from Christ and a relationship with him and with one another.”

(Couple looks in window) “We're just listening to her talk. They're going to think we're professional window peepers.” (Laugh)

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