People don’t want to just talk about a problem; they want to know what they can do about it. That is the case with climate change or global warming. It is always much more satisfying to be part of the solution and not just part of the problem.
If you want to see a rather extensive list of things that you can do as a church and as individuals, I would direct you to the Presbyterian Church USA website for Earth Care Congregations, www.pcusa.org/earth-care-congregations, which will give you basic information on the first page when you scroll down. You will find on the right a section, “Learn More,” with various choices. The first choice is “Earth Care Congregations – Guide to Greening Presbyterian Congregations.” Just below that you will see “First year application for Earth Care Congregations,” which gives you a download for an Excel sheet listing many things you can do.
At my last count, I found 90 earth care congregations in the United States, 10 of them in New York State. As the website says:
“Earth Care congregations are congregations that have committed to the ‘Earth Care Pledge’ and accomplished a specific number of actions toward caring for God’s earth in four categories: worship, education, facilities, and outreach. Congregations earning 25 points in each of the four categories will be certified as Earth Care Congregations and receive various honors. Congregation members will also be invited to participate as individuals by completing similar actions in their homes.”
Some people welcome this very detailed and systematic approach to caring for the earth. Others find the detail too much and want something more simple and concrete. It is for the later group that I offer some basic ways to respond as what I prefer to call “Creation Care Congregations”, so to not cause confusion with the program “Earth Care Congregations”. So here are some basic things you might consider that will not only help the environment, but also will help churches and individuals to save money as well.
For houses of worship as well as homes, considering energy usage is basic. How energy efficient is your church building, or your home?
An energy audit by NYSERD could give you information to help lower your energy use, lower your carbon foot print and save you money. When my wife and I purchased our home in 2004 we had an independent building inspector evaluate the house. He told us the windows were a major energy loss. We then consulted with a local window contractor who told us we would recover the cost of the new energy efficient windows in five years. I must admit I was dubious, but five years later that is exactly what happened. Other more simple things can be done to cut energy costs: using energy saving light bulbs and energy saving appliances, turning off lights when not needed and cutting back the thermostat. Beyond that, solar energy is an option to be considered for homes and churches.
Transportation is big ticket item for our budgets as well as major impact on the health of the planet.
How energy efficient is your vehicle? Do you save up your errands to do in one planned outing or do you run out every time you think of something? Things done while in- route can save time and energy. For longer distance travel by rail is cheaper than air travel, has a lower carbon footprint and more leg room. When my wife and I travel to Virginia to visit family we travel by train. While it takes a bit longer, it is more comfortable and our travel costs are seventy-five percent less than travel by air.
Worship, Education and Outreach are all areas for working on Creation Care.
Our worship life can be ecologically responsive by using washable cups rather than plastic disposable cups. Better yet is communion by intinction, which cuts energy costs and reduces clean up time. Liturgy which offers prayers of thanksgiving for creation and prayers for creation care are important as well as sermons which weave in creation care themes and illustrations.
Education is another important area of church life. Scripture has a lot to say about creation and creation care. In 2008 HarperCollins published “The Green Bible” using the NRSV text. Throughout the Bible texts highlighted in green make reference to the Creator and Creation. The forward written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu sets before us issues of faith and practice. Other well known people have contributed such as: Pope John II, Dr. N.T. Wright – Bishop of Durham, Ellen Davis, Barbara Taylor Brown, Brian McLaren and several others.
At the back of the book are various helps for group study and action. Working with this publication would be a good and satisfying start for a small group study.
Outreach or Mission is vital to the life of Christ’s Church. Through outreach we respond to the poor, hungry, and homeless. Outreach also includes the work of advocacy as we write letters encouraging our leaders to be responsive to the environment as well as other needs. An offering of letters is a good way of lifting up our work for peace and social justice.
Our work of outreach is a form of discipleship and witness which may be attractive and inviting to people who want to be part of a church that seeks to make a difference.
The points offered above are ways to get started working on the issue of climate change. While climate change is a big problem we also know that many people are working right where they are they to contribute to the solution. We can be part of their number by joining them in our work right where we are.
It is always much more satisfying to know that we are part of the solution and not just a part of the problem.