Becoming a Greener Church - Caring for God's Creation (Part 3)
June 5, 2019
Updated June 11, 2019
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Last month we finished up a mini-series on Creation Care, which we started in April, partly in celebration of Earth Day. But as we noted in our second article - EVERY DAY IS EARTH DAY, right?! It is our Christian responsibility to care for God’s creation, which not only includes personally in our homes, but also corporately, in our churches and ministries and extending that out into our communities and world.
In the first post of this series, I reflected back to my childhood and was delighted to remember the ways my parents showed me how to care for the earth. I’d like to say that my church played a big role in teaching and modeling creation care to me. Thinking back, I couldn’t recall many sermons or youth group study nights or community partnerships that reminded me of the importance of creation care and my role in it. I think one time we may have gone around a plaza behind our church to pick up garbage with the Calvinettes (now called GEMS). This is true even as I grew into adulthood and attended a couple different CRCs. Perhaps these things did happen, but I don’t remember them.
So, what is the church’s role in teaching us, reminding us, and animating us, as followers of Jesus, to steward God’s good creation?
Little did I know but Synod (the governing body of the CRCNA) has taken significant action on creation care over the past two decades! Among other things, Synod 2008 approved an updated version of Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, which reminds us that creation care is of vital importance for the church. It reads as follows:
51. We lament that our abuse of creation has brought lasting damage to the world we have been given: polluting streams and soil, poisoning the air, altering the climate, and damaging the earth. We commit ourselves to honor all God’s creatures and to protect them from abuse and extinction, for our world belongs to God.
One significant “Call to Action” for the entire denominational body was for churches and its members to “be voices for justice and public examples in the effort to live sustainably within our God-given resources, to promote stewardship in our own communities and our nations, and to seek justice for the poor and vulnerable among us and for future generations.”
This is great! So… whose job is it anyway?
Will All The Deacons Please Stand Up
When we read the Deacon’s Mandate, we see that deacons are called to be “prophetic critics of the waste, injustice, and selfishness in our society, and be sensitive counselors to the victims of such evils.” In all their ministries, deacons are called, “in imitation of Christ’s mercy [to] teach us to love God, our neighbours, and the creation with acts of generous sharing, joyful hospitality, thoughtful care, and wise stewardship of all of God’s gifts.”
Wait, WHAT? It’s the DEACON'S job??? Well, yes, for the most part.
Deacons, you don’t have to go it alone. Help is here.
Never Fear! Help is Here!
This is where Diaconal Ministries Canada and other wonderful agencies of the CRCNA come in. Deacons, you don’t have to go it alone. Help is here.
One way that Diaconal Ministries Canada is working diligently to resource and equip deacons is through a brand new partnership with Christian Stewardship Services and the CRCNA in Canada. A Stewardship Pilot Project will be launched in 2019 in order to help the deacons (both ordained and non-ordained) increase their church’s awareness of the Biblical principles of stewardship and help them live those principles out in practical, measurable ways.
Diaconal Ministries is also in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding to become an official partner of the Climate Witness Project (CWP). Diaconal Ministries and the CWP will work together with congregations and CWP regional organizers, deacons and staff in order to strengthen their overlapping ministry and enhance each other’s strengths. Communities and churches will be enriched and will respond to God’s call to love their neighbour and care for creation in four key areas: Energy Stewardship, Worship, Education, and Advocacy.
Practical Help for Churches Like Yours
We recently reached out to Andrew Oppong, Justice Mobilization Specialist with the CRC Office of Social Justice, and Dr. Henry Brouwer, professor at Redeemer University, CWP Regional Organizer in Classis Hamilton, and member of Meadowlands CRC in Ancaster, ON. They gave some helpful suggestions and shared resources to help deacons get started! Here are a few:
1. Perform an Energy and Environmental Audit of Your Church and its Ministries:
-How is waste managed at your church? Does your church participate in local recycling and organic programs? Are your staff, ministry teams and groups who rent the church following your guidelines/protocols?
-Encourage your Property Management Team to consider ways in which the church building can be made more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly. Do you have bike racks, for example, to encourage cycling to church? Have you upgraded the lighting to more energy-efficient LEDs? If your church is going to be doing a major renovation or new construction, how can the use of fossil fuels be eliminated? See what one church did when they renovated their space! What about installing solar panels? Some churches have considered the use of solar energy as a source of energy production. Save your money and DON’T pave your church parking lot. Say what?! Yep, you heard us. Or consider finding alternatives to using road salt in the winter months, which can seep into waterways and impact vegetation along roadways.
2. Provide Learning Opportunities: Create greater awareness in your own congregation about environmental stewardship:
-Cooler/Smarter Series: A 7-part series on the book “Cooler/Smarter” by the Union of Concerned Scientist, which addresses ways in which individuals can reduce their personal carbon emissions. It covers topics from diet, transportation, home heating & cooling to the use of plastics. This is congregationally-led and the OSJ is open to working with churches who may want to start this series;
-Budgets and Creation Care: This is a practical guide written by Dr. Henry Brouwer filled with general ways of reducing energy consumption and increasing greater stewardship. Several churches have found this useful in the area of stewardship.
3. Plan a Worship Service or Series about Creation Care: Some good resources are available on the Climate Witness Project site.
4. Get Outdoors and Make Your Church Property Green! Be a leading example in your community and show your neighbours that you care about the earth!
-Plant a Community Garden: If your church has extra land available, you could make it available for small plots for the community, since many yards are rather small for gardens. It also provides local food and shows people how bountiful the creation can be!
-Plant native plants around the property: A butterfly garden can be an attractive addition to the landscaping while at the same time providing a habitat for pollinators (many of which have become scarce).
5. Be an Advocate!: Contact your local government representatives about your concerns regarding the environment. It is extremely important that we encourage our leaders when they do the right thing and suggest alternatives when they do not. Your voices count!
Churches CAN make a difference! As Voltaire says, “no snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible,” yet where would the avalanche be without each snowflake? Check out Diaconal Ministries' website for more inspiration, read some of these success stories posted on the CWP website and don’t forget to download the Ten Ways to Care for Creation guide. Your CWP Regional Organizers are ready and willing to give presentations about Climate Change to your diaconate or church OR help plan and host learning events. They can also help you find local companies or organizations to help you and provide practical tips and ideas.
“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” Voltaire
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What a great practical help to deacons as they give leadership to this critical issue. Thanks Erin and Ron!!!
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