Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Greening of Religion

St. Joan of Arc Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota composts at the Parish and at the on-site school, the church recycles, uses compostable dinnerware, hosts a Sustainable Fair Trade Market, and educates members on sustainability-related topics.

At All Souls Interfaith Gathering of Shelburne, Vermont, the new facility was built with locally harvested wood, bamboo flooring, compact fluorescent lights, and a furnace that will heat the facility using grass, corn or wood pellets. Programs often contain an environmental message and community members are invited to talk about their passion for the planet.

These examples are representative of a larger movement within religion and places of worship to address environmental issues. While this movement is not new to religion, it is becoming more mainstream and green buildings for synagogues, churches, and mosques are growing in popularity.

To help organized religious groups in the U.S., The Regeneration Project and the Interfaith Power and Light Campaign seek to mobilize "a national religious response to global warming while promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation." San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral will be installing photovoltaic panels through their work with the California chapter of the program. Check their website to find (or start) a program in your state that will help congregations of all denominations.

At least two denominations have made a concerted effort to encourage all their member churches to pursue environmental measures. One denomination is the Unitarian Universalist Church which sponsors "The Green Sanctuary" program. The program congregations and individual members to live a sustainable life in a way that nurtures life, builds relationships, and rejects material consumption as a way to measure happiness. The website lists the congregations in The Green Sanctuary program.

One of the Green Sanctuary churches is the Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania. The church is run on wind energy, recycles paper and batteries, sells shade-grown coffee, and composts to fertilize the children's garden. The church also encourages members purchase and install compact flourescent bulbs and proceeds from the sales help buy bulbs for low-income communities.

Another denomination promoting environmentalism is The National Council of Churches of Christ which sponsors the Eco-Justice Program. The program works with member Protestant and Orthodox denominations to protect and restore God's Creation. One example is the Church of the Savior, United Church of Christ, in Knoxville, Tennessee which has a compost bin, uses mugs instead of styrofoam, and purchases green power. And the Congregational United Church of Chrish in Greensboro, North Carolina recently held a tire clinic to check tire pressure on members' cars. There are many other examples of member churches' environmental efforts. You can search their website for locations.

For links to position statements on climate change from other denominations, click here.

For those interested in helping your place of worship begin the green journey, Church Solutions magazine explains how green relates to religion, why green is important, and offers tips on greening existing and new building projects. Or contact The Regeneration Project.

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