Eco-Journey is the blog of the Environmental Ministries Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It includes a wide array of environmental topics: upcoming environmental events, links to interesting articles and studies, information on environmental advocacy, eco-theology topics, and success stories from churches that are going “green.”
Author Rebecca Barnes is the Associate for Environmental Ministries at the PC(USA). She is a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary with an MDiv and Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) dual degree.
Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church (Stevens Point, WI), did not just begin earth care activities five years ago. Now celebrating the “5th year certification” with the PCUSA national program, church members in this congregation have been active and creatively engaged in environmental stewardship since 2001.
Originally sought out to give feedback to, and to help pilot, the original model of PCUSA Earth Care Congregations back in 2010, Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church showed completed creation care activities across the life of the church (in worship, education, facilities and outreach). And, each year since 2010, they have proven a deeper and broader commitment to environmental stewardship, education, and outreach.
One of the first projects was for the church to become a center of recycling for church members, because at that time the city did not provide recycling. Green Team members provided the physical effort and time to get paper and cans recycled. While there is now curbside pick-up for regular recyclables, the church has expanded its efforts and now also offers the recycling of church members’ ink jet cartridges, eye glasses, batteries, and cell phones.
Since 2006, Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church has participated in a liturgical “Season of Creation,” incorporating earth care themes into worship, as they flow naturally from faith tradition, biblical passages, and spiritual experience. Pastor Susan Gilbert Zencka explains, “For me it’s been the realization of how nature-based the Bible actually is. That’s part of the reason to do it; you’re really not doing justice to the Bible if you’re not lifting up nature images. And, [it helps] people in our congregation who are more green than biblical, to see the Bible resonating with their deepest values.”
Another unique aspect of Frame Memorial’s way of being an Earth Care Congregation is their formation of an interfaith community organization called “Interfaith Community for the Earth.” Presbyterians join together with Catholics, United Church of Christ, Baha’i, as well as people who are spiritual but claim no particular religious tradition. This interfaith organization hosts forums, movie nights, advocacy events, and collaborates with other community events as well.
The efforts at Frame Memorial flourish from both pastoral involvement and lay leadership. “While I have been involved and supportive, the Green Team was already in place and active. It’s part of what attracted me to the congregation…. it’s the ethic of the people in our congregation who were doing it long before I got here,” says Rev. Zencka.
Not only did earth care activities draw the attention of their new pastor, but Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church also has attracted new community members through their earth care activities. Rev. Zencka believes, “There are certainly some people who came to church because of this. One of the people who’s in the new member class right now said he came because we had a theologian-in-residence come to talk about earth care (back in 2007!).”
Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church has seen great involvement, excitement and commitment from all levels and church members are finding that even the small actions do make a difference. Rev. Zencka captures this as she reflects, “Every little bit we do, matters. God doesn’t expect us to do more than we can, I don’t think. But, God does expect us to do what we can. And, doing what we can is so much easier when we do it with others.”
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There are currently 140 certified PCUSA Earth Care Congregations. For the initial year of certification, each church fills out a congregational audit, gains session approval of an “Earth Care pledge,” and has an earth care team of some sort. This first year of certification often means that a church has been working to integrate care for God’s creation into its ministry for a number of months or years prior to certifying. Each additional year of recertification requires the congregation to both continue and to grow their efforts at integrating creation care into the life of the church. Begun in 2010, this PCUSA certification program has 13 churches now entering their 5th year of certification.
The "5th year certified" churches are: Light Street Presbyterian Church (Baltimore, MD), Trinity Presbyterian Church (East Brunswick, NJ), Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church (Louisville, KY), Church of Reconciliation (Chapel Hill, NC), Montevallo Presbyterian Church (Montevallo, AL), St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Tucker, GA), Second Presbyterian Church (Little Rock, AR), Maryland Presbyterian Church (Towson, MD), First Presbyterian Church of Howard County (Columbia, MD), North Como Presbyterian Church (Roseville, MN), First Presbyterian Church (Cottage Grove, OR), Swarthmore Presbyterian Church (Swarthmore, PA), St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (Kilmarnock, VA) and Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church (Stevens Point, WI).