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.
North Como Presbyterian Church, Roseville, MN (now merging with Knox Presbyterian Church) has been an Earth Care Congregation since the beginning of the certification program in 2010. Starting their activities even prior to that, they studied creation care issues in their adult education classes as far back as 2005 and developed an environmental team that year. In 2008, they started discussing at length the energy and climate change policy passed by the General Assembly that year as well as the earth care sections of the Social Justice Policy for the 21st Century. This resulted in the formation of an environmental pledge by early 2009.
A special emphasis for N. Como has been the ownership and involvement of the church’s session in the congregation’s earth care commitments. From visioning at a session retreat, the session also took on the impressive role of approving the 2009 pledge, the 2010 Earth Care Congregations pledge, overseeing twice yearly reviews of their commitment to God’s creation, and adding earth care language to their church’s Vision Statement (which was then printed in the bulletin and said aloud each Sunday). The newly merged Session (N. Como and Knox) voted to affirm both pledges and the review process this spring. Knox-N. Como has shown outstanding leadership across the board in incorporating this ministry into the church session.
One project that N. Como undertook for a number of years was to sell Chinook coupon books that included environmental information and discounts on earth friendly items such as recycled/reused goods, local/sustainable/fair trade foods, bus/train tickets, and “green” services & entertainment. This not only educated people but the money raised was used by the church for small earth care projects like: the installation of a bike rack, a new recycling bin, and signs for the parking lot that designate special areas for carpooling &energy efficient cars.
The church is proud of two special features. The front lawn community garden just keeps growing bigger & better every year. It includes raised beds for special needs and extra plots for the food shelves. Our Little Green Library is 2 years old now and has over 74 books, magazines, & games for all ages.
Their Earth Day Sunday also has become a big festival. ‘People know it’s going to be a big celebration including a great service and special activities & foods after church,” says Earth Care Team leader Carole Rust. We’ve done everything from:
The PCUSA Earth Care Congregations certificate hangs in the church atrium, visible to all, and certification is celebrated in the church newsletter. Rust says, “the Earth Care Team has seen that folks throughout the congregation think about the impact of church decisions on God’s creation such as using glass communion cups (with a special dishwasher rack) instead of disposable ones, and using reusable dishes for events.” This includes Fellowship Time, which also uses local & organic cream, fair trade & organic coffee from the Presbyterian Coffee Project, and fair trade & organic tea.
Rust shares, “We had two little girls at a dinner a few years ago that were busy drawing before the meal started, and they had been making earth care books! They gave them to me as a present.” Another story is that Rust walked into a Sunday School class to teach a special earth care unit and found the lights were turned off and the class explained, “We‘re saving electricity!”
Creation Care Team efforts have encouraged individual and family lifestyle changes. Members have shared in worship some of the easy things they have begun to do at home to care for the earth, such as washing in cold water. This sharing has encouraged people to try new actions and realize that they can join their friends to make a difference. Members also really pay attention when there is a public policy issue that needs attention, such as action alerts coming through the PCUSA Office of Public Witness.
This congregation has been a leader in the local community as well as mentoring another congregation in becoming an Earth Care Congregation. The church is now looking forward to a green future including working on a goal to become carbon neutral.