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.
Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church in Louisville, KY is one of the PCUSA certified Earth Care Congregations which is now pursuing the dual certification with GreenFaith. Their enrollment into the GreenFaith sustainable congregation program both recertifies the congregation with PCUSA Earth Care Congregations and gives them room to grow through this interfaith program with new emphases.
Earth Care team leader Bill Bowman, who has been involved in Presbyterian environmental circles for over a decade, says that GreenFaith gives the church new areas to try. Bowman explains that GreenFaith “will help us push our limits a bit. If we are going to be one of the leading congregations in the area, then we’re going to need to push forward on some other activities.”
Starting a number of years ago, Bowman connected to national PCUSA environmental programs and resources, such as bringing the ecumenically developed Creation Justice Ministries’ Earth Day Sunday materials to Bardstown Road. He also served on committees and the national Steering Committee of Presbyterians for Earth Care. A young adult member of Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church was one of the first class of young adult Eco-stewards.
The church also has had Sunday School classes on caring for God’s creation, shares office space with others (currently with Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light), and has made some environmental changes around the church building. They have recycling and fair trade coffee. Last year, at the church’s annual retreat at the local presbytery camp (Cedar Ridge Camp), Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church read sections of “50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Congregation Can Make a Difference,” and invited the author, Rebecca Barnes, to come speak to them.
Known as a very generous congregation in the presbytery (giving more shared Mission Support per capita than any other church in the presbytery for a few years in a row), Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church believes in the connectional church.
Last year, the church also passed an overture at session to encourage the presbytery to discuss the idea of divesting from fossil fuels. While not a unanimous agreement upon what the right answer might be, the session felt that the conversation about divesting from fossil fuels is a good conversation for the church to have.
Finally, Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church has long been identified as the “Farmers Market” church. Long before it was an Earth Care Congregation, the church said “yes” to farmers looking for a place to set up for a Saturday market, back twenty years ago. Bowman says, “Basically we said ‘why not?!’ It has grown to be, and is, one of the oldest farmers markets in the city, and one of the biggest. A couple years ago they moved from being just a summer-time activity to year-round.” The Farmers Market has given visibility to the church, and while not directly involved in the Farmers Market, the church has found itself connected to an important aspect of a healthy, local food economy as part of their service to the wider community.
Bowman reflects that regardless of where a church is in its trying to become more earth-friendly, it is a good idea to form an Earth Care Team at the church and investigate the Earth Care Congregations program. “When people with different backgrounds come together to figure out a project in a certain area, it’s neat to see all the different ideas that come from the same set of data,” shares Bowman.
Now, as it moves into the 2 year certification period with GreenFaith, the church will look at new areas. As the clerk of session summed it up, “This is really about expanding our understanding of what it means to be stewards of God’s creation. We believe that growing into environmental stewardship will involve our session, congregation and our neighbors in study, action, worship, advocacy, leadership development, and interfaith efforts to promote God’s wholeness and shalom for the world.”
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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 14 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).