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.
Before connecting with the Presbyterian Earth Care Congregations Certification Program, the Earth and Social Justice Commission at First Presbyterian Church of Cottage Grove was already involved in conservation projects.
Alison Center, a member and administrative secretary for the church, explains: “We were doing fair trade coffee, limiting our use of disposable dishes and using recyclable paper supplies. We also held a worship service outdoors each summer at the foot of Mount Pisgah.” Having enough points for certification, Tracy Durfee, chairperson of the Earth and Social Justice Commission, sent in the church’s application. Every year new Earth Care projects have been added.
To conserve fossil energy, a fun and successful summer campaign at FPC Cottage Grove has been to encourage church members to travel to church in a “different” way - to walk, ride bikes or carpool. This has been ongoing for a number of years with people of all ages participating.
Center says, “We don’t give prizes anymore, but you can come to worship in your walking or bicycling clothes and everyone knows that is okay. My one son and I have been doing the bicycling. It can be a motivation to get to church. If I say, ‘Let’s bicycle in,’ he’s more
FPC Cottage Grove is fortunate to have a member who is a Master Gardener. With his help, no herbicides are used on the plants. There are several church members who “plant-a-row-for-the-hungry” in their home gardens - a project that raises food and money for the local food bank. In addition to these gardening projects, the church also encourages the residents of the low income and senior housing developments on the border of the church property to use available
land to grow their own vegetables in raised beds.
An annual spring event is the “Meet My Farmer” Sunday. Local farmers come to the church to sell vegetable starts or early season greens. Tables are also set up for other farms that offer Community Supported Agriculture, such as organic meats, poultry and eggs. There are local vendors who grow lavender or make hand-crafted soaps. Sustainable Cottage Grove is represented - a group that supports local farmers with a year-round organic produce market. This gathering is open to the wider community, Center explains. She says, “It gets really crowded, filling up Friendship Hall.”
Beginning this fall, a monthly insert in the bulletin will be focused on Earth Care. The topics will include ways to conserve energy, supporting local farmers, recycling tips, environmental stewardship, and organic gardening. Church members are encouraged to write articles emphasizing their particular environmental concerns.
One of the challenges for FPC Cottage Grove has been replacing lights in the historic building with appropriate light fixtures. As LEDS are further developed, the goal is to replace the present lighting with energy efficient bulbs.
This year’s August Vacation Bible School will focus on water concerns - a challenging issue presently and for the future. Using a curriculum from Living Waters for the World, children will look at water in the Bible and also how water is used around the world now. What happens when people have a hard time getting clean water? Center says that the VBS will draw from the children of the congregation as well as members’ grandchildren and neighborhood children.
Getting all church commissions communicating and on board with one another can be a challenge. At FPC Cottage Grove this creation care ministry doesn’t sit with one person. While some of the original members of the Earth and Social Justice Commission have remained,
other folks have joined in this mission. Center comments, “The Earth Care Congregation Certificate is prominently displayed in our narthex. Each year the new certificate is placed in the frame. We are proud to be a part of this important ministry.”
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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).