At the heart of the ELCIC’s Stewardship of Creation Initiative is the work that we can do together as congregations. Stewardship is a part of the discipleship we learn as we gather together to hear the Word and share that Word in love. Learning to be stewards of creation is a part of this learning to be disciples together. To encourage this, we are challenging all the congregations within the ELCIC to become accredited as a Greening Congregation.
The Greening Congregation Accreditation Program is intended to encourage congregations to take steps to live out our calling to be stewards of creation and to recognize congregations who show leadership by working to be good stewards of creation in their life together. Congregations that are accredited will be recognized by being given a greening certificate and by being added to the ELCIC’s list of Greening Congregations. Becoming a Greening Congregation involves the following steps:
- Appoint an Environmental Steward or Environmental Stewardship committee which will provide leadership for the congregation’s greening work.
- The Congregation should commit to working towards more responsible environmental stewardship in at least five of the following areas:
Once your congregation has committed to at least five of the above areas, then let us know and become accredited so that the ELCIC can recognize your congregation and connect you to our Environmental Stewardship Network. Please, write to us and share what your congregation is doing as well as stories about your experiences.
Addressing an issue like our stewardship of creation can be overwhelming. It is hard to know where to begin. So here are some suggestion.
- Talk with people in your congregation and find out who would be interested in working on your church’s greening. Then gather them together and develop your plan.
- Educate yourselves. Look at the resources on this website, but also on the web, and at your library. If you find anything worth sharing let us know.
- Talk with your pastor and church council in order to get their support and to invite them to be involved in your churches greening. Also find out what type of budget might be available to your greening work.
- Let your congregation know about your Stewardship of Creation work. Take the time to not just announce it, but to talk with people about it.
- Conduct and audit of your churches current environmental impact. See the Congregational resource section of the Additional Resources Page [Link]
- Decide what your priorities are and what you as a church can commit to working on. Then set a timeline for what you want to accomplish, for when, and who will take responsibility for making sure it happens.
- Review your work on an ongoing basis. As a part of this, take the time to review and renew your strategy. Also, take the time to reflect on how your stewardship work connects to your faith, and take the time to celebrate what you have accomplished.
- Let the wider Church know about your work.
Getting Organized Within Your Congregation
Large spaces, high roof, and old buildings often combine to make churches high users of energy, especially for heating. At the same time energy production can have a high environmental impact not only in terms of climate change, but also in terms of other pollutions or habitat disruption that is connected with energy production. To reduce energy consumption churches can take the following steps:
- Conduct an energy audit and make recommendations.
- Set targets for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
- Take concrete steps to reduce energy consumption. Some basic steps that can be taken include
- Installing a programmable thermostat and turning down the temperature when the building or parts of the building are not in use.
- Install compact fluorescent lighting, turn off lights in areas not in use, use dimmer switches in areas which require small amounts of lighting
- Add insulation to your building, replace windows with energy efficient windows and seal air leaks.
These are only a few basic steps. Excellent guides have been developed to help congregations become more energy efficient, these include:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Waste has become a major environmental issue around the world. In North America cities are struggling to find adequate space to dispose of wastes. Some cities, such as Toronto, even have to export their wastes. In many Southern countries the problem is just as great, with plastic bags and other wastes, lining streets and the countryside. On the flip side, when we waste, we end up consuming more of our natural resources and increase our impact on the environment.
Congregations also can contribute significantly to this waste problem. One only has to look at the amount of paper used, or even in some congregations their disposable plates! If we are to be good stewards of creation we will need to work to reduce those wastes. So what can we do?
- Measure and track your waste. Each year, separate and weigh trash and recycled material for one representative week and calculate the amount per church member of each. Then, set a target percentage for reducing total trash as well as increasing the ratio of recycled material to trash. Do this yearly until no further improvements can reasonably be expected.
- Review your procurement policy for your church. Look at:
- In what areas can you reduce the quantity of goods purchased
- Are there opportunities to use more durable, and re-usable products
- Purchase recycled paper and other products made from recycled goods.
- Look at the cleaners your church uses. Remember they all end up in our environment so when possible, buy and use environmentally friendly cleaning products. Talk to your suppliers or check out the suggested cleaners you can make.
- Compost your organic wastes. Find tips on the Greenpeace website.
Ground Care and Maintenance
Most churches also have pieces of creation that they directly care for. This can provide a great opportunity to not only practice a very tangible stewardship of creation; it also represents a great opportunity to teach our children about caring for the earth.
So what can your congregation do?
- Consider using a part of your grounds to create a garden. This could be a community garden in which people from your community can come, gather and plant their own gardens. Congregations can also work to create their own garden which can be an outdoor sanctuary, in other words a refuge where people can experience God’s life giving presence. Then use these gardens to teach people about caring for God’s creation.
- Stop using chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. For tips on alternatives visit The David Suzuki Foundation.
- Use mulches, compost or other organic materials to both reduce the need for watering and to provide nutrients for your plants.
- Replace plants with local or drought tolerant perennials.
- Replace your gas lawn mower with either an electric lawn mower or other alternatives.
- Plant trees.
Many of our churches are now commuter churches. As a result most people drive to church. This also presents us with an opportunity to teach and learn ways of reducing the ecological impact we have through our transportation systems.
So what can your congregation do?
- Encourage car pooling by posting a sign-up sheet for car pooling to and from church and its many activities.
- Encourage the use of public transporation. Post public transportaion schedules on your bulletin board. Identify and provide maps to the nearest bus stop or subway line.
- Encourage the use of bicycles by having a bicycle rack, or a secure place for bicycles to be stored.
- Encourage people to use the transportation means most often used by Jesus - Walking. After all What would Jesus Drive?
Churches are important places for sharing information and having discussions on important issues. Likewise your congregations and share the message about environmental stewardship. So what can your congregation do?
- Set up an Environmental Information Centre at your church or on the website if there is one. Provide practical information about energy and environmental practices at home, at church and in our shared public life.
- Include a Environmental Stewardship corner in the church newsletter which can both update the congregation on steps you are taking as a congregation to green as well as provide tips or raise issues.
- Hold a discussion group on environmental issues.
- Bring in a speaker who can talk with your church about environmental issues. Then invite your community to come.
Environmental stewardship is not just a political, economic or social issue. It is also a matter of faith. So take the time to learn as a congregation about the connections between environmental stewardship and faith. You congregation can:
- Teach about our stewardship of creation as a part of Sunday school and confirmation
- Have an adult education group which focuses on environmental issues and how it connects with our faith.
- Consider having a simplicity circle – which can examine together how our faith leads us to live more simple lives. For more information on simplicity circles visit Simple Living.
For resources that can be used to examine how our faith connects with our stewardship of creation see our Biblical and Theological Resource Page and Additional Resource page.
Worship and Liturgy
As a church, at the heart of our life together is our worship and liturgy. Each week our worship is a time of encountering and being reminded of God’s grace and what we are called to and what we believe as people of faith. As a part of our Stewardship of Creation Initiative we are encouraging congregations to find ways to include our relationship to God’s creation as a part of worship so that as a part of our worship we can be reminded how we encounter God in creation, how God’s grace is encountered in creation, and what it means for us to be called to be stewards of all creation.
To help us explore how we can do this as a church some of our pastors have begun writing some article for us. You can link to them below:
These and other articles on worship and the greening of worship can be found at the Worship and Spirituality site of the ELCIC Lift up Your Hearts.
For additional resources on worship and creation:
Environmental Justice and Advocacy
Caring for creation is not something that we just do as individuals or as churches. It is also something we do as town, cities, provinces, nations and internationally. Shaping how we are stewards of creation as town, provinces, and nations is the work of advocacy. Advocacy, simply means to add one’s voice, that is to speak out and add your voice to the cry of creation for healing. This is a part of the work we do as a church and the responsibility we have as disciples of Christ. For many environmental issues can only be addressed when there is enough political will and support to move our governments to action. So what can we do?
- Become involved in KAIROS’s Energy Campaign
- Pay attention to the news and look for environmental issues that are raised. Then get informed and write to you political representative about these issues.
- Form a group in your congregation that looks at environmental issues in your community or region. Examine the issues, and then make an appointment to meet with your political representative to talk with them about concerns or questions you have.
- As a congregation write letters or sign a petition to be sent to your representative about an environmental issue that you would like them to take action on.
- Contact a local, regional or national environmental organization and find out what they are doing, and then commit to work with them, for at least a year, on one of their projects. See the additional resource page for some of these organizations and contact your local MP.