I continue to take baby steps in the direction of my dreams of a Green Church. In January, David Waters, the faith writer in the local paper, contacted me for an interview for an article he was writing on Green Faith. This opportunity gave me the chance to publicly associate my church with the green movement in a small, nonthreatening way. I invited my supervisor to sit in on the interview too. I wanted to make sure Lindenwood as a whole appeared in line with Green Faith, not just their wild haired associate (me!).
On January 8th, David Waters published his editorial about green church in Memphis! On my first day at Lindenwood, we used Styrofoam cups and refused to recycle our 1,000 bulletins each week. Four months later, we are featured in the newspaper as one of the local churches striving for sustainability. These are the tiny seeds of green I continue to plant on my ministerial journey. Here is the article. Enjoy!
Faith in Memphis: Churches move to live lighter on the earth
By: David Waters, Commercial Appeal
Is there a more common symbol of fellowship on God’s green earth than the simple, disposable, environmentally sinful polystyrene foam cup?
Creation is littered with these byproducts of countless congregational coffee hours, committee meetings and covenant groups, not to mention the occasional communion ceremony.
Most of these common cups will be as old as Methuselah by the time they biodegrade.
Waste not, want not, the Bible says. Or was it Benjamin Franklin? In any case, trashing God’s creation is not an expression of faith.
That’s why folks at First Unitarian Church of the River, Lindenwood Christian Church and St. John’s United Methodist Church — to mention a few — are now clutching newfangled compostable paper cups or old-fashioned, reusable ceramic cups.
“International Paper makes the compostable cups, so we’re supporting the environment and the local economy,” said Bill Landers, a business consultant and one of the leaders of Church of the River’s effort to become an accredited Green Sanctuary in the Unitarian Universalist denomination.
If any sanctuary in Memphis should be green, it’s the Church of the River and its environmentally sublime setting on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff just south of Downtown. It’s getting greener every Sunday.
In addition to raising coffee-cup consciousness (and using only fair-trade coffee), the church replaced three of its four boilers with more energy-efficient units, replaced all of its incandescent light bulbs with LED lighting, and installed programmable thermostats.
The congregation hosts the Sierra Club’s annual Environmental Justice Conference. Nearly all weekly newsletters are e-mailed, not printed. The first Sunday of each month is Green Sunday, which includes lessons and workshops on composting, recycling and other acts of faith.
“The way to greening our habitat will not necessarily come from more technology or reverting to a romanticized past,” Rev. Burton Carley said in a sermon that launched the Green Sanctuary program.
“The root of the matter is spiritual . . . Seeing ourselves separate from nature and believing that nature is here only to serve us is at the root of the spiritual problem.”
That’s not an easy lesson for many congregations, especially in a highly charged political context that equates environmental concerns about global warming and carbon emissions with government controls and economic interference.
So instead of using politicized terms like “environmental justice” or “eco-justice,” some clergy have turned to kinder, more personal and faith-friendly terms to engage congregations in conservation efforts.
“Words like ‘stewardship’ and ‘creation care’ resonate more with people of faith,” said Dr. Ron Buck, Lindenwood’s senior minister. “We are starting with small steps.”
Lindenwood is taking steps to reduce, reuse, recycle — and reconnect with creation.
A common chalice has replaced plastic communion cups at two Sunday services. Church officials are using smart-phone apps to control heating and cooling. New bike racks, as well as the church’s proximity to the Green Line, encourage members to cycle to church.
Lindenwood was one of the faith-based sponsors of last fall’s Gather at the River conference. On March 6, it will host Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of the interfaith advocacy group . Among the church’s small groups is one devoted to Care for Creation.
“We’re taking a gentle approach,” said Rev. Sarah Taylor-Peck, Lindenwood’s associate minister. “We’re trying to get people to realize that 400 people changing their light bulbs or not using plastic cups will have a more positive impact on the environment than four people moving off the grid.”
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
The end of polystyrene foam cups is near.