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Green Church Initiative - Virginia Conference


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Green Church Initiative - Virginia Conference

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Green Church Initiative - Virginia Conference

  1. 1. 1 The Green Church Initiative of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church“All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil,minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’screation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation.We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. Economic, political, social,and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives.However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive humansuffering, overpopulation, and misuse and over-consumption of natural and nonrenewable resources,particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage thatGod has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and itsmembers to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles tosupport a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’screation.” (United Methodist Social Principles Paragraph 160 Book of Discipline 2004)The United Methodist Church realizes and affirms the responsibility of every United Methodist to care forGod’s creation. We are called to participate not only in the redemption of individuals and all of humanity, butin the healing of creation itself. Therefore, ministries that encourage care for God’s creation are significant inour mission as United Methodists.In order to carry out this calling, the members of this congregation, as represented by our AdministrativeCouncil, affirm the importance of healing and defending God’s creation to our mission as a local congregation.We promise to be engaged in this ministry in the following ways:I. WorshipIn worship, we will celebrate God’s grace, glory and beauty in creation and will declare that, “The Earth is theLord’s and the fullness thereof!” (Psalm 104) We will make the connection between our faith and our role as amember of the community of God’s creation. Our worship will motivate us to seek God’s reign on earth bycherishing, protecting and healing creation.II. Learning and TeachingWe will seek opportunities for ourselves and our children to learn more about God’s creation and our role in it.Through the use of Scripture, experience, reason, and tradition, we will come to appreciate theinterconnectedness and interdependency of all the different aspects of God’s creation, such as plants, people,other animals, rivers, oceans and mountains. In our studies, we will expect to become aware of the awesomebeauty and wonder of God’s creation, the threats posed by human beings to the survival of the planet, ways inwhich we can participate in its restoration and changes we can make to our lifestyles to prevent furtherdegradation and depletion of earth’s resources.III. LifestyleWe will reflect, both in our individual and congregational way of life, respect and care for God’s creation. Wewill commit to making changes in our lives that will enable future generations to experience, as we have, thefullness of creation.
  2. 2. 2IV. Community, National and Global InvolvementWe will look for signs of creation’s groaning (Romans 8:22) in our own community and take the necessarysteps to alleviate its suffering. In our community, the nation and world we will witness to and participate inGod’s ongoing work of creation by supporting public efforts and policies that protect and restore the damagedearth. We will open our hearts to God’s people around the world who have been adversely affected by ourgreed. As United Methodists we have embraced God’s people around the world as our mission. We willbroaden that mission to include other parts of God’s creation as well.This covenant will be reviewed annually to assess the previous year’s work and to consider other ways in whichwe can participate in God’s redemption of creation.Signed by the pastor, the administrative council/board chairperson, the chairperson of the mission/outreachcommittee other committees as needed by your congregation and the chairperson of the trustees.____________________________ __________________________Name of Church/District Outreach Committee Chair____________________________ __________________________Pastor Trustees Chair____________________________ __________________________Administrative Council Chair Stewardship ChairPlease return a signed copy of this form to: Rev. J. Pat Watkins VA Conference Caretakers of God’s Creation 1613 Claremont Ave Richmond VA 23227Or email to If you or your church desires assistance in meeting these goals or needs help getting started, etc, pleasecall Pat Watkins, Chair of the Virginia Conference Caretakers of God’s Creation Ministry Team, 804-357-7098, A great resource to help you get started is the Greening Congregations Handbook,available for you to order from
  3. 3. 3 Some Suggestions for Implementing Your CovenantYou must implement at least three ideas in each category to be certified as a Green Church. But you do nothave to use these suggestions. Local issues can inform your decisions as to how to include care for God’screation in each of the four main areas. Please be creative!I. Worship1. Use worship materials that point to the reality that God created and redeems creation and calls the church tothe tasks of healing and defending it. Refer to the Greening Congregations Handbook for specific worshipresources.2. Include the goodness of God’s creation regularly in music, prayer, and congregational worship, as well asduring Earth Day and other special services. Consider creation-care ethics in a sermon or a series of sermons.Hold your worship service outside occasionally at a camp or park or on the church grounds instead of in thechurch building.3. For each person baptized, plant a tree on your church grounds or in your community. Suggest that churchmembers contribute a tree as a living memorial to a loved one who has died. Appoint a committee to overseethe selection and planting of the trees.4. Become a congregation committed to celebrating God’s Sabbath by taking time for rest, communitybuilding, enjoying God’s creation together and giving rest to nature. Remember that the Sabbath is for all ofcreation, not just for human beings.5. Confess to God as individuals and as a congregation your own involvement in exploiting and neglecting theworld that God created and called good.6. Create a series of banners for your church sanctuary that portray creation themes. Display them often asreminders of our call to protect and heal creation.7. Produce a drama as part of a worship service to raise awareness of the beauty of God’s creation and ourresponsibility to care for it.8. In the autumn, hold a special worship service of thanksgiving for the harvest. Have gardeners from thecongregation bring an offering of vegetables or fruit from their gardens. Other people can contribute cannedgoods. Make arrangements ahead of time with a local food bank or soup kitchen to receive a donation of thefood contributions. (Some food banks do not have the facilities to receive fresh food, so make sure you checkahead of time.)The service should emphasize thanksgiving for all the bounty of God’s provision. A cornucopia of vegetablescould replace the traditional altar flowers for the service. Remind the congregation that Christians in manyparts of the developing world bring an offering each Sunday which includes first fruits of the land. By having asimilar offering once a year, we acknowledge our dependence on God’s creation, recognize the faithfulness ofthese brothers and sisters in Christ, and affirm our common call to feed the hungry.9. Instead of Easter lilies and Christmas poinsettias, use native plants that church members can set out at homeor in the church’s landscape, or donate the money to an organization that plants trees or provides animals forthird world villagers, i.e. UMCOR or the Heifer Project.
  4. 4. 4II. Learning and Teaching1. Purchase books and videos for the church library that deal with protecting and healing God’s creation. Aresource list is included in the Greening Congregations Handbook.2. Plan a church-wide vacation Bible School for all ages using the theme of celebrating God’s world. Invitecommunity members with expertise in the natural world to participate with you in this program.3. Visit a neighborhood of your region where there is a high level of environmental contamination. Find outwho lives near the contamination and what effects it has on their lives. Join in efforts to remediate or preventthe contamination.4. Hold church school classes outside whenever possible. Discover ways that you can learn from nature.5. Offer a workshop for gardeners on composting, organic gardening, and indigenous plants. Teach aboutusing alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers in the garden.6. Take a field trip. Tour your town’s landfill, water supply, sewage treatment plant, recycling center, andpower plant. Learn more about what happens to the waste your community produces. Prepare questions to askthe guides who show you around. Follow up on the tours by writing a report for your church newsletter or yourcommunity newspaper to share the information you have gained.7. Choose a book or article from the Greening Congregations Handbook. Study it together as part of an adulteducation class. Ask people from your congregation representing diverse points of view to form a panel thatresponds to the book.8. Sponsor a design contest for a poster, T-shirt, button, or bumper sticker with a creation care theme. Produceand sell them with the proceeds going to UMCOR or another organization that cares for God’s creation.9. Take high school students or college students on a backpacking trip. As you spend time in the wildernesstogether, study the Exodus story emphasizing the Israelites’ dependence on God during their journey. Praytogether the Psalms that speak of the wonder and awe of God’s creation.10. Make a “Creation Care” column in your monthly newsletter to highlight different concepts of theBiblical/theological foundations of creation care and/or include it in your bulletins.11. Simply spend time in nature, reflecting on the beauty and wonder and awesomeness of God.12. Prepare a display or bulletin board on a creation-care theme and be available for discussion.13. Invite a local expert to speak on a particular area of concern or simply to educate your congregation in theissues pertaining to creation care.
  5. 5. 5III. LifestylePersonal Lifestyle1. At Christmas time, give a birthday gift to Jesus by sharing 25% of your Christmas budget with the needy.Use recycled paper for Christmas cards and gift wrap. Respect God’s creation in the gifts you select. Give giftsof your time or skills instead of expensive things.2. Look for ways of saving energy (and money) in your home. Turn down the thermostat in winter and turn itup in summer. Weather strip windows and doors. Insulate the walls and ceiling of older homes. Install stormwindows. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. (Refer to Greening Congregations Handbook for further ideas.)3. Use a push or electric-powered mower instead of a gas-powered mower to cut your lawn. Or, better yet, turnpart of your yard into a meadow of indigenous wild flowers.4. When purchasing appliances, look for high efficiency EPA Energy Star models.5. Leave your car at home whenever possible. Instead, choose public transportation, carpooling, walking,bicycling, or staying home. When purchasing a new car, look for the most fuel-efficient model you can find.6. Be aware of where your food comes from. Buy fair trade goods when possible, buy locally grown produce,prepare simple meals, etc.7. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (at least paper, plastic, and aluminum)8. Start a compost pile in your backyard.9. Conserve water by installing low flow toilets, showerheads, and faucets. Collect rainwater in barrels forwatering the garden. Plant native, drought resistant plants instead of grass.Congregational Lifestyle1. Conduct a thorough audit of the energy use in your church buildings and programs. Look for ways thatenergy can be saved, i.e. compact fluorescent light bulbs, LED exit signs, insulation, etc. Make a commitmentto reduce your church’s energy consumption by 10% by the end of 2007.2. Turn off lights, fans, and air conditioners when not in use. Turn down the heat and water heaters at nightand on days the church is not in use.3. Study your church grounds. How many pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers, and how muchwatering and mowing are necessary to keep the church grounds attractive and healthy? Are there indigenousstrains of flowers, trees, and bushes that would be more hardy and insect resistant? Are there areas that couldbe converted to wild flower meadows to reduce the need for mowing? Is there an area that could be used for anorganic vegetable garden to help supply healthy vegetables to members of the congregation and/or to a localfood pantry? What compromises would your church community be willing to make on appearances in order tocreate a creation-friendly environment?4. Make a commitment as a church to cut back on the use of disposable cups, plates, and utensils. Take aninventory of the number of paper or styrofoam cups the church uses in a month and then look for ways ofgradually reducing the number by asking people to carry their own coffee mugs to meetings and coffee hour.
  6. 6. 6Ask people to supply their own dishes and utensils for church dinners and then take them home to wash them.5. Buy fair trade coffee.6. Set up recycling centers in your church. Also consider recycling batteries and cell phones to appropriateorganizations.7. Begin to use 100% recycled processed chlorine free paper in church copy machines and computer printers.This is a mandate of the Women’s Division of the UMC and has been approved by a General Conferenceresolution.IV. Community, National, and Global Involvement1. Learn about instances in which people, especially the poor, are disproportionately affected by pollutants inthe air, water, and ground. Support policies that will change laws so that no particular group of people wouldbe affected more than any other group due to problems faced by God’s creation.2. Keep track of how your elected officials vote on issues affecting God’s creation. The Virginia League ofConservation Voters ( keeps records for Virginia. Then take part in legislative andadministrative processes involving natural resource agencies, such as The Department of Environmental Quality(, The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (, TheDepartment of Conservation and Recreation (, The Department of Historical Resources(www., and The Marine Resources Commission ( Inform yourself aboutcurrent and pending legislation. Speak out on behalf of God’s creation because it cannot speak for itself. Itdepends on you.3. Hold an offering of letters. Choose a creation-care issue that concerns the people of your congregation. Itmight be an issue confronting your town or community or a situation of national or international significance.Plan an educational campaign through which the members of your congregation are made aware of the issueand why it hurts God’s creation. Ask people to write letters to their elected officials describing in the letter howtheir faith has led them to be concerned about that issue.4. Explore ways of getting media coverage for issues that concern you. Letters to the editor, paidadvertisements, and public service announcements are avenues open to everyone. Public policy makers are farmore likely to respond to an issue that has generated public concern. 5. Find out which agencies in your community, city, county, or state have responsibility for issues regarding care for God’s creation. Invite officials from these agencies to speak at your church regarding particular issues.Mt Olivet’s steps toward becoming a “Green” Congregation—as of Sept. 5, 2007WORSHIP: • Include prayers for the environment in weekly prayer bulletin • Celebrated Festival of God’s Creation (a.k.a Earth Day Sunday) • Did Children’s story highlighting our call to Care for God’s Creation • Planning for Blessing of the Animals on first Sunday in October (Oct. 7) • Promoting electronic giving as a way of reducing paper • Printing bulletin on 30% recycled paper
  7. 7. 7 • Recycle all bulletins and paper, reducing paper in worship by using overhead screens more. • Include bulletin “blurbs” on how to become more ecologically responsible. • Met with worship committee to discuss how to incorporate caring for God’s creation theme into worship regularly, not just on Earth Day.CHURCH EDUCATION • Did study on God’s Gift of Water for adults in Spring 2006 • Did study on God’s Gift of Water for middle school in Summer 2006 • Led session on the environment and prayer for Prayer workshop have environment theme as part of Vacation Bible School in 2007. • Developing material for mission teams on links between global warming and hurricane strength • Led 4 week Lenten study on theological letter on environmental destruction prepared for the National Council of Churches. • Led adult Sunday School class on caring for creation in summer • Led middle school Sunday School lessons on mountain top removal, not using water bottles, using public transit, and buying fair trade/organic cocoa—Summer 2007CHURCH LIFESTYLE • Incorporated Environmental Stewardship into Stewardship Campaign for fall 2006 & 2007 • Conducted an audit of energy use of the church’s facilities • Conducted an audit of water use • Replaced many of church bulbs with compact fluorescents or other energy efficient fixtures • Installed automatic switches on lights in bathrooms • Fixed water source—pond and fountain as the last item to qualify as a certified wildlife area. • Switched from Styrofoam to biodegradable paper cups(Eco-tainers) for coffee; promoting members bringing their own coffee cups. • Using fair-trade, shade-grown, organic coffee for coffee • Greening our church picnic. • Surveying how members come to church and promoting walking, public transit, riding the church bus to church and carpooling. • Investigating switching to “green” cleaning supplies • Met with trustees to get their “buy-in” to Mt. O becoming a Green Congregation • Youth working on Habitat for Humanity mission trip used their own water bottles instead of buying bottled water to take to work sites. • Hosted our first Bike to Church Day on August 9—20 bike riders and one electric wheelchair rider participated (roughly one tenth of the congregation in worship that day.) • Researched which bike racks we should have installed at the church.CHURCH OUTREACH • Showed “Inconvenient Truth” to church and community • Developed a partnership with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment • Identified environmental activities to be a part of church youth outreach, pulled exotic species (mostly English Ivy), plan to mark drains in the blocks near the church so that people do not dump oil, etc. into drains that lead to Lubber Run. • Promoted Arlington “Step It Up” Rally to church members. • Developed a process to promote “non-partisan” letter writing or petitions to County, State, and Federal officials on the environment. • Urged environmental committee members to send letters congratulating Senator Warner for becoming more a
  8. 8. 8 leader on climate change. (Many did send letters.)• Sent environmental stewardship committee members to meetings on Virginia Climate change• Hosted Arlington District women for their District retreat on Greening the Church, provided a meatless meal using mostly locally produced organic products, shared the recipes.