“We cannot take up and sustain this enormous task of global mobilization without a deep understanding of how our faith calls us to this challenge. It is not enough to change light bulbs, we must change our very hearts. [We are called] to look again at our sacred texts and scriptures, and see the truths that have been there all along; that our earth is our home, our responsibility, a sacred place.” - Rev. Canon Sally Bingham, Love God Heal Earth.
We challenge all our United Church of Christ congregations to become Green Justice Congregations. Why not just “green?” Because like Sally Bingham says above, justice is more than just changing light bulbs. It is about a transformation of our hearts and minds to see God’s creation in new ways that lead to living in new ways. It is about acting on new values in your life and in the life of your community. Green justice may be perceived as “giving up something,” but it is really about gaining a life and a community spirit based on relationships and belonging and care of God’s creation, and it works at the individual, community, and global levels.
Green Justice is about measuring the progress of your congregation. The information below may be used as an internal measurement and is not really meant to compete with other congregations or measurement systems. You can use it as a baseline for your actions and return to it periodically to see what progress you have made. You may want to work with other congregations in your conference to set up a reporting system at your conference’s annual meeting. You may also want to encourage other faith traditions to work with you on this program that encourages action and results.
Getting Started on Becoming a Green Justice Congregation
- Find a few other like-minded members of your faith community and invite them to meet with you about becoming a Green Justice Congregation. Perhaps they will be those who are concerned about saving energy and money to spend on other programs. Perhaps they will be older adults concerned about the legacy they are leaving their children or grandchildren. Perhaps they will be youth concerned about the future. Inform your pastor of your intent, and simply ask those who are interested to meet after the worship experience to plan a time to meet.
- At your first meeting, open the discussion to the concerns and hopes of all the participants, decide what your next steps will be, agree on a meeting schedule, and designate who will coordinate the group in the beginning. You may want to download the Green Justice Congregation form that follows to get the discussion going. Your group will most likely become the Green Justice Team for your congregation, so you will need to approach the governing body of your church and get their blessing. Try not to get bogged down in setting up rules for the Team, but go with the high energy level for action.
- For saving energy strategies, we recommend conducting an energy audit of your congregational facilities. Why? Because it will give you and those charged with managing the property a blueprint for action. It will give your congregation the suggestions for changes that can be done first at lower costs and for changes that may need to be a part of the future church budget. It will also give everyone a common plan based on the recommendations of an experienced professional. To find a professional energy auditor, contact the local chapter of the U.S Green Building Council, your state Interfaith Power and Light chapter, a local congregation who may have already conducted a audit, or rely on the expertise within your own congregation to find an outside energy auditor.
- Establish a regular monthly meeting for your Green Justice Team. Research what other congregations have done and come up with your own unique approach. You will be delighted and amazed at the “energy” level of your group.
You may want to measure the annual progress of your actions:
- 20 points – Level 1
- 40 points – Level 2
- 60 points – Level 3
- 80 points or more – Level 4
Taking It To Your Community
Green Justice does not stop at the doors of our churches. We recommend some of the following strategies for your Green Justice Team to join others to take action in your local community:
- Contact your state office for Interfaith Power and Light. There are currently 34 states with chapters that encourage people of all faiths to work together for transformation. IPL chapters are a source for ideas and organization at the local, state and national levels.
- Explore the possibilities of working with others to become a Transition Town. Combining the twin difficulties of peak oil and climate, transition towns organize at the local level across partisan lines to transform our communities through self-reliance and cooperation. They are focused on a positive future that requires action now.
- Start or join a community garden effort in your community or on your church property, become a host or pick-up site for a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, or plan a canning party in your church kitchen. Try to vision your church facility as the center of a sustainable food network.
- Become the example of the values you want your community to embrace. Ask yourselves the question, “What makes a livable community?” and then take actions to get it started.