Written by Anthony Moujaes
The tireless advocacy for the environment and dedication to preserving nature has become part of the DNA of Stanley Congregational United Church of Christ. The Chatham, N.J. church has been certified as a 'Green Sanctuary' by GreenFaith, recognized as a leader in the religious-environmental movement. As part of Mission 4/1 Earth, Stanley Congregational will continue its eco-friendly work, leading by example and observing Earth Day on April 21.
"We plan to continue our green actions and encourage advocacy for green initiatives for the foreseeable future," said Nancy Presnell, who chairs the Stanley Goes Green Committee.
Stanley Congregational received its green certification in 2011 from GreenFaith, an interfaith environmental coalition whose goal is to inspire, educate and mobilize various faith communities. But the work in caring for the environment hasn't stopped.
"Care of creation is part of our mission statement," Presnell said. "We have partnered with organizations and environmental groups in our area to combine our resources to encourage environmental actions. We also encourage walking, carpooling and bicycle-riding to church events."
During Earth Day activities, the Rev. Shawn Garvey will lead the children of the congregation in "The Garden Song," and after worship there will be a "green" coffee hour with organic and locally-produced foods and fair trade coffee. Fair trade items promote fair prices and reasonable working conditions for producers of products or goods in developing countries. The youth of Stanley UCC planted dill, cilantro, basil and parsley in February, and the herbs are watered and tended to weekly. Those herbs will be sold during coffee hour to raise money for a tree to plant on the congregation's grounds to commemorate its GreenFaith certification.
And while these efforts are timely, with the UCC's Mission 4/1 Earth one-church initiative, they are a continuation of the earth care work Stanley UCC has practiced for years. Presnell said the congregation has taken several steps to reduce its energy consumption -- turning down the temperature in its water heaters, installing water-saving faucets, replacing light bulbs, installing programmable thermostats, purchasing solar and wind power, purchasing Energy Star appliances, and using fair trade palms for Palm Sunday services, to name a few.
"We hoped to save money, and have done so, with some of our energy policy changes," Presnell said. "The other part of the initiative was to instruct and inform the congregation about many care of creation issues, local and global."
It took Stanley UCC two years to achieve the green sanctuary recognition. Members of the congregation undertook numerous environmental initiatives in the areas of communication, spirit, stewardship, and environmental justice. After meeting the criteria established by GreenFaith, the New Jersey church became one of the first in the country that certified by the organization, and formally recognized by the organization in November 2011. Read more about how Stanley Church went through the GreenFaith Certification Process.
"The committee has been delighted and amazed at the support and cooperation we received for all of our activities, some of which included the local community," Presnell said. "We appreciate GreenFaith's support, and bought into the belief that communities of faith are called to advocate for earth care and can have a powerful influence on public opinion and actions."
The United Church of Christ has been working for environmental justice for almost 30 years, and recognizes the opportunity for a shared mission campaign to live out our faith — in unity, as one church — for the sake of our fragile planet Earth.
With the help of UCC congregations everywhere, Mission 4/1 Earth, which begins Easter Monday 2013, hopes to accomplish more than 1 million hours of engaged earth care, 100,000 tree plantings across the globe, and 100,000 advocacy letters written and sent on environmental concerns.
To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written as often as you like here.
To learn more about how to count earth care hours, watch this video.
Share the goals of Mission 4/1 Earth with your family and friends and invite them to join the movement.