Rallying area churches to band together to help green energy grow
“Never before have people had to think about the well-being of the entire planet. We did not ask for this task, but it is the one being demanded of us.” —Sally McFague, eco-theologian and author, retired professor from Vanderbilt University Divinity School.
If you ask a churchgoer what they do for stewardship in their church, you will likely hear a response similar to this: “We have an annual drive each year and everyone pledges some dollars to keep our doors open.” Certainly churches have expenses. There’s the minister to pay and administrative staff plus utility, maintenance, and security bills.
What about capital costs such as roof, window, carpet or furnace replacement? Maybe there’s a little money left over for outreach to the less fortunate.
It’s admirable that responsible people of faith step up to make sure their beloved community continues to exist. Certainly an important work in churches is to support one another in the struggles and celebrations of life and for some the afterlife. Still, that explanation of stewardship has too often been narrowly construed to be about budgets and bigger building plans—the ‘edifice complex’.
Consider a larger purpose.
Stewardship means caring and managing something entrusted to you for positive results. That can certainly apply to economics and buildings, but what if places of worship considered stewardship a call for planning and management of natural resources? After all natural resources health is what will support and sustain all existence, including humans now and our descendants.
As conscious beings we may be the only species on Earth to be aware of our impacts or shape them for the future. Because places of worship bring many together who want to live moral lives, they provide prime places to model stewardship of natural resources with justice. In fact, a Creation Care movement has begun, although locally there have not been many takers.
Certainly some individual churches have taken some actions through energy efficiency measures and supplying food through gardening opportunities. There is much more to be done. Mark Z. Jacobson, engineering professor at Stanford University and director of its Atmosphere and Energy Department, has demonstrated conclusively that America could generate 80 to 85 percent of its power from sun, wind, and water by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.
We have nearly 1,000 places of worship here in our area. How many have solar panels on a roof? Just one…the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga.
Some organizations have been spreading the word to places of worship about this new kind of stewardship.
Locally, Earthcare has long provided educational spring and fall retreats promoting stewardship of Creation.
There is GreenFaith, a non-profit organization providing workshops, trainings, and certifications for religious leaders. Their mission rests on the conviction that “protecting the earth is a religious value, and that environmental stewardship is a moral responsibility.”
A new chapter of Blessed Earth has just started in Nashville to inspire faithful stewardship of all creation.
Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light (TIPL) has clergy, church and individual members. Their mission is to respond to climate change through upholding the sacredness of all life, protecting vulnerable communities, and caring for the earth.
TIPL further notes that we witness our spiritual values by reducing our carbon emissions within our daily lives, releasing the spiritual power of our faith communities, and advocating for effective climate protection and justice policies
Recently TIPL sent a letter to TVA signed by 143 faith leaders asking that TVA ensure ways for lower income households to take advantage of weatherization programs and that TVA work with local power companies, lower income voices, and state agencies to both ease access and expand energy efficiency opportunities.
Blessed Earth leader Heather Bennett stated, “Success would look like love. If we love our neighbor, we would want to take care of their air, water and land.”
Amen to that! We are the human community within the whole Earth community inextricably linked as the future unfolds. How that looks is a stewardship task especially for all moral people. Churches can be a key component of the work.
Sandra Kurtz is an environmental community activist and is presently working through the Urban Century Institute. You can visit her website to learn more at enviroedu.net