This year’s mission focus on the environment culminates with the Interfaith Celebration for the Earth on Sunday, April 23.
The focus began last spring when our congregation was designated a level one “green congregation” by the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. Noted local photographer, Uli Rose, displayed his beautiful landscape photos in our church. Also, a newsletter column provided helpful hints in, “After the Light Bulbs and the Recycling.” We worked with local environmental groups to compile for the first time a local environmental directory.
Religious focus on the environment has a rich history. Some of the best-known environmental organizations in the United States began with religious or spiritual roots. According to the Greenpeace website, it was a Quaker couple, Dorothy and Irving Stowe, among the founding members, who brought the idea of “bearing witness,” a sort of passive resistance. Sierra Club’s most prominent founder, John Muir, was a deeply spiritual man who saw the presence of the divine in nature.
Environmental Activism and Stewardship
Many interfaith organizations are involved in environmental activism and stewardship. Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) is a national organization with affiliates in 40 states, promoting energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Our church is a member of New York Interfaith Power & Light (NYIPL; see www.nyipl.org). From their mission statement, “We help congregations reduce their carbon footprint, increase energy efficiency, use renewable energy, and educate their members on climate change. We also encourage people of faith to speak up at community, state and national levels about global warming, and to collaborate with other faith communities in these efforts.”
Is there a role for our church in supporting interfaith efforts on behalf of the environment? Just as the environmental directory is helping to encourage support of local environmental groups, the Interfaith Celebration for the Earth is an opportunity for our church to encourage support of organizations like Interfaith Power and Light. Our small church can do big things!
The completion of the Directory of Environmental Organizations in Columbia County marks a milestone in the Missions Group’s focus this year on the environment. The directory is designed as a tool for encouraging local participation and support of the 36 organizations included, from the Alan Devoe Bird Club to the Wyomanock Center for Sustainable Living. Since this is a new kind of undertaking for the Missions Group, a little of the back story may be helpful.
In January 2016, Missions discussed how the church might support community groups working in areas of interest to our church, for example, Open and Affirming, the environment, and aging. After our church was designated a “green congregation” and Rev. Jim Antal preached on the environment in April, we decided to focus on the theme of the environment. Ultimately we decided our particular mission would be to prepare the environmental directory, since none currently exists. We worked on the directory through the summer and fall.
Traditionally, our mission funds are used to support organizations through monetary donations. In this case, however, we decided on a different approach. Instead of making monetary donations to several environmental organizations, we are printing the directory and providing three copies of the directory to each group listed. The groups can then “spread the word” to others likely to be interested, who can then access the directory on our website. In terms of publicity, this is a “win” for the groups as well as a “win” for our church. Copies will also be sent to libraries in Columbia County and a copy made available to church members who can similarly “spread the word.”
In this season of giving gifts, the directory is our gift to organizations that support God’s creation, Mother Earth, the planet that gives us life. Click missions-group-directory-of-environmental-organizations-2 for a downloadable copy of the Directory of Environmental Organizations in Columbia County, NY.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. People spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater because of exposure to air pollution indoors rather than outdoors.
What can you do to create a healthy home environment? The New York State Healthy Neighborhoods Program (HNP) lists Seven Principles of Healthy Homes, which can apply to any indoor air environment:
Keep it dry.
Keep it clean.
Keep it well ventilated.
Keep it pest free.
Keep it contaminant free.
Keep it safe.
Keep it well maintained.
The Program is administered by the Environmental Health Division of the Columbia County Department of Health. It provides in-home assessments and interventions for asthma, indoor air quality, lead, fire safety, and other environmental health hazards in selected communities, targeting housing in high-risk areas.
There’s nothing quite like sharing the spirit of Christmas in a tangible way with a family in need. This December the Canaan Congregational Church adopted a family of four in Hudson—mom, dad, and two children, ages 2 and 5. Their “wish list” was posted, and church members rose to the task, purchasing, wrapping, and joyfully piling gifts for the family in the back of the church sanctuary. Pastor Charlie and two church elves personally delivered the gifts to the family on Sunday, December 20.