Category: Pondering Peace

Doing Our Part

Several years ago, as we were driving on a major highway through the Minneapolis area on a vacation with our adult sons and daughters, there was a sudden excited exclamation from the back seats.  “Mom, look, there’s a church with solar panels on the roof!”  Sure enough, clearly in view from the busy highway was a church with solar panels arranged in such a way that an empty space on the roof was left in the form of a cross – a symbol of Christianity and Jesus’ way of selfless love poured out for others.

As our car sped past, our young adults got on their cell phones so as to identify the church and learn more about it.  It was St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church of Roseville, MN, and other pictures they found showed gardens planted around the church.  They were impressed, and I shared in their delight.  Looking now at the website for St. Christopher’s, I see that they completed this solar array in 2016 and since then have installed energy efficient LED lighting throughout the building.  They grow around 700 pounds of vegetables a year in their “giving gardens” for local food needs.  Their Green Team writes, “God’s creation is God’s gift to us. Our mission is to advocate for and practice protection of the environment (our home), to preserve God’s creation for future generations.”

This summer’s record-breaking temperatures and extended heat domes on many continents, along with warmed ocean temperatures and devastating droughts, wildfires, storms, and flooding, have been sobering.  Hopefully they have gotten our attention and increased our desire to something in response. In encouraging congregations to become part of their Cool Congregations program, Interfaith Power and Light cite an EPA estimate that if energy use was cut just 20% in America’s 370,000 congregations, the impact in reducing climate pollution emissions would be equivalent to eliminating the emissions of 480,000 cars or planting 60,000 trees every year.  If members of faith communities did the same in their homes, probably double that amount of polluting emissions could be prevented.

Many people and congregations feel a lack of financial resources is an obstacle to actions that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as replacing gas furnaces and water heaters with heat pump models, replacing gas stoves with induction or electric ones, or installing solar panels. And admittedly, there are substantial costs.  But with intentional effort and planning over a number of years, beginning with less expensive energy (and money) saving measures, utilizing the tax credits and rebates being offered by the government, considering creative sources of financing, and being willing to accept some sacrifices for the benefit of healthier buildings and a brighter future, a way forward can be found.  While fossil fuel and other large companies are responsible for the greatest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions, everyone needs to do their part in reducing emissions.  That includes us and our churches, our faith-based nonprofit buildings, and our homes.  We too need to be working toward net zero carbon emissions so that the buildings of people of faith do not contribute to the destruction of God’s creation.  And beyond this, we need to be advocating for clean energy and embracing lifestyles that produce the least amount of emissions.

To help us think about doing this, the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence is offering a 5-part zoom series this fall entitled “Creation Care in a Changing Climate: Doing Our Part to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”  It will discuss what faith communities and their members can do to reduce greenhouse gases in their church or nonprofit buildings, homes, and lifestyles. This free zoom series will take place every other Wednesday evening at 7-8 pm (Central time) from September 20 – November 15.  You may register for this series here.

In thinking about this, I am reminded of a story of the ancient people of Israel as found in 1 Chronicles 29.  The time had come to build a temple for God, and King David took the lead in gathering the resources to do so.  He himself contributed greatly out of the abundance of his wealth – gold, silver, bronze, iron and wood.  He then asked, “Now who will offer themselves in service of God?” Leaders of ancestral houses, heads of families, and various levels of commanders and officers also contributed as generously as they could.  Those who had precious stones brought them. Each wholeheartedly did their part. And this willing offering of resources, each according to what they could do, brought joy to the people and praise to God.

In his prayer of blessing, King David said, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering?  For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you… O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own” (1 Chron. 29:14, 16).  Perhaps recognizing that all that we have comes from God will make it easier for us to make the necessary decisions and sacrifices to do what is needed to reduce greenhouse gases in our faith community buildings, homes, and lifestyles so as to better care for God’s creation.

I hope you will plan to join us for each of the following zoom sessions and invite others as well. You may register for this series here.

Wed., Sept. 20, 7 pm (CT) – “Creation Care, Climate Action, and Ministry Priorities for People of Faith: Biblical, Theological, and Ethical Perspectives”
Brief Presentations and Panel Discussion by Central Seminary professors David May, Wallace Hartsfield, Tarris Rosell, and Greg Hunt.

Wed., Oct. 4, 7 pm (CT) – “Advocacy for Clean Energy – Solar and Wind”
Presenter: Dorothy Barnett, Executive Director of Climate + Energy Project

Wed., Oct. 18, 7 pm (CT) – “Installing Rooftop Solar and Electrifying Everything”
Presenters: Bill Wood, Project Developer for Cromwell Solar and Dr. Tarris Rosell, Owner of an all-electric home with rooftop solar

Wed., Nov. 1, 7 pm (CT) – “Reducing Energy Use and Increasing Energy Efficiency”
Presenter: Josh Richardson, Executive Director of Brugmansia Ministries

Wed., Nov. 15, 7 pm – “Moving toward a Plant-Based Diet and Sustainable Food Practices”
Presenter: Dr. Ruth Rosell, Director of the Buttry Center

As we work together to do what we can as individuals, families, and faith communities, I believe we are living out our faith in action that cares for God’s good creation.

Rev. Ruth Rosell, Ph.D.
Director of the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence
Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology Emerita
Central Seminary, Shawnee, KS

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.