Living More-with-Less

Meetinghouses & Churches

Church office recycling.

When I became church secretary in 2006, I placed a box in one of my lower cupboards for recycling paper, and purchased a much smaller wastebasket. I also cut paper that has been printed on only one side and use it for notes. Whenever I receive boxes I give the packing peanuts to our housekeeper, who takes them to the local candy store to be reused.

Marla J. Longenecker, Bellefontaine, Ohio

Got space?

Across the U.S., Christians, Muslims, and Jews are working together to use worship spaces that would be otherwise empty to provide homeless families with shelter.

"I think God abhors empty spaces in houses of worship," said Karen Olson. She is president and founder of Family Promise, an organization that connects homeless families with churches, synagogues, and mosques through a program called Interfaith Hospitality Networks. In 2009, that program served 47,000 people through partners in 5,000 congregations across 41 states.

Part of the reason for its success, Olson said, is that it makes use of available resources—buildings that sit empty six days a week. They also draw on the kindness of over 130,000 volunteers.

"People are basically compassionate and want to help those in need, but they lead busy lives and don’t know how to connect," Karen says. These networks allow churchgoers to come in contact with homeless families at their own place of worship.

Each Family Promise affiliate operates independently. One such partner works in Goshen, Indiana. Eighteen churches, including Mennonites, Catholics, and Lutherans, take turns hosting families for a week at a time. Church members provide food and convert Sunday school rooms into bedrooms. Karen says that the organization hopes to continue to grow in order to help more people in need. "Wherever there are families sleeping in cars or under bridges, it’s a direct call to congregations to make a difference," she says.

Submitted by Paul Boers, Goshen, Ind.

Greening sanctuaries.

For places of worship that want to reduce energy use, Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) is there to help. GSS is a project of Faith and the Common Good, a southern Ontario interfaith nonprofit that works on social and ecological concerns—issues that go hand in hand, according to Jane Snyder, GSS coordinator for the Waterloo region and member of Erb Street Mennonite Church in Waterloo.

"Environmental concerns are social issues," says Jane. "Most of the environmental harm has been done by people in the First World, but most of the effects will be felt by people in the developing world."

Jane helps places of worship to reduce their water use, garbage output, lighting costs, and generally to lower their environmental impact. Hillcrest Mennonite Church in New Hamburg used GSS to set up an energy audit. Based on the results, they increased their building’s energy efficiency and appointed a "green facilitator" to sit on their facilities and administration committee to represent environmental concerns.

To Jane, Hillcrest’s example shows that churches can make a difference environmentally and socially. "We can choose to reduce our carbon footprint," she says. "We can choose to pollute less. Just by doing that, that is going to have a positive effect on others."

Submitted by Paul Boers, Goshen, Ind.

For more information

Congregational Score Sheet: The Mennonite Creation Care Network offers a helpful score sheet for congregations interested in measuring their environmental stewardship.

Creation Care: Mennonite Central Committee Ontario’s Creation Care website offers resources for congregations seeking to address climate change and to stand in solidarity with those most affected by it.

Mennonite Initiative for Solar Energy (MISE): MISE, a program of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, works to: raise energy consumption questions; connect constituents with resources on solar energy; mobilize churches to adopt solar energy; and foster relationships to share ideas on caring for creation.

One Hundred Shades of Green: The Mennonite Creation Care Network is inviting congregations to name a creation care liaison. Become one of 100 congregations actively caring for creation.

Putting Energy into Stewardship Congregations Guide: A congregational guide to greening worship and worship spaces from Energy Star.

Web of Creation: Offers ideas and strategies for eco-justice. Maintained by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Season of Creation: Online worship liturgies for four Sundays that guide congregations to "join in celebrating with Christ the wonders of creation."

Building a Firm Foundation: A Creation-Friendly Building Guide for Churches: A free downloadable guide from the National Council of Churches designed to support churches in building or remodeling sustainably and faithfully.

Greening Sacred Spaces: A Canadian initiative to "assist faith communities with both the educational and spiritual dimensions of greening as well as the "how-to" side of audits, retrofits and generally reducing the faith community's footprint."

Green Faith: An interfaith partnership for the environment that inspires, educates, and mobilizes people of diverse religious backgrounds for environmental leadership. Offers a certification process for congregations.

Eco-faith: Creating and Sustaining Green Congregations: A user-friendly guide for pastors, congregational leaders, and others seeking to help their congregations care for the whole of God’s creation. By Charlene Hosenfeld.

50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference: A slim handbook by Rebecca Barnes-Davies on ways for religious communities to put their faith into action as it relates to the environment.

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