Monday, March 8, 2010

Greening Sacred Spaces Awards Night

Sunday March 7, 2010 Eastminster United Church, Toronto
The Green Awakening Network and Greening Sacred Spaces Greening Our Faith Communities: Annual Leader's Forum
was a fantastic success.
What I came away with from the interfaith panel discussion that followed the workshops was that what we are developing is trust between the faiths.
What a powerful concept:imagine what the world would look like if we could trust one another!

I presented the awards For the Hamilton area.

Below is an edited version of my presentation:
We had two faith communities that started their 'greening journey' in two very different ways. One that set out intentionally on the 'noble path' and the other that didn't even realize they were on it.

St James Anglican Church Dundas

About 4, 5 years ago St James Anglican Church was, to quote a member of that church,
“doing nothing” with regards to greening.

Then, the clergy started to think about eco -action and taking the necessary first small steps towards living out the teachings of their faith. What really got things going in the Niagara Diocese (a group of 85 churches, of which St. James is one) was the youth who said, “This is our future. Let's do something about it.”
Independently the Youth Representatives of the Niagara Diocese put forward a motion at the 2007 Synod to ask that every Anglican church in the diocese be accountable for the amount of GHG it was emitting.

St James is now a shining example of a church that's implementing the accreditation program for the whole Niagara Diocese coming out of that first initiative.

St James is one of 5 churches that passed the bronze level of this accreditation programme. They are currently working towards the silver level.
St James has had a walk-through audit and as a result, has taken many practical energy conservation measures. They have held 2 celebration feasts of delicious locally produced food; they have installed a bike rack to encourage getting to worship by active transportation instead of driving, they offer regular recycling/composing/green bin education to the community at large.

Groups using the church are being given the Blue box talk to encourage correct use.
They have helped develop a green cleaning products guide that FCG has adapted.

St James is a very active member of the newly formed Eco-Churches of West Hamilton and they are heavily involved with climate change activism. The world wide events in October, leading up to the Copenhagen talks in Nov saw it's members taking to the streets, writing letters to the government and educating people about the need to take action on climate change.

Laidlaw Memorial United Church.

The Reverend at this church, Rev Doug Moore admits that they didn’t start off trying to be green. They started off with a budget deficit. The story begins with the pipe organ.

Some of the members thought that turning down the heat in the Sanctuary during the week might help the deficit, but there was the pipe organ to consider. They'd been told that the pipe organ had to be at 65 degrees all winter to be preserved.
After much talk they came to the decision to invest a little over a hundred dollars in a 7-day electronic set back thermostat. They set it up to be warm when people were going to be there, and cool when people were not going to be there. By the time a year had passed, the heat bill was $1000 less. The organ was fine. And for your information,six years later, the organ is still fine, better, perhaps, for the leathers not getting all dried out from the heat in the winter. 
Rev Moore notes, “Our Congregational culture was changing.  We didn’t know we were getting greener, but we knew something was happening.”

From there, ever practical, more ways to save money started coming up. The pilot lights on the kitchen stove could be turned off until someone needed to use the stove (that saves $250 in gas each year), and the water heater turned down for the summer. Changing the furnace filters helps make the furnaces more efficient.
When they needed to save even more money, they decided they would eat breakfast together on a Saturday morning, and work together to clean and maintain the Church, making cleaning every body's responsibility. Breakfast and Brooms was the result of that effort...

Ideas just kept coming.  Someone heard of a deal on Compact Florescent Lights.  Everybody gathered their extra coupons, and they bought enough to replace seventy bulbs in the Church, now saving $50 a month on the hydro bill.
Someone else heard about free upgrades to the existing florescent lighting in the Church to T-8’s (high efficiency fluorescent lights), and the Utility Company did $1000 worth of free upgrades.
When the Church School wanted to decorate the sanctuary for Thanksgiving they made the effort to not get in cars, but to buy local, and went to the local Farmer’s market, and decorated with the vegetables they bought there.

In the Office, they started cutting down on photo copies and paper. Cleaning now involves fewer chemicals, and more elbow grease. When people kept cranking up the heat in the gym because they were cold, and when everybody saw the heat bill going up, they talked to their heating contractor, who moved the heat ducts from the ceiling to the floor, setting up a convection current, and making the gym warmer and using less fuel. 

In conclusion, Rev Moore tells us, “It just made sense for us to start thinking, all of us, together, about how to save money, and being green was saving us money, and time, and increasing the cooperation and affection we had for each other.
The more we got to know each other, the more our Worship became a deeper celebration.  Helping each other be respectful of God’s creation, and enjoying each other’s company gave us a sense of friendship that allowed us to celebrate God’s provision for us, and believe our little world might be saved, after all."
Laidlaw United has recently received $$ to install solar panels this spring and generate green energy that they will be used to feed into the grid.
They are offering a tour of their church march 17th and the following month, we will be hosting a solar forum for faith groups, businesses and home owners all!

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