Houses of worship sowing seeds of caring for Creation
Some still wonder how to move beyond simple recycling. But there is help.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published April 22, 2007
The world's major monotheistic faiths counsel responsibility for the environment, a teaching that's increasingly taking on practical application in local religious circles.
For example, Maximo Presbyterian Church decided not to pave its parking lot. When Congregation B'nai Israel was building its new synagogue, its architects took advantage of natural light.
Two retention ponds at the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg's pastoral center catch run-off from the surrounding area.
Some religious leaders, though, aren't sure how to put green principles into effect beyond the ubiquitous recycling of newspapers, magazines and aluminum cans.
In May, the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ will offer workshops at Pass-a-Grille Beach Community Church to help the denomination's congregations go green.
There is even a national group, the Evangelical Environmental Network, that aims to teach churches how to be good Earth stewards.
Evangelical leaders increasingly are talking about the environment from a Biblical point of view, said the Rev. Jim Ball, president of the national network.
The Rev. Michael Mott of Seminole First Baptist Church doesn't know about the Evangelical Environmental Network, but he has spoken to his congregation about its responsibility to God's creation.
Genesis says God gave humans dominion over the earth and everything in it, Mott said, "but it is not the same as taking advantage of it or destroying it."
In the Roman Catholic church, environmental stewardship is one of several principles of social justice teachings, said Frank Murphy, a diocese spokesman.
As such, the new St. Jude Cathedral School was designed with green issues in mind. For example, Sue Brett, a member of the building steering committee, said low-flush toilets were installed in each classroom, and recycled rubber was used under playground equipment.
Care of the environment also is key to Judaism.
"We know from the early chapters in Genesis, in particular in the days following the flood, that man was challenged by God to take care of the Earth and the gifts given to us," said Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B'nai Israel in St. Petersburg.
Muslims look to their holy book, the Koran, for guidance on environmental matters. "Human beings are considered to be the caretakers of creation," said Askia Muhammad Aquil, a St. Petersburg imam, or Muslim prayer leader. "We are expected to be held accountable for the misuse of creation."
At Trinity United Church of Christ, the Rev. Gaye Bosley-Mitchell says her small congregation is limited financially.
"We do try very hard to be good stewards from the standpoint of trying not to utilize paper products for food and related products as much as we can," she said. "We're careful about the things we put in the garbage."
Recently, the church planted a Florida-friendly garden.
Next month, at UCC's annual statewide meeting, Bosley-Mitchell and other Florida UCC ministers will get more ideas for going green and learn about their denomination's loans to finance such projects.
St. Petersburg resident David W. Randle, who describes himself as an environmental minister, will lead one of the meeting's workshops. His Oceans 11 program will give an overview of 11 critical problems affecting oceans.
"One of the critical issues is coastal development," said Randle, a senior fellow at the International Ocean Institute USA at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and principal consultant for the St. Petersburg Environmental Research Center.
"Churches have an opportunity to set an example with new construction that will enable them to be both better stewards of the Earth and serve their community as a refuge from the storm," he said.
The green scene
- Buy compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees.
- Install a clock thermostat to set your thermostat back automatically at night.
- Plant shade trees and shrubs around your house, especially on the west side, to reduce air conditioning costs.
- Consider replacing older appliances before they give out with top-rated energy-efficient models.
- Switch to nontoxic or low-toxic cleaning supplies.
- Establish a recycling program for paper, glass and plastic.
- Create a contemplative garden and/or wildlife sanctuary at your religious center.
Source: Evangelical Environmental Network
To learn more
Global Healing Initiative: http://www.globalhealing.net
Evangelical Environmental Network: http://www.creationcare.org/
Earth Day Network: http://www.earthday.net/
If you go
"Shepherds of Creation" by Carole R. Fontaine, Taylor Professor of biblical theology and history at Andover-Newton Theological School and a regular guest on the History Channel and A&E, 7 p.m., May 3, Pass-a-Grille Beach Community Church, 107 16th Ave., St. Pete Beach; (727) 360-5508. Free.