By: Jeanette Hostetler, Westminster Presbyterian Church

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), all congregations are invited to participate in a certification program for Earth Care Congregations based on an “Earth Care Pledge.” Our congregation’s participation in this program began slowly with a period of study and prayer leading to the ongoing “greening” of the church.

From the beginning, Westminster was concerned and actively involved in being good stewards of God’s Creation. When the church was constructed, a concerted effort was made to preserve as much of the existing six acres of urban forest on our property as possible. Today we have a diversity of natural ecosystems which promotes biodiversity of species on the church property.

In 2010 Westminster organized Koinonia Groups (small support groups). It was suggested that one of these groups be focused on becoming stewards of God’s Creation; thus the Caring for God’s Creation Group was formed. The purpose of the group became: 1) learning through our faith our call to care for God’s creation; 2) learning about critical environmental issues; 3) exploring environmental stewardship—what that means for each of us personally and in our families, in the community, and in the church both locally and nationally; 4) upholding the policy and stated positions of the General Assembly’s call to care for and restore God’s Creation; and 5) supporting each other in our individual efforts to live our lives to protect and restore creation. For almost two years, we focused on the environmental crisis by exploring the Biblical imperative to care for God’s Creation, by working to make our church more “green,” by helping our congregation understand the issues and advocating actions, and encouraging wise and responsible stewardship.

Some of the early activities and projects include the following: we organized a series of Lenten soup suppers with speakers on the theological basis for compassionate care for the environment, the General Assembly’s positions on the call to restore creation, water conservation issues, sustainability issues, and the importance of recycling. We set up a church recycling program, had the children draw logos for creation and the environment and designed a composite logo for T-shirts using parts of all the children’s designs (which were sold to church members and the money used to buy plants for the butterfly garden), helped the children learn about butterflies, planted a church butterfly garden with the help of the children, worked with the building and grounds committee to commit to planting native and water wise plants to protect the diversity and sustainability particularly of our forested area, made information about community events and issues through a congregational e-mail as examples of actions to be taken.

About two years ago, we decided to apply to become an Earth Care Congregation. We easily had enough points in each of the categories to qualify. The session and the minister were supportive of the idea. Although we had worked with the other committees in the church, we realized we need to continue to involve all areas of the church in our effort to be an Earth Care Congregation. The Worship, Christian Education, Congregational Care, Building and Grounds, and the Administrative Committees are all critical to our church being environmental stewards. There are also individuals in the congregation very concerned and active in environmental issues. It became a process of joining all these efforts into a congregational support of becoming an environmentally sensitive and active congregation based upon our calling to care for God’s Creation.

We became an Earth Care congregation officially in January 2015. In this presbytery, we join Fort King Presbyterian Church, which has already been certified, and other congregations that are in the application or planning process.

Note: If your church is in the process of becoming an Earth Care Congregation, please let us know! Email the Stated Clerk, the Rev. Sandra Hedrick, at sandra@staugpres.faith.

A previous article about the Greening of our Fort King church (Ocala) can be read by clicking here.

To learn more about the opportunity to be Earth Care certified, please visit the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s website.