Greening the Church

Date Posted: 
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The work of a “Green Team” has allowed Community Reformed Church of Manhasset, New York, to build new connections with others in their community—and that speaks to the church’s overall mission.

“Psalm 24:1 tells us, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,’” says Monica Schaap Pierce, chair of the Green Team. “This verse reminds us that we humans are not independent creatures…rather, we are part of a larger earth community. All species are held together in God, and belong to God. It’s our calling as Christians to provide for the flourishing of the natural world, rather than its demise.”

Last spring, Community Reformed became the first church on Long Island, and the first within the RCA, to join the two-year certification program offered by interfaith organization Green Faith. The program aims to educate, inspire, and empower houses of worship across the country toward environmental stewardship.

Pierce says the goal of working with Green Faith is to fully embrace environmental sustainability, service, and education within the congregation. The program offers specific goals, education, accountability, and feedback.

“We were feeling as though we needed to make more significant and systemic changes as a congregation to be more sustainable,” says Pierce, who has led the Green Team since it was formed in 2012. “We were prompted by our common love for the earth and desire to be good stewards of creation.”

During the first six months of the certification program, Community Reformed has conducted audits for water, waste, energy, grounds maintenance, toxic materials, transportation, food, and environmental justice. And the Green Team has already implemented new programs or changes to existing ways of doing things:

  • Thanks to a grant from the local power company, they switched all lightbulbs in the sanctuary to more energy-efficient LED bulbs.
  • The church has begun composting and gardening with local, organic mulch. The grounds crew also now uses non-toxic fertilizers and pest control, along with water-restrictive hoses.
  • Last fall, they held their first “Eco-Sunday” service on the topic of water. That day, the Green Team gave out reusable water bottles emblazoned with Community Reformed’s logo, to limit the use of plastic water bottles.
  • The church parking lot is now home to a textile recycling bin for the community, thanks to a partnership with a local non-profit.
  • To make sure the food grown in local school gardens does not go to waste over the summer, volunteers harvest this produce and donate it to area food pantries.
  • Twice a year, the congregation comes together for a gardening day: weeding the church grounds, picking up debris, and planting flowers and bushes. They also installed a rabbit hutch and several bird feeders and houses, leading to the church grounds being designated as a certified wildlife habitat.

“It’s exciting to see people exploring new and healthy ways of living on God’s great earth through things like waste reduction or energy conservation,” says Green Team member Lesley Mazzotta, who also serves Community Reformed as the director of spiritual formation. “And our Green Team is joyous about learning what we need to know, and doing the necessary work, to inspire our entire spiritual community to help the environment.”

Learn more about Green Faith: greenfaith.org.

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