Thou Shalt Be Green?

Moses didn’t descend from Mount Sinai with a stone tablet that read “Thou Shalt be Green,” but more and more denominations have adopted environmental disciplines as part of their official doctrine. Christians are waking up to the fact that taking care of the Earth is, fundamentally, a moral obligation.

More than a Moral Issue

The Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith, an interfaith coalition for the environment, takes it a step further saying that responsible environmental stewardship is not only a moral issue, its within the definition of what it means to have a spiritual life.

On the very first page of his new book, GreenFaith, Harper goes right to the heart of our obligation concerning the environment:

“Nature, the outdoors, the environment, is fundamental to religious faith and spirituality. Human experience affirms this. The world’s sacred texts confirm it. Human life and vitality depend on it. And, healthy religious faith is incomplete without it.”

Hidden Truths

Harper says the Bible is filled with hidden truths that tell us to respect the earth. We’ve read how God created the earth over and over again in Genesis, but Harper suggests that we miss a key element of the creation story; that it is good. So from the very beginning, we’re told that earth is valuable.

The Bible also tells us that God’s creation belongs to God, and remains in the Almighty’s control. Again, it’s such a basic concept that it seems as though we need not note it. But doesn’t focusing on God’s control also point out our own responsibility? Harper says we’re using something that doesn’t belong to us—so doesn’t that make us incredibly responsible for its treatment?

“Do our systems of ownership and control of natural resources reflect the divine imperative that we respect and love creation and affirm its goodness by ensuring that it supports abundant life?”

Take a Walk—Now

Harper acknowledges that knowing how to begin to live a more ecologically sensitive life seems overwhelming; he says to start simply.

“Now—right now—begin by taking a walk outside to commune with God. Listen to God’s voice. Meditate on God’s ways. You are a caretaker of God’s earth. Ask God how you can take your role more seriously.”

Available in print and e-book formats, GreenFaith by Rev. Fletcher Harper is available here.

GreenFaith Resources for Your Church

The GreenFaith website, (http://www.greenfaith.org), provides a wealth of information for churches that want to become better environmental stewards. You’ll find eco-themed worship sermons, religious/environmental educational resources, eco-tips to use in your bulletins, children’s programs, and more. The following guide is reprinted with permission.

Building an Effective Green Team

Here are some tips to help you make your Green Team as strong as possible.

Tip #1: Identify Diverse, Motivated and Influential Members

Effective Green Teams have members who represent diverse constituencies within your community. The Team should include:

  • Lay, ordained, and professional staff leaders
  • Facilities maintenance staff
  • Members of the buildings and grounds, finance, worship, education, and social-action committees
  • Respected leaders within your community

Tip #2: Share the Work

Each Team member should have an area of responsibility (for example, energy conservation, publicity, and so on), which cultivates a sense of ownership, engagement, and leadership. Larger Green Teams may find it helpful to create subcommittees.

Tip #3: Meet Regularly

While there is no precise number of meetings that ensures success, it is important that your Green Team meets regularly to track your progress and plan upcoming activities. We recommend that your Green Team meet approximately once every six weeks.

Tip #4: Quick Wins, Publicity, and then Planning

The best Green Teams find ways to create “quick wins” for their community—and publicize these victories widely—in order to build positive momentum, a sense of pride and accomplishment, and to attract further support.