A toxic treasure hunt was how St. James, in Dundas, Ont., started off its environmental work. A parish environmental committee, or “green team,” decided to switch to eco-friendly cleaning products, but first had to root out the old, hazardous materials hiding around the church.
“We found stuff from the 30s and 40s that you wouldn’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole,” said the Rev. Bill Mous, who got his hands dirty that day. The team collected a whole car trunk full of waste, and in later months moved on to other projects: installing energy-efficient windows, hosting an Earth Hour service, setting up a bike rack, and more.
A new Canadian network, Greening Anglican Spaces, aims to inspire and connect people—like the St. James green team—who want to make their churches more environmentally sustainable. After a generous donation from Vancouver Anglican William Pence and funding from the Anglican Foundation, General Synod’s Partners in Mission and Ecojustice committee has been able to launch this network and coordinate resources aplenty—from carbon footprint calculators to an inspirational Just Living booklet.
The first step, however, is to create a parish green team, said the Rev. Dr. Ted Reeve, executive director of Greening Sacred Spaces, the interfaith umbrella network. He noted that out of the 300 faith communities his network has worked with, most start with a green team, then move on to other actions, like organizing a building energy audit, which often helps churches decide how to reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Green teams can sprout up in a variety of ways. Rob Kennedy, green team co-chair at St. Thomas’s, Toronto, said work began with a community garden that grew heirloom vegetables. Then came the sobering energy audit. This inspired a “Benedictine Day,” when parishioners gathered to set up storm windows and lay caulking. They have now replaced the old “octopus” boiler in the basement and are considering a rooftop solar collector.
Many other green teams have been growing for a while, like those in the Greening Spirit network, which is active in several western dioceses. The Rev. Canon Maylanne Maybee, General Synod’s ecojustice coordinator, encourages all parishes interested in greening—whether veterans or newcomers—to join Greening Anglican Spaces. She said the network’s goal is to sign up 200 green teams by next October.
But why connect with a network? Why not just tend your own organic garden? “The networks are a resource for us, but also an opportunity to collaborate on this work,” said the Rev. Mous, St. James’s associate priest, who helped launch the Greening Anglican Spaces network. His church is also part of the burgeoning Ecowham network (Eco Churches of West Hamilton); Green Hamilton; and Greening Niagara, the Diocese of Niagara’s own network, which now offers an accreditation system as an incentive for parishes to “go green.”
Mr. Reeve encourages Anglicans to join together for common witness. “It’s an opportunity for us as people of faith to be leaders in our communities,” he said. “The 21st century will be defined by how we address the issue of healing the planet…At root it’s a spiritual problem. It’s about our relationship with the earth and each other and how we’re going to live on this finite planet home.”
For more information about the Greening Anglican Spaces network, visit the website.
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