Religion and Environmental Stewardship

Green Houses of Worship is an environmental stewardship program sponsored by Connecticut’s Interreligious Eco-Justice Network (IREJN). It grants certificates of achievement for implementing eco-friendly measures in a congregation’s building and within the congregation. It’s a great way to raise the consciousness, and provide guidance, to a large number of people all at once and on an ongoing basis.

The program rewards three levels of achievement. Each congregation must take twelve of the steps in any level in order to be recognized. The steps include reducing hot water temperature to 120 degrees; developing a course of study based on the religion’s sacred texts, highlighting the importance of stewardship of the earth; adding “green” elements to youth group curriculums; running a weatherization campaign for individual homes through the Home Energy Solutions program at Energize CT; and showing environmental movies and inviting environmentally-oriented speakers. These steps are all in Level 1. IREJN can recommend financing for those steps that require financial expenditure, whether through its ally the Connecticut Green Bank or otherwise.

The program is young. Only five congregations have received certificates of acheivement:

Unitarian Universalist Manchester–Level 3
Unitarian Universalist Hartford–Level 2
St. John’s Episcopal Vernon–Level 2
United Church of Christ Goshen–Level 2
United Church of Christ Lebanon–Level 1

IREJN also has volunteer opportunities relating to its 5th Annual Climate and Creation Stewardship Summit on Saturday, October 28, 2017 from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm at Spring Glen Church in Hamden.The focus of this year’s Summit is on water.

IREJN is currently seeking members for the summit’s Steering Committee. The committee meets (usually via conference call) every other week for 90 minutes. In the fall, it meets every week. Right now, the Steering Committee is putting together the program and securing sponsorships. Steering Committee members also help with outreach and marketing, as well as volunteer the day of the event. You don’t have to be religious, but IREJN does ask that everyone show respect for the various faith traditions.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) in Connecticut has a nice page of recommendations for environmental action by individuals, clergy, and congregations. These range from an Ecumenical Lenten Carbon Fast and congregations divesting from fossil fuel stocks to reducing individuals’ carbon footprints and becoming a Green House of Worship.

The UCC’s Northeast Environmental Justice Center holds an annual Environmental Justice For All! Retreat, which takes place at the Silver Lake Conference Center in Sharon (this year’s was in May). After three years focused on youth from communities of color — because communities of color bear a disproportionate burden from industry and government decisions regarding policies that, intentionally or not, negatively impact access to clean air and water — the retreat is now open to all high-school youth. It provides the opportunity for youth to engage in and even lead conversation and expand their knowledge of issues affecting vulnerable communities locally and around the world, and to grow into leaders on environmental justice issues. Click here to read an article about last month’s summit.





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