This article about faith communities making a difference for the environment appeared in the (Vernon, CT) Reminder News on May 6, 2008:
Glastonbury’s religious leaders are collaborating on a new green scheme with a strident environmental message.
The Green Action Calendar is the brainchild of retired Reverend Gordon Bates, a member of the First Church of Christ, Congregational and chairman of the National United Church of Christ task force on environment and energy.
Under the scheme, each of Glastonbury’s participating faiths and congregations will be allocated two-month slots during which they will promote environmental themes through talks, events, sermons and educational programs.
The First Church of Christ is leading the way through June and July, focusing on the themes of water conservation, organic lawn care and environmentally friendly transport. Buckingham Congregational Church picks up the campaign during August and September, when it will encourage Glastonbury citizens to avoid using pesticides and insecticides . In October and November St James Episcopal Church will promote energy efficiency, and as the year draws to a close, Congregation Kol Haverim will encourage the town to enjoy a green holiday season.
Bates says that, if successful, 5,000 of Glastonbury’s citizens could be reached through the program. The message, he says, is an urgent one. ”We don’t have a lot of time to play around with this… There are environmental dynamics that are irreversible, once they meet a certain point, and we are very close to several of those tipping points.”
Climate change is already a reality in Connecticut, said Bates, referring to the state’s increasingly warm summers and mild winters. “Less than 60 years ago the Connecticut River would freeze enough that they could drive wagons across it,” he said, adding that now we are in a very different era.
Of the new scheme, Rabbi Craig Marantz of Congregation Kol Haverim said, “We are very privileged to have a strong inter-faith , inter-congregational reality in Glastonbury. The clergy are friendly, and the congregations are friendly, and we find ways to interact. This is yet another chapter in the story of that relationship .
“From Jewish perspective, we are always obligated to preserve our environment . So, whether there is a specific environmental crisis or not, we have to take care of our planet,” he said.
The Connecticut Audubon Society is also supporting the Green Action Calendar . Judy Harper, director of the society’s Center at Glastonbury, thinks that churches have a dual role to play. “First of all, they touch an awful lot of people. Second, they have pretty big buildings,” she said, which could be the focus of sustained efforts to cut fuel bills through insulation , changing to energy efficient light bulbs and recycling.
Harper continued, “It pleases us as the environmental community to know that the churches are involved, because stewardship of the earth is pretty basic to almost every religion. For a long time it wasn’t their highest priority, but now I think they are realizing that they have a piece of this action too,” she said.
The project’s coordinator, Bates, said that his passionate advocacy of environmentalism began when we saw his grandchildren growing up. He said, “To change your whole lifestyle for something that may not happen for years and years only begins to register when you reach my age, and you are thinking increasingly about your children and grandchildren and even the next generation down. You ask yourself, what kind of world do they have a right to have? What kind of earth resources will be left for them?” We know we are running out of fossil fuels, he said, but, “that only begins to register to the average person as increasing gas costs.”
“Its been the American dream to have anything you want whenever you want it, in as much quantity as you want it, regardless of the cost to anyone else. That dream has the danger of becoming a nightmare for us and the world, if we are not careful – and so far we haven’t been very careful,” he added.
Bates commented that everyone has a role to play in protecting the environment . It can be as straightforward as swapping light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs. He said, “That one simple step, if the majority of people would take it, would have an enormous impact on electricity demand.”
Interfaith Power and Light is a religious response to global warming with chapters in 26 states and Greater Washington, D.C. Find a link to your local chapter at http://www.theregenerationproject.org/State.Check out the National IPL Blog.
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