By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle
Leading up to Christmas 2022, a winter storm hit that wreaked havoc throughout Ontario.
People were stranded at stores. Some froze to death in their vehicles waiting for help. Churches had to make hard decisions about whether it was safe to offer Christmas worship in person or if there was a need to pivot again. By New Year’s Day, most of that snow was gone, melted as we were hit with significant rainfall.
Winter storms are not new to our region. What we are noticing is that storms are becoming stronger and more frequent in recent years. There have been hotter hot spells and colder cold spells. There has been more significant rain events and deeper drought. The extremes can be disconcerting.
Evidence suggests that these are signs of climate change. Many wonder what the future will bring. Evidence also suggests that humans have contributed to this climate crisis. Acknowledging this evidence there have been conversations about what human beings can do to slow the environmental decline.
Stepping out in faith, in February 2020, the Church of England voted to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 committing to safeguard the integrity of God’s Creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
As you look at your vestry reports, as you attend vestry meetings, consider how your Church family is doing. What can be done better?
The Diocese of Huron has made commitments too. In 2019 a motion was passed to encourage parishes in the Diocese and Church House to reduce the purchase of products with single use plastic, including rigid foam (Styrofoam and other brands), and to end such purchases by the beginning of 2023.
In 2021, the Synod of the Diocese of Huron passed a motion that Church House and all the churches in the Diocese of Huron commit to achieving a minimum standard of ‘light green’ by the end of 2022 and that a review of these efforts is included in vestry reporting (by lay delegates and/or clergy) in 2023. In 2022, Synod reaffirmed these commitments.
It is now 2023. How are we doing?
As you look at your vestry reports and review the work of the congregation, what efforts have been made to eliminate single use plastic and take steps towards a ‘greener’ church? How confident are you that your congregation has achieved these goals? What challenges continue to exist that prevent accomplishing these? What motivation is still needed? What motivation can we use to further support these efforts?
There is more and more information about what happens to single use plastics when they are thrown away. How many have seen photos of turtles with distorted shells because of the plastic rings used to hold cans together? How big do the islands of refuse in the Pacific Ocean need to get before we realize that there is no ‘throwing away’?
Our garbage doesn’t magically disappear when we no longer see it. All around us there is evidence of discarded stuff that could serve as a motivation to reduce our own waste and thus our own contributions to the mounds of garbage in our world.
We know that LED lights and Energy Star appliances reduce our energy consumption and the associated costs. We can save money when we switch!
We have also learned that email, social media, and even texts can be effective ways of communicating. We can reduce paper by using existing resources (liturgical books), adding worship projection, and emailing announcements. Less paper, less printing, also saves money. As does the use of programmable thermostats which only heat spaces when needed. To what extent does the budget at the church reflect savings from going green?
There are multiple reasons to continually explore safeguarding the integrity of God’s Creation and sustaining and renewing the life of the earth. We have made the commitment via Synod. We also make the commitment every time we renew our Baptismal Covenant and through our Marks of Mission. As you look at your vestry reports, as you attend vestry meetings, consider how your Church family is doing. What can be done better?
For more information on how to engage in the work of caring for Creation, check out the webpage for Social and Ecological Justice Huron on the diocesan website at: https://diohuron.org/ministries/social-ecological-justice The committee is preparing a ‘medium green’ standard to support more active engagement in the a move towards becoming carbon neutral. We look forward to working with congregations seeking to become even ‘greener’ in response to our Baptismal Covenant and Marks of Mission. Blessings as you plan for 2023.
Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is a tri-chair of SEJH and a tri-chair of Justice League of Huron.