Discipleship at Home and Work:
Policy: We encourage members of all ages, economic levels, ethnic groups, or walks of life to care for creation at home and at work knowing that our habits and practices can make a significant contribution. We seek to foster a closer relationship with nature so that we can live simply and walk lightly upon the earth.
People: Pastors, lay professional leaders, governing body, heads of committees, all as models for the whole community. All will seek to embrace a vocation that will allow their lives to witness to the commitment to justice and care for the earth.
Goals: To make a personal commitment to embrace disciplines that respect the earth community, that seek to restore creation from human degradation, and that enable us to relate closely with nature.
Actions: Here are some ideas to carry out these commitments:
A. Change your lifestyle:
1. Reflect on your lifestyle. Take time to think about your lifestyle—the choices you make or the commitments you have or the habits you practice or the things you own. Try to determine in what ways they contribute to the degradation of nature and in what ways they contribute to the sustainability of nature. Consider changing your values and priorities and commitments in the direction of a relationship with nature that expresses love and reverence for other people and care for all of nature. Consider viewing the video or reading the book, Affluenza by John De Graaf.
2. Adopt a change of lifestyle to “simple living.” We cannot depend on technological changes to make a difference. We must adapt our lifestyles to a radical Earth-friendly posture. There are many resources available for this—either as personal guides or as group study. See this helpful list of simplicity resources.
3. Purchase green. There are many books that help you to purchase products that are friendly to the environment. See the buying guides and catalogs available on these websites:
4. Make a Covenant with Creation: Develop a personal “Covenant with Creation” that lists a variety of actions you will take to lessen your footprint on the Earth.
B. Transform your home and work into Earth-friendly places.
1. Do an environmental assessment of your home. Use the material available in the Comprehensive Environmental Guide for Building and Grounds of Congregations. This guide has information for the congregation as well as suggestions for implementation at home and work. Use this material to assess every aspect of your life at home—house, yard, habits and practices of you and/or your family. Over a period of time, work to make your space into a Green Zone—earth-friendly and a witness to others. Join with others to have a vision-time to imagine what a green home might look like! Visit Energy Efficient Homes' website to find helpful resources.
Or take a room and assess everything that makes a negative environmental impact. For example, look at your kitchen in terms of appliances, refrigerator settings, paper use, food choices, detergents, cleaning products, certified wood for tables and chairs, natural lighting, fluorescent lighting, water-use practices, means to disconnect small appliances when not in use, comprehensive recycling, food conservation, composting of food wastes, and so on. Then go room by room in your house and make the changes necessary to make a difference.
2. Reconsider eating patterns and food choices: Buy locally rather than purchasing food that traveled halfway across the globe. Eat organic and eliminate pesticides and herbicides in your diet. Purchase fair trade products that ensure the value of resources and the people who survive off the land. See the Comprehensive Environmental Guide for further resources.
3. Green your lawn and garden: Find ways to make your yard eco-friendly. There are organic ways to grow a lawn without pesticides or herbicides. Plant low maintenance grass. Use an electric or battery-driven mower. Put trees in strategic places to lower heating/cooling costs in your home. Make your property a sanctuary for animals. Turn part of your yard into a natural prairie with native species of grass and wild flowers.
4. Green your Christmas: There are many thoughtful suggestions for gifts and wrapping, for decoration and celebration, for being generous to your family and generous to others. Consider having a live tree that can thereafter be planted in your yard or at the church or in a suppressed area of the city. See the workbook on an alternative Christmas that is provided by “Alternatives for Simple Living."
5. Take your commitment to work: Whatever your work, opportunities abound to make your place of work and your activities more earth-friendly. Make use of the guidelines you used at home to apply to your work. There are manuals to green offices, workbooks for corporations, guidelines for factories and small businesses. This is part of the vocation of a Christian—to express justice toward humans and care for creation in every aspect of your life.
[See the book, The Smart Office by Amy Townsend]
C. Provide support for individual commitment as the congregation.
1. Create an atmosphere of commitment: Seek opportunities in congregational life to make a profound personal commitment to care about the earth, to make decisions and to take actions that are earth-friendly, and to refrain from actions that are earth-harmful. Be creative and intentional about finding individual and communal ways to strengthen and reinforce those commitments in various aspects of the Christian life.
2. Form support groups/ commitment groups/ interest groups: Support for environmental practices and disciplines can serve as a focus for small groups that serve to support the commitment to lead earth-friendly lives. Each session, participants could discuss a different area of commitment to earth-care, practice that commitment for the week or month, and then return to discuss the results and give encouragement. Groups that meet around a meal could learn about food and practice ecological disciplines related to eating. Perhaps the groups could meet during a season of the church year, so as, for example, to be part of a Lenten discipline. See the materials from ENACT, a group set up in some cities in Wisconsin to develop neighborhood groups to enact ecological practices in their homes and work.
3. Group Study: Foster the formation of groups around an educational course on Simple Living or the Ecology of Food. Consider these educational materials for small groups:
4. Take cooperative congregational actions: Choose congregational actions that make personal commitments easier—sell compact fluorescent light bulbs as a fundraiser; do cooperative buying of recycling bins for the home; provide a recycling center where people can bring hard to recycle items such as plastic bags, household batteries, and printer cartridges; sell fair trade coffee and other fair trade products; distribute devotional material. Find out what needs people have in their quest to be green and seek as a congregation to make the process easier. Hold an eco-fair. Put environmental tips in the bulletin and newsletter. Use the resource Stewardship of Creation: 30 Days With Nature to put a different devotional guide each week as an insert in the bulletin.
5. Ritualize your Covenant with Creation: Provide members with a “Covenant with Creation” that lists a variety of actions to be taken by the members of your congregation. Make this covenant part of a worship service with a brief liturgy within the service and to give it as an offering. Participants check the practices they agree to follow. Then give one copy in the offering and keep another to post in their apartments/homes.
6. Creation-Care Training: You can hold brief training sessions for members as a means to encourage people to develop earth-friendly habits and choices in their personal lives: simple living, food choices, recycling instructions, paper guidelines, energy conservation, devotional practices, connections with nature. Perhaps these training sessions could be coordinated with the items in the Covenant with Creation or with the Environmental Guide. This can be done in a Sunday morning forum, Saturday workshop (perhaps with many churches), or some other venue.
7. Witnessing/Sharing: Make use of meetings of the Green Team, worship services, and other gatherings to allow members to make announcements and to share with others their personal environmental practices and disciplines.
8. Website and Brochure: Be sure to have your commitments and accomplishments regularly updated on a website. Make a brochure that outlines the personal commitments involved in being part of a Green Congregation.
D. Get in touch with nature.
1. Kindle your love of nature Renew your appreciation for the natural beauty of the area in which you live. Plan trips to a local arboretum, gardens, or a lake/river area. Hold meetings in a place of natural beauty. Where feasible, procure the services of a naturalist to acquaint you with the flora, fauna, geological formations, and natural history of the area. We will not save what we do not know! We will not restore what we do not love!
2. Devotional materials: There are devotional materials available for earth-keeping. Consider using these booklets:
Stewardship of Creation: 30 Days with Nature, or
E. Support the community environmental actions
1. Join an environmental group. There are many environmental groups that need your support and participation. National groups such as the Sierra Club have local chapters that are active at local, regional, and national levels of commitment. Find out the local environmental organizations in your area and promote these among members.
2. Local opportunities for action: Arrange for members of the community to participate in public efforts to restore a habitat, clean up a beach, rally for clean air, protest a polluter, do write-in campaigns for environmental legislation, and so on.
3. Green contributions and investments. There are many local and national organizations, some faith-based and others secular, that are certainly worthy of support. Consider membership or regular contributions to such organizations. Also, there are many green mutual funds and green investment opportunities that harbinger the future of an ecological age. Invest now! Learn more about Green investing.