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Churches Taking Steps to Save the Earth

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A very old church in Charleston is taking a very new approach to evangelism and, simultaneously, caring for the Earth.

Similarly, a United Methodist church in Hartsville is reaching out to its whole community through its recycling program.

The Rev. Albert Keller Jr., pastor of Circular Congregational Church in Charleston,  found a pocket of children living between the coastal city’s two rivers who had never seen a river, much less the ocean. The church’s Environmental Mission group, about 15 people, now mixes fun with ecology education, taking 15 to 25 children to participate in their beach sweeps (clean-ups), on trips to swampland and on boat-trips to barrier islands.

By Emily Cooper

A very old church in Charleston is taking a very new approach to evangelism and, simultaneously, caring for the Earth.

Similarly, a United Methodist church in Hartsville is reaching out to its whole community through its recycling program.

The Rev. Albert Keller Jr., pastor of Circular Congregational Church in Charleston,  found a pocket of children living between the coastal city’s two rivers who had never seen a river, much less the ocean. The church’s Environmental Mission group, about 15 people, now mixes fun with ecology education, taking 15 to 25 children to participate in their beach sweeps (clean-ups), on trips to swampland and on boat-trips to barrier islands.

Congregants have added a “backyard habitat” to a church cemetery. A new building was built “as green as we could,” the Rev. Keller said, with geothermal heating and cooling, a sod roof and environmentally friendly materials.

Keller’s information was part of a conference call arranged by Ann Shahid, coordinator for Audubon South Carolina and held at the UM Conference Center in Columbia to hear what faith-based groups are doing as Earth’s caretakers.

Several United Methodist churches were represented, including Shandon UMC, Columbia, represented by Dr. Bruce Coull; St. Luke UMC, Hartsville, by Ron Cannon; and Washington Street UMC, Columbia, by Lynn Shirley.

In its first year, St. Luke has recycled 6,500 pounds of material and has law firms and grocery stores saving paper for its bins. Its Green Team is educating members about how to get off junk mail lists and, thus, reduce paper usage. Cannon suggested Gimme 5 recycling for No. 5 plastics; S.C. Foam Fabricators, Anderson, and Publix for Styrofoam; and Aveda recycling for rigid bottle camps as Web sites to check.

Cannon also noted that St. Luke has replaced over a 100 light bulbs and is checking every door to identify gaps and repairs that need to be made to shut out heat or cold. They’ve added programmable thermostats and, although new construction thwarted reduced temperatures this summer, they have saved $1,700 in power bills over a period of nine months.

The Rev. Michael McClain, a regional representative of the National Council of Churches, was on hand to talk about the need to let legislators and congress know of churches’ concerns. “Some denominations are sitting back and could care less,” he said, noting Jesus admonition to take care of the poor who are the biggest casualties of global warming.

Washington Street UMC is now sending electronic bulletins and has a recycling bin for printed bulletins, according to Shirley. Green Team members have replaced incandescent bulbs with CFLs. The church uses no Styrofoam and is having its own reusable shopping bags made. Each bulletin has a green tip.

Coull said his church, Shandon UMC, has installed a bike rack to encourage members to ride bikes to church, among many other green activities.

The Rev. Wiley Cooper spoke about “Green Theology,” an interfaith group that has been exploring ways for congregations to cut their energy usage beyond changing the light bulbs. Discussions and presentations thus far have centered around energy audits, building concerns, low-cost loans, grants, solar possibilities, and devising green guidelines for churches in evaluating new building or renovation (all of which information has been passed on through the Advocate).

 

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