Faith groups offer environmental solutions in Monroe County. Not surprisingly, houses of worship are leading the way to reduce their carbon footprint and educate local Hoosiers about ways they can make a difference. This message is being spread to thousands of people weekly in committee meetings, sermons, and small groups.
These efforts also are coordinated through interfaith efforts. Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (HIPL), which aims to “bring Hoosiers of faith together as stewards of creation in order to promote renewable energy, energy conversation and efficiency, as a faith response to climate change”, boasts two Monroe County individuals on their board, and Monroe County-based Earth Care is one of only eight regional affiliates of HIPL in Indiana and has 28 local faith communities who work together.
Here we highlight four of these faith communities: Beth Shalom, the Friends Meeting House, St. Thomas Lutheran, and the Unitarian Universalist church.
Beth Shalom represents Bloomington’s Jewish community. They proudly state, “With our solar panels we choose life for future generations”. And it backs this quote up with the solar panels that provide energy for the children that attend preschool there every day. In fact, Beth Shalom was an early adopter and has been a national leader in greening. They were a 2012 co-winner of the OED’s Community Conservation Challenge Grant for Indiana, and with a $25,000 grant from OED they leveraged funding to install a 23.32 KW photovoltaic array, which has been in operation since the end of April 2013. Whether it is the teaching or the actions, Beth Shalom continues to lead the way to a better life for future generations.
Bloomington Friends Meeting House. In 2009 this church was one of the first houses of worship to install solar panels. When they did so it was said, “Quakers are committed to the transformational power of love embodied in the Testimonies of Peace, Equality, Community, Simplicity, and Integrity. When we live in the Life which is attuned to nature and which finds joy and satisfaction in human relationships and personal growth, we will be less dependent on material possessions and more protective of our environment.” With their tradition of silence, I will let those words speak for itself.
St. Thomas Lutheran has been taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and have been raising awareness throughout Monroe County. Yes they have solar panels, and if you ask the staff their thermostat is just on this side of being uncomfortable. Their building is designed to highlight natural light, and they have a community garden. But the church’s most recent action is that they are actively engaging their congregation by adapting their services. Throughout September, St. Thomas has focused on different themes in their liturgy, based on a model that comes from churches in Australia:
- Ocean Sunday: We join the Psalmists and call the sea to roar with songs of praise, and with our Creator, we rejoice with whales, dolphins and other sea creatures.
- Animal Sunday: We worship with the entire living family on Earth. We celebrate birds, animals, reptiles, and all living creatures.
- Storm Sunday: We worship with the storm. We sing with the winds, the clouds, and the thunder. We wonder at the power of storms and the fierce expressions of the elements.
- Universe Sunday: We worship with the entire universe, conscious that the universe is a vast sacred space. The special focus for this service is the spiritual impulse or presence that permeates the universe that scripture calls Wisdom!
These examples come from the church’s September newsletter which you can find on their website. More importantly, the church is helping to educate its diverse congregation on ways they can help solve environmental problems.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington is setting ambitious environmental standards in Monroe County. Their sanctuary is certified as a Green Sanctuary through a program of the greater UU church. It’s associated task force has a goal is to help members create sustainable lifestyles and reduce carbon footprints. As a church they have installed solar panels and have generated enough energy to cover 57% of their usage! This has garnered the church accolades nationally: EPA Energy Star certification and one of the first twenty Interfaith Power and Light congregations. As UU of Bloomington moves forward they will continue to show other organizations what can be done!
Members of the Monroe County Environmental Commission compiled this list. Their charge includes “educating the community and engaging residents and businesses in supporting initiatives which will help ensure a healthier and more economically viable future for the County.” The public is welcome to attend these meetings the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30pm.