Believing in green: Church, lay leaders lead multi-faith conference on creation care

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By Mark Ambrogi

Carmel Green Initiative President Leslie Webb has watched the level of interest grow in creation care in the faith community over the past few years.

So the timing seemed right to hold “How to Green your Congregation,” a multi-faith conference.

The event, sponsored by Carmel Green Initiative and Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light, will be held at Grace Church in Noblesville from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Sept. 26.

Webb said the conference is the first interdenominational one for earth stewardship in Hamilton County and Zionsville.

“We found there is a wealth of expertise here in Hamilton County,” Webb said. “So it’s exciting that a lot of these sessions are being led by local lay leaders. It’s nice to be able to connect a congregation in Westfield with a congregation in Fishers on the issue of creation care.”

Rev. Keith Carlson, from Grace Church, said sharing knowledge is important.

“In the church world, I think we all have a lot to learn from each other when it comes to creation care and ecological restoration,” he said. “It hasn’t always been at the forefront of our thinking in the church world. So I feel like we’re playing catch-up a little bit. It will be great to have a number of voices in the room. Some churches are further ahead, some are playing catchup still. It’s a way to engage our people and get them passionate about personal and corporate creation care.”

Carlson said Grace has been involved in the birth of a ministry called Project Eden, which started three years ago.

“It helps connect people to creation and restore ecological habitats,” Carlson said. “That ministry is using Grace and our property as a home base at this point.”

Carlson said there are a number of projects around Grace, including soil, native prairie, native forest and pond restoration. A vegetable garden has also been formed with much of the food going to the church’s Care Center.

“That’s a ministry we started to help families in need,” Carlson said.

An orchard has been started, but it will take some time for it to mature enough to produce fruit.

Ginger Bievenour, who leads a St. Peter’s committee in charge of protecting the native habitat on the church’s grounds, said the group concentrated on the rain gardens the first year of the project. St. Peter’s earned a Sacred Grounds Steward national award from Interfaith Power & Light in April.

“In this second year we’ve worked the prairie and the whole watershed buffer zone between the church and the highway (Keystone Parkway),” Bievenour said. “It’s really beautifies the area.”

Bievenour will help lead the discussion on the workshop on landscaping greens. She said she would like to see her church create a Green Team.

Bruce Russell-Jayne, a retired Unitarian Universalist minister and a Carmel resident, is a treasurer for Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light. He practices what he preaches by using solar panels on his garage to conserve energy, and he, with HIPL, has helped seven different churches get grants to put solar panels on their roofs.

Russell-Jayne is a member of All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis. Steven Boggs, the chairperson of the All Souls Church’s Earth care team, will co-lead a session on recycling.

“Prior to being a minister, I worked 25 years for Tennessee Valley Authority making electricity burning coal,” Russell-Jayne said. “I became concerned about the pollution we were creating a long time ago. I’ve converted to someone who thinks we need to go the other way with our carbon.”

A green home

Cindy Whitaker, a Zionsville resident and member of the St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Carmel, is helping present a workshop on rethinking energy uses and costs.

In August, Whitaker opened her one-year-old green home to the public to help raise funds for HIPL. The home features solar panels, geothermal heating, LED lighting, upgraded insulation and windows to conserve energy.

The 29.9 KW solar PV system provides enough power to cover all of Whitaker home’s electricity needs.

Water conservation features include 1.2 gallon flush toilets, rain barrels and a creek bank stabilization project that protects water in Big and Little Eagle Creeks, which feed into the Eagle Creek Reservoir.

The home was designed and built for Whitaker by Wedgewood Building Company LLC, their first green project. Whitaker works for Wedgewood as its director of finance.

“The more people who know and understand how easy some of the changes they can make can be, the better we can care for God’s creation,” Whitaker said.

Go to the conference

Where: Grace Church, Student Ministries East Wing, 5504 E. 146th St., Noblesville

When: 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., followed by an optional free fellowship lunch for further conversation and Grace Church tour

Cost: Free

RSVP: www.carmelgreen.org

Breakout sessions

  • Building a Green Team
  • Rethinking Energy Usage and Costs
  • Reducing, Reusing & Recycling
  • Landscaping Green and Creating
  • Community Gardens
  • Living Faith and Creation Care
  • Public Issue & Policy Challenges

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