Global Warming: What Can One Church Do?
BY PHIL PETRIE, CONVENER OF SIMPLER LIVING
By now it is a truism that human industrialization is altering our planet profoundly and that immediate action must be taken to avoid the worst consequences of this impact. Christian churches have not previously been in the forefront of the environmental movement, but we are catching up fast. One fine example of a church group with a conscience is the Simpler Living group at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Doing the Right Thing
“This is the most vital stewardship question of our day,” said the Very Rev. Scott Richardson.
“Is it possible for us to change the way we live in order to care for the planet or will we be neglectful of the duty God gives us to care for the earth and all its creatures? We discover that, as we begin to make changes, the benefits far outweigh any discomfort we might at first experience.”
The Simpler Living group at St. Paul’s Cathedral grew out of a book study of Michael Schut’s Simpler Living, Compassionate Life. The group is dedicated to addressing both environmental degradation and hyper-consumerism by advocating a simpler, greener, and more profoundly Christian lifestyle. Or, to quote the mission statement, “Simpler Living is a creation care ministry that is growing the Kingdom of God in Christ.”
The group has seven core members and a much larger base of interested members in the congregation who receive the monthly e-bulletins. Most of the group’s efforts thus far have been educational.
Planting New Iniatives: The author, right, works with a volunteer team to plant native, drought-resistant plants on Cathedral grounds. This was just one of many iniatives the Cathedral implemented to do its part to prevent global warming.
Simpler Living hosts Sunday morning forums, the most recent of which addressed alternative transportation while urging parishioners to travel sustainably to church. They also host a table during coffee hour where parishioners may buy fair-trade, St. Paul’s eco-bags, pick-up information, and exchange extra garden produce.
This November the group promoted the Cuyamaca Water Conservation Garden and hosted a workshop on non-commercial Christmas alternatives.
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“Social justice and environmental justice are just two sides of the same coin.”
Simpler Living has many ideas for the future: films; book studies; better connections with the religious education program; an event to bring like-minded groups from around the diocese and even in the secular world to exchange knowledge and build a network. They expect the need for creation care ministries will only become more urgent as the century progresses.
Pragmatic Ideas That Make a Difference
The staff of St. Paul’s Cathedral has graciously agreed to accommodate the group’s
requests, which has resulted in reduced expenditures and real community-building experiences. Sextons clean with non-toxic, biodegradable, locally manufactured cleaning products. Compact fluorescent lighting brought the added benefit of reducing utility bills $500 per month! For most events, including coffee hour, the Cathedral uses reusable cups, glasses, dishes, and silverware. This is more work for the sextons, but much better for the environment. When they must
use single-use products, they are generally made out of recycled materials. And, of course, the Cathedral recycles its bulletins, flyers and other paper goods. They’ve eliminated routine use of air conditioning and central heating in our offices and do not heat or air condition the cathedral’s interior, giving parishioners many opportunities to sweat or shiver sustainably. Just last month, the group replaced one garden with drought-resistant, native plants.
Around the Cathedral, habits are changing and awareness is growing. Some drive hybrids, some have gray water systems, some increasingly see that social justice and environmental justice are just two sides of the same coin. Our love and our care must not stop at our fellow human; it must reach out to all God’s creation. Doing so places us in right relationship with God and that surely is the beginning of real joy! X
For more information about the Simpler Living group, contact Phil Petrie: simpler. email@example.com
. You may also learn more by visiting the Cathedral web site: www. stpaulcathedral.org/outreach-simpler-living
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All Saints’, San Diego
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