Faith leaders are helping their congregants enjoy a little heaven on earth by encouraging “green” living and lessening their carbon output. Organizations like the Washington, D.C.-based Evangelical Environmental Network and the Eco Justice Program of the National Council of Churches have acknowledged responsibility for being better stewards and offer information online to accomplish that end.

For example, All Souls Unitarian Church in the District is certified by their denomination as a “green sanctuary” based on their ongoing transformation as a “church that honors the Earth and justice in its church life,” according to their Web site.

In Baltimore, travelers on Garrison Boulevard will be drawn to the outside bulletin board of Forest Park Community Church that bears the motto, “Step up and go green for Jesus.” Church secretary, April Smith, confirmed it as the theme for their annual Vacation Bible School for children ages 3 to 16. “It’s a collection of lessons, arts and crafts, and other experiences to help children to be ecologically responsible” she said.

The package, produced by Urban Ministries in Chicago, instructs students to “reduce, reuse and recycle.”

And speaking of recycling, the Rev. Heber Brown III, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church on Belvedere Avenue, launched a recycling program last year and recently renovated the bathrooms with motion-sensing lights and low-flow toilets to save money and be better stewards of energy. This young pastor leads by example, so many beyond his immediate reach share his exploits on his Faith in Action blog and on Facebook. Rev. Brown says his work is a little easier because many of his members grew up on farms “down the country” and over the years have gotten away from their agricultural upbringing.

“By starting a vegetable/herb garden at the church, we’re not only giving our elders opportunities to re-live past experiences, but they are also teaching and learning from the younger people who are interested in growing and eating healthy and organic food,” Rev. Brown said.

Not only that, but “our green team led us in having Earth Day Sunday, for the first time, and we were encouraged to walk or ride bikes to church,” he said. “And after morning worship we had a workshop on home energy efficiency and worm composting.”

New Psalmist Baptist Church has formalized their pursuit in a unique ways that benefit the church as well as the community. Each Sunday a challenge is issued to the congregation to make simple lifestyle changes that add up to huge differences in the long run. A list of possibilities is offered and members are encouraged to attempt three in a week.

Wash laundry in cold water – save $60 a year

Adjust thermostat by 3 degrees – save $200 a year

Turn lights and electronics off when leaving a room – save $40 a year

Purchase smart power strips for computers, televisions and audio equipment – save $100 a year

Drink tap water instead of bottled water – save $260 a year

The project started with reminding the ministers of their responsibility to care for God’s creation and practical ways to save money in the process, according to Joi Dudley, director of media relations and promotions at New Psalmist and WEAA “Gospel Grace” radio host.

“We used Serve God Save the Planet by Matthew Sleeth, Go Green Save Green by Nancy Sleeth and It’s Easy Being Green by their daughter, Emma Sleeth,” Dudley said. The church, pastored by Bishop Walter S. Thomas for more than 30 years, also partnered with Baltimore Gas & Electric to host workshops for the entire community.

“The Go Green workshops are part of New Psalmist’s seven-year plan to care for God’s creation, which includes networking to improve water conditions in Africa and provide educational and hygiene supplies for its students.

“In fact, Bishop Thomas and a singing aggregation from the church traveled to Windsor Castle in London in November, 2009 to receive an award for the plan,” Dudley said. “It was presented by His Royal Highness, The Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, and His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, secretary general of the United Nations.”

Their work was also most recently noted in the July issue of O magazine.

Dudley went on to list the many ways their new edifice will reflect their “greening:”

Formed partnership with local nursery to replant new trees in Baltimore Metropolitan area

Converted boulders to 8,000 tons of rock used as sub-base for the parking lots

Installed energy saving light fixtures in the sanctuary and on the parking lots

Adjusted work crew’s hours to those of natural lighting

Added a HVAC system that will help to conserve energy

Positioned the building to take advantage of the sun and the shade.

And the workshops will resume after the move and “we’ll also have a garden to teach members how to grow their own food.”

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