Faithlink Discussion: Greening the Church

by Jacob Juncker

Greening the church is a topic that frustrates me: not because its not important, but that it continues to be a debate in the church.  I do not understand how we, the church, can continue to debate until we’re blue in the face about being “environmentally friendly.”  We continue to use plastic cups for communion, because we think its more sanitary (if that’s the case, why not get class cups?).  We use prepackaged food at potlucks to the detriment of our own health due to the chemicals and high sodium levels and to the detriment of the earth with all that packaging.  And then there’s the crème de la crème: we prefer styrofoam cups and plates and plastic silverware (oxymoron) and cups for church meals because “the cleanup is easier.”  Why?  We should be caring for each other and the world we live in. 

While the environmental effects of our convenience (styrofoam, plastic, chemical) culture are often self-evident or at least always in our face, the social effects of convenience are often overlooked.  We lose something as a community when we use plastic communion cups, prepackaged food, styrofoam and plastic utensils.  We lose conversation.  Washing dishes and preparing food are prime times for socializing and getting to know another person.  In fact, its easier to get to know another person while doing a manual task, rather than eating, for the shear reason that their mouth is not full and they can actively respond.

I would hope that as we look at greening the church we would remember not only the benefits to the earth, but also our social relationships.  God knows that we live in a culture that needs to improve both.

I invite you to pray with me by reading this “bidding prayer” that we might become better stewards of the world we live in.  After each phrase, sit in silence or offer your own prayer in response to each leading phrase.

Creator God,
Hear us as we offer thanks for the gift of the earth and all living things…
Hear us as we confess our misuse and negligence of the earth you have given us to guard and protect as stewards…
Hear us as we acknowledge that sometimes convenience has been more important to us than conversation…
Give us wisdom to see the beauty of the natural world and our need for greater care of and respect toward it.  Grant us courage to raise difficult questions and guidance to know how to act thoughtfully and responsibly, all to your glory.  Amen.

from Faithlink, vol. 16, number 2 (May 9, 2010).  Copyright (c) 2010 by Cokesbury.