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How are leaders across the country stepping up to take action on climate change? ecoAmerica has released Let’s Lead On Climate, a brand-new guide that features nine success stories of initiatives by local organizations who are inspiring and engaging communities around them to make climate solutions a priority.

In the guide, you’ll hear from local health, faith, and community leaders who are promoting climate leadership and action. Each story offers an inside look at why these individuals and organizations decided to lead on climate, how they developed their programs and initiatives, and what it took to overcome challenges along the way. Over coming weeks, the ecoAmerica website will feature edited case studies from Let’s Lead to inspire you and stimulate ideas you can apply in your own profession, organization, and community. This week’s case study is Midway Church in Midway, Kentucky, a 200-member congregation led by Pastor Heather McColl.

Spiritual development

Midway Church believes our spiritual development is linked with caring for God’s creation and being good stewards of the earth. So they offer this opportunity to their congregation through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)’s Green Chalice program.

The Green Chalice Program is rooted in the denomination’s Alverna Covenant, originally introduced in 1981. Pastor Heather McColl said the program “became really deeply tied to spiritual practice for us – that faith practice of this is God’s table and everybody is invited, everybody’s welcome.” As a part of Midway Church’s core values as a “people of the table,” they strive to bring their community together to share a meal. In partnership with the local Presbyterian Church, which has a community garden, they asked nearby restaurants to donate leftovers and their local jail to donate produce they had grown. By involving a broader portion of the Midway community, the congregation was able to grow their own food, reduce food waste, and bring people together regularly to share in a meal at “the table.”

Finding funding

To build support for their “greening” program, Pastor McColl referenced church values and teachings that aligned with climate action. But “The biggest hurdle for Midway Church was financial,” she said. “We just had to take it in small bits and pieces. This can get overwhelming. The projects caused the wish list to become so huge.” Limited resources forced the church to get creative in finding ways to reduce its climate impact. Pastor McColl admitted, “We’re not very good at asking for help or looking outside of our church for funding.” Yet, by doing so, they were able to locate grant money to support their efforts.

The church soon learned that they could make their planned improvements at a much lower cost than expected. Once they asked themselves how they could do things differently, and opened their minds to partnership, doors to amazing possibilities began to open.  For example, they used their endowment to switch to all LED lighting. In addition to saving energy and money, the LEDs also reduced the risk of fire. Through various grants, rebates, and low-interest loans offered through local electricity providers, agricultural departments, and others organizations that are also taking action on climate, the church was able to make significant progress in their efforts.

Bringing solutions to God’s table

Pastor McColl explained that taking action on climate must begin with a conversation within our communities: “We can all find a starting place with the conversation about climate change and about ways we’re all affected by this. For me, as a Disciple, it all comes back to God’s table. At that table, we have the wonderful, frustrating ability to say, ‘We agree to disagree, but that does not mean you are no less my brother or sister. I will work beside you because I recognize you as a child of God.’ That’s where our starting place is every single time. People are afraid to have some of these conversations, but I think that’s the number one thing the churches should be doing – creating space at the table, creating space for these conversations.”

Recommendations

  • Start small and then work up institutionally to gain structure and support for your initiative.
  • Be willing to research opportunities within your community that offer grants, rebates, or any financial incentives for “going green.” In the words of Pastor McColl, “Sometimes our vision is so limited that we think if it’s not within our walls, it’s not possible. And that goes against the very Gospel and Kingdom of God.”
  • Don’t be afraid to start the conversation on climate. One way to do this is with the line, “We all agree that we need to walk more gently on Creation.”

 

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