UU Church of Fresno invites members on a Spiritual Quest “Building a Theology of Ecology”

The UU Church of Fresno (in Clovis, CA) offers year-round Spiritual Quest Groups, small lay-led weekly discussion meetings participants delve deeply into Unitarian Universalist principles or covenant.  They work together to learn right relationships, deep listening and communication skills as they grow together on their spiritual journey.

As a part of their Green Sanctuary process, Linda Mack, a member of the church, prepared a new Spiritual Quest curriculum called “Building a Theology of Ecology.”  The curriculum was designed to foster the development of a theology of ecology, helping people to articulate their emotional and spiritual connection to the earth, the meaning they find in life that sustains their hope, and the moral responsibility that impels them to action.  Linda put together eight sessions, beginning with an introductory session, explaining the process, deep listening, and a covenant of right relationship, with the question to be considered based on the 7th Principle.  The  topics she developed were “Awe and Wonder”, “Sense of Place”, “Simplicity”, “Wild Nature/Human Nature”, “Environmental Justice”, “Technology/Ecology” and the concept of “Evo/Devo”.  Each sessions’ curriculum included a chalice lighting, topic introduction, readings, questions, and closings.   This curriculum was then offered to three Spiritual Quest Groups at the church.

Two members of the groups added sessions that they had prepared. (Linda writes: “A sign of success!”)  These included “Simplicity as a Spiritual Practice”, “Connecting with Nature”, “Animals, Humanity’s Place in the Web.”

At the concluding session participants were invited to wrote a credo.  Some of the credo’s written by members of the UU Church of Fresno are: (more…)

Kittitas Valley UU Congregation participates in the first city-operated solar electric facility

One of the major barriers of moving to sustainable energy sources in the US is the start-up costs.  Gary Nystedt, a resource manager for Ellensburg, WA, came up with a way to bring solar power to the city in a way that the start-up costs could be defrayed.  Nystedt suggested that the city build the country’s first community solar project, or “solar garden,” in 2006.  The city-owned solar installation would feed right into the city’s grid but would be financed like a cooperative, open to anyone who wanted to invest.  Because Ellensburg, the town, gets more that 300 sunny days a year and already owned a sunny spot of land next to a major highway (an added advantage is that the site allows for free advertisement of solar power to 15,000 drivers every day).

Kittitas Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, through a drive by the Green Sanctuary council, purchased a panel on the city’s solar grid.  KVUUC also completed many recommendations from their professional energy audit.  The result of these projects was a savings of 60% of the electricity bills during the winter months for the building, which generated kudos from the building owner as well as the congregation.  Additionally, their electric bill is now reduced by an amount proportional to the energy generated by the purchased solar panel.

Towson UU Church Wins Cool Congregation Prize from Interfaith Power & Light

Interfaith Power and Light Press Release, July 20, 2010

Andrée Duggan (for IPL)                                          Carel Hedlund (for Towson UU Church)
andree at theregenerationproject dot org                cthedlund at msn dot com

“Towson UU Church Wins Cool Congregation
Prize from Interfaith Power and Light

Interfaith Power and Light announced the winner of this year’s Cool Congregation contest. Towson Unitarian Universalist Church (TUUC), in Lutherville, Maryland, accepted the $5,000 cash prize for the most reduction in energy use. Carel Hedlund, Chair of TUUC’s Green Sanctuary Committee, said, “our actions focused on three areas: energy efficiency of our building, educating our members on ways they could make changes in their own lives to reduce their individual footprints, and participating in energy efficiency community projects. We are very excited and grateful to win this prize. Our Board has voted to place the award funds into reserves for further ‘greening’ of the church.”

The Cool Congregation contest challenged participants to calculate a starting carbon footprint, and then compare a year later after making energy saving changes to measure total reductions. The contest was open to approximately 10,000 congregations nationwide. “We wish to congratulate Towson Unitarian Universalist Church for being good stewards of Creation,” said The Reverend Sally Bingham, president of Interfaith Power and Light. “They have demonstrated a real commitment to making their congregation as energy efficient as possible and in the process have provided a wonderful role model for other congregations wishing to address the threat of climate change.”

Undaunted by initial set-backs the UU Church of Canandaigua sponsors a thriving CSA

The Unitarian Universalist Church of the Canandaigua in Canandaigua, NY (about 30 southwest of Rochester, NY) is located in the midst of fertile farmland, where agriculture and wine growing are prominent features, sensitivity to and awareness of our connection with the Earth is a constant. A drive to the church from any direction leads past farm after farm. Although few of the parishioners are full-time farmers, a few who are employed elsewhere also farm their land and raise livestock.

Within this environment, it follows naturally that their Sunday services, Religious Education Curricula, and Social Justice initiatives are strongly influenced by an awareness of the precious resources placed under their care; a strong commitment to their preservation; and consistent exploration of ethical utilization of these resources. This is reflected in Sunday services through music, readings, and sermons. Many of the services involve the youth in storytelling and drama related to environmental issues.

In 2002 UUCC joined with two Rochester UU churches to applied for and received a grant for sustainability for the UUA.  One of the purposes of the grant was to create a church-sponsored community agriculture program.  In 2003 UUCC members met with a group of farmers to discuss their goals and requirements; however, for various reasons the plan was not executable.  Instead, Peacework Organic Farm mentored them for a year on operating a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.  Again, in 2004 UUCC members met with Canandaigua farmers to discuss forming a CSA; this time none of the farmers were ready or willing to take on their fledging CSA of approximately 20 members.

Healthy Food Drive – All Souls Church, Unitarian DC

Since the late 1940s, All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, DC and area UU churches create an annual Thanksgiving food drive distributed to hundreds of low-income families in the Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Edgewood neighborhoods.

Their participation in the Green Sanctuary Program led them to tweak this social justice project to include an environmental element.  In 2008 and 2009, All Souls food lists was revamped to include items such as whole grain pasta, brown rice, low sodium canned vegetables, soups and broths, and fresh fruits and vegetables.  They also requested that all food be brought in reusable grocery bags, and received donations of extra reusable bags for families.  Washington, DC recently implemented a bag tax that requires stores to charge 5 cents for every paper plastic bags customers use at supermarkets/grocery stores.  Having reusable bags enables these families to avoid this flat-tax.

As a result of this environmental justice project, they were able to fill over 500 reuable bags with healthy food each year, while challenging their members to more carefully consider the health and environmental impacts of their donations.

All Souls Church, Unitarian was accredited as a Green Sanctuary on March 3, 2010.  Check out the full list of accredited Green Sanctuaries at the UUA website.

First Parish in Needham receives EnergyStar Award

(Boston, MA – June 16, 2010) EPA Press Release

“First Parish in Needham Unitarian Universalist is the first house of worship in New England to receive an EPA Energy Star label, an energy efficiency standard that certifies that they are in the top 25 percent of houses of worship in the United States. First Parish in Needham is one of just nine houses of worship in the country to receive the label.

“First Parish in Needham has successfully accepted the challenge of dealing with energy issues and sets a terrific example for the many houses of worship across New England,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. “We hope more small businesses and congregations across New England states will follow their lead and maximize energy efficiency opportunities in their own operations.”

First Parish was founded in 1711, and is considered Needham’s oldest religious community. Its public meeting house was built in 1836 and is the oldest public building in Needham. In 2007-8, the church replaced its old Parish Hall with an environmentally progressive building that is 25 percent larger than the old hall. Despite the increase in size and addition of air conditioning units, the new building has reduced the parish’s utility costs by more than 50 percent and reduced its carbon footprint up to 43 percent, according to Ed Quinlan, Property Committee Chairman.