Churches around North America have been leading the way in faithful creation stewardship by providing congregational education and local community initiatives. Hundreds of individuals from more than 290 congregations and campus groups have partnered with the Climate Witness Project, a creation care advocacy project of World Renew.
In Guelph, Ontario, New Life CRC launched a discipleship series, asking people to come in once a month to address a topic. Dr. Henry Brower, a Toronto-area organizer for CWP, was asked to describe “how God’s majesty, power, and providence are revealed through his creation and discuss how our excessive use of fossil fuels and other actions have led to serious changes in the earth’s energy balance.”
Brouwer has spoken to many churches about creation care. As he does, he tries to help people see that caring for creation is one of the tasks of the church. “I try to help people see the real problem and to provide awareness on creation care,” he explained. “I also point out ways we can be environmentally friendly.”
Ed Jager, pastor at New Life, said his church is looking to the future to see how it might be able to speak to issues such as climate change. “We’re opening up the conversation” on these issues, he said.
One of the goals is that topics such as creation care will be of interest to young adults who attend the church. If young adults don’t see the church addressing important issues of the day, said Jager, chances are they won’t stay. “We want to make room for them so that they can be part of the discussion.”
Educating church members about creation stewardship is an important first step. When congregants begin to take action, one of the focuses is often the church property itself. At his home church, Meadowlands CRC, Dr. Brouwer helped spearhead a project to transform energy use. They now use geo-thermal energy that is stored under the parking lot of their church, to heat and cool the facility.
With the help of funding from the Christian Reformed Church’s Ignite program and CWP, several churches in Classis Red Mesa have been able to install energy-efficient lighting and take other steps to save money and protect the environment.
Hope Christian Reformed Church in Oak Forest, Ill., joined the Energy Stewardship pilot project. Over the course of several months Hope and a cohort of nine churches participated in conference calls with Climate Witness Project representatives and Energy Star contractors.
“They helped guide us through the process of performing an energy audit, taking low-cost steps to increase our energy efficiency, and applying for Energy Star certification,” said Corenna Rozeboom, a member of the church. Hope Church successfully earned certification, and “we couldn’t have done it without the guidance and support of the Climate Witness Project,” she said.
Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids, Mich., has a long history of being involved in creation care. They have installed solar panels to provide energy, and with the help of the CWP, they created a bioswale on their church property.
“We worked to turn a low-lying area into a rain garden,” said David Koetje, a church member and strong supporter of CWP. “It also, because of the flowers we planted, will double as a pollinating garden.”
Koetje said the CWP has become a means by which the CRC “helps collect people interested in creation care into a broad network through which they can share ideas and concerns.”
The Climate Witness Project has also partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Green Buildings Council to secure detailed energy audits for church buildings and to help churches get started in tracking energy savings.
Spreading the word about creation care has sometimes been a tough and uphill battle, but they are seeing results for positive change, said Andrew Oppong. “We’ve seen churches take the lead on local initiatives in their communities — not with direct leadership from CWP but by using the resources CWP provides,” said Oppong.
Your church can get involved too! From requesting a speaker to getting personalized consultation, CWP is ready to walk alongside churches as they seek to become faithful stewards of God’s creation. Learn more about the Climate Witness Project.