by Sharon Horvath
For many of us during the current Covid-19 shutdown, the world has become a smaller, simpler place. With fewer events on our calendars, we are rediscovering family time, time spent outside, and the importance of community. The abrupt closing of businesses and schools has led to fewer cars on the road and less air travel, with a resulting marked improvement in air quality. This change, although temporary, offers a tantalizing glimpse into a future where transportation is not powered by fossil fuels.
It has been 50 years since the first Earth Day. The United States has made vast improvements in air and water quality since then. Scientists tell us that the choices we make in the next decade will determine the quality of human life 50 years from now. The pandemic shutdown has made us pause at the crossroads. How will this forced shutdown affect our priorities? How will we value family time, community, and the role of science in policy decisions?
People of faith from every major faith tradition are called to be stewards of the Earth, to care for and protect this world and its inhabitants, and to choose the path toward a sustainable future. Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (H-IPL) exemplifies one way that Indiana faith communities are responding to the call to care for creation. As its website states, H-IPL represents Hoosiers of all faiths who are seeking to:
- Live in harmony with God’s creation
- Understand how climate change will impact Indiana’s environment
- Act responsibly with respect to energy use and consumption
- Limit our carbon footprint and apply our resources in environmentally responsible ways
- Advocate for public policies that reduce wasteful energy practices, end our dependence on fossil fuels, and promote clean energy alternatives
Several Midtown churches are members of Indy Green Congregations, a local affiliate of H-IPL, and responding to the call to care for creation.
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 4600 N. Illinois St., has had an active Creation Care Ministry since 2007. This ministry seeks to promote the joyful stewardship of Earth through spirituality, simplicity, and sustainability. The ministry shares information with parishioners about actions they can take in their homes to reduce their personal carbon footprints. The spiritual foundation of ecological actions has been explored with study groups and an annual prayer service to celebrate the Season of Creation (Sept. 1–Oct. 4). A Lenten faith formation program called Lent 4.2 has been used to encourage parishioners to live more simply. Sausagefest, the annual parish festival held in August, uses plant-based food containers, and recycles boxes, cups, bottles, and cans. Students and staff at the parish school also practice sustainability by recycling, using durable dishware for school lunches, walking to school when possible, and celebrating the Season of Creation and Earth Week. In 2014, the school was recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School for its cost-saving, health promoting, and performance-enhancing sustainability practices.
Reaching out to the community is also important to the UUI team. After achieving recognition in 2008 as a Green Sanctuary, a multi-year process that seeks to bring UU congregations into greater alignment with environmentally aware faith and practices, UUI hosted a citywide environmental workshop for congregations that resulted in the formation of Indy Green Congregations. UUI members are active in advocating for good environmental policies in both the state and national legislatures.
North United Methodist Church, 3808 N. Meridian St., has four focus areas in its creation care efforts: Worship and Prayer, Church Practices, Community, and Advocacy. They hold annual Creation Care Sunday services and periodic Creation Care Fairs with children’s activities and booths for environmental organizations. They track energy use, recycle, and use reusable coffee cups. They reach out to the community with ice cream socials, plant swaps, and book exchanges. Members are also active in local environmental advocacy.
Other Midtown congregations that participate in Indy Green Congregations include Trinity Episcopal Church, 3243 N. Meridian St., whose Green Team encourages environmental responsibility of its members. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 6050 N. Meridian St., is near the beginning of its Creation Care journey. Congregation members have been gathering ideas through regular attendance at IGC meetings.
In support of the City’s sustainability plan, Thrive Indianapolis, H-IPL is developing a new program called the Thriving Faith Communities Initiative. The mission is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Indianapolis faith communities. To enroll your congregation or for more information, contact Ray Wilson, board president of H-IPL, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon Horvath is co-chair of the Creation Care Ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and secretary for Indy Green Congregations. IGC welcomes new congregations to join this effort. Monthly meetings are held at different congregations. To receive the IGC monthly newsletter visit: https://www.indygreencongregations.org/contact-us.html. General resources about caring for creation can be found at https://ourcommonhome.org/ and https://hoosieripl.org/