A number of churches were recognized at the 216th Annual Meeting this weekend for their generosity and their care for the environment.
Recognition of Generosity - Our Church's Wider Mission Top Givers
These awards were given to churches based on their total amounts given in 2014.
Basic Support: The Wellesley Congregational Church
One Great Hour of Sharing: Hingham Congregational Church UCC
Strengthen the Church: Edwards Church of Northampton
Neighbors in Need: Old South Church in Boston
Christmas Fund: First Congregational Church, UCC, Auburn
Green CongregationsThe following two churches received Green Congregations Awards. Find out more about this program here: macucc.org/greencongregations
South Congregational Church, UCC
LEVEL ONE AWARD: Amherst South Congregational Church takes seriously their commitment to Environmental Stewardship. This is expressed by their Pastor in annual Earth Day sermons and by their Green Team, which contributes a green message to each monthly newsletter and meets monthly to educate the congregation through books, DVDs, and personal testimonies of efforts to alleviate climate change. South Congregational has engaged with other churches that have green groups as well as local organizations whose initiatives stimulate them to further action. The church school has sponsored edible food walks and nature hikes while trying to incorporate care for our world into the curriculum. They hope to inspire a larger number of our congregants to engage more fully, with speakers such as Jim Antal this past May. A church energy audit was performed and a comprehensive action plan to reduce their environmental footprint was developed, including working with the Sexton to use power strips, and turn off the water heater when not in use.
LEVEL TWO AWARD: The Trustees and Green Team at South Congregational Church began an ambitious program of creation care seven years ago with a $500,000 Capital Campaign to renovate the church and parsonage and complete a deep energy retrofit including insulation of new windows on both structures. In 2012, after a unanimous vote by the congregation, they installed a $217,000 50kW solar array to meet nearly all of their electricity needs. At the same time they switched to a super energy efficient, all-electric heat pump HVAC system. They switched out all possible lightbulbs and fixtures with low energy bulbs and fixtures. Although they had previously explored purchasing green electricity, with net metering they supply almost all of their own power. They received their EPA Energy Star Certification in 2013, and a lovely letter of acknowledgement from President Barack Obama. They are proud members of Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light, who helped them think through the financial structuring of their solar array. To engage individual parishioners in our green commitment, parishioners were encouraged to receive their newsletters electronically, encouraged congregants to monitor their carbon footprint, “greened” their cleaning products and restated their commitment to low impact landscaping (none, essentially). South Congregational stepped up composting by signing on with a local initiative, Amend Organics, an effort to compost meat, seafood, bones, fat, and other compostables that they turn into compost to amend the soil of local farms including the Amherst College farm. They returned to using china cups and dishes and discouraging any non-recyclable paper products. A series of walk/ride/carpool to church days were instituted. Many members, most especially seniors, carpool to nearly everything.
Trinitarian Congregational Church
LEVEL ONE AWARD: Trinitarian Congregational Church is a rural church that has always been connected with the land around them. Their awareness of energy use began when they started a community garden to supply the local food pantry. They were faced with the many aspects of energy usage and the carbon footprint of food. They then began their push for greater energy conservation with an energy audit. They worked on many things to complete Level 1, including forming a Green Team, showing environmental films, inviting environmental speakers, and including a green column in their newsletter. The pastor preached environmental sermons, they recycled, helped members to reduce their junk mail, and participated in local environmental events.
LEVEL TWO AWARD: Trinitarian Congregational Church made many changes to the building including changing lights to CFLs where they could, and installing more insulation and air-sealing work. They installed new, high efficiency lighting, shifted to reusable dishes and utensils in the church, are using environmentally sensitive cleaning products, and provided insulation where needed. They make an effort to carpool to events, and joined Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light. Many of their members work with environmental programs outside the church which gives them a broad awareness of green issues.LEVEL THREE AWARD
Trinitarian Congregational Church was the first church in the conference to divest from fossil fuel stocks. They are looking into what they can do with the money, to increase their energy resiliency. They installed a new, high efficiency boiler along with programmable thermostats. They have begun making “winserts” (light weight wood frames with two layers of heat-shrink plastic) interior window insert storm windows for rooms they use most during the week. As they make these “winserts” for the church, they are teaching community members how to make them for their own homes. They also started a community garden that is tended by people in the larger community to grow food for the Orange Food Pantry, providing a convenient, sustainable and energy efficient source of high quality food for the larger community.