“The people at First Presbyterian are very aware of their dependence on the earth around them, and their ethic of earth care is enriched by this awareness.” -Rev. Will Christians
First Presbyterian Church of Decatur has been practicing earth care for generations. Upon moving to Michigan two years ago, Rev. Christians quickly became aware of his congregants’ pride in the beauty of their place—Lake Michigan, its surrounding forests and the region’s fertile soils. Many of these congregants are part of the rural farming community, and Rev. Christians cited agriculture-based livelihoods as having a pivotal role in forming an ethic of earth care. Vocations in farming mandate a certain connectedness to the environment, and congregants demonstrate their awareness of connection to the land in part through the sustainability measures they undertake in church.
At first, one congregant in particular led measures to enhance sustainability at First Presbyterian. After signing up with IPL, this congregant led the church to make some simple switches to energy efficient light bulbs and put into place some ongoing energy-saving practices, including a bi-annual check of the efficacy of their efficiency upgrades. First Presbyterian also evaluated the efficiency of its old stained glass windows and installed additional panes of glass to remedy heat loss during the winter months. This fix not only looks great, it also saves energy and helps prevent damage to the stained glass, should something inadvertently break through a window!
Rev. Christians has been heading up much of the recent earth care endeavors, and acknowledges that there are sometimes struggles and resistance when new sustainability ideas are presented to the church. Even when implemented, some ideas take a while to build momentum. Participation with the church’s stretch of road in Adopt-A-Highway was originally very low, but after a prominently placed sign was installed displaying the church’s name, congregants and the wider community gained enthusiasm and took ownership in caring for the piece of roadside land. The last clean up was accomplished in 30 minutes!
In spring 2015 the congregation plans to install two or three 50-gallon rain barrels in their front garden. The installation will be a gift in remembrance of a late church member who was known for her devotion to caring for the garden. The barrels will collect roof water and be placed in the open to serve as an educational reminder of water sustainability. With the amount of rainfall usually received, First Presbyterian hopes collected water will be sufficient to never again turn on the water spigot for outdoor landscaping maintenance, and that rain barrels will be one more sustained earth care success.