Hope Church’s Caring for Creation ministry began in 2002 in response to a challenge from the denominational office of the Reformed Church in America. The broad outline of this challenge included three pillars:
- to raise awareness in the congregation about environmental issues
- to recommend constructive actions
- to educate the congregation about relevant legislation
To build an ethic of earth care in the congregation, the ministry operates according to the premise that you can’t guilt or shame people into action, but instead you must invite them in. One strategy for doing this is planning outdoor activities, like canoeing, bicycling, wildflower walks, and stargazing. These outings are fun, build fellowship, and help people see that they themselves have a stake in what’s going on in our environment.
Peter Boogaart, who has coordinated the ministry for the past 12 years, notes that Hope Church congregants “define themselves by engagement with the community.” Following this philosophy, the ministry is guided less by the question of what new programming to create and more by the question of how they can best be a resource for congregants and connect them with broader initiatives in the community. To these ends, the ministry has held adult classes on environmental issues and has brought in speakers who are involved in local issues, such as the restoration of Lake Macatawa. People from Hope Church, as well as other local congregations, have taken leadership in the creation of Holland’s Community Energy Plan, which has the goal of cutting the city’s energy consumption by half by 2050.
In recent years, the church has focused on reducing its carbon footprint. There’s been an energy audit conducted, and the ministry has used the curriculum “Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds” to help people reduce carbon emissions in their households and communities. Boogaart says that “It’s not hard to find people with good intentions,” and the ministry offers the guidance people need in order to follow through. The focus on energy efficiency and conservation has become a part of the fabric of the church. With plans for remodeling on the drawing board, there is an expectation that whatever the church builds will be environmentally sustainable. “It has been gratifying to see how sustainability is now a key element in the church’s decision-making process,” Boogaart says.