Caring for creation is godly and practical, advocates say

03/08/2013 8:09 PM

03/09/2013 12:19 PM

When his children were small, Bruce C. Coull charged them a dime every time they exited a room and left the lights on.

So it was not much of a leap for the retired dean of USC’s School of the Environment to extend his conservation habits to his own church, Shandon United Methodist, and, then, to other Midlands congregations.

Sixty-three congregations are now part of the Midlands Green Congregational Initiative. Coull and other leaders of the initiative hope to lure more converts to conservation Monday at a Caring for Creation event at 701 Whaley Street.

“Green teams” from area congregations will be on hand at the event to explain how houses of worship can lower their energy bills, reduce solid waste costs, attract new members and leadership, and protect the environment.

Coull says his argument is simple: “We are trying to make you better stewards of God’s earth, but if you don’t buy that, we can save you money.”

That jovial arm-twist is important for congregations whose members might be leery of entering the global warming debate but want to fulfill biblical calls for care of the earth as well as its people.

“We have avoided the words ‘global warming,’ just avoided it,” Coull said.

Instead, the initiative tries to show congregations that going green is a practical way to save money through energy conservation — money that can go to missions rather than to fuel companies.

Judy Timmons, a member of Forest Lake Presbyterian Church, will be on hand to explain how Trenholm Road congregations work as a community of faith to fulfill their aims.

In 2010, Forest Lake, Tree of Life Congregation, Beth Shalom Synagogue, St. Michael & All Angels’ Episcopal Church, North Trenholm Baptist Church and Bethel United Methodist Church joined together to build a green Habitat for Humanity house.

Much of the house was constructed in the parking lot of Forest Lake at the same time of the Forest Acres Green Festival.

“It was the first green Habitat for Humanity house in the Midlands,” Timmons said, with each congregation contributing money and then taking a day to participate in the building.

Coull believes Forest Lake is the only congregation in the Midlands that composts on a large scale, composting leftovers from its Wednesday night suppers and special dinners and its yard debris. But he said many others are adopting creative ways to promote creation care, including designing gardens to grow vegetables for others to weatherproofing buildings and installing programmable thermostats.

At Bibleway Church of Atlas Road, the church spent part of its Vacation Bible School at Congaree National Park, where children learned about conservation of natural resources, he said.

Recently, St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Chapin alerted Coull that its Sustainability Study Group had merged with the church’s building and grounds ministries and renamed itself the Sustainable Action Group.

“Our primary focus continues to be on energy consumption and waste in our sanctuary and parish hall, but we intend to move beyond that to a focus on water usage and the possibility of using landscaping techniques to reduce our energy footprint,” John R. Carpenter, also a retired USC science professor, wrote in a memo.

St. Francis of Assisi, like other green congregations, incorporates caring for creation into Christian formation, including teaching a class on the spiritual ecology of St Francis, the Italian saint who was known for his love of animals and the outdoors.

If you go

Caring for Creation 2013

What: A gathering designed to meet and network with area congregations to learn how to start a “Caring for Creation” initiative

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday

Where: 701 Whaley Street

Cost: Free

Details: (803) 771-8997. Register at

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