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Earth Ministry involves 20 UCC congregations

Because one act of the state legislature can undo millions of acts of Christian caring for the environment, LeeAnne Beres, director of Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light in Seattle, involves 350 member congregations in advocacy, as well as education and “greening.”

We need to speak up about where our energy comes from,” she said in a recent interview.  “Christian faith calls us to care about the earth.  As followers of Jesus, who spoke truth to power, we need to speak in the public forum.”

Lee Anne Beres
LeeAnne Beres of Fauntleroy UCC is director of Earth Ministry

Beres, who is involved with Fauntleroy UCC in Seattle, showed a copy of The Green Bible, which highlights passages about care of creation in green.

“If we do not care for creation, our children will suffer,” she said.

So Earth Ministry is educating people in Washington so they will join efforts to make the state coal free, shifting from 17 percent of its energy coming from coal produced by a Canadian company in Centralia.

“Coal plants have major environmental and health impacts, increasing asthma, producing mercury.

“If we care for our neighbors as ourselves, we need to transition away from coal fired plants to renewable resources.  We can change the coal jobs with good green, clean energy, family-wage jobs,” she said.

The organization is informing people of a bill in the state legislature to close the tax loophole that gives the plant a $5 million/year state subsidy.  It is also supporting a bill to exempt churches with farmers’ markets in their parking lots from having to pay taxes on that property.

“We have a responsibility to speak as Christians to be sure our values are heard in the public sphere.

In workshops and classes, she and Jesse Dye, program and outreach director since 2007, draw out from participants a list of basic reasons for Christians to be concerned about the environment: creation, stewardship, covenant, spirituality, justice and community.

Earth Ministry grew out of an earth and spirituality group at the Episcopal Cathedral in the 1980s and incorporated in 1992.

Beres joined the staff in 2005 with 20 years experience in the Seattle environmental community with Save Our Wild Salmon, the Northwest Energy Coalition and the Marine Fish Conservation Network. She worked two years as a fisheries biologist on commercial fishing boats in the Bering Sea and has a master’s in marine fisheries management.

Earth Ministry informs people to remind their congregations of the faith and environment connection.  It works with congregations in the state—in Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula, Spokane and Yakima, and in 12 other states.

LeeAnne cited love of neighbor as self as another motivator for churches being involved with environmental sustainability, along with preferential treatment for the poor, caring for neighbors globally, and caring for plants and animals.

Some people are motivated by their connection to God when they are in nature, and others focus on generational justice—not stealing from children what was inherited.

Beyond lifting up the reasons for people of faith to make the world a better place, Beres suggested two barriers:

One is feeling overwhelmed because there is so much to do that people feel the little they can do would not make enough impact to change the climate.

Another is “environmental sainthood,” the feeling that unless someone does everything perfectly—drive a hybrid car, live  in the woods, eat berries and twigs, give up refrigeration—they fail.

“Every little bit matters as individuals, congregations and communities do what we can on the middle road between apathy and sainthood,” Beres said.

Some ways to make a difference include recycling, composting, shifting from bottled water, turning down the thermostat, using a clothesline, a push mower and green cleaners.  Other ideas are eating organic, local and lower on the food chain, and planting  a garden.

Along with individual commitments, she said congregations, as people who share values, can implement changes.  Some use Earth Ministry’s 250-page Greening Congregation Handbook to make changes in their common life—sharing sustainability values in education and worship, in facilities and institutional life and in community outreach.

We urge congregations to develop sustainability plans, writing down realistic goals, recording what they have done and then celebrating it,” said Beres.  “An annual plan of achievable goals stretches us, for example, to implicit and explicit curricula in worship that talks about creation care.  Clergy are busy with pastoral care, meetings, preaching and teaching, so we have a suite of resources they can easily use.”

Earth Ministry has a “Caring for All Creation” curricula series with resources for planning worship, hymns, sermons, prayers and studies.  It suggests a local-foods potluck with food from a farmer’s market or community supported agriculture.

The resources suggest using china or paper, bringing reusable bottles for water, using green cleaners and serving fair-trade coffee as beginning points for congregations.

Beres believes people today are drawn to churches involved in issues relevant for these times.

While Earth Ministry does not have policy experts, it works with partners who do research on policies based on common values.

Twenty of 66 congregation members in Washington are UCC churches.

For information, call 206- 632-2426 or visit



Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © April 2010





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