Four Presbytery of the James churches have been certified as 2021 Earth Care Congregations by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. This honor speaks to the great commitment the congregations have made to care for God’s earth.
POJ honorees are Bon Air Church, Madison Church, Second Church in Richmond, and Westminster Church in Charlottesville. They are among 276 churches across the denomination to qualify. 2021 is Bon Air’s first year participating.
To become an Earth Care Congregation, congregations integrate environmental practices and thinking into their worship, education, facilities, and outreach.
The Earth Care Congregation certification recognizes churches that take seriously God’s charge to “till and keep” the garden.
Started in 2010 by the PC(USA), the goal of this program is to inspire churches to care for God’s earth in a holistic way, through integrating earth care into all aspects of their church life. The Earth Care Congregation certification honors churches that make that commitment and encourages others to follow their example.
Bon Air Church sells fairly-traded coffee and chocolate and serves it for their Sunday morning coffee time (pre-COVID-19). For Palm Sunday, they use fronds purchased from Eco-Palms. The leaves come from communities in Mexico and Guatemala where workers are paid fairly and use sustainable harvesting practices to protect the local ecosystem. Learn more at ecopalms.org. Holding worship outdoors and collecting for local food ministries are other ways the congregation fulfills its Earth Care commitment. Visit Bon Air online.
This small congregation has had a Green Team since 2007. In 2018, they felt called to to affirm the Earth Care Pledge to integrate environmental practices and thinking into all facets of church life and to formally apply for certification. The church conserves resources through practices such as having double-paned windows and CFL bulbs, performing HVAC checkups twice per year, and decreasing the use of disposable materials. For Earth Day 2021, the congregation held a community clean up and the Green Team led a worship service. The children heard the story of the Lorax and took their ‘Flat Lorax’ figures on nature walks. Read more about Madison's Earth Care program.
As part of its 2021 Earth Care Congregation activities, Second Church's Earthkeepers team helped to design a three-day Holy Week Pilgrimage to lament Richmond's unhealed history of racism. Believing racism and the mistreatment of the creation are integrally connected, the team, in cooperation with Clergy Against Racism, sought to raise awareness, build bridges, and deepen bonds within Richmond’s faith community as part of the work of dismantling systemic racism. Participants reflected on a call to a sense of place, a recognition of how the people of Richmond and its hills and river are bound up together in a history that is still unfolding. Visit Second Richmond online.
Westminster’s Green Team organizes hikes and trips to nature preserves, participates in an interfaith prayer service at Charlottesville’s Youth Climate Strike, and collaborates with UVA student groups in local cleanup efforts. In 2018, Westminster installed a 57-panel solar array on the roof of one of their buildings. Last year, Westminster featured ecological justice-themed worship and adult education environmental on World Communion Sunday and distributed climate advocacy action kits to members. During the pandemic, the Green Team has supported local organizations such as Cultivate Charlottesville and the Local Food Hub, promoted environmental stewardship of the church’s physical plant, and (through the Virginia Conservation Network) lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to pass environmental legislation. Visit Westminster Charlottesville online.