September 26, 2016
Changing to more energy-efficient light bulbs. Minimizing water usage and food waste. Caulking around windows. These are just a few things worth doing in an effort to save money and protect the world’s resources.
They are also some of the tips that will be offered in a presentation called, “Best Earth Care Practices for Houses of Worship,” a breakout session in an all-day environmental conference on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Franklin First United Methodist Church in Franklin.
The conference will be hosted by the Nashville chapter of Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, an organization that brings together representatives of several faiths who have a common concern about the way we’re treating the natural world.
“The goal is to enlighten people,” said Father Wil Steinbacher, a Glenmary Home Missioner who has had a connection to the Diocese of Nashville for about 45 years. “The pope talks about the importance of education in this whole thing. So we want to educate people and get them to become conscious of the care of the earth.”
Father Steinbacher, who is a member of the environmental committee for the Glenmary community, became aware of the Interfaith Power and Light movement, which, as a national entity, promotes a “religious response to global warming.” According to its website, its mission is to respond to climate change through “upholding the sacredness of all life, the protection of vulnerable communities, and caring for the Earth.”
Although the organization has been active for several years in East Tennessee, a Middle Tennessee coalition began only about five months ago, spearheaded by Paul Slentz, a local Methodist pastor.
“We gathered a group of people and began to talk about what the environmental situation is, and how we could respond to it,” said Father Steinbacher. “We all are passionate about the environment in general, and concerned about the waste that goes on.”
Waste like churches using cups for coffee and other beverages that are disposable but don’t disintegrate. In general, the goal is to create more “green parishes,” looking at every operating detail to determine whether it’s being done in the best way for the environment, from changing light bulbs to using solar panels for the roofs of churches.
The Nashville chapter currently has 25 core members from various area churches and synagogues. “We have worked together over these months and rather quickly put this conference together, because the energy of this group is really high,” Father Steinbacher said. “The people who are involved with it really want to do something about the environment.”
The location of the conference – Franklin First United Methodist Church – is purposeful. Franklin First has a thriving creation care ministry, an organic garden that helps feed people in need, and a butterfly garden. It is set on more than 100 acres of meadows, stream and woods, and utilizes geo-thermal energy for heating and cooling.
The event, entitled, “A Sacred Calling to Care for the Earth,” features a keynote address by Matthew Anderson, vice president for climate and strategic initiatives for the National Audubon Society. Anderson is also on the national board of Interfaith Power and Light, and has worked extensively with faith communities on conservation issues.
There will be breakout sessions, covering topics like sustainable practices, providing habitats and plants for birds in a changing climate, earth care as a justice issue, earth-friendly agricultural and food choices, and influencing climate-related policy.
There will also be a panel on perspectives on caring for the earth from the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. This will include Father Steinbacher, whose contribution is based almost entirely on “Laudato Si,” Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, in which the Holy Father wrote that the earth is becoming an “immense pile of filth.”
“That’s pretty strong language coming from the pope, I think,” Father Steinbacher said. “But one of my greatest concerns is that ordinary people are acting like it’s no problem; like nothing’s happening. But everything is happening around us.
“Being conscious is the key,” continued Father Steinbacher. “We are asking people to become conscious of the fact that everything we do has some effect on the planet.”
The cost to attend is $15 for adults, $10 for youth ages 12-18 and college and graduate school students, and $5 for children ages 5-11. A special family rate for up to two adults with two children or youth can be purchased for $30; any additional children are $3 each.
Several activities are planned for children ages 5 and up. Lunch is included in the registration fee. The conference day will conclude with a performance of the highly-praised musical, “The Council of Creatures,” written and presented by Nashville musicians and Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light Nashville chapter members, Jamey and Tammy Whiting.
The registration deadline is Friday, Sept. 28. To register online, visit http://bit.ly/asacredcalling. Alternatively, a registration form can be downloaded and mailed in. For those adults who require financial assistance to attend, contact the Rev. Paul Slants at firstname.lastname@example.org.