January 13, 2018
Royal Lane Baptist Church, Dallas, TX. Learn More »
Article by Sandra Jones
Seattle First Baptist
Recently Seattle has been touted as the fastest growing city in the US. We also may be “the slowest going!” Gridlock is not uncommon in Seattle, and although we have been known for being environmentally aware, our driving patterns don’t reflect that. So, when Earth Ministry, the Washington non-profit leader in engaging the religious community in environmental stewardship and advocacy, asked our congregation to participate in the CARE MORE, Car Less Pledge project, we decided to step up. The idea that churches city-wide would be participating made joining in even more compelling.
For over 20 years Earth Ministry has created valuable workshops and workbooks on different environmental issues to guide congregations in raising concern and caring for the environment. This project is an excellent example. They created a Care More, Car Less Sunday Organizer’s Workbook, and emailed participating congregations a pdf copy of it. This workbook takes you step-by-step through the process of planning, promoting and implementing the program. It provides examples, templates, a strong explanation of the importance of reducing single occupancy driving, and the faith-based reasons why we should care.
For 12 years Seattle First Baptist has been concerned about the environment as a social justice issue. For the first five years we had a strong consistent group of about twelve; over the years the group dwindled in size. The good news is that the spirit of our intention seems to have spread through the congregation. For example, our choir commissioned Henry Molliconi to compose A Song for the Planet and held a concert to premier it, various church members have purchased energy efficient cars, etc. When we were approached about the CARE MORE, Car Less Project, two individuals committed to carrying out the project. Lead pastor Tim Phillips was a very enthusiastic co-conspirator in the project. Happily, given the Organizer’s Workbook, the number of people implementing the project does not have to be large, and engagement with caring can take many forms.
The core of the program was that congregants would choose a Sunday to use alternative transportation to church and would pledge to make changes in their personal transportation choices that would reduce emissions going forward. After getting buy-in from our Social Justice Mission group and our lead pastor, we followed the template provided by Earth Ministry for both planning and implementation.
We diverged in one significant way from the Earth Ministry template. Given the level of activities this fall, we could not devote a particular Sunday to the CARE MORE, Car Less Pledge. Therefore, we gave people the option of choosing any Sunday in October to use alternative transportation to church - walking, busing, carpooling, biking. We began talking with members of the congregation early in September and articles were placed in the Spire, our monthly newsletter, and in This Week, our on-line weekly activities bulletin, for four weeks.
The first week in September our youth minister, one of our eco heroes, rode his bike into the sanctuary to deliver his talk to the children (young and old) about why it is important to him to ride his bike to work/church. The next Sunday the program coordinator made an invitation from the pulpit to all to participate in the project in the way that worked best for them. Pledge cards were provided and collected from those ready to pledge. The last Sunday of October a young couple gave a testimonial on why they choose to live near rapid transit and bus lines.
During the month there were two educational events to raise interest and participation in the project.
The events and publicity created a level of conversation about transportation issues related to the environment that had been missing prior to our effort and awareness was raised. The number of people who pledged was rather small, and many said they were already engaged in grouping their errands or picking up individuals needing transportation to church.
We will be talking with members of the congregation about what worked about the project from their perspective and what didn’t so if we choose to do it again, we can actively engage more people.