Making the Connection Between Ecology and Theology for all Faith Traditions.

Local Congregations Receive National Green Recognition – By Aaron Tornes

Three Kentucky religious groups received recognition from Interfaith Power & Light as a part of their Cool Congregations Challenge.  The Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion in Louisville and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth both were named Runner Up in the Energy Saver category.  Midway Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was named Sacred Grounds Steward Runner Up.  The contest had 76 entrants from across the country in the categories of Sacred Grounds Steward, Renewable Role Model, Energy Saver, Community Inspiration, and Planning.  For the second year in a row, Kentucky had the most congregations being recognized, having three along with California and New Mexico.

Here is how our three nationally recognized winners demonstrated their creation care:

Drepung Gomang CECThe Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion

DGCEC was committed to creating their new center in a way that was compassionate to the planet.  This led to a deep and thorough review of all building systems.

In the end they choose many energy efficient options including HVAC equipment (18 SEER heat pumps with back up gas furnaces), LED lighting (95% of the building), foam and cellulose insulation, recycled denim soundproofing, a 70 panel, 20 kW solar array producing 23,520 kWh/year, Energy Star rated appliances (refrigerator, stove, washer/dryer, dishwasher), rain barrels, low VOC and re-purposed flooring materials, recycled content carpeting, high efficiency gas water heating system (Vertex 50 Gal gas) using low water volume shower heads and toilets, and other innovative, Earth-preserving improvements.

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SCN HouseThe Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

At the campus of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Motherhouse many of the primary lighting sources, both in the campus buildings and long the roads of the campus, are less efficient.   The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were looking to install a more energy efficient lighting source to reduce their energy impact and, through that reduced energy impact, act as stewards of creation.  After researching many different lighting sources the campus decided to install LED lights.    Outreach was made to the sisters and campus residents on the plans to change the lighting sources and to offer information on what the lights were and what benefit they brought to the campus.

Sixty-two fixtures were replaced in the Motherhouse, Carrico Hall and O’Connell Hall.  Since the upgrade the fixtures have experience an average reduction in energy draw of 275 watts and there is interest in expanding the project to the satellite buildings on the property.

Midway GardenMidway Christian Church (DOC)

Midway Christian Church had a downspout which was eroding a steep bank near the church.  Church leaders decided to deal with this problem by installing an eco-friendly rain garden which aligned with the mission of the church, certified as a “Green Chalice Congregation” by the Disciples of Christ.

After meeting with Bluegrass Greensource for advice on where and how to install the garden church members and volunteers from civic groups excavated the needed area and planted local species to help absorb the excess runoff.

The gardens have been incredibly successful and are now part of educational workshops designed to raise awareness of rain gardens to the public.

Here is the full list of winners and runners up:

ENERGY SAVER WINNER: St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Johnson City, Tennessee, runner-ups: Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion, Louisville, Kentucky, First Congregational Church, Stoneham, Massachusetts, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky, St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, Washington, DC.
RENEWABLE ROLE MODEL WINNER, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, Washington, runner-ups: Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel, New Haven, Connecticut, Kehillah Synagogue, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, The United Church of Santa Fe, New Mexico, University United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS
SACRED GROUNDS WINNER, First United Methodist Church Omaha, Nebraska, Runner-ups: Beth Jacob Synagogue, Montpelier, Vermont, Cornerstone United Methodist Church, Naples, Florida, Midway Christian Church (DOC), Kentucky, Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, Tennessee, Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, Lutherville, Maryland, United Church of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
COMMUNITY INSPIRATION WINNER, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax, Virginia, runner-ups: Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, Arizona. Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Danville, Pennsylvania, St. Anselm’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette, California, West Raleigh Presbyterian, North Carolina.
COOL CONGREGATIONS PLANNER WINNER, Congregation Albert, Albuquerque, New Mexico, runner-ups:  First Congregational Church of Berkeley, California, St John’s Episcopal Church Boulder, Colorado

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