Learning at Every Step
Bardstown Road Presbyterian (BRP) Church in Louisville became a partner community to KIPL in September 2020. Kentucky IPL spoke with Bill Bowman, the chair of their Green Team, about their work in the Presbyterian community as an Earth Care Congregation and how they have prioritized creation care in their congregation’s mission.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) began to make statements in support of environmental policies that reflected concern for environmental degradation in the 90’s and have since then continued to advocate that congregations show a commitment to God’s creation through the Peace and Justice ministries of the PC(USA).
BRP Church reflects this in their own mission. On their website (brpres.org), a key priority is listed as Caring for creation and working for a just and sustainable world. To Bill, creation care’s importance comes straight from the Bible. He remarked that both the old and new testaments speak to creation care.
“In Psalm 24, God is the creator of all,” said Bill, “And Adam was called to care for and tend the garden. We take from those messages that we need to be caring for the Earth.”
Bill’s journey with creation care began in 2004 after he retired and a friend reached out to him about serving on the steering committee for Presbyterians for Earth Care, a national group advocating within the PC(USA) . As Bill began to volunteer for the group and attend in-person conferences, he was able to bring back ideas to Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church. BRP Church was able to start a Green Team, and through Bill’s work and that of his fellow Green Team members, BRP received the Earth Care Congregation certification.
“We decided that we would [seek the certification], formed a Green Team, filled out a questionnaire, and then we were awarded that designation,” said Bill, “We were the first such congregation in Kentucky. It put a little feather in our cap.”
The certification requires activities to be listed in several different categories ranging from education, worship services, community involvement, and maintenance of the building. Bill stated that when they first started, even if they couldn’t check yes on something, the certification questionnaire gave them good ideas on things that could be done.
“We had outdoor worship services. We had a curriculum made for vacation bible school that is earth-care based. We increased our recycling efforts,” said Bill.
BRP is still learning and growing in their green efforts. The next project-of-focus is a pollinator garden on their property.
“We don’t have a lot of green space but we do have a little green corner. We got help from the Beargrass Creek Alliance in 2019 and again in 2021. The summer of 2019 hit Louisville with a drought and the plants didn't do well. So, we planted more native plants this year and are waiting to see if they will survive this summer,” he said.
Bill and BRP were connected to Kentucky IPL when Tim Darst, Kentucky IPL’s Emeritus Executive Director, invited Bill to join the Louisville chapter of Kentucky IPL. Bill helped Kentucky IPL plan a few programs around the city and for many years, Kentucky IPL’s office was located on the third floor of BRP Church.
A couple years ago, Kentucky IPL helped the church put solar panels on its roof. Kentucky IPL was able to put up $2,000 for the project which left BRP with $5,000 to cover. Members of the congregation were encouraged to help reimburse the costs of the panels. Bill said that the benefits from the solar panels have been seen ever since.
Along with their partnership with Kentucky IPL, BRP Church also has partnerships with GreenFaith and Presbyterians for Earth Care. Bill encouraged other faith communities to get involved in their own green ministry.
“There are a lot of denominations like the Presbyterian Church that have some sort of “green” program. There may be resources on the national level that would help local congregations get started. In our case, the national application for the Earth Care Congregation helped us figure out some things that we were not doing that we might try to do,” said Bill.
“It’s also good to have at least two to three people who can contribute their own ideas on how the congregation might get started, and who can talk to other people like Kentucky IPL and see what they have done in the past.”
You can learn more about Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church by visiting their website where videos from past sermons are posted. For specific questions about their Earth Care Congregation efforts, you can contact Bill Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org.