Monday, January 9, 2012
Dallas-Fort Worth Unitarian churches go green with Green Sanctuary Program
All over Dallas-Fort Worth, churches are adopting sustainable practices.
Three local churches are working to get a “green” stamp of approval. That green stamp is the Unitarian Universalist Church’s accreditation known as the Green Sanctuary program. The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, based in Boston, already promotes environmental stewardship as its seventh founding principle. But in 2000, UU expanded the doctrine by creating the Green Sanctuary certification. So far, 182 UU churches across the U.S., including five in Texas, have become certified Green Sanctuaries.
According to the Green Sanctuary manual, the program aims to develop in members a deeper commitment to the environment, incorporating environmental awareness into all levels of experience. The program requires churches that want to participate to complete 12 projects in four areas: worship services, religious education, environmental justice, and sustainable living. “Your 12 projects won’t solve the environmental crisis by themselves,” explains the manual. “But they will help raise awareness and encourage congregants to start or continue on the path of living more lightly.”
Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Worth is one of the first churches in DFW to set out on the path to becoming a Green Sanctuary. A committee was launched in 2009 and hopes to complete its 12 projects by summer, making it the first UU church in North Texas to complete the program. Linda Hanratty, Westside’s Green Sanctuary chairperson, said before starting the program, the Fort Worth church was already on the road to sustainability. The church had hosted environmental education programs, installed low-flow toilets, and started a recycling program. “Most members are very environmentally attuned. This program just provides a focus for that.”
For the Green Sanctuary certification, Westside UU held a trash pick up day at a local park, screened environmentally-themed movies, hosted a week-long children’s environmental camp, and created a water-themed worship service. For the environmental justice portion of the program, the group visited the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s Energy Blast exhibit in the XTO Energy Gallery and will present a critique of the exhibit to museum administrators.
On the east side of Fort Worth, First Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church has just recently received the green light to pursue its Green Sanctuary program. Marianne Herrmann, one of the leaders of First Jefferson Green Sanctuary committee, said it’s been a longtime interest of some its members. Herrmann said not only do they want to help the congregation become more green, they want to inspire the local community. “We’re very much concerned about the environment and we want to be an example for others to live in a green way,” said Herrmann. “We think it’s very important everybody become more green so we don’t destroy our earth.”
Meanwhile on the other side of DFW, the First Unitarian Church of Dallas started working on its certification last year. John Whaley, First Unitarian’s Green Sanctuary committee chairperson, said the congregation has several members who are active in environmental causes outside the church and the Green Sanctuary program seemed like a natural progression. “It seemed like something we ought to embrace,” he said. “It gives us a framework to continue to make improvements.”
The Dallas church already had started many environmentally friendly initiatives. For example, the church hosts regular e-waste collections, sponsored environmental speakers, and held an annual Green Fair. Its new wing is expected to get silver LEED certification. The church also formerly belonged to the Interfaith Environmental Alliance, a multi-denominational environmental group that disbanded in 2010.
So far, the First Unitarian of Dallas’ Green Sanctuary committee has completed its first task, to perform an energy audit. However, it’s already ahead of many other churches having creating a $30,000 endowment to help fund green initiatives, in honor of former member and environmental activist Ned Fritz, who died in 2008.
Pegasus News Content partner - Green Source DFW