By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
EDMONDS — When Edmonds United Methodist Church needed a new furnace a few years ago, the church leadership didn’t just go out and buy a newer version of the one they already had.
They put together a committee, hired a consultant, researched the topic and bought a boiler that’s using less energy and saving $6,000 per year in heating costs over the old model.
The church again saved by replacing all the old lighting in its building at 828 Caspers St. with newer, more energy-efficient LED bulbs.
While these projects saved money for the church, the real inspiration behind them is one Edmonds United Methodist shares with a growing number of churches nationwide: combining their Christian faith with concern for the environment.
There’s even a name for it: “creation care.”
“Part of our faith is the sacredness of creation and the stewardship of creation that’s entrusted to us,” said the Rev. Kathlyn James, senior pastor at Edmonds United Methodist. “I feel like caring for the Earth is a huge part of our trust that needs to be recovered in our time.”
The church marks Earth Day with an annual “Earth Sunday” that includes an environmentally related service along with booths and other activities.
This year’s program is Sunday. Earth Day is traditionally observed on April 22, but Edmonds United Methodist celebrates it each year on the Sunday after Easter.
The featured speaker is Kurt Hoelting, who will discuss his year of traveling only by foot, bicycle, kayak, and public transportation within 100 kilometers — 62 miles — of his Whidbey Island home. He wrote a book about his experiences titled “The Circumference of Home: One Man’s Yearlong Quest For A Radically Local Life.” Services are scheduled for 9 and 10:30 a.m.
Edmonds United Methodist is one of 60 churches to be certified as a “Greening Congregation” by Earth Ministry of Seattle, a nonprofit group that works with churches on environmental stewardship.
To achieve the certification, the congregation must include creation care in its mission statement and submit an annual plan to Earth Ministry for how the mission will be accomplished.
“Then we support them in terms of resources, education and political advocacy,” said Jessie Dye, program and outreach director for Earth Ministry.
Nationally, several Christian and interfaith organizations have formed around environmental issues.
“It is a dramatic movement,” Dye said.
Earth Ministry doesn’t shy away from the political end of environmental issues. For instance, it’s chimed in against the proposed Gateway Pacific terminal near Bellingham that would export coal to Asia. Earth Ministry staff plan to fly to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby on the issue, Dye said.
She understands that some congregations get nervous about politics.
“Many people are uncomfortable starting with political issues but understand they need to take care of their own home and own church and own neighborhood,” she said. “We meet people where they are. If they want to start by recycling, that’s wonderful. Recycling is an act of worship.”
Those small measures are part of the activities at Edmonds United Methodist, said Gayla Shoemake, chairwoman for the church’s “Green Team.”
Members have stopped using foam cups, plastic utensils and paper plates for church events, using washable kitchenware instead, she said. Members also are encouraged to ride bikes, walk or take public transportation when possible. Shoemake frequently rides her bike through Edmonds.
“We think it’s part of our job as Christians to save the planet for our children and grandchildren,” she said.
There are many references to the Earth in the Bible, according to creation care proponents. In fact, “green” Bibles are available in which the passages that pertain to the environment are highlighted in green, Dye said.
Genesis, the Psalms and Revelation are particularly flush with Earth-related passages, according to James.
“The Garden of Eden is the garden of the planet Earth,” she said. “The Garden of Eden in Genesis really is a symbol for this garden planet Earth we live on.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.