As we are all caretakers of God’s earth, the mission of the Earth Stewardship Ministry (ESM) is to promote awareness of environmental issues. We participate in efforts to address these issues and provide educational opportunities that advance understanding of sound environmental practices.
The First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury was recognized as a Level 2 Green Congregation by the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ at their 2012 Annual Meeting.
The Earth Stewardship Ministry (ESM) of the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury was established in 2007 in response to growing concerns about climate change and other environmental issues, and the belief that environmental stewardship is necessary for the preservation of God’s creation. The scope of our activities covers many different areas involved in environmental stewardship, including fostering green practices in our church buildings and within our congregation, providing educational opportunities related to environmental issues and sound environmental practices, and expanding the commitment of our church community to addressing environmental issues in our community.
The ESM has focused on several major environmental problems over the past several years including global climate change, mountaintop coal removal and its impact on Appalachian communities, environmental toxins with particular emphasis on the impact of these toxins on the health and wellbeing of children, urban tree planting, energy conservation, and sustainable energy solutions. The ESM has also established collaborative ties to other community churches and environmental groups leading to several larger scale community environmental projects.
We meet monthly from September through June. New members and new ideas are always welcome!
Earth Stewardship Ministry Projects
Mass ReLeaf tree-planting events
The ESM has helped organize and participated in two Mass ReLeaf tree plantings. Most recently, ESM pitched in to help Mitchell Porter, who organized a tree planting event in Mountain View Cemetery right here in Shrewsbury, as part of his Eagle Scout project (May 2012). The ESM was awarded a $2,000 grant from Mass ReLeaf to pay for 10 large trees that were planted in the cemetery, near the new Fire House and on the common.
Earlier, ESM collaborated with the Eco-Justice Group of St. Mary’s Church of Shrewsbury to plant 24 flowering pear trees along New Vista Lane in the Great Brook Valley Housing Development of Worcester (April 2010). The ESM secured a $5,000 grant from the Mass ReLeaf Ministry of the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC and helped recruit 60 volunteers from both churches for this event. A large flowering crabapple tree was planted in front of the Beal School in a training exercise for this event.
Paper, plastic and metal recycling
As the church does not have a recycling contract, on a weekly basis church members bring home and recycle these materials which have been generated by the church staff, Sunday school and outreach programs.
Energy audit of the First Congregational Church of Shrewsbury
This audit resulted in improvements to the heating system, replacement of incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs, planning of improved insulation to the church and decreased energy use by electrical appliances.
Earth Stewardship Ministry Education
Earth Stewardship Sunday Fair – The Fair celebrates Earth Day with exhibits and presentations highlighting environmental problems and solutions, and is held on a Sunday close to Earth Day (always April 22nd). Recent topics have ranged from recycling to geothermal heating and cooling systems. The Earth Sunday service celebrates nature with a dedicated sermon and inspirational music.
Ringing the Church Bell 350 times – In 2008, Massachusetts Conference Minister & President Jim Antal challenged churches in the Conference to ring their bells 350 times to raise awareness of the need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere to 350 ppm to avert major climate change (the current level is almost 400 ppm). Our church participated in this effort to spread the word about sustainable CO2 levels.
e2:energy – This PBS series presents viable policy and technology alternatives to the fossil fuel culture, including the development of community wind in Minnesota and its role in regional economic development (Harvesting the Wind), new super-hybrid and fuel cell powered cars (Paving the Way), bio-fuel development in Brazil and its future in the United States (Growing Energy), an exploration of how state governments have provided leadership on environmental problems (State of Resolve), and an examination of the role coal and nuclear power will play in our future energy mix (Coal and Nuclear: Problem or Solution). Solutions-oriented, the series illustrates the trials and trade-offs that any evolution in our global energy system will demand. These 30 min films were shown as a monthly series with discussion afterwards.
The Story of Stuff – A 20-minute animation of the consumerist society by Annie Leonard. A discussion led by Missy Hollenbach of Shrewsbury Waste Watchers followed.
Kilowatt Ours – A film by Jeff Barrie about the production of electricity and how we can reduce our electrical use and dependence on fossil fuel products that add CO2 to our atmosphere.
Inconvenient Truth – Al Gore’s film to educate citizens about global warming. Pre- and post-film discussions by Sue Moore and Dr. Art Brownlow, Professor Emeritus, Geology, Boston University (retired).
Passive House – State Representative Matt Beaton detailed the construction and explained the advantages of his Passive Solar Home, the first certified Passive House in Massachusetts and one of only several dozen nationwide. Matt’s home takes advantage of air sealing, insulation, and several other design innovations that make heating and cooling almost free, saving thousands of dollars on utility bills.
Blue Gold – Seminar on water policy by Grace McRae, graduate student Georgetown University, Public Policy Institute.
The Psychology of Saving Energy – by Dr. Peter Gray, Department of Psychology, Boston College.
Solutions to Climate Change – by Tina Clarke, Sustainability Institute, MIT Think Tank.
Mountaintop Removal Roadshow – This slide show presents the impacts of mountaintop removal on coalfield residents, communities and the environment, and features traditional Appalachian mountain music and shocking aerial photos of decapitated Appalachian mountains. Mountaintop removal has led to an environmental and economic disaster in West Virginia, the “Mountain State.”
Mountaintop Removal of Coal – Video conference with Melanie Light, author of Coal Hollow, with panel discussion; co-sponsored with College of Holy Cross Eco-Justice Committee.
Toxic Chemicals and Safe Alternatives – Led by Reverend Lise Hildebrandt, Mass Council of Churches, about chemicals in toys and cosmetic products.
Earth Stewardship Ministry Information
- SELCO Go Green – renewable energy options from Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Commission
- 350.org – organization to promote safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
- Environmental Ministry Team of Connecticut Conference of UCC
- MassReLeaf Ministry – planting urban trees
- Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light
- Geothermal heating and cooling (pdf)
- The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen – a guide to fruits and vegetables that contain the most and the least pesticide residues.
- Save energy and support local farmers and businesses by buying local produce at the Westboro and Grafton Farmer’s Markets.
- Worcester Energy Barnraisers – a volunteer organization to help Worcester area communities and non-profit organizations to weatherize homes and offices to save energy. Recent projects have included the weatherization of 3 residential buildings including a home on Hale Street for a foster parent with immigrant and refugee children from the Sudan and Burma, and the Pondera Project, a pilot energy efficiency upgrade of old housing stock in the Main South area.