One Church’s Goal to Go Carbon Neutral

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Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church (MAPC) in Cincinnati, Ohio is one of many churches in the Presbyterian denomination that takes part in the denomination’s Earth Care Program. Mount Auburn’s Presbyterian Church’s leadership in creation care goes beyond the Earth Care Program, however. Creation care is one of the designing values for this congregation that gathers between 100-160 parishioners for worship. They are also in the process of setting goals to be both carbon neutral and waste-free (also called zero waste).

Around Earth Day, I discussed some ways that individual churches can make switches to lessen their impact on the Earth. We’re featuring MAPC because the way it beautifully exemplifies loving God and God’s creation in its overall mission. Not every church will approach creation care the same way, and we encourage you to look at this profile for both ideas and inspiration that you can take back to your home congregation.

Congregational Buy-in

A church-wide retreat three years ago focused on creation care. This event brought many MAPC congregants on board who were not quite sold on the issue.

I talked with Pastor Stacey Midge about the church’s extensive creation care program. She told me that their church had strong buy-in on this issue from both pastoral staff and lay leadership before she arrived at the church five years ago. MAPC’s church elders adopted green policies in 2017 to celebrate God’s creation and to take care of it.

Their multi-prong approach involves Green Faith, Green Learning, Green Living, and Green Outreach. This means that their worship involves both celebrating creation and helping protect and restore it. They work to better understand environmental issues and incorporate learning about them into their educational programming. The church also works to manage the building and encourages parishioners to respect creation through green lifestyle choices. Lastly, they encourage public policy and community involvement. This includes helping other churches make green choices.

Extending an Invitation

MAPC recently held an open house for local faith communities that are interested in being more Earth-minded, with a focus on their goals of becoming carbon neutral and zero waste. They highlighted how they are retrofitting their historical building. The church has prepared a handbook for like-minded faith communities and nonprofits that individuals can also use, called Becoming Carbon Neutral. The document will soon be available online.

MAPC recognizes that ecologically sound stewardship of their building is a service to their congregation and to the greater world. Their goal to be carbon neutral is a lofty one, but Pastor Midge says that it’s so much more tangible than just to generally make environmentally friendly choices.

Pastor Midge believes that any church that wants to make a major commitment in anything must have leadership from both clergy and lay persons involved. MAPC has many such lay leaders in their church that conduct these efforts, working relationally in the vein of Science for the Church’s Standard Model.

A church member of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church who is an engineer helps with property management and facilities. Another member who is a professional architect led classes for congregation members on how to make their homes carbon neutral. This same professional also reviewed the church’s HVAC and solar panel installation plans.

Going Carbon Neutral is Just One Piece

Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church has worked hard to make its historical building more energy efficient. Before Pastor Midge was at the church, they swapped out incandescent bulbs for LEDs that use significantly less energy. The church installed solar panels on their roof in 2019. Three years ago, the church conducted a major capital campaign with a substantial portion of the funds raised set aside for creation care efforts. This helped fund new energy-efficient windows and a renovation of the HVAC system to be much more energy-efficient. The cost savings from these two projects will pay for themselves in ten years. Their building is old but retrofits can help both preserve and care for the building while using less energy.

Beyond reducing energy usage, MAPC also has reduced its paper usage, increased its recycling, and incorporates creation care messaging into worship. They now use a one-page bulletin and make announcements available online instead of only on paper. Volunteers hold collections for hard to recycle items such as electronics, pill bottles, and plastic planters and transport them to the proper specialty recycling channels. MAPC also occasionally holds specifically creation care themed services and also adds concern for the Earth and nature into normal worship through prayer and song.

Additionally, the church manages the grounds with eco-friendly methods, as well as their kitchens. Flower beds are tended by volunteers using green gardening best practices. The church is committed to using “real” dishes (vs single-use) at events and also uses glass communion cups instead of plastic single-use cups.

The church also leads creation appreciation activities that connect members with nature. Church members go on kayaking trips together as well as wildflower hikes. They make trips to local parks and visit the Native American Mounds nearby to appreciate historical roots.

Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church considers environmental justice to be the next mission field. They know that supporting people affected by climate change will only become more dire in the future. They also know that stewardship of their resources and respecting creation helps mitigate the negative effects of climate change. May their passion for creation care and their work be an inspiration to us all.


Maureen Wise

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