Finding Sacredness in Sustainability

Written by Reverend Craig Schaub, Edited by Aeliyra Kendall

Tips for Spiritual Communities

Protecting the environment is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and congregations and spiritual communities have a vital role in this effort. However, it can take time to figure out where to start.  In this post, we’ll explore ten practical ways communities can lean into environmental care and resilience. By integrating these practices into their everyday lives, communities can make a positive impact on the environment while also deepening their spiritual connection to the world around them. Let's dive in!

Practice Outdoors

Create opportunities for regular spiritual practice outdoors. We protect what we love and we love what we know deeply. How are the relationships of the local ecosystem resources for mental health, spiritual care, and connection with Mystery and what is our compassionate and grateful human response in return? Who might be your resident naturalist who offers education on the local habitat while praying, walking, picnicking, and worshipping on the land?

Connect Faith and the Environment

Read sacred texts and live out rituals with attention to the more-than-human world. How does the land and all its inhabitants show up in stories? How are plants, animals, geography, and watershed included in rituals of confession, gratitude, healing, and vocation? Deeper theological imagination leads to changed lives.

Build Empathy for Vulnerable Communities

Whenever environmental conversations happen, make the connection to love for vulnerable human communities most impacted by environmental harm and climate change. Make the link with economic insecurity, food insecurity, the growing need for people to move, the housing crisis, and racial inequity.

Embrace Low-Impact Living

Start where the energy is. Build on what you are already doing. Emphasis on how low-impact living and changed behaviors create more of what we like – more shared meals, deeper neighborhood relationships, less spending on stuff, and more celebration of our most important values.

Swap Disposable for Reusable

Swap out one-time-use items like paper plates and utensils for reusable dishes at events to reduce waste and environmental harm. To make washing dishes more fun, turn it into a community event with music and refreshments. Using environmentally friendly cleaning supplies can also help reduce your environmental impact. By making these changes, you can create a more sustainable event experience and inspire others to do the same.

Cultivate a Sustainable Habitat

Reflect on the faith practice of hospitality. How is the land surrounding your facility hospitable to the other inhabitants of the local ecosystem? Plant natives. Create an edible landscape. Preserve keystone species for habitat. Capture the water off your building for watering plants. Hold the water on your land rather than allowing it to run off.

Start Composting

Start a compost pile. Have someone with a passion tend and turn the compost. Invite congregants to bring compost scraps with them to worship or other events. One congregation in Raleigh calculated they were saving as much carbon in the atmosphere with their church compost pile as they were by installing solar panels.

Host Events to Inspire Sustainable Living

Hold special events that invite new behaviors. Hold a cooking class on lower-carbon eating. Hold a dinner with all local seasonal produce or plant-based foods and share recipes. Have a bike or take the bus to worship day. Take a field trip to the wastewater treatment facility. Have a group plan to attend the Earth Day Fair or an event of Forsyth Creek Week, Forsyth Audubon, Sierra Club, and Yadkin River Keeper together.

Connect the Mind, Body, and Earth

Honor bodies in all their strengths, sensations, and vulnerabilities. Invite spiritual practices that center in bodies, grounded on the earth, dependent on all relationships of the planet. The spirit needs the body as much as the body needs breath.

Eat with the Planet in Mind

Focus on the table. Every spiritual tradition includes the table in ritual and community connection. How are all the inhabitants of our ecosystem welcomed, honored, appreciated, and prayed for at the table? How does this awareness change the way we smell, taste, ritualize, and send forth from the table?

As you can see congregations and spiritual communities have a unique opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment while also deepening their spiritual connection to the world around them. By implementing some of these tips, communities can show their love for the planet and all its inhabitants. Remember, small actions can add up to big change, so let's work together to create a more sustainable and resilient world for generations to come. Thank you for your commitment to environmental care and resilience!

Building a Sustainable Community Starts Here

Want to learn more about how you can make a difference in your community and support the environment? Join our newsletter and take a look around our website to find out about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and resources that can help you live more sustainably. Together, we can make a positive impact on our local ecosystem.

Rev. Craig Schaub serves as minister of Parkway United Church of Christ in Winston-Salem. He is passionate about eco-spirituality as a grounding for environmental action, recently completing a year-long certificate program with the Seminary of the Wild. He is certified in permaculture design and has written an e-book, A Field Guide for Congregations: Living an Ethic of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. He spends his free time on the bike, in the garden, and sitting in forest communities.