People say now that it all started back in the 1970s, when church members decided to swear off styrofoam and bring in their own mugs. That simple commitment has been kept for more than thirty years – and it has grown into a broad concern for environmental stewardship at St. Thomas that we call Creation Care.
This ongoing commitment to Creation Care has changed how we think about our property. We have redesigned and replanted the foundation plantings, added and expanded the prayer garden, and created a community garden to donate food to the Monroe County Community Kitchen. Our joyful gardens are a testament to the beauty and abundance that God wills for all of humanity.
Other Creation Care commitments are less visible. As we’ve continued to move forward with remodeling and construction projects, our Green Team has kept us on track to make our building as green as possible with respect to roofing, insulation, windows, and other construction details. We continue to work on upgrading our lighting. In many cases that’s as straightforward as changing light bulb types, but we were able to significantly redesign and improve our sanctuary lighting in 2012, replacing incandescents with an all-new LED installation. Better, more energy-efficient lighting is planned for Heritage Hall as well. These efforts reduce energy costs and usage – and they model, for us and for others, appropriate care of the created order.
Creation Care is changing how we think about mission and spiritual growth. The Locavores spiritual growth group reflects together and shares with the whole congregation their explorations of the holiness of ethical food production and use. St. Thomas members are part of the Local Growers Guild and other local environmental environmental groups, and many members hold an annual plant sale to support ECHO, an international infrastructure-building NGO that works to connect farmers all over the world.
Our commitment to Creation Care is changing the ways the congregation relates to our community and to Indiana. We’ve helped to start two organizations that articulate the link between faith and environmentalism, Earth Care and the Indiana chapter of Interfaith Power and Light. We’ve also received some wonderful external gifts that have helped us put our visions to work, including a $25,000 grant from the Indiana State Office of Energy Development that helped to fund our solar array. Other congregations are coming to us to talk over these big projects – and it all started with the styrofoam cups.