Electricity and illumination

Locals fighting climate change have a new and influential ally: churches. In the last few months, a consortium of congregations calling itself Green our Faiths has emerged to help foster a stronger environmental ethic among faith communities, with a specific focus on climate change.

"The climate crisis is critically important," says group coordinator Claudia Brown, "and so faith communities have a natural, moral and ethical—as well as spiritual—reason to be involved in this."

Green our Faiths has so far brought together about 10 congregations, all taking steps to minimize their carbon footprints. Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, for example, initiated a plan to replace 20-year-old furnaces, installed programmable thermostats, and created a community garden to grow its own vegetables. The Har Shalom Jewish congregation plans to install energy efficient windows in its sanctuary to bring in more natural light requiring "less electricity for illumination."

Green our Faiths evolved, Brown says, from Missoula's decade-old Caring for Creation Network, and has been influenced by, and may eventually join, Interfaith Power & Light, a national ecumenical organization mobilizing a religious response to climate change with affiliates in 35 states, but not Montana. Green our Faiths adapted its name from Green My Faith, a program of Bozeman's The Tributary Fund.

Rev. John Lund, director of Emmaus Campus Ministry, says scientists have shown incontrovertible evidence that the climate is changing, and now it falls to social groups to act.

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"Most successful social movements in this country have had some kind of religious or spiritual basis to it," Lund says. "This one doesn't have to. I think people can care about the future and care about the environment without that component, and certainly that's happening. But I think the religious community can provide a strong base for that, a strong ethic."

Green our Faiths convenes monthly. Its next meeting is Thursday, January 21 at noon at Missoula's University Congregational United Church of Christ.

"Our aim is to provide resources, education, encouragement and support to faith communities to green their congregations," Brown says.

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