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New LED lights now brighten the parking lot at Blakemore United Methodist Church, furthering the Nashville church’s efforts to reduce its impact on the environment. 

That work, including lowering the church’s energy consumption, is driven by Christian beliefs that lay out the responsibility to care for the Earth, said Cavit Cheshier, chair of the Blakemore United Methdosit Church’s trustees.

“I think it is a Christian issue because God created these things and we need to conserve them,” Cheshier said. “We don’t inherit the world. We’re just allowed to use it for our lifetime. So we need to conserve this and pass it on to the next generation.” 

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Cheshier plans to share the steps his church has taken Saturday during the A Sacred Calling: Faith Communities Caring for Our Earth conference, which includes discussion on practical tips places of worship can use to be more Earth friendly. Cost is a factor in making decisions on what environmental upgrades to make, too, Cheshier said.  

The day-long conference is hosted by the Nashville chapter of Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light and will be held at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville. The Rev. Fletcher Harper, the executive director of international environmental group GreenFaith, will deliver the keynote address. 

Caring for the environment is not just a Christian issue, but people of diverse faiths across the globe believe in a responsibility to care for the Earth, said Fletcher, in an email to The Tennessean. 

But the politicization of environmental concerns, including the most pressing climate change issue, is the biggest hurdle for religious congregations, said Fletcher, who also is an Episcopal priest. 

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“We’ve simply got to get beyond that — there’s way too much at stake,” Harper said. “We really need our faith leaders to step forward, and to do what only they can do — speak God’s honest truth about these issues.”

The Trump Administration’s climate and environmental polices, including recent efforts to rollback an Obama-era rule intended to curb carbon emissions, are “profoundly misguided, destructive, and immoral” and are making GreenFaith’s work more urgent, Harper said. 

“The world was already facing enormous danger from climate change, and federal backpedaling makes it all the more urgent for cities and faith communities to step up their leadership,” Harper said. 

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga made a concerted effort to improve its impact on the environment several years ago, said Sandy Kurtz, who led the church committee tackling the task. They wanted to earn the noncreedal denomination’s green sanctuary accreditation too. 

Eventually, the congregation raised about $20,000 for solar power and in 2014 panels were affixed to the church’s flat roof, making the church the first in the city to take the step, Kurtz said. As a result of the solar power it produces, the church receives about a $12 credit each month on its electric bill, she said. 

Kurtz, who also helped start Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, encouraged other houses of worship to look at changes they can make from recycling to cleaning products. It is important to come up with a tailored plan and weigh costs, she said. 

“An energy audit is a good thing to do … that helps you know where there are things that you can do to reduce your energy use in someway,” Kurtz said. “We also did a survey of the people, asking how many miles do you drive to get to church in back? Do you share rides?”

Visit westendumc.org and click on events for more information about Saturday’s conference. 

Reach Holly Meyer at hmeyer@tennessean.com or 615-259-8241 and on Twitter @HollyAMeyer. 

 

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