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Author highlights humankind’s reconnection with the natural world

By Bill Phipps

Ecofaith: Creating & Sustaining Green Congregations
By Charlene Hosenfeld
(Pilgrim Press) $24

Ecofaith is a useful handbook for congregations relatively new to environmental action and the “greening” of church communities. However, for more savvy individuals and groups, there is little new in this tidy compendium of ideas and actions.

Its major limitation is that it is entirely located in the United States, with the one exception that David Suzuki receives a mention. There are no references to the many initiatives within Canadian churches.

That said, however, there are good ideas for immediate and long-term actions. For example, there are practical suggestions for reducing waste, growing food, reintroducing native plants, calculating carbon emissions, reducing energy consumption and transforming worship.  

There are chapters on the building, the grounds, products, worship and services, finances and children’s activities. The most helpful part was the author’s essay on the relationship between theology, psychology and ecology. Her call for action is accompanied by many examples that achieve visible and viable results. She roots humankind’s reconnection with the natural world (“we are of nature”) in gratitude for the wonder of God’s creation.

One inspiring story describes the transformation of the Friends Center in downtown Philadelphia. Three buildings are involved, including the historic meeting house built in 1856. One of the key leaders of this massive project said, “Nearly every issue of peace and social justice ties back to environmental degradation.” Words such as equality, simplicity and integrity are at the heart of the actions they took in comprehensive retrofitting and renovations. From geothermal heat exchange to the garden (vegetated) roof, these buildings proclaim respect for urban ecology, state-of-the-art designs, community responsibility and honour to God’s creation.

The book contains impressive lists of resources and websites within each chapter. In this way, Ecofaith becomes a window to the ever-expanding movement of ecological responsibility and accessible resources. The book provides a useful companion resource to materials available from the United Church, KAIROS, Faith and the Common Good/Greening Sacred Spaces and other Canadian organizations.

Very Rev. Bill Phipps lives in Calgary.
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