Sustainable Sanctuary Featured in KC Star Article

We were delighted to have the following article in the Kansas City Star on April 20, 2013. We hope you will read it.

ENVIRONMENT | ‘The luxury of time is not with us’

EARTH DAY  DEVOTION                                                                                                                                                There’s no better sermon topic than preservation of the world that God made, congregation leaders say.

By Maria Cote, Special to The Star

It makes sense that in any house of worship, a congregation will listen as ministers, rabbis or other religious leaders discuss how people relate to God, and how they connect with each other.

To Carol Meyer it’s about time these places, steeped in the tradition of philosophical discussion, are also filled with conversations about our relation to the place we call home.

The executive director of the Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition says that about 70 faith leaders have promised to focus on that subject at least once in 2013. Meyer said that many will chose to do so around Earth Day, which is Monday.

“I can’t think of a more important conversation,” said Meyer, a lifelong Catholic with a degree in theology. “My feeling is that we need to rethink our view of our place in the world.”

It’s the mission of the Sustainable Sanctuary Coalition, a local nonprofit organization founded in 2005, to help congregations be part of a unified effort to take care of the Earth. The group does this in three ways, Meyer said.

“First, we help them get organized, to get a green team of sorts to move this forward,” she said, pointing to projects like planting gardens as an example of the kinds of efforts the coalition helps support.
Second, the coalition helps congregations make their building and grounds sustainable.

And finally, Meyer said, “We need to get the ministers to put the spiritual part in place, so that everyone is seeing the link between spirituality and the Earth.”

For Syed Hasan, a University of Missouri-Kansas City professor in the department of geosciences, that means educating the nation’s next leaders.

“The Q’uran tells us not to do anything to hurt the planet,” Hasan said. When he leads congregations of UMKC students, Hasan is candid about the responsibility we all have to the care of the Earth.

“The luxury of time is not with us,” he said. “If we don’t take the steps now, we can’t guarantee clean soil and water for our children and grandchildren.” We’re running out of time to do so, agreed Rabbi Alan Londy, who said the signs are clear that our planet needs help.

From Paul Rock, senior pastor at Second Presbyterian Church: “With so many issues dividing our country, this is something that everyone — liberals, conservatives, Muslims, Jews — can be united on.”
Discussing the issues isn’t enough, he said. His church recently installed more than 100 solar panels, and put in insulated windows in parts of the old church, which was built in 1916 and expanded in the 1950s. For Rock, it’s a practical move that will help the church save money on utilities.

It’s also part of the congregation’s determination to be “better stewards of God’s creation.”

To find lessons on being kind to the Earth, Rock said he need only look to the scriptures. “It’s part of our heritage to look at the Earth as God’s gift to us,” he said. “God created a place for us all to live, and it only makes sense that we should take care of it.”

Meg Rhodes, a priest at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Lee’s Summit, agreed that the Bible is filled with passages that focus on nature and mankind’s responsibility to the Earth.

The messages that many will hear the Sunday before Earth Day should be part of everyday conversation, she said.

“The reason that some clergies don’t discuss it is that we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that environmental issues are political issues, and they really aren’t,” she said. “These discussions should come naturally into sermons. What it means to live a Christian life is to love the world we live in, and all of God’s creations on it.”