The First Congregational Church of Berkeley’s Green Team Does It All

Photo by Brian Purchia

A month ago I reported on the wonderful work the First Congregational Church of Berkeley’s Green Team is doing. Although the Green Team only formed in 2012, its members have gotten a lot done to educate their congregation, green their church, and serve the community. And this week I actually got to attend one of their meetings to see, first hand, how they do it.

Learning Hours

Photo by Brian PurchiaAt the beginning of the meeting, I was happy to learn that the Green Team is planning more Learning Hours for July. As the name suggests, Learning Hours are one-hour programs held between the 9am and 11am Sunday services that educate the congregation. The Green Team has used these programs in the past to discuss important environmental issues. In fact, it was their learning hour on fracking in January that first got my attention.

While the details of the July Learning Hours are still being worked out, they will likely examine different faith-based approaches to environmentalism. For example, what does environmentalism mean to Muslims or Jews?

The discussion of the Learning Hours lent itself to a very interesting theological discussion among the Green Team members. One member expressed her shock over the belief among some Christians that it’s ok to “dominate” nature and just take without giving back. We all talked about how there really isn’t one way Christians view the environment, and why it’s important to educate the congregation on the various thoughts.

It was an incredibly interesting conversation that, quite honestly, prompted me to pick up my Bible and think about all that was said when I got home that night. And isn’t that one of the underlying points of Learning Hours — to get people excited about their faith?

Greening The First Church

On May 4, the Green Team is organizing its second annual Green Commute to Church Day. During the meeting, Paul Chapman, chair of the Team, told me that “it’s just a day to lower the footprint.” But — like the true environmentalists they are — the Green Team plans to get the most out of the one day.

To implement the Green Commute effectively, the Green Team conducted a transportation survey to find out how regularly people commute to church, how they commute, and whether they already carpool. The Green Team plans to use the data obtained from the survey as part of its larger carbon calculator update. In addition to calculating the Church’s energy and gas use, information about the congregants’ commute will allow the Green Team to create a big picture of its carbon emissions.

Photo by Brian Purchia

The Green Team is also working on a Zero Waste Plan. Although the process has sometimes been frustrating for them and they’ve repeatedly pointed out that the Church’s “waste management system continues to face challenges,” they all remain committed to fixing the problem. Some of the Green Team members have even “dumpster dived” to see what the Church is actually throwing away. During the meeting they strategized a plan for tackling the issue: get the right trash bins and infrastructure so that people can recycle and compost, talk to the cleaning staff, and educate the congregation.

Community Outreach

With all the work that is going into educating the congregation and greening the Church, the Green Team still finds ways to work with the community. On April 19 a group of volunteers spent a whole day cleaning a house so that it could be repurposed as part of the Church’s Rebuilding Together program. And volunteers also helped raise approx. $5,000 to combat hunger.

The Green Team at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley makes it all seem possible. I wonder how many other religious organizations have similar organizations that do such good work for the environment.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .