Humble beginnings yield impressive results for Earth Care Congregation
Nearly three years ago, Fellowship Presbyterian Church (FPC) in Huntsville, Alabama, launched its witness for environmental conservation by simply changing its lightbulbs. Since then, FPC has greatly expanded its environmental ministries, becoming a PC(USA) Earth Care Congregation and organizing a food distribution community program to complement its environmental commitment. As PC(USA) Associate for Environmental Ministries Rebecca Barnes says, “We recognize that earth care ministries do well to encompass issues of poverty and hunger alleviation, peacemaking, and more. Caring for all in God’s creation includes social justice.”
Fellowship Presbyterian Church is a relatively young church, founded in the late 1950s. The congregation of nearly 300 members has a legacy of community involvement. Its nursery and kindergarten is believed to be the first African American church-related preschool in Huntsville.
In October 2013, member Ted Bixie Sr. started researching energy-saving ideas for the approximately 20-year-old church building. He also asked the state-sponsored environmental agency and Huntsville Utilities to perform an energy audit. The utility responded with a 30-page report, but that didn’t mean the church was prepared, or had the resources at hand, to act on many of the recommendations.
“Dr. Bixie asked the utility company the best way to upgrade the church facilities,” says Anthony Thompson, chairperson of the Earth Care Committee at FPC. “He started by single-handedly changing the types of lightbulbs we used, and implementing motion-sensor lighting so that empty rooms wouldn’t be lit. We put insulation on pipes, screening in the sanctuary and shades in high-sun areas—really simple things that didn’t cost a lot of money.”
Shortly thereafter, FPC incorporated an earth care component into its older adult worship services. The church also added an earth care element to its youth ministry and to its Presbyterian Women and Men organizations, as well as to its prayers, hymns and meditational readings. In March 2014, FPC was certified as an Earth Care Congregation.
“Every single Earth Care Congregation has a unique story to tell and a special witness to share of how they are embodying God’s call to care for creation in their own corner of the world,” says Barnes. “I am impressed with the ongoing ministry at FPC and thankful for all the saints engaged in ministry there.”
Today, FPC includes earth care components in all Sunday school, new member, leadership and confirmation classes. It also sponsors an environmental education series that features guest speakers on earth care issues and implements electronic recycling and food waste management programs.
Thompson and his colleagues are most proud, however, of FPC’s food distribution program. Every third Wednesday, in conjunction with a northern Alabama food bank, member volunteers gather to prepare food packages for those unsure where their next meal might come from.
“We serve and minister to at least 96 families through our food distribution program, and we have a waiting list for more,” says Thompson. “We’ve been doing it for three years and it just gets bigger each year. The effort that goes into preparing the food packages is very humbling, but it’s a great time of fellowship and makes all of us in the congregation feel good. Getting involved in the church and not just ‘attending’ has opened so many doors and opportunities for me, I encourage anyone to serve and truly become a servant for the Lord.”
Scott O’Neill, Communication Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Most gracious God, we give you thanks for all that we have. Teach us to see the needs of our neighbors and guide us in ways to be helpful. Amen.